What are police and politicians doing about crime? Here’s what the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce heard

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The shrinking sworn staff of the Seattle Police Department doesn’t just mean fewer officers on the street. There are also ripple effects, as was evidenced in a public-safety discussion convened at noontime today by the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

Two examples: One participant mentioned going to the Southwest Precinct with an urgent matter and having to wait a long time for an officer since the lobby was closed and locked. Another, responding to precinct commander Capt. Martin Rivera‘s plea to report all crimes, said he tries, but “your online-reporting system sucks.”

Along with Capt. Rivera, today’s online meeting was headlined by the two city councilmembers whose divergent proposals for boosting SPD hiring were the subject of impassioned discussion at this past Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee (WSB coverage here), West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold – who chairs that committee – and citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson. Our area’s King County Councilmember Joe McDermott was there too but not as a panelist. Here’s what happened:

First, introductory remarks. Councilmember Herbold acknowledged that “staffing rates at the Seattle Police Department continue to go down” and noted the briefing at this past Tuesday’s meeting. From the staffing report given during that meeting (see it here), 968 fully trained officers were in service at the end of the first quarter. She also said that crime rates are up. The number of dispatched 911 calls, however, is down. Shots-fired calls are continuing to go up. Homicides are down overall. The council is also “continuing our work in what calls can be shifted away” from SPD response, and a report is due in her committee next month. She reiterates that the council “fully funded” the SPD hiring plan for this year – but since departures continue, those positions haven’t all been filled. She also touted an expansion of community-service officer staffing and technology improvements, among other things. And she touted budgetary support for “Before the Badge” training before new officers enter the academy.

Aside from police staffing, Herbold said her committee also has heard presentations on retail theft, the SPD Strategic Plan, a City Attorney presentation on that office’s case backlog, and more. Regarding police hiring incentives, she mentioned the analysis provided by the mayor’s office (in this report), saying that hiring bonuses were not recommended, but the mayor’s office is promising a “comprehensive package” and she’s waiting to see it. She also again mentioned her proposal to compensate transferring-in (“lateral hires”) police (and people in other critical city jobs) for moving costs. In other issues, she noted the council and mayor’s recent letter to the feds supporting “safe banking” for cannabis businesses.

Regarding alternatives to policing, the 988 hotline launches in July, and will offer references to resources such as “mobile crisis teams, next-day appointments,” but it needs more investment, Herbold said. The city has scaled up its mobile crisis teams, she added, and the state has contributed some money. Back to 911 analysis, SPD is looking at what calls don’t require armed responses, and she’s expecting the results of that “any day now.” The Health One and Triage One responders are being implemented. She’s meeting with the mayor’s office about some of this tomorrow.

Finally, Herbold mentioned working with state legislators this past session, including testifying in support of some gun control legislation – including the high-capacity-magazine ban and ghost-gun restrictions – and in support of the catalytic-converter-theft bill that passed.

Next, Councilmember Nelson spoke. She ran through what she’s been doing in her four months in office “in chronological order.” In responding to constituent communication, she said the major message she’s getting is that “people are extremely concerned about crime.” She said it’s the “biggest concern (she’s) hearing about’ from small businesses, so she had a roundtable discussion in February that resulted in recommendations. She’s working with the mayor’s office on next steps, including assistance to pay for damaged doors and windows.

Because of the crime stats, Nelson said, in March she proposed a resolution to “bring new police officers on line as quickly as possible.” Being down 300+ officers means “we’ve lost about 27 percent of our force in service,” she said,. Her resolution includes spending the unfilled-jobs salary savings on hiring incentives. She noted that Herbold declined to co-sponsor her resolution but said she has some differences of opinion with the moving-expenses-etc. bill Herbold proposed instead, so Nelson is working on a different bill that does not get as specific regarding which incentives can be offered and how much money can be spent.

