AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: Councilmember Herbold’s Town Hall, hour 1 – public safety


5:35 PM: Click the window above to watch West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s Town Hall, scheduled to spend the first hour on public safety, the second on the bridge closure. We’ll be chronicling each hour separately, as they happen. First, public safety, with the backdrop of the council’s recent vote to cut Seattle Police funding, leading to a veto fight with the mayor, who lost and just today announced the council’s planned cuts will take effect, including suspension of the Navigation Team.

Police Chief Adrian Diaz is the first guest; moderator is Brian Callanan, a West Seattleite who works for Seattle Channel. The chief starts with his five priorities for SPD, and says he’s a former West Seattleite who still has family here. He notes that the Southwest Precinct has had 2 homicides – with arrests in both; assaults, arsons, and motor vehicle thefts are up, while burglaries, robberies, and rapes are down. He acknowledges concern about street racing and Alki issues. He says staffing, however, is an issue almost daily, citywide, but today is the first day for a redeployment of 100 staffers citywide back to patrol/911 response. “Our core mission is responding to calls for service and preventing crime.”

5:40 PM: The chief says he has to leave, and turns it over to SW Precinct commander Capt. Kevin Grossman. He says crime in West Seattle is down 15 percent overall, perhaps because of the pandemic and bridge closure. But he says he’s been hearing a lot about quality-of-life issues in Alki and South Park. “I’d like to address them (but) the biggest problem I’m facing … is staffing.” As we’ve reported before, he’s lost 10 percent of the sworn officers to resignations, retirements, and lateral (other department) moves. He talked about how it took an hour for a repeat caller to get a response because the four officers on at that time were busy with higher-priority calls. “That illustrates my point – we just don’t have the staffing to get to all the calls.” He says the redeployment isn’t going to help much because “50 percent of the people assigned (to the precinct) have indicated their intention to leave.” Half his staffing most nights also has been lost to dealing with protests in other parts of town, but the chief has come up with a way to address that, that should help, he says.

5:46 PM: Back to Councilmember Herbold, who talks about the plan for alternative means of community safety, and the mayor’s announcement that – in addition to going ahead with cuts – means that violence-prevention organizations will get the funding allotted by the council. She says participatory budgeting – with everyone from small businesses to activist groups participating – will help shape the changes. She says the size of the police force may decline as some functions move to other types of responses, but that doesn’t mean no police – it means that officers will be able to focus on what they’re truly needed for. She mentions an Oregon program called CAHOOTS that’s been cited before, saying it handles 20 percent of 911 calls in its jurisdiction.

She moves on to LEAD – Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion – which is expanding to West Seattle, into a long-planned move for which Herbold has advocated. Guests from the program, including a Prosecuting Attorney’s Office rep – join her. First, Tracy Gillespie, the program’s operations director, who explains that it’s for people who have repeat contacts with police, and referrals can be made by community members as well as by law enforcers. It’s meant to be a very neighborhood-centered program. Project manager Aaron Burkhalter speaks next. He says he’s been talking with community members already “to try to get a good sense of what’s going on … trying to prioritize as much as we can.” He says they’re already handling “high-priority referrals … from West Seattle.” is his email address. The King County PAO who supervises three LEAD-liaison lawyers, Natalie Walton-Anderson, a West Seattleite, calls the program “amazing” in its ability to address people “engaging in public disorder and low-level crimes” while dealing with substance disorder and untreated mental illness. Prosecutors’ role: “We want to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve jail.” But that doesn’t mean no accountability – they also want to hear what’s not working, as well as what is.

6:04 PM: Questions and comments from viewers now, read by Callanan. First – how will community safety be measured post-defunding, and what happens if it doesn’t work? Herbold says the term “defunding means a lot of different things to different people.” She says metrics will be used, from crimes reported to 911 calls received to the annual public-safety survey. It’s not about not policing, she stresses: “This is about allowing law enforcement to focus on its core mission.” The SPD budget reductions proposed in the new budget largely involve transferring functions outside the department. As for the initial reduction in officers passed by the council, that’s going to take a while because they have to be “bargained” (as also noted in the mayor’s announcement today). Herbold mentioned again that they want reductions to come from a list of officers who have troubled histories – “about 25 of them.” There’s a hiring freeze right now pending “the conversation about the future” of public safety.

