With ‘defunding’ dominating conversation citywide, District 1 Community Network has a heart-to-heart talk with West Seattle’s new police commander

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

No matter where you are on the topic of transforming public safety, you likely have been talking a lot about it lately.

And it dominated last night’s meeting of the District 1 Community Network (D1CN), with featured guests from the Seattle Police Department’s Southwest Precinct – new commander Capt. Kevin Grossman, new operations Lt. Sina Ebinger, and Crime Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Danner.

D1CN is a coalition of West Seattle/South Park community-organization reps and other interested area residents; among the groups/organizations represented last night were the Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs, West Seattle Be Prepared, Pigeon Point Neighborhood Council, West Seattle Bike Connections, Morgan Community Association, West Seattle Transportation Coalition, South Park Neighborhood Association, West Seattle Timebank, Admiral Neighborhood Association, Duwamish Valley Safe Streets, VIEWS, Alki Community Council, and Fauntleroy Community Association.

POLICE SPOTLIGHT: Capt. Grossman spoke first, introducing himself and his priorities (see our June interview) – including gunfire (12 incidents in West Seattle in the past month, no injuries aside from the Alki shooting last Sunday, 28 year to date, up a bit from 24 at this point last year), auto thefts (Seattle is #22 in the nation); up a bit this year in West Seattle but overall crime and violent crime are both down more than 10 percent in our area, with the captain acknowledging COVID and the bridge closure play a role. Burglary is his other priority – he says there’s a current cluster in the Junction but overall they’re down 22 percent year to date.

Regarding Alki, he reiterated that he doesn’t have the budget for “emphasis patrols” but as we had reported hours before the meeting, the Parks Department is picking up the bill for three days a week, three hours a day, for the next two months. (Up to $27,000, Parks told WSB today.) He has told his night-watch commander to supplement with on-duty officers when possible. The gates will be closed at Don Armeni Boat Ramp at 10 pm and will reopen at 4:30 am, with the help of security working for Parks. They’re asking Traffic and Parking Enforcement to help out there too.

Lt. Ebinger said other problems they’re addressing include road rage, on the rise in bridge-detour traffic. There’s a moratorium on “moving RVs,” she said, but she’s working on help for those who need resources.

Danner spoke too. She said they’re planning to hold an online West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting this month online, August 18th (that group’s been on hiatus since the pandemic halted in-person meetings).

In Q&A, the meeting’s facilitator Phil Tavel said he had heard from Lowman Beach residents that they’ve been having problems. Capt. Grossman said that’s the first he’s heard of it. If the Parks-funded Alki Beach emphasis patrol needs to go check out that park too, he’s all for it. A nearby resident in attendance spoke up at that point and said that fireworks and other noise issues were a large part of the current problems. Deb Barker wondered if police have any idea who’s setting off the loud midnight blasts. No, he said, but it seems to be a citywide problem. Barker also asked about the staffing levels Grossman mentioned in this recent community message – is it true only 8 officers are on the street here at one time? Yes, sometimes, said Grossman. And, opening the door to discussion of public-safety transformation, he reiterated that he agrees there are some incidents in which a uniformed, armed officer is not necessary, so he hopes there’s a productive discussion about allocating resources. They’re understaffed, he believes, but also overtaxed with calls that could be handled in other ways.

Asked for more details about staffing, he said some officers have retired and some have resigned, and he isn’t expecting replacements – not necessarily because of the council vote but “other things are happening.” Randy Wiger from South Park, a Block Watch captain, said he believes this is indeed exactly the time for the conversation about policing; he also had harsh words for the police activity he saw during recent protests. David Hancock from the Admiral NA asked for more about how the department is addressing biased policing. Grossman said current processes to deal with bias situations are helpful and so are body-worn cameras. Overall, he said he doesn’t like the term “law enforcement” because that’s a small part of what they do.

South Park’s Aley Thompson asked how the precinct is addressing race/social justice issues. Capt. Grossman mentioned recent implicit-bias training. Lt. Ebinger added that it’s an issue important to her, as a person of color and an openly gay person, and if you experience problems, please bring them forward so they can be investigated.

