Progressive Public Safety Plan
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Public safety has been the focus of my entire career. I worked for 35 years as a police officer, rising through the ranks to serve as the Chief of Police at the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and Chief Deputy at the King County Sheriff’s office. At every stage of my work, I’ve sought to serve with integrity, compassion, and innovation—leading efforts to reduce non-violent incarcerations, build partnerships to help the vulnerable, and demand an end to racial bias.
I’m proud of my work to reduce gun violence and remove guns not just from the hands of criminals, but to ensure they are out of the hands of youth and safely stored.
When we focus on the basics: reducing property crime, keeping our families and communities safe, and engage with troubled individuals before criminal behavior can escalate, we can reduce the cost and consequences of our criminal justice system.
When we have clear policies to make sure that those who do deserve jail time receive it—and get the help they need, including stable housing, to avoid the revolving door of substance abuse, jail and release—we can finally make progress towards the safe, compassionate Seattle we all deserve.
Improving Public Safety: A Comprehensive Approach
We need a new emphasis on public safety in City Hall, and that must include an ‘all of the above’ approach. We need to do everything we can to address rising levels of property crime, throughout the city. We need to do everything we can to maintain and continue improving on the reforms made in recent years toward constitutional policing—a practice that impacts everything from use-of-force to interacting with mentally ill individuals, and trains officers to protect people’s constitutional rights in every interaction. We must do everything possible to fully staff our police services and reward the good work that they do on a daily basis.
We have to ensure that residents, workers and visitors in Seattle feel safe. And when it comes to addiction, everything must be done to get services to people in need—diversion where possible, medically assisted therapy and enforcement where necessary.
A Progressive Plan for Improved Safety
Seattle must continue moving forward, together as a city, to find the most effective and scientific methods for keeping people safe in their neighborhoods, at school and at work, and in their interactions with law enforcement. Maintaining the flawed and reactionary status quo resulting in over-incarceration and high levels of recidivism is not the right answer, nor an answer at all. The answer is Progressive Public Safety.
Real ‘Progress’ comes from data, evidence, and experience, not from rigid ideology that divides when we need to listen and come together.
A Progressive Public Safety plan means addressing the issues that impact us the most and threaten our safety: addiction, gun violence, and property crime, in ways that use proven strategies and harm-reduction policies to address the root causes of these issues, regardless of where those policies lie on the political spectrum. Policies like syringe exchange programs partnered with expanding access to suboxone, buprenorphine, methadone and other therapies. Police accountability measures coupled with a more productive partnership between SPD and the City Council and fully staffing our police department at a level appropriate for a city of our size. Diversion programs where possible and holding prolific offenders accountable if they decline diversion.
A desire for improved public safety is not inconsistent with our city’s progressive values—it’s a reflection of those values. When we feel safe in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, and communities we are more open; can focus on other urgent issues facing our city, country, and planet; and are better equipped to look out for others. For that to happen, we need the appropriate tools, programs, and policies. We need to be bold. We need to be smart. We need to be innovative, proactive and efficient. Seattle can’t wait, public safety can’t wait. We need a new look and a fresh start. We need a comprehensive public safety plan right now.
Prioritize Neighborhood Safety
Anyone living here can tell you that the traditional reactionary model of neighborhood safety is not working. Property crime is increasing and addiction affects every neighborhood in our city—and law enforcement and communities are ill-equipped to tackle this decentralized, residential-based crime.
The economic drivers of this criminality will not be solved overnight, and will require rigorous, long-term programs, inter-agency cooperation and strong, progressive initiatives. I was part of the comprehensive 911 Patrol Staffing and Deployment Analysis at SPD called Neighborhood Policing, and the key to having the capacity to undertake emphasis and proactive enforcement is adequacy of staffing according to a scientific model. It is clear we have neither staffing adequacy nor science behind our current police deployment system, a problem exacerbated by nearly a decade of City Council inconsistency on budgeting to a baseline of 911 patrol resources.
This reactionary, incomplete, and inconsistent approach is reflected in a reality of increased crime in Seattle neighborhoods. Our current high level of property crime is a crisis and calls for the implementation of proven crime prevention methods and increased funding. Focused “beat” patrols supported by crime pattern analysis and community-led programs like Block Watch remain the most efficacious means to reduce and ultimately prevent property crimes.
When there aren’t enough police to respond to neighborhood issues and officers do not have the support they need to do their jobs, people lose faith in the system. We need a robust police force and a police force trained to respond to the idiosyncrasies of residential crime, a department working in collaboration with both the residential and business communities and with the support of our local government. To achieve this we must:
Focus on Property crime
- Examine city and county policy to ensure our prosecutors hold prolific repeat offenders accountable—a relatively small group of people are responsible for disproportionate portions of neighborhood property crime.