As for the “differences,” Nelson contended that limiting spending on hiring incentives to $650,000 out of $4 million in salary savings “sends the wrong message.” She said she ‘trusts the people who know what other cities are doing” and said that “almost every other city” is offering a police-hiring incentive. She said she’s “adamant … that public safety is our top priority … that’s what we have to be focused on.” And she disagrees with Herbold’s contention that hiring incentives should be looked at city government-wide, because the police-staffing crisis ‘is of a whole other magnitude.” She said, “let’s be real, incentives aren’t a magic bullet … providing a positive work environment for our existing officers’ will help; she said that expressing gratitude and appreciation would be helpful.

Next to speak was Captain Rivera. He took over the Southwest Precinct last fall. Crime deterrence and getting guns “off the streets” are priorities set by interim Chief Adrian Diaz, Rivera said. At the precinct, they’re focused on “real-time crime response” – but “our resources are a little thin right now.” The communication center sets the priorities for which calls they’ll be sent to, he noted. “I am making sure we are responding to calls as quick as possible.” He said he’s also ‘setting a tone of professionalism.” He’s asking officers “to follow up with our community members and our businesses. .. Some other entities are coming into play that will help with disorder, but right now, we are all we have.” But he insisted, “We are out there, we are cognizant of what’s happening.” Regarding encampments, they are advocating for “responses.”

In Q&A, an attendee asked about the longrunning Andover RV encampment. “How can I best advocate to have some action taken there?” Rivera said there’s a person in the precinct dedicated to photographing and documenting what’s happening at encampments and providing that information to others in city government. “We do deal with criminal elements” directly – everything else is referred elsewhere, Herbold jumped in, saying that for “three years now I’ve been working to bring this location to the attention of the previous mayor, the current mayor, other departments … The issue is that as a lawmaker I can lift your voices, I can’t do anything (directly).” She mentioned the city’s decision not to enforce 72-hour parking during the pandemic, and that SDOT has started enforcing but (as we’ve reported) only for “obviously abandoned vehicles.” Herbold said she believes it’s reasonable to ask even people who live in their vehicles to move them. She mentioned SPD responses to the Andover encampment, SPU trash collection and periodic remediations there (as covered here), plus the pump-out program. But the mayor’s office and others are ‘still not moving forward” in enforcing 72-hour moving rules for RV residents, The State Supreme Court case regarding vehicle dwelling doesn’t prohibit them from enforcing it but it prohibits vehicles that have been towed/impounded from being auctioned. So that’s what the mayor’s office is working on, she said. adding that she’s been advocating for a safe-lot program or a way to store RVs. She got $750,000 approved for this and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority has an RFP for it. She said she is also trying to arrange for the KCRHA to go see it.

Where else can she advocate? asked the attendee. The mayor’s office, replied the Chamber’s Dan Austin, and they’re working on that. Nelson interjected that mental-health and substance-abuse resources are important too, in addition to what Herbold had mentioned.

Austin wondered when the precinct will reopen to the public, saying he and someone with an urgent situation involving a missing person went to the precinct but had to wait outside a locked door for 45+ minutes, Rivera said he’s trying to get the desk position staffed so they can reopen the lobby. Are they understaffed? he was asked flat-out. Yes, 5 to 6 officers short on every watch, Rivera said. They also have lost specialized officers such as detectives and Community Police Team officers, which dates back to Chief Diaz shuffling specialty-unit members into general 911 response to keep that covered. Regarding the Southwest Precinct’s specific staffing shortfall that we noted in our report last week, Herbold said she’s trying to get answers” to the questions we sent while working on it. Herbold added that Chief Diaz had told her committee that members of the Citywide Response Group are augmenting staffing at the precincts, and she’s asked the Chief’s office for an update on use of the CRG in the SW Precinct.)

Another question: What about Westwood Village, since it’s consistently in the city’s list of highest-crime spots? Capt. Rivera said, “We had an emphasis patrol there for six or seven months” – Danner jumped in, said she’s done two walkthroughs with the shopping center’s new property management and that they’re starting a business block watch. Rivera said they are trying to focus on repeat offenders and their precinct city-attorney liaison is too.

What about jail booking limitations? Herbold noted that only certain types of defendants can be booked – the High Utilizer program is seeking to get an exception from that to book certain people that come to their attention. Rivera stressed that every crime needs to be reported – if it’s not reported, they don’t hear about it, because they’re data-driven, and staffing relies on stats.