Second, Capt. Grossman is asked about how cuts will affect policing in our area. “We will always look to ensure we’ve got adequate 911 coverage, especially when it comes to life-safety issues.” He adds that he doesn’t like the term “defunding” either but “there’s nothing wrong with a reset, society-wise,” discussing what police’s role should be. “It’s a good time to have that conversation,” he says, acknowledging SPD “takes a large part of the city’s budget.”

Third, another question for Capt. Grossman, about street racing, drug use, and other disorder: “When are we going to get support and relief on Harbor Avenue SW?” He replies, “I don’t know if I’d been here a day when I started getting emails from neighbors about those issues.” But it’s a “resource issue” and they’re “very very short-staffed at night …. times when I’m down to 4 officers.” The new citywide Community Response Group is intended from hereon out to handle protests so Southwest Precinct officers can stay in this area. He says maybe longterm, changes – maybe making Alki 1-way? – could help more than enforcement. “Long-term issues like street design are going to be longer-term solutions.”

6:15 PM: Herbold says Capt. Grossman is also supportive of making the Alki Point Keep Moving/Stay Healthy Street permanent, and thanks him for that. Next question – from an advocate for reducing gun violence. They want to know if Herbold’s office is developing relationships with community organizations like theirs. Herbold says that sort of thing is part of the community-organization funding just approved by the council (and vetoed by the mayor, then upheld by the council). She’ll be meeting with Human Services Director Jason Johnson to see whether funding will go to expand current contracts or whether new ones will be added. “If you’ve got particular programs that are doing work in West Seattle, let me know.” Callanan then asks the captain “what’s being done to address gun violence in South Park?” Grossman mentions his time as South Precinct commander, dealing with much more gun violence than this area, but as he’s said before, shots-fired calls are a priority, and he stresses the importance of his officers thoroughly investigating them. He also mentions the importance of working with youth to prevent violence before it starts.

Next, for Herbold (and Callanan says they might stretch the public-safety discussion beyond 6:30 pm) “how will your vote to reduce police funding affect your constituents; will we lose the precinct” (as once suggested by former Police Chief Carmen Best)? Herbold says this is an opportunity “to clarify what we actually did.” Budget rebalancing – not just SPD cuts – was necessary because of the revenue decline caused by the pandemic. It’s important to understand “how little we actually cut,” she says. She also explains that the precinct is NOT in jeopardy – it was at the time a reaction to another councilmember’s proposal for dramatic cuts that were never going to happen – and she ensured that by “legislatively establish(ing) budget levels for each precinct.” That bill meant no precinct could be closed without a council vote, which she would “never, ever support.”

Next, “When are you going to do something about all the RVs parked on Andover next to the West Seattle Health Club?” Herbold says, “I worked in the budget process several years ago for funding the RV Remediation Program .. when problem areas are identified, RVs are either asked to minimize their impacts to the areas where they are located, or move … I also worked to get funding through Seattle Public Utilities for RV pump-outs … The city’s approach is not one where we’re out there just towing RVs because they’re unlawfully parked or people’s living in them … we’re really focused on minimizing the impacts to surrounding communities … not having people’s RVs towed, one of the only things they have of value. … Unfortunately we have a lot of people living in their vehicles, and our focus is not to be punitive, but to minimize the impacts they have to surrounding communities.” Grossman adds, “It’s always been a challenge” and notes that the mayor’s office has a moratorium on moving campers or RV residents because of COVID. He underscores that they try to do what they can about reducing impact, and sometimes his officers can try to get them to leave for a while, though they often come back.

LEAD’s Burkhalter says they do work with people living in vehicles, working with the Scofflaw Mitigation Team (though this area wouldn’t be in their initial West Seattle focus, which will be in Cottage Grove and The Junction).

Next question – why does SPD put so much focus on “managing protests” instead of focusing resources elsewhere? “We have to make sure we facilitate people’s First Amendment rights but also have to make sure people’s lives are not in danger, and significant property damage is not occurring,” he says. He also adds that decisions are made based on projections from what police are seeing on social media. But again, he’s hopeful the department’s new protest-response team will free up his officers for what needs to be attended to here.

