A troubling report from a Washington police association states that violent crime is on the rise in the state. Police staffing is also plummeting. Washington’s police staffing was already the lowest per capita in the country, and figures in the state’s government and law enforcement organizations are taking measures to bolster the number of law enforcement officers in the state. Read on to learn more about the law enforcement staffing situation in Washington state.
Statistics from the Washington police association report claims that violent crimes rose by more than 12% in the state in 2021. Murders were also up to an all-time high of 325. The murder rate is not quite as high as it was during the late 1980s and early 1990s, but its mark of 4 per 100,000 is still among the highest in the state’s history.
Washington’s Police Staffing is Well Below the National Average
Washington, as with many states, saw a significant drop in the number of police officers in 2021. Washington now has 10,736 officers, which is a decrease of over 400 from the previous year. This works out to a drop of over 4.4%. Meanwhile, the state’s population rose by over 100,000.
Washington now has just 1.38 officers per 1,000 residents. The national average is 2.33 officers per 1,000 residents. The shortage of police officers has led to police departments simply not responding to calls that are considered low-priority. Also, officers often have to work a great deal of overtime.
Budget Cuts & Negative Public Perception of Police are Blamed
The decline in the number of police officers comes in the midst of budget cuts to law enforcement agencies across the nation. These budget cuts were spurred by the COVID pandemic and by the negative perception of law enforcement resulting from the murder of George Floyd. Many police officers have resigned or taken retirement in response to the negative perception of their profession. Also, fewer prospective police officers are applying for law enforcement positions. Washington also passed law enforcement reform laws in the wake of the George Floyd murder that many officers found too restrictive.