That’s when Keith Hughes, who owns a business as well as managing American Legion Post 160 in The Triangle and its co-housed West Seattle Veterans Center and emergency shelter, says he attempts to report every crime – but “your reporting system online sucks” and doesn’t cover much of what he attempts to report. It “doesn’t allow a way to report things that don’t fit the check boxes” like “the same guy who breaks windows in the same building over and over and over again and you know his name… get this guy off the streets! I’ve spent $3000 replacing windows.” Capt. Rivera said, “if you can’t report it online, call 911 and report it live. … (tell them) ‘we need these things reported’.” Nelson said that what Hughes mentioned was something that had come up at her roundtable, an easier way to report, maybe via Find It Fix It.

After a few words of wrap-up, Chamber moderator Lindsay Wolpa and CEO Whitney Moore wrapped up the meeting close to the one-hour mark; as with the council-committee meeting on Tuesday, it was clear this one could have continued far beyond the time allotted. The Chamber promised to keep a spotlight on the topic.

42 Replies to "What are police and politicians doing about crime? Here's what the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce heard"

  • Morgan April 28, 2022 (9:19 pm)

    I’m surprised it’s not so much worse.If we hit a recession crime will spike even further.Looking for Chamber and this blog to give coverage of King County prosecution as well as low police staff levels.

    • WS Economist April 29, 2022 (10:58 am)

      If we hit a recession? Q1 was negative GDP. If Q2 is negative as well, we are in a recession by the textbook definition. I will be curious to see how this affect the out of control housing market and what impact that will happen to people who are using their home as their primary retirement asset.

      • Pessoa April 30, 2022 (4:51 pm)

        You probably know the old quip:  “If my neighbor loses a job it’s a recession, if I lose my job, it’s a depression.”

        I agree, I can’t see anything other than a recession coming, or likely already here.  Inflation is creating serious financial pain in many lives, and not just in discretionary spending but for essentials like food, clothes, gas and rent.  The private sector is focused on maintaining profits and stock share prices for their shareholders who are looking out for themselves, so they are  simply passing costs on to consumer.  And, of course, the poor bear the brunt of all this.  

  • Concerned Citizen April 28, 2022 (9:48 pm)

    Excerpt from an afternoon in Seattle becoming all too common. Less talk more action.  “I was on the sidewalk of the block they were shooting at, about 200ft behind me.  I could only see the person and remember seeing it was a man shooting out the passenger window and he was a black man.  Then the gun shots from the car were followed by another series of shots….i was terrified. I was too focused on the gun to remember what color the car was but I know it was a dad an.  A man came over to me after I ducked from the gunfire, and he gave a description of the car to 911 when we called”.  

    • StupidInSeattle May 1, 2022 (12:03 pm)

      Herbold’s “I’m just an elected representative and I can only raise your voices” excuse is insulting to the voters.  Especially coming from someone who demonized and tried to defund the police force 2 years ago but now pretends to be concerned about increasing crime in our community.  She has watched the problems grow and blames others for it; it’s her job on city council to find and implement solutions.  Also, it’s a total falsehood for her to say that she has tried to fix the Andover RV problem.  I wrote to her about this problem repeatedly 3 years ago and she refused to take any action on it.

  • James No. 2 April 28, 2022 (9:56 pm)

    But if Republicans and Libertarians advocate for limited government, and the police are the civil authority of government, isn’t the obvious outcome to advocate for less police, not more? Or at least limit the scope and powers of the police? If the conservative opinion is to provide a justice system through courts, judges, and law enforcement, I can’t imagine conservatives are keen on their taxes paying for police pensions. Individuals are responsible for themselves, otherwise society would adopt socialist reforms to provide for all its citizens. It’s a head-scratcher, for sure.

