Seattle mayor calls for more police with violent crime highest in 14 years: 'Status quo is unacceptable'

A local activist tells Mayor Bruce Harrell to bring in National Guard amid Seattle police staffing woes

Seattle’s new mayor promised in his first state of the city address Tuesday to tackle soaring crime by bringing more officers to the force in a city notorious for its anti-police sentiment, acknowledging that the current "status quo in unacceptable" two years after what was known as the CHOP/CHAZ protest

At six weeks in office, Mayor Bruce Harrell stressed something he called "the politics of ‘and,’" saying the city needed to prioritize the "right number of officers AND the right kind of officers."  

Dealing with the fallout of protesters commandeering six city blocks and an abandoned police precinct in the summer of 2020, Harrell attempted to strike a balance between public safety and racial justice. 


"The truth is the status quo is unacceptable – that is the ONE AREA where we must all agree," Harrell said Tuesday. "It seems like every day I hear stories of longtime small businesses closing their doors for good or leaving our city; of families forever changed because of senseless tragedy driven by gun violence or overdose; of rising rents and an inability to pay bills or find housing; of climate impacts; of disillusioned youth and residents who don’t feel seen or heard."  

Mayor Bruce Harrell

Mayor Bruce Harrell delivers his first state of the city speech on Feb. 15, 2022.

This month, the Seattle Police Department released its 2021 year-end crime report. It showed that verified shooting and shots fired citywide rose last year by 40% compared to 2020 levels, and by 86% from 2019. Seattle’s violent crime rate also reached a 14-year-high in 2021. Violent crime surged by 20% last year compared to 2020. Arson, specifically, spiked by 30% and larceny-theft was up by 15%.  

Before the mayor’s address Tuesday, a local activist decried how the Seattle Police Department, which lost some 350 officers since January 2020, is inadequately staffed to address crime and shootings – and the issue is arguably so bad that it warrants calling in the National Guard, KOMO reported. 

"Bring the National Guard in," Victoria Beach, who’s served on the African American Community Advisory Council for the Seattle Police Department, said. "We don’t have enough SPD, it clearly shows."

"I don't care that it's only been a month," Beach said, acknowledging Harrell’s short tenure. "This has got to stop. All the shootings, what are we waiting for? No more planning the plan. We need action."

Harrell said an estimated 40,000 homeless people are living on the streets of Seattle. His remarks came nearly a week after Seattle business leaders detailed to City Council the breakdown of law and order, arguing 911 response times are severely delayed and criminals are released soon after arrest. 

The mayor said his approach to addressing crime is about "going back to the basics," which should include, "Making sure we enforce our criminal laws against those who are harming others."

"Part of that plan requires more officers. The depleted staffing we see today does not allow us to react to emergencies and crime with the response times our residents deserve," Harrell said Tuesday. "It does not allow us to staff the specialty teams we need for issues like domestic violence or DUI or financial crimes targeting the elderly. It does not allow us to conduct the thorough investigations we expect to make sustainable change." 

He said there’s funding for 125 new officers this year. A new class of the next 36 will start in June. 


In the same vein, however, Harrell said his administration is working toward a more "holistic approach to public safety," which involves working with the new Community Safety and Communication Center (CSCC) to explore "options to move away from a police-centered approach to public safety and to focus more on harm reduction." Harrell stressed, "We can have safety AND we can have reform." 

"We lead with and acknowledge the fact that African Americans have been subject to 400 hundred years of institutional racism," he said, "That the exploitation of our indigenous people has been woven into the fabric of this county since its inception; and that in 2022 we have seen anti-Asian hate and antisemitism at alarming levels. Those understandings should be part of our basics as well, and just as important."