Following shootings of police officers in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, patrol officers in Seattle will be doubling up for safety. According to Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, the new safety measure was requested by the police union; she told reporters that she will allow officers to ride in pairs “to the best extent possible.”
Because the SPD is already in the midst of dealing with a major staffing shortage, some Seattleites are concerned that pairing officers up will make waits for police attention even longer. The average response time to an urgent 911 call in Seattle is 11-14 minutes; in March of this year, the Seattle City Council announced a goal response time for those high-priority calls of 7 minutes at least 90 percent of the time, but estimated that it would need nearly 200 additional officers and over 100 full time equivalents (F.T.E.’s) in overtime to reach that goal. Earlier this year, multiple Seattle-area drivers told reporters that they waited more than an hour for a police response after incidents involving road rage and assault.
Assistant Chief Robert Merner told reporters that the current plan is for patrol officers to respond only to calls regarding major crimes. This will keep response times down for life-threatening situations, but it may mean that fewer units are available for less urgent calls. Property crimes such as car prowls and burglaries will not be considered major crimes.
The department plans to keep letting officers patrol in pairs “for the foreseeable future.” An initial plan to scale back on the number of paired officers was scrapped after the Baton Rouge shooting.
Washinton State Patrol officers will not be pairing up, since the department is already 120 officers short of staffing targets.
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