Seattle will bring a team of unarmed community police officers back to its streets to “handle non-emergency incidents such as neighborhood disputes, investigations, and crime prevention.”
Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan Wednesday that will hire 26 Community Service Officers in 2017 and put the revived police force back on the streets of Seattle by 2018.
“It is critical to the long-term success of our police department to build strong, lasting bonds between officers and the communities they serve,” Murray said in the announcement. “The Seattle Police Department has worked for years to become a model of 21st century policing and the Community Service Officer program will help us reach the ultimate goal of building community trust with the department.”
Seattle’s CSO program “ran for more than 30 years from 1971 to 2004, when it was discontinued for lack of funding,” KIRO reports.
City Council member Mike O’Brien secured $2 million in funding to revive the program in the 2017-2018 budget, according to the mayor’s announcement.
According to the plan, a new “interdepartmental project team” is being formed to create recommendations for SPD to add the new officers. The recommendations will include a framework for the “qualifications, training curriculum, and operational functions with SPD” the CSOs will serve, the mayor’s announcement said.
The current “class summary” for the CSO role at SPD outlines a role that handles many of the day to day social issues the city’s police force deals with:
Positions in this class, under general supervision, perform a variety of law enforcement-related community services work that does not require the enforcement authority of a sworn police officer. They patrol an assigned area of the City on foot or in a vehicle, serving populations such as dysfunctional families, the homeless, disabled, runaway youth, and the elderly. They mediate disputes between family members, neighbors, landlords and tenants; provide basic counseling; make referrals to assisting agencies and programs; maintain a caseload of juvenile runaways; investigate reports of child abuse; participate in crime prevention activities, and prepare a variety of incident reports.
As its police department continues to be reformed under a Department of Justice consent decree over its inequitable use of force and the city’s negotiations for a new police labor contract is pounded out, Seattle has pursued more programs and solutions to focus its officers on more serious crimes. Another example in the city’s 2017–2018 budget is continued funding for the city’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program that expanded to SPD’s East Precinct on Capitol Hill in 2016.