Public-safety alternatives explained @ District 1 Community Network

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

When you hear about “public-safety alternatives,” what does that really mean?

The spotlight topic at this month’s District 1 Community Network meeting, online Wednesday night, sought to answer that question.

Guests included both providers of those alternatives and a proponent of them, West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee again this year.

Herbold opened by acknowledging that crime in the city rose in 2021 crime, including categories such as gunfire and aggravated assaults, though homicides were down from 2020. Police Chief Adrian Diaz has said there’s no single cause; it has to be addressed with a public-health response, she said. The council has fully funded SPD’s hiring plan, she said, noting that SPD’s budget is down but $41 million of the cuts are because functions that used to be part of SPD are no longer part of the department – the 911 center, parking enforcement, emergency management. “The council has not made any cuts that have resulted in layoffs, but the staff is down because 350 officers have left.” Also, Herbold said, 170+ officers are on disability or extended leave in SPD, an “unusually large number” – many of them because of the vaccine mandate, many who may be “on their way out of the department.” 12 new officers were hired by year’s end but attrition is higher – in that same period, 13 more left. She supports a hiring incentive program but contends the city needs to continue developing alternatives to traditional policing.

Toward that, here’s the presentation into which she segued:

They’re continuing to analyze 911 responses with an outside expert. They identified 174 call types that could be handled some other way besides dispatching an armed police officer; Herbold said SPD agreed with 101 of them. Analysis results are expected by end of first quarter; an implementation plan is expected in the second quarter.

From there, Herbold recapped some of the programs with alternate responders (each of the following has a page in the slide deck above with more info):

The Community Service Officer program has funding for more officers and they’re looking at ways to expand it further.

Health One is deploying a third unit and they’re working on what it would take to add a fourth and fifth.

Triage One will launch for “wellness check” calls – there are 4,300 of those every year. Hiring for this team is expected between May and September.

They’re piloting a program called One Call, meant to help first responders interact more smoothly and helpfully with the behavioral-health system.

The Mobile Crisis Team is a DESC program, with funding contributed by the city, featuring mental-health and substance-use professionals who can respond to a person-in-crisis situation when requested.

She listed even more programs, including the forthcoming hotline 988 for mental-health concerns. Then she explained that “we have a Community Safety Hub here in West Seattle,” first funded last year, and turned the spotlight over to Marvin Marshall, from the YMCA (WSB sponsor), who leads it.

Marshall explained that his work centers on a “neighborhood hub style of engagement,” like the city’s former Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, collaborating “to try to tear down those silos.” There’s a hub in Central Seattle, one in South Seattle, and this one one headquartered at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in North Delridge. Their street team is doing a lot of community engagement, activating “hot spots,” pop-up events, a lot of work at the high schools, trying to “create an environment where community can come together and heal.” The hub also provided holiday support – gift cards, food, etc., using Y resources, giving out coats, gun-lock boxes, Christmas trees. Plus, a lot of case management, plus a Safety Team that does crisis response – such as, they get a call from a community center or school, can they be present? Or maybe a call from SPD about community concerns after a shooting. They don’t like the term “patrolling” but they are “out building presence in the community.” Also, he said, they just started a Credible Messenger group.

Another program with which Marshall is involved, Alive & Free, is “more (like) your intensive case-management … team of outreach workers supporting people … working with young people, gang-involved, affected by justice system, to identify barriers, create goals, social activities, create an assessment of young people’s needs. Community violence is kind of fluid, city to city, it helps (us) to be able to serve” regionally – a young person might live in Kent but get in trouble in Burien, for example.

After Marshall, D1CN attendees got an update on the LEAD program from its area manager Aaron Burkhalter.

