As new panes of safety glass are being installed, the last vestiges of the Seattle Police Department’s efforts to wall off and fortify the East Precinct during months of protest have come down — for now, at least.
SPD public information could not confirm if the removal over the last few weeks of work would be permanent but the tall security fences outside the 12th and Pine facility have been dismantled and carted away.
CHS reported in May on the installation of the fence that replaced the large cement barrier wall SPD had built around the facility in the summer of 2020 as anti-police protests continued after months of massive Black Lives Matter demonstrations and rallies in the city including the nearby CHOP occupied protest camp.
At the time, CHS was passed around City Hall in search of specifications on the fence and cost of installation. Seattle Police initially referred us to the Seattle Department of Transportation which was managing the installation. SDOT said this was a matter for Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office. Later, a Durkan representative sent us back to SPD. A police spokesperson said the information would require a formal public disclosure request that has not yet been fulfilled.
A police department spokesperson said previously that full removal of the precinct security features would depend on “whether the building again becomes a target for arson and property damage.”
In the time the cement wall and, now, the security fence have come and, possibly, gone, new questions about SPD leadership, the East Precinct, and its abandonment by police have arisen.
The issues of concern about risk for the building, meanwhile, continue as new policing facilities are increasingly designed with features including bollards, fences, and parking lots used to prevent direct access. The auto row-era building home to the East Precinct was not, of course, designed for that kind of environment. 100 years ago, it was home to the Willys-Overland Motors automobile company. It has stood through decades of change on the Hill thanks in part to its large x-shaped seismic braces.
Questions about the building’s future could rise again. Seattle’s mayoral candidates say any decision on the building should be community driven and called for the fences and barriers to be taken down. “I strongly believe in working with the community to make these determinations,” Lorena Gonzalez said in regards to any discussions about moving the precinct headquarters. “I believe that we should have a thorough community review process to guide the next Mayor in making this decision in a manner that is community driven.”
Bruce Harrell said earlier this year the fence needed to be removed. “One thing we won’t do with the East Precinct is leave up unnecessary and uncalled for barricades and fences for months on end, which in addition to being an eyesore and symbol of City Hall’s failure during CHOP, also cost the city thousands of dollars,” Harrell told CHS.
Permanent removal of the security fence, meanwhile, represents more than symbolic progress of moving beyond the problems of the department’s response to CHOP. The lobbies of other precincts around the city are open again for public access following COVID-19 closures for citizens to report issues, pick up and drop off lost property, access community meeting rooms, and interact with police. It appears the East Precinct is finally ready to join in that reopening.
NEWS FOR ALL -- KEEP CHS PAYWALL-FREE
Give CHS a buck and support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with no paywall. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.