WS Timebank’s Tamsen Spengler noted some people camping in The Triangle and wondered who’s handling that now, and whether LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) is available in West Seattle. There are two Community Police Team officers (including one who recently joined the team); Danner added that Community Service Officers have been hired but are still in training, and that the future of the department could affect what happens with them.

What happens if you’re having a problem with an officer at a scene and you believe it’s because of bias? Ask for a supervisor at the scene and/or contact the precinct, Grossman mentioned, though on followup he acknowledged there may be only one supervisor on duty for all of West Seattle. “If it’s an arrest situation you will see a supervisor (sergeant),” but if not, you probably won’t.

Said Tavel (who has worked as a public defender), while the captain and lieutenant were saying all the right things, there’s a very real problem with biased policing. He’s worried that the conversation will eventually ebb. What about a D1CN Town Hall on “defunding”? Tavel suggested. “What does the community want and need from a department that is unbiased?” Grossman said he’s all for “doing everything we can to humanize both sides” and that “vitriol” targeting anyone – not just police – ‘cuts me to the quick.” He says it’s vital to assume that people “on all sides” want things “to be better.” He said he wants to be “part of a society where people trust the police.” He also observed that inequity has led to our society seeming to be “coming apart at the seams” and that sometimes police are an easy scapegoat for that.

After some other dialogue – from the racist origins of policing, to the desire for reinvention, with Capt. Grossman saying he wants to see policing as of and for the community – facilitator Tavel said they’d pursue the possibility of a D1CN Town Hall-style conversation. In closing comments, Capt. Grossman said he appreciated the tough questions and “I appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt.” He insists he believes ‘some good can come out of” the “defunding” discussion. Lt. Ebinger added that she too is interested in “discussions with the community” on the future of local policing.

P.S. Two of the groups represented at the D1CN meeting have sent letters to the city about the police-budget cuts – the Fauntleroy NA and Alki CC.

Other topics:

WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE UPDATE: Task Force members Deb Barker and Aley Thompson were also at D1CN. Barker offered an update; we covered it all here. … D1CN’s been asked to sign onto a Port of Seattle-initiated letter to reiterate the importance of the bridge as a local/regional transportation lifeline.

COVID-19 RELIEF SUBCOMMITTEE: They’re drafting a community request for city aid in helping match neighbors in need with resources. Templates would be offered to neighborhood groups to send to the mayor (etc.).

The meeting began with community FYI’s, including:

DELRIDGE DAY, VIRTUAL EDITION: This Saturday, VIEWS is presenting a virtual edition of Delridge Day (the date that the event would have happened) – links to be announced. Then next month the organization will start presenting a series called “Chair Stories.”

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS SURVEY: Cindi Barker promoted this city survey we featured recently (it’s still open).

LAND USE: Deb Barker noted that at 9:30 am August 12th, the City Council’s Land Use Committee will consider some changes that might affect zoning – watch for the agenda.

SOUTH PARK AFFORDABLE HOUSING? Next Tuesday, Aley Thompson said, there’s a meeting on this topic, including a potential future for the possible park site by the SP Bridge.

OUTDOOR BUSINESS SPACE: David Hancock is soliciting neighborhood feedback on the city initiative to make it easier for businesses to use sidewalk/curbside outdoor space.

NEXT MEETING: September 2nd, 7 pm, online.

19 Replies to "With 'defunding' dominating conversation citywide, District 1 Community Network has a heart-to-heart talk with West Seattle's new police commander"

  • Trenton Street August 6, 2020 (4:45 pm)

    Does anyone remember if they mentioned how many officers are in WS on day shift? I thought it was pretty strange this afternoon to see three police vehicles parked in the back lot of Westwood apparently doing nothing. Maybe it’s not uncommon but it seemed odd to me. If SPD is already underfunded. 

    • Sixbuck August 6, 2020 (6:26 pm)

      Do you get breaks and a lunch break at your job?  Surprise!!  Police do, too (it is federal law). But officers do have to “drop everything” (including, literally, their lunch) if a priority call comes out. 

    • Mel August 6, 2020 (7:09 pm)

      Often times multiple officers are required to respond to the same call, and after they all need to do paperwork. Just a potential reason there could be 3 together. 

    • Pete August 6, 2020 (7:12 pm)

      Typically 4 officers per sector. So in most cases 8 total on a given shift. 