In 2021, LEAD worked with 1,019 people, 58 percent identifying as BIPOC, and had 40,000+ encounters with people. More than 30 percent of the people in the program have moveed out of homelessness. It’s relatively new in West Seattle, with about a dozen clients right now and more than a dozen additional referrals. The program has broadened beyond its origins as a “diversion” type of program – now clients might be “people who are having an impact on the community – we work as navigators of all the various services, sign up for housing, inpatient care if needed, other large or small issues to help them get into a better place.” That can involve a lot of considerations – often looking at the whole person, “what is the best thing to tackle next?” They’re working on outreach, with someone literally walking and driving around West Seattle “going wherever needed.” A new case manager is coming to West Seattle, too.

In Q&A, meeting facilitator Tony Fragada from the Alki Community Council asked asks how they make contacts with people on the street. Reply: LEAD identifies people in a number of ways, Health One for example, and “will take referrals from trusted community organizations” (that) “know the individuals that are creating disruptions for community members.” There are also dedicated outreach workers who go to encampments and might identify people who qualify for LEAD. “We see (it) as part of our crisis response system.”

An attendee asked if they are they working with people camping on Barton and Henderson. Burkhalter said he’d have to check with team members, but he has made note of those areas. Another question was about 26th SW encampments near City Light property. How would they find out if this is on anyone’s radar? Burkhalter will check on those too.

Kay Kirkpatrick from the Highland Park Action Committee and HP Improvement Club observes that what’s confusing to the general public is that with so many different programs, they would seem to be left to figure out who to call. “In the past 911 was that funnel. … Having that one number to call is so, so, so helpful.” Neighbors are being affected and now have no idea who to call. How is the information about these programs going to get to the public? “We can’t expect the general public to be sorting out” who to call and why. “We need professionals (to make those calls). … People don’t know, they’re so confused.”

Herbold said it’s all intended to be activated by calling 911. Ultimately there need to be changes at the 911 call center to make that work, though. Right now they don’t have a decision tree enabling them to get information from caller and send them to an alternative. Right now the options are just “Health One or a uniformed officer.” There’s a new “911 protocol system” that the center is working to implement – needs software and training, but will eventually allow people to call 911 and be referred to other alternatives – so the public doesn’t have to memorize a bunch of numbers. “The whole health of our community rides on this effort.”

Another question dealt with police responses: Why are officers not being sent to some calls? If there’s no chance to apprehend someone – the crime happened hours ago – they have to put their energies elsewhere, Herbold explained.

D1CN’s Jim Guenther asked about the timeline for all this to really be ramped up. “We’re never done, public policy is always evolving.” But the implementation has various schedules. “There are dates for them to report back to council” for example on the call center software.

P.S. One night after this meeting, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced a briefing on public safety for 10:30 am today (Friday).

NEXT D1CN MEETING: D1CN meets on first Wednesdays most months, 7 pm, online.

17 Replies to "Public-safety alternatives explained @ District 1 Community Network"

  • Jort February 4, 2022 (8:59 am)

    Hey, there’s some news. Our so, so, so “understaffed” police department is also understaffed because an enormous amount of officers are staying home because their feelings are too hurt about getting the COVID vaccine that literally more than 1 billion people on this planet have managed to get without throwing a huge, whiny-baby snitty fit. That’s a huge chunk of “public servants” who would rather lose their jobs or sit at home doing nothing than ever admit that a liberal told them what to do. Did you know that the number one killer of police in America for the last two years has been COVID-19? And it’s not even close! Dying to own the libs. It’s truly stunning. 

    • Lagartija Nick February 4, 2022 (11:56 am)

      Yep, and that WSP officer that the right held up as some kind of hero for telling Inslee to “kiss my a$$!”, he just died of covid. What a way to own the libs.

    • Pessoa February 4, 2022 (12:03 pm)

      Did it ever cross your mind, Jort, that police officers understand that vaccines come with mandates that violate personal freedoms, that police officers realize that they will be those who are required to enforce mandates – by force if necessary – that this is a dangerous overreach of state police power? Suddenly, police power is okay,  By the way,  inferring that that police ranks are being decimated by coronavirus death is ridiculous demagoguery that hope everyone can see through.  But, I expect you to follow up with more of the same.

