Seen any traffic enforcement in Yakima recently? It happens but not on a regular basis simply because the Yakima Police Department doesn't have a traffic unit. For a variety of reasons, including new police reform laws, passed by state lawmakers, the Yakima Police Department is short 19 officers.

The city traffic unit was canceled in 2021 which means fewer tickets

Because of that shortage the department had to cancel the traffic unit which means fewer drivers are being pulled over for traffic infractions. It's not just something that's happening in Yakima but all around the state. Many police agencies and the Washington State Patrol are short on officers and that means fewer traffic stops and fewer citations.
So when will staffing levels return to normal? Yakima Police Capt. Jay Seely says the department is trying to recruit more people to join the force but it's not an easy task. The biggest barrier? The mandatory state academy only takes a handful of officers from departments all around the state each year.

Yakima Police have long wait times at the state academy

Departments have been advised that the current waiting times are up to 7 months. It's why Seely says they hope to attract more lateral officers this year who are currently working in other departments and would already be qualified as full-time officers if hired in Yakima. The department has an additional 19 officers who are employed but unable to police the streets due to the fact that they are awaiting academy training and others are on various long-term disabilities.
So are Yakima city streets being protected with a lack of officers? Seely says they continue to maintain city coverage by using overtime. That means the same officers are working more time on the streets of Yakima.

Will things improve this year?

With 12 officers in various phases of the training process, Seely says by late 2022, staffing levels are expected to increase.
Because of the lack of available officers it's not known if the traffic unit will be restored in Yakima.

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