'We are better than this:' Interim Seattle police chief says more officers needed to fight gun violence

Gun violence was the topic of a media conference Tuesday as shootings in recent weeks have surged in Seattle.

Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz says the violence is happening while staffing at the department is short hundreds of officers he believes the city needs. 

While the city is pumping millions into programs meant to build community trust and construct new policing alternatives, Diaz says it also needs to invest more to keep the remaining officers on the beat and attract new hires. 

Shootings across Seattle have increased, surpassing the numbers SPD reported happening in 2020. Diaz says officers are pulling scores of firearms off the street while record-breaking attrition means 300 are no longer working at the department.  

"If the department was not in the midst of a staffing crisis, I’d have highly visible officers in neighborhoods suffering this violence," he said. 

Diaz wants city council to fund 1,400 officers. He added community members also must play a stronger role with the city’s policing. 

"We need people to call 911 when they hear gunshots, we need people to talk to detectives when they know who has a gun or who is shooting at each other and identify suspects," he said. 

August alone has shown a streak of violence across the city. The department investigated three people being shot in the first week. 

In the second, a child was injured and another person was shot and killed. The third week included an armed robbery, a drive-by and a road rage shooting. Separate incidents left 10 people injured by gunfire and another was killed. 

Since this past Sunday in separate incidents, two more people were shot and killed. Investigators said a Tuesday morning attempted robbery on Capitol Hill was thwarted by an armed stranger. A second shooting during the afternoon left a woman with a gunshot wound to the stomach. She was rushed to Harborview Medical Center.

RELATED: King County Prosecutor reveals homicides, shootings continue to increase

The department’s crime dashboard reveals that nearly every month this year has seen an increase in reports of shots fired, non-fatal and fatal shootings across the city. So far, there are nearly 130 more reports over all of last year. The dashboard shows gun violence left 99 people injured and another 23 people were killed. 

But on Tuesday, Diaz offered conflicting data saying so far this year, saying 104 separate shooting incidents resulted in 135 victims to date. Of the 35 homicides landing on SPD’s detectives' desks this year, Diaz says 78% are the direct result of gun violence.

"We’re better than this," he says. "This community came together during the pandemic and it’s going to take an even greater community effort to push back against the violence."

Councilmember Lisa Herbold says an amendment to the proposed budget by councilmember Teresa Mosqueda would fund community service officers and crime prevention coordinators, plus invest in community violence intervention programs and more. 

Mayor Jenny Durkan said her budget proposal offers cash incentives for new hires but a city council committee is not on board so far. Plus, the city’s new director of the ‘safe and thriving communities division’ says monies already shifted from SPD’s budget now flowing into community-based organizations are seeing some success. 

"Right now the community is asking for problems to be solved in an effective way," said Rex Brown from the city’s Safe and Thriving Communities Division. "Your deliberate speed is yielding some of those promising outcomes and we’ll see more of that. 

City Council is on recess right now, but when it reconvenes they’ll consider the mid-year budget and determine how much money goes into SPD recruitment and retention and more.  

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