Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz pleaded for “guns [to be] put down” Tuesday as the city and county continue experiencing record increases in shootings.
During a meeting with community leaders at Emerald City Bible Fellowship Church, Diaz said he was concerned by the spike in violent crime, Komo News reported. “This last year and a half, I don’t see it slowing down,” Diaz said. “I need those guns put down.”
According to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, law enforcement has responded to nearly 70 murders or killings that involve shootings or stabbing already this year. The 68 killings in almost 6 months are just one shy of the total number in all of 2016.
“What we’re seeing this year is unprecedented. I haven’t seen this many shootings in over a decade,” Diaz said last week, according to KIRO 7.
“We need to stop the shootings. We need to put down the guns. For us, we need to be able to take some of those guns off the street. We need to heal as a community,” Diaz continued. “The police department has to heal with the community. We can’t be at odds with the community.”
In 2019, there were 90 murders compared to 146 last year.
Earlier this year, the church itself saw bloodshed when Omari Wallace was shot to death there in March.
Pastor Harvey Drake asserted the increase in violent crime is linked to how people value human life.
“At some point, we have to help people understand how to revalue each other,” Pastor Drake said.
Chief Diaz noted law enforcement has focused primarily on operations designed to remove illegal guns from city streets. He also noted that the city has lost almost 275 officers since 2020, and staffing shortages have played a part in how police balance patrols, other criminal activity and community relationships, which he says is critical to combating gun violence.
“When you have relationships, people are always wanting to talk about what’s going on in the community and that helps solve crime,” Diaz said.
“We are at record lows in the city right now. I have about 1,080 deployable officers. This is the lowest I’ve seen our department,” Diaz previously said regarding the shortage, according to The Associated Press in April, later adding, “I’m hoping that it starts to level off. I do see that this year we could have a significant amount of people leaving.”
After Seattle Police Department lost more than 180 police officers in 2020, Chief Diaz said the staffing crisis has continued in the city, and another 66 officers quit by April 2021.
Last year, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan supported an effort by the city council to cut the police department budget, saying she “[applauds] the City Council for taking a more deliberate and measured approach to the 2021 Seattle Police Department budget.”