    • Niko April 29, 2022 (5:13 am)

      Are you aware that there have been forms of police long before socialism was even an idea and most things that people claim are socialism are simply part of every major society for thousands of years now?! Just because 100 years ago somebody decided to start calling it socialism doesn’t make it so

    • Lib April 29, 2022 (7:11 am)

      This might be the dumbest post ever. Both Reps and Libertarians believe one of the main focus of government is to uphold the rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. With that are personal, property, and contract rights. Most all government can be refused by 75% but your claim that we want less cops because less “government” is lazy at best 

      • Pessoa April 29, 2022 (9:06 am)

        True, it’s a bit of a misnomer that liberterians don’t believe in governance, they just believe that less is more and it has to be done with personal sovereignty in mind.  But how does one sort out the nasty bits from the good bits – and on what authority?  This is the great unanswerable question.

        On a fundamental level, there are inherent dangers with outsourcing one’s personal safety to someone else.  Even the great Renaissance scholar Jacob Burckhardt expressed grudging admiration for the Italian “vendetta” style where one was responsible for their, and their family’s, safety and honor.  No, not advocating that system in this case, but it does make one rethink a lot of beliefs we take for granted but we’ve never really examined.  

      • Ant April 29, 2022 (9:21 am)

        …… except if you’re not white, lower on the socioeconomic ladder, or god forbid, you want to read a kids book that has a brown character in it. Reps and Libs don’t have values that represent those of our commonwealth, they simply want to turn the clock back to the good ol’ days.

      • Jethro Marx April 29, 2022 (6:19 pm)

        ‘Dumbest post ever,’ is a high bar, what? It is internet, after all.

  • Pessoa April 28, 2022 (10:22 pm)

    The cold hard truth is that no one, even police officers trained to be public servants,  are going to value your life and your possessions like you do.   This is not intended to be derogatory towards law enforcement – there are many fine individuals in the police ranks – but there is a different level of urgency between a police officer responding to a call for assistance, and the person who made the call.  Take personal safety into your hands, whatever that means for you.  

    By the way, for vast numbers of people, they’re already in a recession. 

  • Scubafrog April 29, 2022 (4:05 am)

    Gun control legislation, during a violent crime epidemic?  Who’s that meant to target?  Surely not the knuckleheads brazenly shooting up Seattle in broad daylight.  I’ve always been a moderate, but am certainly leaning further right as Seattle’s activist politicians victimise the law-abiding, and do nothing about violent career criminals who’re victimising  Seattleites.  Ann Davison’s worth her salt, we’ll see if Harrell can get behind the SPD, or if he’s another 1-term dud.

    • Derek April 29, 2022 (7:34 am)

      Ann Davison doesn’t handle violent crimes, only misdemeanors. And her inexperience has been very apparent since joining office. 

  • WS Guy April 29, 2022 (7:32 am)

    I don’t see how SPD bonuses fixes the underlying problem that the Council and the community at large despises the police.  How much of a bonus would you need to take a job where you’re hated, blamed, not supported, video taped, micromanaged, and at ongoing risk of prosecution?

    • Scubafrog April 29, 2022 (8:19 am)

      That’s a good point.  The never-ending protests, hostile takeover of the Precinct on Cap Hill, and “chaz” surely haven’t helped.     

    • Darek April 29, 2022 (10:22 am)

      Why would anyone not want cops videotaped? There have been so many cases of misuse of power or force. They need to be held accountable, they have too much power.

      • WS Guy April 29, 2022 (10:43 am)

        Video taping is not unreasonable since it can protect the officer as much as the citizen.  It’s the animus “they have too much power” that creates the problem.  The assumption is the police act with vicious intent and the video is there to compile evidence against them.  So they have to err so cautiously that their lives are at risk and they don’t feel there is a safe middle ground.Meanwhile there are plenty of abuses of power all over society where video taping isn’t present.  Case is point, our previous Mayor deleted numerous text messages and our Council has suppressed open communication and can’t be held accountable even for that minimal standard of monitoring.  From an officer’s perspective that looks hypocritical and vindictive against them at a systemic level.  You can’t fix that with a bonus.

        • CrazyLib April 29, 2022 (6:52 pm)

          When they also agree to videotape criminals and use that anything in that video as evidence against them, I will agree to this. 