      • Lagartija Nick February 4, 2022 (1:13 pm)

        It’s a matter of public record that covid has been the leading cause of death among police officers for the last two years. No inference required.

        • Pessoa February 4, 2022 (3:50 pm)

          And in second place? Guns.  One would expect to see police pushing to make guns less accessible by whatever means, but they aren’t.  Why?  Because presumably a number of them see it as a constitutionally guaranteed right and are willing to take the personal risks  to ensure that is remains a constitutional right, as is the right to autonomy over one’s body vis a vis vaccines.  In this respect, the police deserve kudo’s.  

          • Sunflower February 4, 2022 (8:42 pm)

            Second (or first before covid) is car accidents.

          • Lagartija Nick February 5, 2022 (9:49 am)

            Hey Pessoa, if your political ideology requires that people die from preventable deaths for it to work, you need a new ideology. Your reasoning is exactly why libertarianism is/was/and will always be morally bankrupt.

        • Tan February 4, 2022 (4:43 pm)

          Citation please, Nick 

  • West Seattle Neighbor February 4, 2022 (9:06 am)

    Crime is up and these counselors will bring it down. I don’t follow. 

  • Alex February 4, 2022 (10:26 am)

    Lisa Herbold and the rest of the Council should be held directly responsible for driving out a respected police chief and 500 officers leaving Seattle with limited 911 call response.    The SW Precinct commanders have been pretty clear they have bandwidth to respond to life/death calls but nothing else .   Yes, SPD services can be improved but you don’t throw out institutions that protect the public without having alternatives in place.   

  • WSDUDEMAN February 4, 2022 (10:57 am)

    So when it comes to the people getting into gun battles on Charlestown and the people I find sitting in there running cars with heroin needles and drug paraphernalia on their laps, do I call LEAD, or do the police only come if myself or one of the local kids gets lead poisoning?JORT, have you spoken to any of these officers? Or are we just making general assumptions? 

    • Lagartija Nick February 4, 2022 (11:44 am)

      There would be more officers available to respond to “gun battles on Charlestown” if they weren’t responding to every junkie passed out in a car. How is this so difficult to understand?

  • work February 4, 2022 (1:22 pm)

    See some upcoming new work opportunities for compassionate community members 👍

  • CarDriver February 4, 2022 (2:32 pm)

    Pessoa.  Correct me if I’m wrong but i thought all the laws on the books were put in place by the politicians we elected-i/e city/county council and state legislators. Aren’t those entities THE GOVERNMENT??? If so, then aren’t police then hired to enforce those “government mandates?” If you come home to find a burglar ransacking your home, I take it you would NOT call 911 as that would mean an armed police response that would be a “dangerous overreach” and denying that thief’s “personal freedoms”?? Sure wouldn’t want a “dangerous overreach of police powers”

    • Pessoa February 7, 2022 (1:19 pm)

      CarDriver:  I’m happy to have an adult discussion, but if you are going to play juvenile “gotcha games” with me, find someone else to play with.  But as a general rule, you won’t find me demanding that their  neighbors inject a vaccine into their arms in order to participate in society,  or demanding that my neighbor fork over money to fund poor choices made by others, though I and others might – and very often do – choose to help others one-on-one..  Being a public servant doesn’t mean that one unconditionally surrenders their personal conscience, nor does the existence of a specific law mean that is cannot be opposed or that it is just; sometimes it is the opposition to laws that force us to look at whether they are just or not.   

  • Dana February 4, 2022 (6:46 pm)

    Police should be putting public safety first and that includes not infecting people they are assisting. I have seen maskless cops yelling at homeless people during the pandemic and that is not in the interest of citizens. They have a right not to get vaccinated I suppose but putting others in jeopardy is counterproductive. 

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