Democratic Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said he was disappointed with the staffing problems at the Seattle Police Department (SPD), which caused a backlog of nearly 50 sexual assault cases.
Harrell said it was “unacceptable” that the SPD’s sexual assault unit was understaffed Thursday after a Seattle Times report detailed how the unit’s low numbers caused a backlog and detectives were conducting investigations in the Seattle Times, according to the Seattle Times most adult sexual assault cases.
Mayor Bruce Harrell called the critically understaffing in the Seattle Police Department’s sexual assault unit “unacceptable” after an internal memo was released by The Seattle Times and KUOW. https://t.co/EgrtZbfdod
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) June 3, 2022
“I’m not happy about where the city is, but we will indeed make sure we have the best service here this year for both investigations and victim and survivor support,” the Seattle Mayor said loudly Times. (RELATED: Multiple shootings rock Seattle on same day Democratic Mayor Bruce Harrell vowed to tackle rising crime)
Seattle Police Sgt. Pamela St. John wrote an internal memo to interim police chief Adrian Diaz in April, warning that the sexual assault unit was experiencing a staffing crisis that forced the department to attribute most adult sexual assault cases to ignore.
“Currently, due to our legal requirements, I am unable to refer adult sexual assault cases coming into the unit,” she said.
“The need for on-call detective response in sexual assault cases cannot be underestimated, but with current staffing levels, the burden placed on our detectives is too great,” St. John wrote. “The community expects our agency to respond to reports of sexual violence, and with current staffing levels, that goal is unachievable.”
St. John said the department has an immediate need for qualified detectives to work in the Special Assault and Child Abuse Unit. “At this point the unit has seen an increase in cases involving children and adolescents,” she wrote.
Harrell’s administration was criticized after the memo was published in the Times for ignoring the department’s concerns for months that its small number of detectives would leave cases unsolved, the outlet reported.
Riddhi Mukhopadhyay, executive director of the Sexual Violence Law Center, said his group is “under scrutiny” by Seattle’s mayor and administration.
“Now we’re going to be gas lit,” he told the Times. “[The SPD’s] The response has always been a bit slow and not as timely as compared to other jurisdictions. But it has gotten worse.”
Lisa Herbold, chair of the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee, said the city will be “looking at ways to help the department meet its hiring goals” to address the growing backlog, according to the Times.
Herbold was a significant voice in Seattle’s “Defund the Police” movement, including signing a letter with other city leaders accusing the SPD of “running the conflict on the streets of Seattle, particularly on Capitol Hill and in communities of color.” their inappropriate use of violence” during the Seattle riots of 2020.
Among other things, the letter called for former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to “redirect police department funding to community-based alternatives.”
Harrell was elected mayor of Seattle in November 2021 after issuing a pro-police ticket calling for an increase in the police department.