As activists criticize Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle Police Department’s decision to patrol the Central District with SWAT and K9 units in response to last week’s homicide and a wave of gun violence, the increased police presence may already be downshifted.
CHS reported Monday on the deployment SWAT officers on the streets of the Central District and outreach to civilian representatives SPD calls “violence interrupters” after the murder of 25th Ave S resident Marshall Bennett.
In a message to residents of the neighborhoods near the 25th Ave S homicide, SPD Lt. Paul Leung said Wednesday it is too early to know if SPD has its man but a “person of interest” has been arrested in Federal Way:
In response to the recent shootings in the Central District, I want to reassure the members of the community that we have increased the patrol coverage in that area. The east precinct has deployed extra patrol officers, East precinct Anti-Crime Team, SPD Gang Unit and SPD SWAT teams. The Seattle Police Department Gang Unit has conducted a follow up investigation and developed a person of interest as a possible suspect. ATF, DOC, and the Gang Unit Detectives conducted surveillance operations, located and arrested the suspect in Federal Way.
We’ve asked SPD’s public information office about the arrest and its connection to the Bennett murder case and will update when we hear more.
Having the “person of interest” in custody could bring a downshift in escalation of policing around the Central District. Earlier, Chris Fisher, SPD Strategy Officer, said the department believed a single individual was at the center of the wave of shootings. “We are aware that a particularly violent individual recently was released from prison and has returned to the area,” Fisher wrote. “When this individual was incarcerated, there was a marked reduction in violence in the area. They are suspected of being connected to several recent shots fired incidents in the area.”
The prospect for a downtick in the planned heavy SPD presence around the Central District and 23rd Ave comes as activist groups including Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County decried the decision to put SWAT officers and not more outreach workers on Central Area streets. It is unclear what shape a protest against the policing decisions planned for Saturday at noon would take. Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County says it is is not involved in the protest. UPDATE 9/21/18 8:55 AM: The Saturday event is being described as a public forum and will be held at Washington Hall:
Stop SPD From Putting A SWAT Team In The Central District
Stop SPD From Putting A SWAT Team In The Central District
SPD recently released a detailed plan to increase the presence of law enforcement in the Central District in light of gun violence, this includes having the SWAT team patrol the neighborhood. The Central District is a historically black neighborhood and this puts a lot of people of color at risk. A SWAT team is not the answer to gun violence. An increased police presence jeopardizes the safety of people of color. We are hosting a community forum to discuss what we want to see instead of SWAT and more police in the Central District. Gun violence is a serious issue. The people closest to the pain are the closest to the solution. Want a solution to violence in the Central District? Then we must hear from those most impacted by gun violence–young people of color and their families–and be willing to follow their lead. Also, we must remember that gun violence is a symptom of greater social issues such as gentrification, displacement, racism, and poverty. Adding more police, especially a SWAT team, does not solve these deeper issues. In fact, it may exasperate them. The forum will be simple. It will be a space for community members to express their thoughts and feelings. Depending on how many people show up we may need to limit the amount of time each person gets to speak.
UPDATE 3:15 PM: The Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County has posted a “community action alert” calling on the mayor to restore the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. Detail here:
MESSAGE TO MAYOR DURKAN: WHEN YOU DON’T INVEST IN PREVENTION, YOU BECOME RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BODYCOUNT
September 21st, 2018
Early this week the Seattle Police Department released a detailed plan to increase policing in the Central District in response to an alarming increase in gun violence, including utilizing members of the SWAT team as patrol officers in the historically Black community.
Missing from that plan was any comprehensive explanation of how the City’s Youth Violence Prevention Initiative would support and lead the response effort.
Black Lives Matter Seattle King County [BLMSeattle] contacted the Seattle Police Department to directly object to an increased police presence as the primary response effort.
“Seeing more police on the street might make some people feel safe, but it definitely makes other people legitimately unsafe; they are targeted because they are Black,” said Fox Hampton, a member of the BLMSeattle Board. “We made it clear to SPD that we oppose a militarized presence- there are other things the City should be doing to help stop gun and gang violence,” they added.
The Mayor and the City Council are responsible for the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, which has trained, experienced Street Outreach workers assigned to three Seattle areas: South Seattle, West Seattle, and the Central District. Street Outreach workers are uniquely qualified to identify, disrupt and prevent incidence of violence, including gun violence.
“Mayor Jenny Durkan and her staff are completely detached from the needs of Black and Brown people in Seattle, especially where violence of any kind is concerned,” Hampton said. “It doesn’t matter what any other mayor did to address youth, gun, and gang violence in Seattle, this is on Mayor Durkan; when you don’t invest in prevention, you become responsible for the body count.”
The Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative has all but been dismantled, limited to 2 outreach workers for the Central District, and no wraparound services like housing, drug treatment, counseling, or employment services. Current outreach efforts are understaffed and underpaid.
“Outreach workers, like the ones who work in the Central District are trained and experienced. They know the communities and people involved. They put their lives on the line to stop violence before it happens. When the Initiative was funded across the city, Seattle didn’t have the kind of violence we are seeing right now,” Hampton explained. “The Mayor needs to restore the Initiative and increase funding by $2 million dollars over the next two years to hire more Outreach workers and pay them a competitive wage. Anything less is a failure.”
After attempting to reach Mayor Durkan’s staff for two days, BLMSeattle was contacted late Wednesday by the mayor’s office. Durkan’s staff vowed to follow up with BLMSeattle to outline what steps Mayor Durkan will take to address the failure of the City to have a robust prevention initiative in place, and what will be done to fix it.
“We’re going to work with Mayor Durkan and hold her accountable,” Hampton concluded, “it doesn’t get more urgent than this. People are dying. We are waiting for her call.”
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