Live at City Hall: New commander for the Southwest Precinct

10:33 AM: We’re on the seventh floor of City Hall with a couple dozen other media reps, where the mayor and police chief are about to appear for a briefing. The news release has just been handed out and it confirms the Southwest Precinct is getting a new commander – a familiar face, though – Steve Paulsen, who left as its Operations Lieutenant back in January, will return as Captain, and as its commander. The current SW commander, Capt. Joe Kessler, who’s been in West Seattle for two years, will become captain of the West Precinct. More to come.

10:43 AM UPDATE: The briefing has begun. The mayor is here with four top SPD leaders including Chief John Diaz. The Southwest Precinct command change is part of a larger change in command structure departmentwide. As part of that, Acting Deputy Chief Nick Metz (second from right in our photo) is now officially Deputy Chief Metz, and in charge of “community” (he was in West Seattle a week and a half ago for the briefing after the Admiral Way shooting and we are about to hear from him) – “community” is one of three priorities that Chief Diaz has listed, with another being “not being afraid” (paraphrase).

10:53 AM UPDATE: Deputy Chief Metz – who was introduced by Chief Diaz as the second-in-command of the department, now – says that community outreach will permeate every part of policing. And he says the community’s partnership is vital to that. Returning to the podium, Chief Diaz has briefly listed the command changes at precincts (not all precincts are getting new commanders) – Capts. Paulsen and Kessler are not here, but Chief Diaz says the changes are effective October 1st, and mentions that the West Precinct to which Capt. Kessler is moving is one of the toughest jobs in the department. (The SW Precinct commander before Capt. Kessler, Capt. Mike Fann, also is moving, from Traffic to Homeland Security.) The chief is now talking about “de-escalation” and decision-making at the scene – in light of recent incidents, including (though he hasn’t mentioned it specifically) the Admiral Way shooting. He says they will be making some changes in training to work more on “de-escalation.” He also says they will increase the number of Tasers – they have 300 now. They also will expand the use of video.

(Afternoon note – we’re putting the rest of the as-it-happened coverage after a jump – also, the full official news release is now available online, if you’re interested in reading it):

11:03 AM UPDATE: Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer is now talking more about training, saying the department’s training program is “on trial right now.” He says that officers already are trained in de-escalation, so “the real question we’re wrestling with … is, what is the best approach to that continuum of force which includes de-escalation?” He is also handing off to Kathryn Olson, director of the Office of Professional Accountability, who with Chiefs Diaz, Metz, and Kimerer, is among the police leaders at the front of the briefing room here with Mayor McGinn. Chief Kimerer also is discussing the investigation into the downtown shooting of Native American carver John Williams, while saying they won’t release details before the forthcoming inquest. A Firearms Review Board will convene Oct. 4th to consider what he calls “this tragic incident,” he says. (There also will be a coroner’s inquest.)

11:19 AM UPDATE: The mayor is also discussing the Williams shooting, saying that while people are asking what will be “done to the officer” (who killed him), “we are bound by a process” before they can make a decision. He has moved on into talking about racial issues including profiling, and says the city is working to address those issues, with programs such as the Youth and Families Initiative, and by meeting with those who are concerned. “This is one of the most difficult conversations we can have in this community,” he says, adding, “the dialogue is broader than the Police Department itself.” Now, Q/A – first question, from KIRO’s Essex Porter, asking when video and audio from the Williams shooting will be made public, since much of the process described earlier will be conducted in secret, despite the police leadership having talked about “transparency.” The mayor says “agreements … with the police union” and “due process issues” hamstring them to some degree with that, but a third-party review they also are ordering hopefully will address concerns about the objectivity of the review.

11:41 AM UPDATE: The briefing continues with questions about the Williams shooting, including some from community advocates who are here as well as reporters. One note we didn’t mention from earlier in the briefing: Reporting to Chief Metz is Captain Ron Wilson, who will command the SPD Community Outreach Section, which will include overseeing what the official announcement lists as “Demographic Advisory Councils, Special Projects, Crime Analysis, Crisis Communication (Internal and External), Neighborhood Viewpoint, and Youth Violence Initiative … also … responsible for coordinating training for the Department’s Community Police Teams and the Crime Prevention Coordinators who are often on the front lines of working to build relationships with the community. He will also look at how the Department can better train its first responders in building partnerships with businesses and residents within their districts.”

