In a recent announcement, Seattle PD has stated that they are going to be cutting back on the investigations of sexual assault as the police department for the city attempts to move resources around to deal with the extreme strain from budget cuts by moving resources to other priorities.
As discovered via an investigation by KUOW that deep dove into the Seattle Police Department’s abilities and operations unveiled that the investigations and enforcement actions carried out in regards to sex crimes have dropped drastically through the period of 2019-2022. This drop has happened as multiple massive protests have taken place that called for the defunding of law enforcement continued to gain traction throughout the city and, concerningly. with the city officials.
Back in November, the city council of Seattle carried out a vote, ending at 8-1, to finalize a $355.5 million budget for the police forces working for the city. While the budget included funds that were money that was slated for 125 officers in the coming year, the total budget was a gigantic cut from what it had previously been sitting at. The budget for 2021 totaled out to $363 million, and just a year before that it was sitting pretty at a total of $401.8 million.
Currently, the Seattle police department has been forced to put many dozens of officers on extended leave as the officers burn through their accrued time off. Some of these specific offers chose to go on leave in the wake of refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Some of them are expected to not come back from their extended leave, as reported by KUOW.
The worryingly shorthanded police force has scaled back its resources for the investigation of sex crimes, and that shift seems to have had a noticeable impact on the police work. The arrests for carious sex crimes has dropped drastically over the past few years. Back in 2019, 14% of all the investigations into sex crimes ended with an arrest. Since then, that percentage has dramatically fallen to its current level which sits at roughly 1.6%.
As seen in documents issued by the news outlet, not a single sexual assault case involving an adult victim has been given to a detective to investigate for the entirety of March.
“The Seattle Police Department sexual assault unit is not at all investigating adult sexual assault reports or cases unless there was an arrest,” stated one source located inside the Seattle Police Department to KUOW.
Along with being extremely heavily short-staffed, the police department has also stated that it has realigned its priorities to focus on “visible crime” such as drug deals in public and homelessness, which leaves far fewer officers and resources for many other areas. The unit dealing with sexual assault has been so strained that a section of the calling coming in to try and report those crimes are sometimes routed to a call system that is entirely automated that records their message.
A statement has been issued by the office of Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, who took the role this year, calling for the lapse in focus on sex crimes “unacceptable.”
Any lack of urgency around sexual assault investigations or arrests is wholly unacceptable. Sexual assault cases must be exhaustively investigated, and offenders must be held accountable – period. When we assumed office, the SPD Sexual Assault Unit had a depleted number of deployable staff and our evaluation of these limited resources underscore the need for increasing SPD staffing to ensure justice for survivors. Chief Diaz is already in the process of providing our office with detailed and data-based information on the status of sexual assault investigations and what immediate improvements can be made in this area, including additional staff. Our administration’s proposed budget will reflect this priority by increasing detectives, resources, and specific training for investigations.