News Jun 24, 2022 at 9:00 am

National Cop Shortage Could Pave Way for Alternatives

If SPD can't find enough cops to fill its ranks, then the City will need to find alternatives. CROUTON / LESTER BLACK



What about when THE BIG ONE hits Seattle?


What about when THE BIG ONE hits Seattle? Everyone will be on their best behavior I'm sure to mind the directives of police alternatives.


Hiring more cops does not necessarily result in less crime. At best it's a mixed bag: sometimes crime goes down, sometimes it stays the same, and sometimes it increases. The number of cops on the street doesn't actually play that large a factor in the overall, long-term fluctuation of crime rates, which only proves that addressing the root causes of poverty, institutional racism, economic disparity, political extremism, etc., etc., would be a far more effective use of public funds, IF one is actually serious about reducing crime. And that isn't even taking into account the fact that more cops means more opportunities for cops to fuck up, which inevitably ends up costing taxpayers in the form of more lawsuits and the resulting increases in settlements to the victims of police brutality, misconduct, and sheer ineptitude.


@4 sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes in rains....

Are we assuming whatever replaces the police to respond to these issues won't fuck up either? What makes you so certain about that?



Well, we already KNOW how badly cops will fuck things up if given half a chance, so why not try something different? Sure, there's no absolute guarantee they won't do better, but at the same time, there's plenty of evidence they'll just do worse. So, given those alternatives, trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results doesn't seem like the best strategy, does it?


@6: There's lots of evidence alternative responders will handle things as well (or better) for less than police officers.

"Investigative aide" for handling after the fact reports and evidence gathering positions have existed in lots of police departments for decades.

Use of what were "police aides" for handling quality of life calls and things like abandoned vehicles was rigorously studied and proven successful in the 1970s.

Eugene, Oregon has been successfully using mental health responders for more than 30 years; Denver and New York City (among others) have trialed the program and are scaling it up.


@6 I guess, but you are still talking about finding a group of people who are interested in this line of work and training them to do the job and follow a process. Whether you call them police or Comte’s squad it’s probably a very similar group of people so the only real difference is how you’re training them. I have doubts results will be dramatically different but as Will has noted the SPD is such a toxic job now we really have no choice so I hope you’re right .


@8 If you read the article, you would realize that one way to have the cops focus on things like sexual assaults is to have them avoid bullshit tasks (like traffic control).

@6 -- Yes, but there are a lot more people interested in this kind of work than being a cop. Ask any security guard about carrying a gun. You make more money, but a lot of them have no fucking interest. There are too many things that can go wrong. That was the case when I was a security guard. Same with all the things that cops do. I would have no hesitation being a traffic control guard. But there is no fucking way I would want to be a cop. Ask a firefighter if we wants to be a combination cop/fireman and most will tell you "fuck no". Same with being a meter maid. By splitting the tasks it is easier to deal with the shortage. There are a shitload of people who are qualified to do social service work and want to do it. Very few want to become cops.


@1 -- Yeah. Smaller police force, more social service spending -- it will be like Scandinavia, a fucking hellhole. The police there never catch the criminals. Oh, wait, yes they do. In fact, they do a much better job than us:


In the words of the mayor of San Francisco--- "its time to stop pretending social services will solve these problems".

Seattle desperately need more police. period. full stop.

911 calls go unanswered for property crime, serious crime investigations are not being made... you just get a case # so you can file an insurance claim.

One waits over an hour and half for police to show up when a burglar alarm goes off.... as noted serious crimes linger endlessly for lack of detectives.

Despite the lamentable mental musing of @4.... less police in this city has certainly led to record crime. That is a fact, not a wishful opinion. Given his view of the world we'd just use Seattle as a petri dish for social experiments....oh right we are already doing that.

We have our wonderful "We Care" program... price tag $10 million.... or $67,000 per person to provide a hotel room, a biscuit and a pat on the head.... ground breaking... what a great alternative.


@10 I don't think we are really talking about meter maids and traffic control. You can hire as many of them as you want and that won't change 911 response times. I also think you are overestimating the amount of time police are managing pure social service situations. They are not spending their day doing outreach. The police are called and get involved when someone appears to be in crisis and is either a danger to themselves or others, they are also called when a crime has been committed or is in process of being committed. I don't see how replacing those functions with social workers is effective. For any criminal matter a social worker would still need to be authorized to enforce the law but beyond that many of the situations are tenuous and erratic. There is a reason fire and EMT will not enter certain situations without an officer present. I don't know how many people would join up if they know there is a liklihood they will be put in harm's way with no options to defend themselves.

As for Scandanavia that has a population of just over 10M and is 80% homogeneous. I really don't that's a great comparison point for the US.


@13 Well said

... now if your wise words will penetrate the thick bone plates of the city council and the other "social worker theorist" on this thread.

God how I weep for this poor city.... We should scrap the name Seattle and re-name it "Petri" in honor of all those social engineering types who want to experiment on us as if we were guinea pigs.


"If they can’t fully staff the department with all those resources, Herbold says, “the solution is clear – we have to focus our sworn police officers on addressing violent crime and hand off some other duties that don’t require a badge and a gun to qualified professionals.”

Of course, it's not just the money, it's the stupidly antagonistic anti-police rhetoric and actions (signing bonuses, anyone?) constantly emanating from the City Council, creating a toxic work environment which encourages potential hires to work elsewhere.

'The City could argue that the national labor shortage of police officers and SPD’s inability to fully staff the police department has left it unable to fulfill those obligations to protect public safety. In making what those in legal circles call an "exhaustion" argument, the City would contend that its decision to allocate extra money for hiring bonuses shows that it pulled out all the stops to meet its Charter obligations using SPOG personnel but still couldn't get the job done with cops alone.'

The bit about hiring bonuses would sound a lot more convincing if the Council hadn't relentlessly played politics with hiring bonuses for MONTHS after then-Mayor Durkan approved them. Again, why should applicants choose Seattle when other Puget Sound or Washington State jurisdictions actually know how to run their cities and towns properly?

'Public Safety Committee Chair Lisa Herbold embraced the idea of pursuing police alternatives as part of a “functioning public safety system”'

In 2019, she barely won re-election on a promise to fund SPD properly. In 2020, she spun right around and spat into the faces of those same voters when she became a Defunderpants Gnome. That was two years ago, her term of office is more than half over, and she STILL has no plan to fulfill either the promise she made to her constituents, or the one she made to the self-appointed activists who screamed for DEFUND? What's the delay, already?

So, the Council first tried to defund, failed at that, failed at creating policing alternatives, and is now citing the effects of THEIR OWN FAILURES as reasons to do what they failed to do? Just resign now, and get fresh candidates into next year's elections. At least then voters will have a choice, instead of just having to elect whomever runs against these incumbents.

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