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As they roll out plan for more patrol cops, Seattle mayor and new police chief say the East Precinct wall will come down — eventually

The Seattle Police Department announced Tuesday it would be moving 100 of its officers out of its specialty units and into patrol duty on 911 response, with Chief Adrian Diaz saying the change would allow the department to respond to emergency calls faster and get to know the community better — even as the new fortified wall now surrounds Capitol Hill’s East Precinct.

Diaz said Wednesday he would “love to not have” the wall and claimed that ongoing daily demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism are requiring fewer and fewer officers to respond. He said the barrier is necessary, however, because of continued threats of fire and Molotov cocktails.

“I hate seeing the wall around the East Precinct and the West Precinct,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said. “I hate seeing public buildings having to be fenced off” in Cal Anderson Park.

“We are going to be looking at this carefully to see how quickly we can reintegrate that department both visually and physically with the community that it serves.”


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Durkan, also said there was no plan to move the precinct despite the auto row-era building’s vulnerabilities and said the wall was an improved change of tactic from early June when officers stood outside the building, leading to increased confrontations between police and protesters.

Diaz’s new initiative to put more police on patrol duties comes as his first major initiative as he takes over for Carmen Best who stepped down over efforts to reduce the department’s budget.

The initiative follows Durkan’s veto of legislation that would have set the stage for a process to significantly reduce the Seattle Police Department budget and channel more city spending to social and community programs, and the Black community. Durkan has said she wants to reinvision policing in Seattle and might eventually grow — not shrink — the force.

Diaz’s move won’t increase the size of the force but it will put more cops on the city’s streets.

“It is tough to engage community from inside a car, but when you’re going from call to call, that is really the only option that we have,” said Diaz, noting that the department’s 911 response has the fewest officers in recent memory. “By focusing our resources on patrol, I intend our officers to identify an underlying issue and start the connection with the renter, the homeowner, the neighborhood watch, the small business owner, the person living outside, the deep and lasting connections that we know build trust, legitimacy, and lasting public safety.”

Diaz added that these changes would be made in the next couple weeks. Diaz and Durkan have pointed to concerns over a rise in gun violence and killings in the city this year as another indicator the department’s budget should be maintained.

In all of 2019 there were 28 homicides in the city. This year, police have already reported 26 homicides, according to SPD public crime data. Meanwhile, other violent crimes, such as rapes and robberies are well below last year’s levels.  The Northgate neighborhood has had the most reported homicides this year with three, and the Capitol Hill, Squire Park, and First Hill areas have each had two.

Mayor Durkan noted Wednesday that issues of crime cannot be solved by policing alone, pointing to “upstream” solutions that she said will be included in her 2021 budget proposal released later this month.

SPD officers responded to about 274,000 911 events last year, with 44% of those categorized as criminal and the rest being non-criminal. The most common criminal calls in 2019 were for trespassing, shoplifting and other types of theft, and residential burglary. These specific calls accounted for less than 10% of all dispatches, according to an SPD analysis brought to the council in June. Diaz said his goal is to have at least half of the department’s officers working on patrol duty.

“It’s clear that there is a need for police in our city,” Durkan said. “We know we still need police. We rely on them to provide community safety, but we also want to make sure that the police are dealing with those issues that the police should be dealing with.”

She added that the city expects to look at: “Which [police calls] demand a traditional armed police response and which could get a different response? Every call for help doesn’t necessarily need an armed police officer, but every call for help has to be answered by someone who is trained and who is available 24/7 to give that assistance.”

This shift comes as advocates of systemic police change have argued for the civilianization of 911 response.

Activists like the Decriminalize Seattle coalition have called for 911 calls to be referred to responders that aren’t police, such as community-based workers that can provide mental health support and other services. Council member Andrew Lewis, who represents Queen Anne, South Lake Union, and the downtown corridor, announced in July legislation that would fund a first responder program for issues of mental health and substance addiction based on a Eugene, Oregon, initiative with money redirected from the police department.

The outreach teams under the Lewis plan would be comprised of an unarmed medic and mental health worker who can aid individuals in distress and connect them to services.

“We need people and responders who have not been trained or indoctrinated by police,” Jackie Vaughn, the executive director of Surge Reproductive Justice and a Decriminalize Seattle organizer, told the council in July. “We need community-based organizations that care for community in a way that addresses the root causes of situations.”

Despite this, Durkan still said she thinks the council would respond positively to this shift.

Even as Durkan points to this move as building community engagement and Diaz says it is a priority of the community, barriers like the negative reaction to the East Precinct wall still need to be overcome.