Asked for her thoughts, Herbold says she is also opposed to property damage, hate speech, arson, violence against officers, and if that happens or seems likely,”police are going to err on the side of caution and show up.” But reimagining public safety can lead to decisions freeing up police, too.

Then she adds that she wants to address the defunding of the Navigation Team, though that was not asked: The funding for it was reallocated to expand service providers’ contracts, she says, to make sure the work of reaching out to people living outdoors continues. Those providers have a better success rate than the Navigation Team did, she says. “Our vote is not about stopping that engagement or stopping the efforts to mitigate the impacts of people living outdoors.” She says letters today from the mayor don’t mention the reallocation of funding, so she’s concerned. “I’m really concerned that this omission is going to manufacture chaos by stopping the work of the Navigation Team and not replacing it, which was not the council’s intention.” LEAD can help, she says. She asks Gillespie to elaborate. “There’s a huge gray area between public disorder and criminal activity.” The organization REACH – the LEAD service provider – specializes in working with people “on their longterm behavior” and what they need to improve that behavior. She says stabilizing people has “extremely effective results.”

6:44 PM: That’s it for the public-safety discussion; we’re covering the Town Hall’s second hour, more like 3/4 of an hour now – on the bridge – in a separate story (go here).

20 Replies to "AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: Councilmember Herbold's Town Hall, hour 1 - public safety"

  • KT September 30, 2020 (6:00 pm)

    Pay attention to what was said at the 5:40pm mark … “He talked about how it took an hour for a repeat caller to get a response because the four officers on at that time were busy with higher-priority calls.”     In particular “…the four officers on at that time…” – if that does not cause concern then I don’t know what would.

    • Melinda September 30, 2020 (6:30 pm)

      How many officers are assigned to the SW precinct?  There are 1400 sworn officers in SPD, 500-700 of whom are classified as Patrol officers.   Its my observation that SPD consistently sends way too many officers to the protests – which  creates then escalates the conflict,  then uses this management decision to make the neighborhoods feel underserved and to turn folks against the protests.   

      • Wsguy123 September 30, 2020 (7:17 pm)

        Previous stats in the comment section on wsb has been around 8 officers. Probably fewer now.

      • Anne September 30, 2020 (7:48 pm)

        Well you definitely should volunteer your highly insightful views- I’m sure SPD would welcome your expertise-as you know better than they just exactly how many is too many officers that should be at a protest. 

    • Chuck September 30, 2020 (6:55 pm)

      Followed immediately by: He says the redeployment isn’t going to help much because “50 percent of the people assigned (to the precinct) have indicated their intention to leave.”  /  Good for them (why the hell would a cop want to work in a city where the Council has clearly made it felt that they are not welcome?) but not so good for us. Anyone who doesn’t understand that the rank and file feel like this community has spat on them with all the “defunding” talk is deluding themselves. Besides those 25 supposedly “bad apple” cops being urged to move on, it’s obvious that we are losing half of the “good ones” too. Seattle is now a far more dangerous place because of far-left politics. Congratulations. 

      • Peter October 1, 2020 (8:47 am)

        Sorry, but if people who make $400,000 a year out of taxpayers‘ pockets feel “spat on,” I have zero sympathy for their feelings. None. Police pay is totally out of control and the bloated SPD budget makes it impossible for the city to adequately maintain bridges and roads.

        • Timothy October 2, 2020 (9:30 am)

          People who make 400k a year do not feel spat on. I don’t think you understood the report that number came from.

          • Jo October 7, 2020 (5:16 pm)

            Ya, they did not read that report correctly. Please read again. That’s not what cops get paid. And when you look at the highest paid officer, take into account their overtime was needed for either: understaffing, an event (ie protest, rally) or their overtime expense was reimbursed to the city for a construction flagging job etc.  

  • Findlay September 30, 2020 (6:32 pm)

    The petition to recall Councilmember Herbold is here:

    • CAM September 30, 2020 (7:16 pm)

      Signing an online petition is not a legally valid method for attempting to recall a city council person. 

