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Seattle Police approved for $2.3M in Homeland Security training and equipment including new vehicle barriers, body armor, and ‘tactical robots’

Vehicle barriers like these are on SPD’s shopping list (Image: AML Risk Management)

The Seattle City Council this week approved Seattle Police’s use of $2.325 million in funding from the United States Department of Homeland Security to purchase equipment including advanced body armor, vehicle barricades, “tactical robots,” and new surveillance and night vision technology, plus tactical training for Seattle and area law enforcement.

The approval follows a previous authorization for the Seattle Fire Department to accept $750,000 in Homeland Security funding as the Seattle City Council last year delayed approving SPD’s use of the funds “until the members of the Council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee could conduct a more detailed analysis of SPD’s plan to spend the UASI funds,” according to the council’s brief on the decision.

The spending will cover “program management and sustainment; citizen preparedness and outreach; contract analysts; equipment and training to respond to acts of terrorism; and mass care shelter planning with the Human Services Department,” according to the council’s brief on the approved proposal.

“All new technologies that meet the criteria for surveillance are subject to review by City Council under the Seattle Surveillance Ordinance (SMC 14.18),” SPD’s report on the line items reads. “All new technologies must also undergo a privacy assessment to ensure that the City is following it’s privacy principles and privacy policy, to incorporate the appropriate privacy practices into daily operations and build public trust.”

A full roster of the spending plan is below.

The approval comes as Seattle officials are still coming to terms with the aftermath of the 2020 Black Lives Matter and anti-police protests and SPD’s flawed response to the demonstrations. Many findings have shown that SPD’s actions and use of tactical and crowd control gear added to and often sparked dangerous and damageful unrest.

Included in the $2.3 million in line items signed off on by the council this week are SPD plans to purchase equipment including $175,000 “advanced ballistic protection” armor “for active shooter response,” $300,000 in “readily deployable vehicle barricades” to be used to protect “soft target” locations “easily accessible to the general public and relatively unprotected, making it vulnerable to attack,” and $160,000 for a “Binocular Night Vision System Enhanced Clip-On Thermal Imager.”

“When dealing with radicalized domestic terrorists, special teams need information quickly to identify threats and locate victims to minimize loss of life,” the defense of the SPD line item reads.

The spending will also include tech for Seattle’s neighbors. Plans for two “Regional Tactical Robots” will deploy one new unit in Seattle and another in Tacoma. The robots are equipped with “manipulator arms and firing circuits” and “can assist with opening doors, searching, placing charges, and providing situational awareness through audio and video feeds, mitigating risks to both department personnel and community members.” The “Firing circuits” are used “to remotely detonate charges placed to gain entry into an area by a robot.”

The funding also will power SPD beyond new gear and gadgets including $240,000 for planning with Homeland Security across the region, $147,000 to pay for a regional manager, and $500,000 to pay for analysts at the “WA State Fusion Center” program “to detect, deter, and prevent terrorist attacks.”

“This is accomplished through open information sharing with appropriate stakeholders,” the SPD line item notes.

Seattle Police has a spotty record for successfully deploying the tech it purchases with Homeland Security grants. In 2013, SPD was forced to ground two drones purchased with the funds over privacy concerns even though officials said the drones would be tightly controlled, regulated, and would not be used to conduct random surveillance. A $5 million federal Homeland Security grant also powered controversial cameras placed along the waterfront — and beyond. Two years later, CHS reported on these federal surveillance cameras installed along 23rd Ave. Federal funding for gunshot detection surveillance in the Central District was also pursued under the Ed Murray administration. Current Mayor Bruce Harrell has said he would support the technology’s use in the city.

 

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Moving Soon
Moving Soon
4 months ago

And the nimby’s cheer. Back to normal. Nothing to see here. Get back to work.

alfred@alfredharris.com
4 months ago

The City Council and Police Department are wrong in using the Federal money to beef up the response to civil disorder. Using SWAT team tactics and military equipment designed for warfare is what inflamed the Black Lives Matter protests. Police should not be outfitted to look like menacing aggressors.

Luba T.
Luba T.
4 months ago

Who should then? Gangs? If you aware of their existence and how dangerous they can be. Look at the crimes around the city. I am sick and tired to hear something else happening in the neighborhood again, in the city as well. I don’t care about the race as well. If you can’t behave normally and breaking the law, be responsible. There are many black Americans deserving respect and admiration, not just some some movies and sports stars, but ordinary people, who raising families, often with hardships, but the children growing up nice and respectful to law. I don’t like criminals of any colors. I like and respect good people any colors. Police need to be trained better for sure, but they need to do their job, so people feel a bit more safer.

d.c.
d.c.
4 months ago
Reply to  Luba T.

Think back, Luba – where do the police actually deploy these resources? I don’t recall any gang hideouts being tear gassed.

If your assertion that a militarized police force deters gang violence were true, we would have seen that happen already as these tools have been purchased for police use for decades. Instead the violence is unabated and the tools are used against protestors and the mentally ill. We have seen this with our own eyes over and over.

Richard
Richard
4 months ago
Reply to  Luba T.

Luba, I’m sorry you’re so afraid of crime. I’m more sorry that you so emphatically support systemic oppression – especially since it’s been very well demonstrated that SPD’s tactics do so little to address your fears.

Neighbor
Neighbor
4 months ago

No, they should just stand there and let people rain rocks, bottles, cement and molotovs down on them with no protective gear because that makes better optics? What inflamed the protests was the same thing that inflamed the protests during Occupy, WTO and every other Seattle protest: Folks calling themselves anarchists and their hangers-on.

Richard
Richard
4 months ago
Reply to  Neighbor

Throughout history, as popular movements built steam, this has always been the first response from the oppressors and their status quo allies:. It’s not REALLY about oppressed people pushing back, this is just a bucha outsiders and troublemakers!

Sometimes that ends with guillotines, so I sincerely hope we as a people can start listening and making changes in a constructive, peaceful way… Because the changes are going to come, and I really prefer the peaceful and constructive path.

Davin
Davin
4 months ago

Is this article an April Fool’s joke?

NoChop
NoChop
4 months ago

What is sad was that we had a real chance at meaningful police reform in this city in 2020 where we could have addressed significant issues with policing, like the militarization of our police, but instead we went for the snake oil of “defund” and “abolition” being pushed by Sawant, Oliver, and Nicole Thomas-Kennedy and now have nothing to show for it (though Sawant, Oliver and NTK all have personal gains to show for it).

Think about how much better off this city would be right now if our elected council had focused on rallying the city together and fixing a few real and meaningful issues with policing instead of dividing us with all this virtue signaling huckster nonsense like cutting Carmen Best’s salary and taking to the street to yell at seattle police officers about being murderers for a killing that occurred In Minnesota.

We passed on an opportunity for real change for virtue signaling nonsense and now we have less police officers than ever, massive increases in shots fired incidents, and sky rocketing murder. Good work “activists”.