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Maxine
Maxine
8 months ago

I hate the wall around the station but after having personally witnessed more than one group throw molotov cocktails at the station, I don’t blame them.

I really don’t know what the goal is of these antics. To burn down the station? To kill police officers? Is that it?

Keep it up. You’ll get Trump re-elected.

Whichever
Whichever
8 months ago
Reply to  Maxine

The troublemakers among the ‘protestors’ aren’t thinking that far ahead. When you just want a reason to wreak havoc, any reason will do.

DD
DD
8 months ago

So, because SPD said they want the wall to come down, we should probably expect it to to be 20′ high by next month.

Yes, there are people throwing trash and molotov cocktails at the building, but the “beatings will continue until morale improves” strategy of the mayor and the SPD has not de-escalated anything.

Seems SPD’s strategy is to make everyone miserable until they get what they want (no change to the status quo whatsoever), so the violent overpolicing of BIPOC communities with zero accountability can continue.

Zach
Zach
8 months ago

“Activists like the Decriminalize Seattle coalition have called for 911 calls to be referred to responders that aren’t police, such as community-based workers that can provide mental health support and other services.”

Jake, what community-based workers are you referring to here? What groups do they belong to? What is their training?

If we don’t know the answer to these questions, it’s not a plan. It’s just made-up, and should be contextualized as so.

Max
Max
8 months ago
Reply to  Zach

Correct.

Journalists contextualize. Propagandists regurgitate.

Not Zach
Not Zach
8 months ago
Reply to  Zach

Hey whoever you are, read https://decriminalizeseattle.com for more details. CHS blog can’t fit all the details from that site into an article. Instead of writing a complaining comment that falsely raises idea there’s no plan, do the simple work of reading the source for yourself. Or is your goal just to foment confusion?

Max
Max
8 months ago
Reply to  Not Zach

That’s not how journalism works, “Not Zach / Fairly Obvious.”

GregM
GregM
8 months ago
Reply to  Not Zach

I clicked through to that website. There are no details, only a list of organizations that have ‘signed on’.

It’s an interesting idea but we need to know who specifically will provide which services, and what liability they will have if the services are not properly rendered, as well as what protections the city (taxpayers) are guaranteeing the people going into potentially hazardous situations.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
8 months ago
Reply to  Zach

As Not Jack pointed out, you seem to already have written off the idea while admittingly not even doing basic research. That’s not a good way to start a debate.

Wikipedia has a good article on it as well if you are interested in educating yourself:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_policing

Max
Max
8 months ago
Reply to  Fairly Obvious

“Not Zach / Fairly Obvious” – I don’t think you really understand what you’re trying to communicate. The community policing model is the model that is *already in place* in the U.S.; it replaced preventative policing in the 1980s / 1990s.

What defunders are advocating for is not a community policing model, it is a community support model.

There is a major difference between the two.

Community policing is full policing of the community by firearms-equipped police, but in a different distributive approach than preventative policing. When SPD transitioned to community policing in 1988 these were the major benchmarks: (a) permanent assignment of officers to dedicated neighborhood beats instead of shifting assignments, (b) increased use of foot and bicycle patrols, (c) additional funding for crime prevention programs such as DARE, (d) replacing preventative patrolling with targeted patrolling based on community feedback.

Community policing does NOT envision replacing firearms-equipped police with other disciplines like social workers, shamanic healers, and midwifes. That is community support, which is what defunders are advocating.

I suggest you take some time to educate yourself more about the subjects about which you’re advocating public policy changes.

RWK
RWK
8 months ago

Theoretically, it would be great if some 911 calls (mental health, addiction, other non-criminal situations) were responded to be a trained, “community-based” worker, instead of a police officer. However, I think it would be extremely difficult for 911 operators to quickly and accurately distinguish between criminal and non-criminal calls…..and the community-based workers could find themselves in unsafe situations. So, I think an officer should always be dispatched, at least initially.

Randy
Randy
8 months ago
Reply to  RWK

For an example of how this already works, the CAHOOTS program in Eugene OR gets about 24% of the 911 calls that used to go to police (about a quarter). They operate on a budget of $2 million dollars a year. Whereas the Eugene and neighboring county police departments operate on a total of $90 million dollars a year. So CAHOOTS receives 25% of the 911 calls but operate on about 3% of the budget and have extremely high success rate of responding to calls. Compared to 1/4 of the police operating budget (about $18 million) this program handles 24% of the 911 better than the police could handle those calls yet only costs $2 million per year. That’s a savings of $16 million per year with better results. This is what defunding the police can look like. This is a program Seattle city councilmember Andrew Lewis is now working to set up here in Seattle. We could have set up this program anytime on the past 5 years but no one was even looking around for better ways to make public safety work til these protests over George Floyd’s murder.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Of the 124,000 phone calls for aid they received in 2019 only in a 150 of those did they actually need to call police because the person involved was being a threat to themselves or others. That means for 123,850 calls there was no police involved. We all need to spend more time learning about what successful public safety can look like because the system we have now mostly isn’t working very well.

