Job satisfaction: Attrition and “exodus” in Seattle

I just finished a grant proposal looking at the effects of biofeedback on depression and embittered in early and mid-career law enforcement officers. A common complaint with retiring officers and many who leave is not being supported by the agency leadership. Embitterment and attrition go hand in hand but a “mass exodus” bespeaks trouble in paradise. I would like to study the effects of physiological biofeedback on LEO depression and emotional embitterment with a goal of reducing suicide with the goal of enhanced officer well-being. This study will not do much to explain the increase of resignations in Seattle but the data speaks for itself. The Emerald City has lost some luster and the trust of its troops.

Police chiefs frequently ask what can we do about officers who are trained and then leave the department after 1-3 years of service? This is a large problem in small and medium-sized departments. A study was published looking at the exit interview data from departing officers in the Seattle PD and what factors contributed to their decision to leave. According to Jason Randz who has a radio show at KTTH in Seattle, the mass exodus is linked to disgust at the city leadership including aggressive city council over site.

Copy of scathing response to exit inquiry

“There are lots of people walking out the door,” an officer explained. “This is a mass exodus. We’re losing people left and right. Why stick around when the City Council doesn’t appreciate you? [These officers are] fleeing the ‘Seattle mentality.’”

It is unlikely that a true mass exodus is taking place as some believe in the great Northwest. All large departments have officer turnover that can cause difficulty for recruiting efforts. In 2019, it has become more difficult to recruit men and women for the police service across the country. The Seattle story cites over three dozen officers who have left or are planning to leave the SPD because of feelings of unhappiness with the city. A true copy of one exit interview is shown above “New strategies will be essential to fill not only the recruitment gaps, but also the tremendous loss of organizational knowledge that will accompany the impending mass retirements. Few would argue that a department full of rookies at every level is what the profession needs, especially if those rookies are from a generation that craves immediate approval and recognition” as described in a paper published in Police Chief Magazine entitled A Crisis Facing Law Enforcement: Recruiting in the 21st Century.

According to Chief Sid Smith, “with the growing public concern over police use of deadly force, this mental health issue presents another challenge for the recruiters and places an added burden upon the mental health professionals retained to more carefully screen all applicants, including military veterans”. In a prior post the topic of protective factors for success in law enforcement are listed but a substantial factor impacting job satisfaction and career hardiness is perceived support from management and city government including members of city council and in some cases strong mayors. In 2014, the Seattle Police Department appointed Kathleen O’Toole, a former Boston Police Commissioner, to lead the agency which was under federal consent decree for cases of alleged excessive force. She resigned in 2017 for personal reasons.