Lawrence Wilson | The Center Square Contributor
Police staffing levels in Washington have reached a crisis point, according to Steven D. Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. The Crime in Washington 2021 report, released today by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, paints a picture of rising violent crime amid an exodus of officers from the law enforcement profession.
“Certainly, we have a staffing crisis,” WASPC executive director Steven D. Strachan said at a press conference today. “Not every agency is having a staffing crisis. Many are. The net loss of 495 officers in one year is indicative of a staffing crisis, and it’s not just Seattle PD.”
While the per capita murder rate remains lower than in the 1980s, the number of killings has spiked over the last two years. The number of murders increased 5.9% to 325 in 2021. The 302 murders reported in 2020 was increase of 46.6% over 2019 and the highest number of killings since 1994.
Violent crime overall increased 12.3%; robbery increased 10%, and aggravated assaults increased 15.4%, according to data compiled from 232 state, county, municipal, and Tribal agencies.
At the same time, policing agencies across the state saw a 4.4% reduction in the number of sworn officers in 2021. Together with the previous year’s drop, Washington now has 667 fewer deputies and police officers than in 2019, according to Strachan. With 1.38 officers per 1,000 people, the lowest ratio since statistics were first tracked in 1980, Washington is the least policed state in the union. The national average per capita rate is 2.33, according to FBI statistics.