The Seattle Police Department (SPD) has lost almost 20 percent of its police force in the past year and a half, according to a law enforcement officer.
SPD officer Clayton Powell, who has been with the department for nearly 27 years, told CBS News that some 260 officers have left during that time, and that he’s also retiring early, although he had previously planned to leave when he hit three decades with the force.
“The support that we had in my generation of policing is no longer there,” he told the news outlet.
The death of George Floyd in May 2020 and the protests and riots that followed prompted a wave of police overhaul measures in dozens of states, from changes in use-of-force policies to greater accountability for officers.
Powell said that during riots last year, some officers had objects including rocks and bottles thrown at them, and they had to “stand there and take it.”
“When you see businesses get destroyed and families lose their livelihood because of that destruction … we can’t do anything about it. We’re not allowed to intercede,” he said.
Meanwhile, in New York, more than 5,300 police officers resigned or retired last year—a sharp increase of 75 percent over the previous year—as morale fell following widespread unrest and calls to defund the police. Resigning officers in the state accounted for 15 percent of total officers leaving their posts.
According to the Law Officer website, between May 25 and June 24, 2020, 272 police officers resigned from New York City’s police department.
On March 25, the New York City Council voted to pass various reform measures to abolish the qualified immunity provision for police, opening the way for citizens to sue police over claims of excessive use of force and unreasonable searches and seizures.
Qualified immunity is a judicial doctrine created 50 years ago that shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations such as the right to be free from excessive police force under federal law, as long as the officials didn’t violate “clearly established” law.
New York saw a rise in murders in 2020, an increase some experts have pinned on the defunding movement. As of May 9, the number of murders in the city is up 27 percent from 2020.
In Washington state this week, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed a dozen law enforcement overhaul measures into law, claiming they will boost accountability in policing and address “systemic racism” in the state. He called it a “moral mandate.”
The package of bills signed by Inslee includes outright bans on police use of chokeholds, neck restraints, and no-knock warrants, and also requires police officers to intervene if a colleague engages in excessive force.
It also requires the establishment of an independent office to review the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers. Police must also use “reasonable care,” such as deescalation tactics, in carrying out their duties.
The legislation restricts the use of tear gas and car chases, and makes it easier to sue officers when they cause injury.
According to a Rasmussen Reports survey released last month, 63 percent of approximately 1,000 likely U.S. voters are worried that anti-police rhetoric, which is often pushed by progressive Democrats, will result in a shortage of law enforcement officers and endanger public safety.
Hannah Cai contributed to this report.