    • Ann September 30, 2020 (7:43 pm)

      It does, at least, send a message.

    • JVP September 30, 2020 (10:59 pm)

      These recalls are a waste of time and resources. I’m very critical of Herbold, didn’t vote for her, and never will. But we got exactly what we voted into office. Elections have consequences. Vote her out next regular election, don’t waste city money with some half-baked recall effort.

    • Peter October 1, 2020 (8:40 am)

      That is not an actual petition to recall Herbold in any legal sense. These type of online petition are really only about collecting emails for spamming. 

    • Born here, never leaving October 2, 2020 (8:11 am)

      Just signed. Thanks for posting the link. Lisa has had her shot and is failing West Seattle. 

  • WSB September 30, 2020 (6:50 pm)

    Coverage of the Town Hall’s bridge discussion, which began at 6:44 pm (later than planned), is continuing here:

  • A September 30, 2020 (8:58 pm)

    When talking about cuts to SPD Herbold says it’s important to understand “how little we actually cut”. 70 officers are going to be laid off because of your defund the police vote in a department that is already extremely short staffed with low morale and officers either quitting, retiring, or leaving to other cities. I’d say you’ve actually cut quite a bit from our police department and you have put the citizens in your district in more danger because of it. Also, be prepared for the homeless/RV problem to get much worse. No navigation team now so the homeless camps and rvs parked everywhere are going to continue to grow. Thanks Lisa you’re the best! 

    • Tiro October 1, 2020 (9:05 am)

      So on the one hand the city’s Black and brown residents are concerned that police staffing at the current levels results in members of the community getting harassed and killed by the police.  On the other hand we have the mostly white residents of West Seattle and Alki complaining about, in the officer’s words, “quality of life issues”.  If the good people of West Seattle aren’t willing to prioritize someone else’s life over their quality of life, then perhaps they are not such good people after all.

  • alki_2008 October 1, 2020 (1:10 am)

    He says maybe longterm, changes – maybe making Alki 1-way? – could help more than enforcement.  Excuse me?!  Does he realize that people live on Alki Ave and that one-way would mean driving all the way up and over the hill to get back. If someone that lives on Alki drives over to Starbucks at 61st, then they’d have to drive all the way up over Admiral and down California to get back home?  Or the reverse route, depending on what direction the one-way would be.  Absolutely ridiculous to even propose such a thing. How about enforcing rules and laws, instead of making things more onerous for people that have to live here.

  • Cogburn October 1, 2020 (7:32 am)

    The police don’t have the staffing due to the mayor’s and council’s betrayal of their duties to law enforcement and their vile attacks on them while basically praising the rioters. What does she mean that the dramatic 50% cuts strived for by another member were not going to happen! Then why did she sit quietly by while the police were lead to believe that they were dead meat. Such rude, mean and negligent behavior by the council who have run out the best captain Seattle ever had and totally demoralized the police. They will talk, meet, plan, consult, study, recommend assess the bridge until it falls down on its own. When are they going to do something about the RVs? Not really a valid question after the many years they have done nothing; their non-actions have answered that. “Scofflaw mitigation team”? Does that really need comment. Make Alki Ave one way? Who are these people? And do we really need to wonder why the police need to manage the protests? Well how about to keep them off I5, protect property (that vile capitalistic materialism like our homes, cars and businesses), and keep them from burning the precincts and the police union building to the ground. Please – who do you think we are? Significant property damage has occurred and you didn’t even try to stop it. And a “protest response team”?  What’s that – social workers handing out leaflets and bricks? Virtually every answer and theme of the council member is dripping with pc and cartoon labels, incredible avoidance of the seriousness of these issues, and failure to do the hard tasks of running a civil city, where citizens rights of peaceful enjoyment of their homes and businesses, respect for and adherence to the law is guaranteed. I think the council are the “scofflaws” and need a “mitigation” vote by the people.

  • anonyme October 1, 2020 (7:55 am)

    BTW, if you go to the Herbold recall petition linked above, you can watch the meter adding votes at a pretty good pace this morning – and rightfully so.

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