After an exodus of officers from the Seattle Police Department in 2020, returning officers suggest things are looking up for the department.
At least six police officers who left the SPD earlier this year for other opportunities have returned amidst staffing shortages and slowing response times, showing promising signs for the future of the department.
Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz expects more will follow, citing innovative initiatives as a major reason.
“A lot of times people come back because of the camaraderie and their fellow officers that they’ve grown up in the department with, and that matters, but also the trajectory of where the department is leading. We are pushing initiatives that are cutting edge, that are innovative, and I think people want to be a part of something bigger than them,” Diaz said.
The SPD is at the forefront of what it calls “modern policing.” According to the SPD website, the department is undergoing a process of “re-envisioning public safety” with a focus on community policing.
According to KING5, the department has lost 339 officers since 2020 due to a variety of reasons. But lately things are changing. A 2022 budget proposal for the city called for the hiring of 125 additional officers, meaning that positions are once again opening up.
Officer Dion Johnson left the department for a job at Mason County Sheriff’s Office in 2020 after massive budget cuts that eliminated his and many other positions.
“With the state of Seattle last year, I thought that my job was in jeopardy,” explained Johnson. Over a year later, Johnson has returned to Seattle.
Another officer who came back was Officer Lauren Truscott, whose father was also an SPD officer.
“I grew up in Seattle,” said Truscott. “I went to Seattle Public Schools. I have long-standing relationships with a lot of community members.”
In 2020, Truscott left the SPD for a promotion with another police department, but has since returned.
Johnson was happy to come back, citing better pay and benefits, and a general sense of renewed optimism.
“[It has] been great coming back and getting back on the saddle here. I came back mostly because of the cost of living. Also, I just wanted to do other things in policing, and I’m optimistic about Seattle,” Johnson told KING5.
Diaz said things are looking up for the department, and hopes that 400 more officers will return or be newly hired to get the department back up to full staff.