    • zark00 April 29, 2022 (11:00 am)

      Why do you think ‘the Council and the community at large despise the police’?  Did you hear that from one of the 6 SPD officers who attended the Jan 6th insurrection?  Or maybe from one of the officers named in the multiple FBI probes into SPD’s excessive use of force targeting minorities?  Was it maybe the officers who were paid to work more than 24 hours in a day and made over $300,000 a year in fake overtime, who then quit when told the overtime would be tracked, and claimed that they were leaving because “Seattle hates them”?  Just curious.

      • Rhonda April 29, 2022 (7:55 pm)

        The vast majority of Puget Sound area residents appreciate us and thank us daily. Your comment simply does not reflect reality, especially in this period of increased violent crime.

        • Scubafrog April 30, 2022 (3:45 am)

          I’m so glad to hear that, Rhonda.  What a tough job, it must require the patience of a Saint.

          • MyThruppence April 30, 2022 (9:59 am)

            Agreed. And just like with most jobs, doing it correctly is far harder than doing it poorly. Thank you Rhonda and compatriots for your strength AND your compassion while on duty.

    • k April 29, 2022 (1:45 pm)

      City Councilmembers sign up for a job where they’re hated, blamed, not supported, video taped, micromanaged, and at ongoing risk of prosecution (or recall).  Maybe that’s why the field of candidates is always so thin?  Or maybe there are just all kinds of thankless jobs out there, but there are people who do it because they love the work and the people they serve.  I am opposed to cash incentives mostly because it has been demonstrated they make no difference in rates of hiring or retention and are therefore a giant waste of tax money.  But I also have to question what kind of officers we’re getting if we have to bribe them to serve their communities?

    • Duffy April 29, 2022 (3:52 pm)

      Risk of prosecution? Ha! That some risk. Take the officer who murdered an unarmed mother in Redmond a few years ago, Redmond City Council just approved a 7.5MM settlement to her family, and the police officer that shot her while she was laying face down on her stomach with a high powered police rifle is still employed by the Redmond Police Department, still an active duty cop? Man that is some job security. And please go read why he was let go from the Whatcom County Sheriff’s office before joining the Redmond PD. But yeah, risk of prosecution…

    • Jort April 29, 2022 (5:32 pm)

      It’s almost like people who have the power to end human lives at their personal discretion should be held to a higher standard of accountability? Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s because they’re not waitresses at the diner, they’re taxpayer-funded police officers who have a legal monopoly on the use of violence.  Yeah. Maybe we videotape them, how about?

  • Derek April 29, 2022 (7:32 am)

    I believe police need to be defunded with more resources going into social workers and community resources. And what are we doing about the amount of disproportional African American/Native American stops by SPD? Has there been any mention by Harrell on how he’s planning to fix this? Harrell also hasn’t lived up to tons of his promises on houseless sheltering. What’s he been doing???! Disappointed in him so far. Seems to be another Durkan.

  • Jeepney April 29, 2022 (9:13 am)

    Very well written and detailed article, particularly regarding the RV encampments.  There is a growing RV encampment on Trenton by Westwood Village.  Sidewalk is blocked with piles of trash.

    • T Rex April 29, 2022 (1:28 pm)

      Yes, our latest additions to the area had an outside fire going this morning when I left for work. I wonder how many more will start parking there after others on the “network” show up.

    • East Coast Cynic April 29, 2022 (4:49 pm)

      I emailed the Westwood Village management about the presence of the RV vagabonds.  Fires today, gunfire tomorrow?   Hopefully they will do something about them.

      • BlairJ April 29, 2022 (10:41 pm)

        I don’t think WWV management can do anything about the RVs if they are in the public right-of-way.

        • WSB April 29, 2022 (10:54 pm)

          If the reference is to the four RV’s on Trenton (as of our count at 5:30 pm today), no, those are not on shopping-center property, but certainly the center’s management can raise the issue with the city. Re: the sidewalk, didn’t get a look at that, but if it’s truly blocked, that too is a circumstance in which action can be taken (like the Roxbury/Delridge tents some months back).

