Seattle Police officers send out dozens of job applications to other departments amid unrest

Amid all the unrest, some Seattle Police officers are quietly making their own move.

Q13 News has confirmed nearly 40 job applications sent to other departments by Seattle officers. 

For perspective, SPD has hired 51 officers so far in 2020 and at this point, the force is not making any more hires this year.

At the corner of South Thistle St and Rainier Place S sits a billboard of Seattle Police Officer Rosell Ellis.

Turns out, Ellis is the same officer Q13 News interviewed last month amid the unrest at the CHOP.

I want to be here, I want to help the community, that’s why I became the police,” Ellis said.

Ellis, who is African American, has been on the force for 3 years and he wanted to be on the billboard to draw diversity to the department.

In 2019, nearly 40% of officers hired were people of color and 17% of them were women.

That same year the city invested $1.6 million to recruit more officers.

In February, Durkan along with other city leaders held a press conference to emphasize recruitment and talked about staff shortages.

“Under chief leadership I’ll not accept that trend as the new norm,” Mayor Durkan said.

Fast forward 5 months and it’s the opposite tone with council members calling to defund SPD as much as 50%.

Durkan is proposing a 5% cut to SPD’s budget mostly due to the impacts of COVID-19. On Thursday, Durkan vowed that she is not backing down from her initial message of the importance of recruitment.

“We’ve been actually really pretty successful this year in recruiting, two things that’s important about that is city council members stood with Chief Best and I when we said we wanted to recruit more people in the community and how important that was,” Durkan said.

The video captured by Q13 News of the February press conference shows Council Member Lisa Herbold standing behind the mayor.

Q13 News requested to speak with city council members but did not hear back on Thursday.

Out of the nearly 40 job applications going out in a span of a month, Kent Police and the King County Sheriff’s Office have received the most number of applications. Kent PD received 10 and the King County Sheriff’s Office got 15.

The other departments that got applications were Edmonds Police, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, and Renton Police.

Bellevue Police say they are not hiring but they received up to 15 phone calls inquiring about a job.

“I don’t know if those numbers are duplicates, I do know that anyone who is watching can see that it’s been a really trying time for the organization,” Chief Carmen Best said.

As of Thursday, Best says no one had left the force yet.

She also says the department is committed to reimagining policing but she says any sudden and major cuts will hurt public safety.

“My biggest fear is that the council not acting rationally will have to lay those people off and that would be a tragedy,” Best said.

If there were to be layoffs, the first to go could be the new hires, a group that has been more diverse.

As for Ellis, he is not going anywhere. The officer who graduated from Rainier Beach High School says he enjoys serving a community he grew up in.

“I know a lot of people in the community, it’s a really good feeling when you run across people in the community, connect, have that conversation,” Ellis said.

Ellis used to be an SRO at Garfield High School. He was looking forward to eventually going back there and says he is disappointed with Seattle Public School’s decision to get rid of all SRO’s amid the protests.

Ellis says he made a lot of positive connections with students and he will miss that part of his job.

He says he will continue to have important conversations with members of his community because he also wants to see change.

“Personally for me, we can’t move forward if we don’t do it together,” Ellis said.