11:56 AM UPDATE: The briefing’s almost over; since the news release mentions the Crime Prevention Coordinators, we asked the mayor if that means there will be funding for them (there’d been concern earlier in the year that there wouldn’t). The mayor’s answer boiled down to “no comment” till the budget is unveiled on September 27th.

7 Replies to "Live at City Hall: New commander for the Southwest Precinct"

  • sarelly September 15, 2010 (12:39 pm)

    Very curious to know what is meant by building a relationship with the community. Which community? And what does it mean for people who are often called upon to act in an adversarial role to bond with “the community”? What would “community outreach” look like? While I personally have never had a problem with the law, I have had both good and bad experiences with police officers – which seemingly had nothing to do with who I am or what I was doing, and everything to do with the mood, behavior, attitudes, predispositions, prejudices, and anxieties of the officers themselves. I don’t like police officers who think it is okay to behave in a hostile manner toward ordinary law-abiding citizens just because their position allows them to. I’d like to know what is done to screen law enforcement candidates for mental health issues. Does anyone ask them why they want to be police officers? And what are their answers? What are their motives? Can someone define policing? Where is the line between protecting “the public” and the use of force? When does “the public” actually need protection from the police themselves? From what I’ve heard, tasers can be lethal, and no one – not even the manufacturers – knows the health effects. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve seen police do extremely brave and dangerous things. It is not a role I would envy or aspire to. I’m sure it’s a very stressful job, but it needs to be handled responsibly.

  • MB September 15, 2010 (3:07 pm)

    Just wanted to say I agree with the first comment :) Well put.

  • Baba September 15, 2010 (4:13 pm)

    —– I’d like to know what is done to screen law enforcement candidates for mental health issues. Does anyone ask them why they want to be police officers? And what are their answers? What are their motives?————-
    Wow!!! 100 Thumbs up to you for bringing this subject up!!! I personally found the answer to this question years ago. I happenned to know a lot of cops as acquaitances and even distant family members in my life, even in different states of our country. What struck me the most is how many of them were very insecure, fragile human beings, most with deep unresolved childhood abuse or being bullied as a kid issues. And when the badge and the gun were not on them… the true colors came out.
    So– MY– true belief is that “Serve and Protect” – is not #1 reason magority of men and women join the POLICE force for.
    It’s just MY HUMBLE OPINION!!! Please be gentle, folks!!!

  • Baba September 15, 2010 (4:23 pm)

    Disclaimer! I’m in no way implying that the people I knew and know now were/are BAD or CROOKED cops.

  • sarelly September 15, 2010 (6:22 pm)

    I totally hear you, Baba. What I’ve observed is not about dishonesty or gross acts of corruption, but about fear and how that can manifest in the form of abusive, belittling, hostile, or inappropriately dismissive behavior. It’s one thing to be observant, alert, and aware – and something else to be unduly suspicious or aggressive when there is no evidence of any illegal activity. The idea of someone going into police work to right the wrongs of the past makes sense. People who experience violence in childhood tend to be good at recognizing the warning signs. And maybe want to protect the underdog, and prevent bad things from happening to someone else. My guess is an officer would almost have to expect the worst of everyone, which means everyone is guilty until proven innocent, even if they don’t know what you’re guilty of – you exist, therefore you’re probably guilty of something, and that level of suspicion in turn creates a negative and oppressive atmosphere. Being on guard all the time is emotionally and mentally exhausting for everyone. Because police have so much authority including the authority to use force, there is always going to be an imbalance of power between the police and ordinary citizens. Speaking for myself, it is disturbing to feel at the mercy of whatever personal hang-ups an officer might bring to an otherwise benign situation. One with finesse can find out what they need to know without being unpleasant about it. There are probably those who enjoy terrorizing people, which is a whole different class of unhealthy – just as there are sadistic jerks in all other walks of life. But when it’s someone who carries a weapon and can beat the crap out of you just because they feel like it, where are the safeguards against them? Who decides who is fit to be given that much power? But overall, yeah, it looks like a tough job. You couldn’t pay me any of amount of money to do that job.

  • Baba September 15, 2010 (7:43 pm)

    sarelly,judging by the lack of comments, the sad truth is: it seems that magority of people are just OK with the way thing are…

  • sarelly September 15, 2010 (11:27 pm)

    If that means things are better than I think they are, that’s a reason to be happy, not sad.


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