Seattle police enforcement of lower-level crimes, traffic offenses and infractions dropped dramatically in recent years as officers displayed less willingness to seek out illegal activity, the Seattle Times reports. The steep decline came during a period of intense scrutiny of the department over use of force, a federal consent decree requiring sweeping reforms and shifts in prosecution and enforcement standards.
The startling numbers presented at a meeting of the Community Police Commission, which included a 49-percent drop in misdemeanor crimes filed between 2005 and 2013, set off alarm bells at City Hall. Mayor Ed Murray called the data “deeply concerning.” Neither Murray nor other officials suggested officers might be deliberately declining to enforce laws, a practice known as “de-policing” that has been the subject of broad speculation, anecdotal discussion and a topic in the rank-and-file's union newspaper. Murray expressed concern that the enforcement that is occurring is having a disparate impact on minorities.