- Maintain seasonal Emphasis Patrols, and add specific property-crime-emphasis patrols based on victimization: neighborhoods repeatedly targeted need to see visible support from SPD;
- Create an inter-agency ‘Residential Crime’ hot spot tracking analysis consolidating SPD, King County Sheriff, and Metro Transit Police to enable data-driven deployment of officers and sharing of criminal information;
- Improve tested neighborhood infrastructure to deter criminal activity (streetlights on residential roads and parks, roundabouts): Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CEPTED));
- Neighborhood Education Sessions led by SPD and the Department of Neighborhoods to develop neighborhood-specific plans to address property crime and educate people about the most effective precautions and implementation of private security measures;
- Deploy neighborhood ‘Outreach Officers’ and additional community service officers to build long-term, community relationships focusing on personalized responses to restore faith in local institutions’ abilities to mitigate crime including:
- Performing “reverse-911” calls to residential hot-spots after a significant incident to put people on watch for repeated criminality;
- Provide training and resources to build a system of robust, visible neighborhood watch and other ‘eyes and ears’ groups who understand how to react safely and legally to instances of property crime;
- Expansion of ‘Cocoon Watches’ where neighbors are informed of repeat victimization in their immediate surroundings so they can be on watch and receive information from an officer they know and trust.
Fully Staff SPD
- Hire 200 new police officers by expanding on the work started by Chief Best and Mayor Durkan in terms of recruitment and work with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) and the City Council to make law enforcement a job with a stable future:
- Medical care expanded to include PTSD coverage and hearing loss, signing bonuses, and expanded community engagement opportunities such as tutoring, coaching, and charity work to instill a sense of positive service and help future recruitment.
- Expand officer recruitment mechanisms like the lateral officer and reserve officer programs—when people can experience policing firsthand and see a positive face of law enforcement, they will be more likely to join fulltime and refer friends to the department;
- Invest in student-specific training for School Resource Officers so they work more effectively, efficiently, and positively with students, school staff and reduce harmful incidents;
- Stop scapegoating of law enforcement. Unethical and irresponsible actors must be held accountable for their actions, period. However, the vast majority of the women and men in our police force risk their lives every day to serve and protect our city with the utmost respect and compassion for each individual they encounter. The broad-brush destructive and divisive rhetoric often coming from certain offices in city hall needs to be replaced with collaboration and the implementation of necessary reforms that properly train and support offices instead of publically undermining them.
Reduce the Feeling of Insecurity
- Revamp the Department of Neighborhoods to enable a more localized approach to public safety;
- Expand domestic-violence unit and the elder abuse unit;
- Expand community crime prevention strategies and work with neighborhoods through public workshops, listening sessions, and outreach.
Tackling the Drug Epidemic
As an officer in the 80s and 90s, we were trained to fight the ‘War on Drugs’ under the theory that people with drugs need to be arrested and thrown in jail and eventually they’ll be no more bad guys left. That didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Drug addiction is a health issue as much as a public safety issue.
We need a re-alignment of how officers are trained, how we stigmatize addiction, and how we manage drug crimes. We need to address addiction and the opioid epidemic with policies that are compassionate, backed by evidence, and are based in human rights and healthcare—without compromising the basic responsibility of enforcement of laws.
That’s where Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) comes in. Seattle implemented LEAD with diverse, non-traditional partners and the business community when I was Assistant Chief at SPD to offer constructive alternatives to jail: diverting folks committing low-level, non-violent, drug related crimes at point of arrest to services and treatment instead of jail. Let’s be clear: LEAD is not ‘soft on crime’. LEAD just works better. Independent research showed a 60% drop in recidivism among participants. Many housed and employed. That’s what the criminal justice system is all about: corrective policies that enable people to start fresh, find a job, find permanent housing, and get back on their feet. That is the kind of smart, pragmatic policy we need and the kind of policies we need to focus on and expand. I will expand LEAD’s reach and other diversionary programs and partner with first responders as well as case managers and human service providers to connect people to these services and act to prevent crimes through proactive treatment options.
We also need more immediate short-term solutions for those still struggling with addiction and substance abuse that will prevent criminal activity and lessen common instances of public disorder such as public urination, vandalization, and misdemeanor property crime. We need to expand sobering shelters—places where individuals can safely detox. Seattle only had one sobering shelter in Downtown Seattle—one. And it closed earlier this summer. As a police officer, I used to transport chronic public inebriates to the sobering center and they were treated for about $68 dollars a night. Now those folks are going to Harborview, for $2,000 a night. The closure of the sobering shelter with no replacement is an example of a local and regional government without a long-term vision or an adequate monitoring system of the contractors who receive money to treat chronic addiction. We need real solutions, not band-aids that cost more and don’t get to the root causes of our issues. I propose:
- Expand the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program so it can be fully utilized city and county-wide to offer constructive alternatives wherever possible to connect folks with services instead of prison;
- Invest in a school loan repayment program to incentivize becoming a Case Manager—more case managers means more people getting the treatment and mental health and addiction care they need and increases the capacity of our police department;
- Invest in additional technically-trained first responder units coupled with case managers and social workers for specifically vulnerable populations (primarily homeless Seattleites, but also those most at-risk for substance abuse).
