Sexual assault cases NOT a priority for Seattle police department amid crippling staff shortage

Not a single sexual assault case was assigned to a detective last month as the Seattle police have moved such cases to the backburner


                            Sexual assault cases NOT a priority for Seattle police department amid crippling staff shortage
At the moment, only four detectives handle sexual assault and child abuse cases in Seattle (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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Seattle's police department is no longer investigating reports of sexual assault and rape cases have become less of a priority for the department. As per reports, not a single sexual assault case was assigned to a detective last month as the Seattle police have moved such cases to the backburner.

In the last year, Seattle Police have forwarded far fewer sex assault cases to the King County Prosecutor's Office. Arrests for sex crimes involving adults and children, on the other hand, have plummeted with 1.6% of cases investigated by the sexual assault and child abuse unit resulting in an arrest, down from 14% in 2019, reports KUOW.

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As per Interim Chief Adrian Diaz, there had been a reduction in rape cases, but the documents obtained by KUOW show that the number of sexual assault and child abuse cases have only increased since 2019. At the moment, only four detectives handle sexual assault and child abuse cases in Seattle, which is proof of the widespread staff shortage affecting the police force.

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"The Seattle Police Department sexual assault unit is not at all investigating adult sexual assault reports or cases unless there was an arrest," a source inside the Seattle Police Department told the portal. "Our child cases are increasing due to the fact that children are coming back to school from Covid. There's more reporting, and we are seeing an aggressive level of child abuse than we have seen previously," said the employee.

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What is the reason?

Outside of arrests, not a single sexual assault case involving an adult victim was assigned to a detective in March. The Seattle Police Department says there are fewer officers to investigate these crimes. Two anonymous Seattle Police employees agreed that employee retention is part of the problem, with 16% of Seattle officers on leave, and others having left permanently. But they claim that it's not the only reason.

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Protesters paint a mural that says 'defund the police' in San Francisco, California (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

 

People believe the message of 'defunding the police' is acting as a deterrent to anyone considering joining the force and has led to many officers retiring early or resigning Furthermore, the police budget for 2021 was reduced by nearly $35.6 million, or 9%, from 2019. In November 2021, the city council voted for a 2022 budget that cut police funding by more than $7 million. In terms of numbers, 20 officers left the force in January, 171 officers exited last year, and 186 officers separated from the force in 2020 amid the push to defund the police.

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Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell's Office provided KUOW with a statement that mentioned, "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." Harrell said during his state of the city address in February that there is funding to hire 125 new officers this year and put more resources on the street. Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan had issued an executive order last year authorizing $10,000-$25,000 hiring bonuses for officers, but those funds are no longer available in 2022, reports Fox 13 Seattle. 

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"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," the statement concluded.

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