  • Colonel Mustard's Wrench April 29, 2022 (6:25 pm)

    More Sara Nelson…less Herbold.

  • United we stand April 29, 2022 (7:48 pm)

    A few questions and thoughts, not meant to be inflammatory, but wondering.Does the right political side believe in the government upholding the rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of all Americans, or just people who are quite similar to them, in sharing political and religious views, etc. Does the right care about the rights of fellow Americans who may have different views, values, lifestyles?

    How does the right side feel about freedom of speech and protest? Again, is this limited to protecting their own rights or do they respect the rights of citizens who they may disagree with?

    Now same questions for the left.

    Is there any hope for bridging the division in our country?

    Is there political diversity within the police system, or more individuals with political leanings of one side or the other?

    It seems sometimes like the loudest voices demanding consequences and punishment for gun related crime are the same folks who are pro gun rights. Just an observation, and trying to understand this?

    I feel police have a very important role, they should be well trained and supported to do good work, and much is needed to address system issues, staffing needs, modernize and expand on first responder options, and to work on community relations. I have a lot of respect for the brave and difficult work of first responders, and hope that progress can be made all around, for communities, and for officers.

    Expecting to get jumped on here, but holding a little hope for some respectful and honest responses and dialogue.

    • they April 30, 2022 (8:43 am)

      Thank you for sharing your comments…I would suggest replacing the word Guns in your comment with the word Car or drugs, bike, shovel these are all just things…   

      • Spicy Eight Piece April 30, 2022 (10:09 am)

        Not really They. None of the objects you mentioned can kill another in an instant from 100’s of feet away. Special attributes of any object require that they be treated specially, no?

        • Pessoa April 30, 2022 (2:28 pm)

          SEP: They are treated with special care, usually by law-abiding private citizens.  Those who don’t exercise care are usually called criminals. You do realize that you can’t just walk into a gun shop and pluck a gun off the shelf like a roll of toilet paper, right?    

          • Spicy Eight Piece April 30, 2022 (4:37 pm)

            Sure. You can however buy guns from the trunk of a vehicle, or at a gun show, inherit them, or be gifted from a family member with zero requirements or constraints….just like a…um….roll toilet paper.

  • John April 30, 2022 (2:19 am)

    I cannot blame officers for not wanting to work in Seattle. I wouldn’t want to work in a city that openly despised me. This city is reaping what it has sown.

    • K April 30, 2022 (11:21 am)

      Every single industry is experiencing labor shortages and difficulty recruiting new people.  Every.  Industry.  Why assume the labor shortages in the police department are due to the city council and culture but labor shortages in health care, education, construction, retail, and every other industry are part of the Great Resignation and people looking for better work-life balance?  What is so different about this one industry that it is never possible the same forces at work for employees elsewhere would somehow apply to them too?  Or do you think city council actions have also created the difficulties finding workers in food service, hospitality, transportation, and other industries as well?

    • zark00 May 3, 2022 (12:29 pm)

      Talk to an officer, ask them how despised they feel. They don’t, at all. You’re literally parroting lies you heard on Fox news or KIRO, give it a rest, it’s embarrassing.  

  • Del April 30, 2022 (4:10 pm)

    Why does no one ask about those booking restrictions at the jail that have lasted for 2+ years? They were imposed because of Covid, not because of staffing. When can those finally get lifted. Right now you can commit the crimes of property destruction, trespass, menacing, harassment – and hundreds more and you cannot be booked. What are police supposed to do with folks they arrest? It’s false that this is due to a staffing issue at the jail. The jail staff, who are in contract negotiations, are playing fast and loose with that issue and so is the county council. Jail staff want to work 10-12 hour days and if the powers that be allowed that, vs. fighting everything just because the guild asked for it, the staffing issue would dry up. You’d need 1/3rd less staff for each 24 hours. Covid was used to empty the jail, and even now the “current jail population” is wildly inflated because hundreds of people on electronic home monitoring are listed as being “in custody” when they’re actually at home. Hold Dow Constantine and the KC Council responsible for this and ask the right questions regarding when a county of our size is going to have a functioning jail again.

Sorry, comment time is over.