    • Anne August 6, 2020 (7:14 pm)

      Why didn’t you go up & ask—hey why are you guys doing nothing? Unbelievable-that SPD can’t even meet up -for whatever reason without criticism-accused of not doing anything. Not that long ago- you could find 2-3 officers in Starbucks at B & N- on break or lunch- they do get those you know. 

    • Dick Buttkiss August 7, 2020 (8:04 pm)

      SPD uses a data driven approach to deploy resources. Those officers are all there because crime mapping predicts they need to be there. So yeah…your smart a– comment at the end of your post is totally baseless. Hopefully the next time you go to get your soy latte from Starbucks at Westwood they get pulled to a priority call and aren’t there so your feelings don’t get hurt. 

  • TimesUp August 6, 2020 (5:59 pm)

    1. Do not defund police. 2. Hire more police officers.3. Improve law enforcement training 4. Oust bad apples.5. Support and defend our law enforcement.6. Enforce the laws.7. Prosecute violators and punish accordingly.(this is not rocket science)oh, I almost forgot… 8. Elect new city council members and mayor.

    • Brenda August 6, 2020 (6:39 pm)

      This sums it up nicely right here!! 

    • Duffy August 6, 2020 (8:06 pm)

      You forgot: cap police officer pay to free up money so more officers can be hired. I don’t care if it was a cluster of 20-30 cops; they should not be making 300K plus a year on the taxpayer dime. We need more cops, so free up resources by paying these select few LESS MONEY.

      • CMT August 6, 2020 (10:56 pm)

        I have looked at the data published be the City.  Can you please identify how many officers made or are making $300,000 – excluding 2019 – where the data is not reflective of salary but of back pay for multiple years?  I don’t see any and would like to know where that number keeps coming from.

      • Bob Villa August 7, 2020 (1:45 pm)

        Are you OK with capping pay for Teachers or Firefighters too ?

  • Don August 6, 2020 (6:17 pm)

    On the same page—excuse me, in the same article—it mentions defunding police, and then paying overtime to patrol a public area having an issue with….. you guess it: crime.    I think I am losing my mind here ! 

    • NonsensicalCity August 7, 2020 (12:22 am)

      I have noticed some serious cognitive dissonance in Seattle’s (especially West Seattle’s) electorate. One could call it hypocrisy if they weren’t so darned earnest about their beliefs. Sorry, Seattleites, but you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. 

  • flimflam August 6, 2020 (7:37 pm)

    is it me or did none of the council run on a platform of slashing the SPD budget? this was before covid too, obviously…

    • Unhappy Constituent August 7, 2020 (11:04 am)

      If I recall, Lisa Herbold wanted to give SPD MORE money in January of this year. And none of the others. except perhaps Suwant, were calling for less cops when they ran for office. All of this is why we should be voting on this, not letting our city council decide for us. I think if they ran for office under the guise of defunding, they may not have won. I can not say for sure obviously, but they were elected to represent the community, and most of them have done a 180 on the SPD budget since being elected. They are no longer representing the will of the people, they are just going rogue to appease a loud minority of the population.

  • Judy August 7, 2020 (11:01 am)

    I have lived on Harbor for 20 years.  There are signs across the street from our condo that say that it is closed at 11:00 p.m.it used to be that a police car would drive by and using a bull horn , lent the people know to leave.  We thanked you for that courtesy to the condo owners who live here and call it our home .now that Don  Armeni  is a focus and being closed, the Fence  along the water, across from the condos  is where they go, dancing, playing loud music, and getting drunk (?) or whatever, until 2-3-4 in the morning.   Is there a way to deter this happening ?  Thank you.

  • Frog August 7, 2020 (12:16 pm)

    Check out this on the NYT today: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/07/us/defund-police-seattle-protests.html Headline:  “Abolish the Police? Those Who Survived the Chaos in Seattle Aren’t So Sure” It’s a really stunning read, considering that the NYT is essentially the Democratic Party newsletter, and recently drove some veteran staff out of the building for getting off the BLM message.  That they permitted such an article with such language, a total 180 from their recent coverage, suggests that party elites have suddenly decided that police defunding talk is politically dangerous, and needs to be stuffed back in the bin, at least until the election.  The NYT is usually a bellwether for the corporate media in general, so I predict a tone change going forward, at least on the national level.

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