Wednesday as our report was published, Edwards announced he is no longer commanding the precinct.
“I was advised late yesterday that I will be transferring soon to a different command elsewhere in the Department. Captain Pierre Davis will be the new East Precinct Captain,” an email from Edwards reads. “My understanding is that the change is to occur very soon likely within the next two weeks.”
CHS will update as we learn more about yet another change in the leadership of SPD.
UPDATE x2: SPD has confirmed the Davis appointment along with a flurry of leadership changes and shifts.
Davis comes to 12th and Pine after his recent promotion in the Southwest Precinct.
ORIGINAL REPORT: After former East Precinct Captain Ron Wilson quietly retired in November after 37 years with the department, Captain Mike Edwards came into the role without much fanfare or high profile changes (his predecessor didn’t get much of a honeymoon period). It was true to character for Edwards, who has been steadily, and without much press cover, working through nearly every post in the department since 1981. CHS reported on Edward’s impressive 32-year career with SPD which included six years as president of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild.
“Police officers need to know what the job is. Clear messaging,” Edwards said. “They just want to know what they’re supposed to do.”
Edwards comes into the East Precinct during a tumultuous time for the department as it works through big shakeups in personnel and policy. This week, Mayor Ed Murray kicked-off a 7-forum tour around the city to gather community feedback on the search for a new chief. Wednesday night he’ll hold a meeting in the Central District at Garfield Community Center, along with Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell.
Among the most important messages Edwards must carry will be dictating the department’s new use of force policies and other forthcoming changes as a Department of Justice monitoring team continues to guide reform efforts within the department.
Like many among SPD’s senior ranks, Edwards played a role in designing and implementing the department’s response to the DOJ actions. A Federal monitor cited Edwards’ work as training captain for SPD’s weekly Use of Force Review Board meetings as “admirable.”
“I don’t ever want to go through that again,” Edwards said, adding that he thought the process was too drawn-out. “I’m a bit of an impatient person… The level of uncertainty made it really difficult.”
Foot and bike patrols rolling out
Many have commented on CHS and through last year’s mayoral election forums on the need for increased foot patrols by neighborhood officers. Well, ask and ye shall receive. Edwards said increased foot and bicycle patrols in Capitol Hill will be rolling out within a few weeks.
“We’re not going to be able to employ them all the time, everyday,” he said. “But we can start transitioning.”
The biggest challenge, Edwards said, is ensuring adequate patrol coverage throughout the East Precinct’s large geographic area. “I have a finite number of people, how do I [respond to calls] most efficiently? The logical answer is just put everyone in cars,” he said. “It’s a bit of a balancing act.”
Foot patrols will focus on three key areas that Edwards said are priority hotspots for the precinct: Broadway on Capitol Hill, 12th Ave along Seattle University, and farther down 12th at Jackson in the International District. One benefit of starting foot and bike patrols into these areas, Edwards said, is that officers can deploy from the E Pine precinct building making the logistics of implementing the patrols easier.
A few officers in the precinct already have significant foot patrol experience, so Edwards said residents can expect to see those same officers walking beats along with a rotating group of trainees. Increased bike patrols will roll out a bit slower as more officers are trained.
The increased patrols come amid some high profile street crimes, including a stabbing and robbery near the Seattle University campus earlier this month that left the 23-year-old victim with life-threatening injuries. Despite rightful concern among students, Edwards told CHS that the circumstances surrounding the recent violence suggests students are not necessarily more vulnerable.
“The data shows students are not getting targeted specifically. It was just an opportunity,” Edwards said.
The arsonist who set fire to a Neighbours’ staircase this New Years is another high profile case that Edwards is watching closely. He told CHS he’s getting frequent updates from investigators on the case, and that detectives are making progress.
“We’re trying to be as diligent as possible. It’s one thing to prove it for us, it’s another thing to prove it in court,” he said.
The department has yet to identify a suspect in the case, and Edwards wouldn’t say if the man identified by Broadway business owners and residents was a person of interest.
Nightlife and more
In his new role, Edwards will also oversee police coverage of some of the city’s most active nightlife areas. As the mayor works with a group of bar and club owners to bring an extended hours proposal before the state liquor board, Edwards said he’s unsure how it would affect crime in Capitol Hill. “The literature is all over the place. In some cities it does curtail crime, in other places it doesn’t,” he said.
Last week marked the end of the inquest into the SPD shooting of Joel Reuter — the mentally ill Capitol Hill man who was killed by police in an eight hour standoff last summer. As Reuter’s family works in Olympia to strengthen mental health laws in the state, Edwards is trying to position his officers to better deal with the mentally ill here in Capitol Hill.
Edwards recently maneuvered to have a SPD crisis intervention specialist move into the precinct to help train patrol officers, as well take on some of the precinct’s case load. As the former captain of SPD’s education and training section, Edwards said he’s also making an effort to have all of the precinct’s lieutenants go through the state’s voluntary 40 hour basic training course in crisis management.
While the explosion of new developments in Capitol Hill isn’t affecting Edwards as a homeowner — he lives in unincorporated King County — it has meant shifting priorities for his East Precinct officers. CHS reported on an increased number of robberies in Capitol Hill during 2013 as compared to years prior. Edwards said he suspects gentrification of the neighborhood is partially responsible.
Edwards is well equipped to deal with the changing dynamics in the precinct. After an unusually long 15 years as a patrol officer, he said he has a good sense of how to meet the needs of both officers and the public.
“I’m trying to bring all that experience here,” he said. “I’m trying to bring ideas from all that time as an officer.”