https://www.npr.org/2020/06/10/874339977/cahoots-how-social-workers-and-police-share-responsibilities-in-eugene-oregon

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
8 months ago
Reply to  Randy

“Partnership with police has always been essential to our model,” he said. “A CAHOOTS-like program without a close relationship with police would be very different from anything we’ve done. I don’t have a coherent vision of a society that has no police force.”

He said the current movement has seemingly pitted service providers like CAHOOTS against police, which may stoke suspicion among police over “whether we’re really their allies or their competitors,” he said.
-David Zeiss, CAHOOTS cofounder

A program like this could be beneficial here- I doubt you’ll find many people who argue against that – BUT- not by depleting our police department, which is already a small force that often cannot respond to anything but priority calls… Yes, please let’s find funding to add more mental health services, yes let’s add crisis responders – if we then find that the police department has time on their hands we can talk about reducing their numbers then, but don’t add soap, but then throw out the bath water before you’ve washed the baby….

Max
Max
8 months ago
Reply to  Randy

From 2013 to 2018 (the last year for which data was available) the crime rate in Eugene increased 25.15%. During the same period of time, the U.S. overall crime rate dropped 8.1%.

Seems like a great success story!

RWK
RWK
8 months ago
Reply to  Randy

I would really like to believe that a CAHOOTS-like program could work here. But Seattle is a much larger city with much more crime overall, so I am skeptical that it would be possible.

Where is SPD?
Where is SPD?
8 months ago

Not sure when the Police will actually begin their work policing. My office building was broken into and items costing thousands of dollars were stolen. We called the police, no one came. Know who showed up? Bellevue PD….this was in Pioneer Square… I am not sure how on earth we can support a PD that doesn’t even respond to calls in their own jurisdiction. Say what you will about Bellevue, but dang at least they answer the call while SPD builds walls around themselves.

Max
Max
8 months ago
Reply to  Where is SPD?

It’s called a mutual aid agreement which is provided for by the interlocal cooperation act. When a police department’s resources are overwhelmed, they may summon aid from an adjacent jurisdiction which – if they choose to do so – may then respond.

The reason the Bellevue PD responded to Pioneer Square was because SPD had no available officers to send. So you’ll have to get used to that. (Until Bellevue gets tired of driving to Pioneer Square, then you’ll either have to deal with break-ins yourself, or call the shamans and social workers to organize a drum circle and focus positive energy back into Pioneer Square.)

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
8 months ago

That wall seems like a violation of SDOT Director’s Rule 10-2015 regarding pedestrian mobility. People should report on Seattle’s Find It, Fix It app.

Lincoln
Lincoln
7 months ago
Reply to  Fairly Obvious

Find It, Fix it is a really great app, I’ve had great success reporting bicycle lane obstructions that were eventually removed / ticketed, except when it came to the illegally parked police SUVs (over 2 feet from the sidewalk) that were always idling outside of the East Precinct before the wall went up.

I’m a heavy user of the bike lane there and it is actually less obstructed now that the police cannot park there, and the wall puts a dent in their argument that the wasteful, dangerous cars were a public necessity. I fear the motorists passing through this intersection because they are already angry — this intersection mysteriously has no presence detectors for the left turn lane signals so through traffic must wait patiently for no reason, and they sure as heck aren’t going to look out for my safety as I use the lane rightfully to avoid the police cars.

Who do we turn to, when the wall comes down and the police SUVs come back and illegally park? I frankly prefer the wall.

Kevin
Kevin
8 months ago

SDOT admits the construction of the wall was unpermitted:

https://www.muckrock.com/foi/seattle-69/east-precinct-castle-wall-permits-101679/

“A comprehensive search of my department resulted in no responsive documents. No permits were issued for the barricades installed by SDOT. I was informed that SDOT does not permit work of SDOT’s crews.”

Max
Max
8 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

Daily there are protesters engaged in pedestrian movement on motorways without obtaining the code-required parade permits from the Special Events Committee.

Provided you can organize a group with enough people, laws are not applied. If you want to enforce a law in Seattle you will need to organize a larger group than the original and then do battle in the street with the original until either they succumb or your side is defeated.