East Precinct introduces new leader at community crime meeting

Capt. Bryan Grenon (Image: Michelle MacKinnon/CHS)

With a recent run of 10 new leaders in 15 years, a change at the top of the Seattle Police Department’s precinct covering Capitol Hill and the Central District shouldn’t come as a major surprise. The 11th in 18 years is now taking over.

Capt. Bryan Grenon, a veteran officer and colonel in the Washington Army National Guard from Tacoma, joined the Seattle Police Department in 1992 and will now command the officers of the East Precinct.

“I just wanted to be a police officer,” he told CHS Thursday night after his introduction in the new role at a community crime meeting. He had one more stop to make before heading home after the meeting: the East Precinct where he told third-watch officers that he’s the commander now.

At the end of his first full day as Precinct Captain, Grenon arrived ten minutes early for the February meeting of the East Precinct Advisory Council. For a half hour, he and East Precinct Operations Lieutenant Paul Leung responded to concerns about school shootings and talk safety measures. “If we got a threat of a school shooting, we’re going to err on the side of caution and we’re going to make that arrest if we have probable cause,” Grenon said in one reply to the concerns voiced by community members Thursday night.

Capt. McDonagh at a community appearance at Neighbours (Image: CHS)

Like his predecessor Capt. Paul McDonagh, Grenon plans to regularly attend community meetings. Greeting the council members by name on Thursday, Grenon knows many of the volunteer activists. “I have a good relationship with all the folks around the neighborhood,” he said.

McDonagh, in his second tour of duty leading the precinct, had a longer than average tenure, taking up the job again in 2015 after a quick succession of changes. At the time, McDonagh’s focus was on helping the East Precinct scale to handle policing the swelling population of Pike/Pine during weekend nightlife peaks. In addition to helping his officers do their jobs, McDonagh also faced community issues with East Precinct approval ratings ranking the lowest among Seattle’s precincts.

SPD is also in a period of transition at a larger scale. This week in her first State of the City address, Mayor Jenny Durkan said the search for a new police chief to lead SPD is ramping up. “Our search committee reflects our city and they will have a number of community events throughout our city,” Durkan said. “But beginning today, anybody here or listening can go to seattle.gov and take a survey to tell me what you think we need in a new chief.” You can find the survey at seattle.gov/policechiefsearch. Carmen Best, the first black woman to lead the department, currently serves as the interim chief.

Grenon’s tack on precinct captain, meanwhile, began as a bike officer downtown where he spent “a good chunk of his early career.” He petitioned for the East Precinct after serving 18 months as the department’s Officer Training Commander. Somewhere in the middle of his career he was the East Precinct Sergeant for four years, Watch Commander, and Operations Lieutenant, too.

Not everyone Thursday night excited for the transition. EastPAC member Virginia Beach has been on the council for ten years and through several captains. “Why would you change a captain that the community likes?” she asked. “It happens too much.”

McDonagh now moves up to the Real Time Crime Center to crunch crime data from all over the city into a resource for officers on the ground. Crime in the East Precinct has dropped 11% since 2016, officials say. Grenon plans to continue that trend by “getting to the heart of the problem areas and addressing them.”

“The best parts of the job are the dedicated people, volunteers, taking time out of their life. They care about the community,” said Grenon as he left the meeting at Seattle University.

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