Stretched Thin: An Analysis of Ten Years of Calls for Service to Seattle Police
December 7, 2020
An Analysis of Ten Years of Calls for Service to Seattle Police
By Scott Lindsay – attorney; Seattle resident; former public safety advisor and special assistant for police reform to the City of Seattle; former senior counsel to House Oversight Committee Democrats.
The main function of Seattle’s police force is responding to the 700+ requests for police services per day from
the residents, visitors, employees, and businesses of our city. These requests are often for life-threatening
situations, including suicide attempts (10 per day avg.), assaults (27 per day avg.), and car accidents (37 per day
avg.). Police staffing should be designed to appropriately meet the actual demand for police services. Cuts to the
number of police officers directly translates to cutting police services requested by the community.
Police leaders like former Chief Carmen Best have told the City of Seattle for years that the Department is
stretched too thin, that the same number or fewer officers are responding to more demands for police services. The data on ten years of police activity verifies that police are responding to significantly more calls for service – particularly the most time-consuming, dangerous, and complex Priority 1 calls – with fewer officers than they had a decade ago. Interim Chief Adrian Diaz has already begun the harsh but necessary step of cannibalizing critical
investigative units (like child trafficking, fraud, and identity theft) in order to avoid further degradation of
officers’ ability to respond to Priority 1 calls for service. Cuts to essential services will accelerate in 2021 as the
staffing crisis deepens.
Neighborhoods with the largest BIPOC representation request the most police services and will therefore be
disproportionately harmed by Council’s cuts to those services. The narrative pushed by Councilmember Morales
and Councilmember Sawant, along with advocacy groups like King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle,
is that policing is harmful to BIPOC communities and does not aid in providing safety. Ten years of data on calls
to police and police responses tells a different story. The data shows that cuts to police services will negatively impact the residents of Delridge, South Park, and the Rainier Valley much more than those living in Queen Anne, Magnolia, and Madison Park. That may be why, according to recent polling, 67% of persons of color in Seattle
oppose efforts to defund the police even as they hold concerns about being subject to police violence.