Treat Addiction as a Public Health Crisis
- A $1-million ‘immediate response’ fund to expand naloxone carried by law enforcement and first responders, and in strategic locations throughout communities, as well as outreach and education to the public on how and when this kind of life-saving medicine should be used;
- Invest in additional short-term ‘wet’ shelter beds that allow people to recover in safe locations, rather than unsheltered in neighborhoods all across our city;
- Universal Health Care that includes long-term care, mental health care, and covers addiction to enable every Seattleite to access much-needed services.
Address Co-Occurring Factors
- Expand community-based mental health treatments that can reach out to specifically vulnerable groups (homeless Seattleites, individuals suffering from PTSD, at risk youth, and folks with previous history of abuse) regarding treatment and services available to prevent addiction;
- Work with the school board and lobby the state legislature to increase funding for mental health professionals in schools—we need trained professionals who can work with at-risk youth in preventing addiction.
Criminal Justice Reform: Focus on Harm Reduction
Perhaps the single most important aspect of public safety response is what happens next. We don’t need politicians trying to win votes with ‘tough on crime’ talk that stems from a failed history of stop-and-frisk, militarized police, and mass incarceration. This outdated system doesn’t work for most offenders and doesn’t make us safer.
And we don’t need quixotic ideas about eliminating the prison system on day one. There will always be some predatory criminals out there who have caused grievous harm and need to be incarcerated. But for so many others, jail is a revolving door between incarceration and homelessness, prison and addiction. We need policies that will be effective, measured by decreasing crime, increased safety, and restoration of formerly incarcerated folks to reintegrate into our economy as productive and law-abiding neighbors.
Let’s focus on corrective instead of punitive policies. Through expanded adoption and implementation of harm-reduction programs we can reduce injury to victims, connect people to critical services, decrease the odds of recidivism, and make our communities safer for everyone.
A critical aspect of criminal justice reform is restoring faith and trust in police. To change that perception and re-build those bridges we need real community engagement and involvement.
When I was an officer, I tutored students at Rainier Beach High School—and those interactions allowed me to reflect on the impacts of policing beyond putting people in jail. This is what I said about it at the time: “To me, damn, I’ve got six kids around me, I’m in uniform, I’m not arresting mom, I’m not writing a ticket to grandma, I’m not telling their brother to turn down the music, I’m helping them read…That blows me away.” I believe that outreach and positive informal interactions with the communities we serve will allow both ordinary people and officers to come together and restore some of the humanity we’ve lost.
We must also address the lack of affordable and supportive housing. Housing policy has long been part of the criminal justice system in its almost total lack thereof. Our criminal justice system has historically ended with release from jail. We need a wrap-around system that enables folks to succeed after re-entering society and housing must be a critical factor of that post-jail justice system. Expanding affordable housing, and specifically permanent supportive housing—housing with on-site treatment and addiction/mental health professionals— will not only prevent crime, reduce substance abuse, provide adequate shelter for Seattleites living in parks and benches—it will also provide a safe place for folks to get back on their feet after serving their time and help reduce recidivism and crimes of poverty.
- Maintain the progress made toward Constitutional Policing (most recently in Initiative 940)
- Coordinate and collaborate with King County to develop our own road map to zero youth incarceration
Address Issues that are Rooted in Racism and Discrimination
- Expand diversionary programs for communities disproportionately represented in prisons for non-violent, non-predatory offenses and suffering from addiction or mental health issues with the choice: jail or treatment;
- Constantly improve anti-bias training for law enforcement;
- Increase trust through community partnerships and opportunities for unofficial interactions between historically marginalized communities and the officers serving them by partnering with schools, businesses, and non-profits directly in the neighborhoods;
- Hire and retrain a more diverse police force that more accurately reflects the communities they serve.
Housing as a Public Safety Crisis
- Permanent supportive housing for offenders with a history of substance abuse, mental health or addiction issues with support from case managers
- On-site addiction and mental health services
- Look into housing for released offenders that includes a security element: too often criminal offenders fail the screening process to access homeless housing and services and then revert to criminal activity. We need to get these people housed in a way that works for them, but also maintains safety for neighbors
I was in police work for 35 years and investigated too many crimes involving guns. We need to end the excuses and political denial at every level of government and get serious—our lives depend on it.
No more tiptoeing around the issue: guns kill people and no one in civilian life needs a military-style weapon. Make no mistake: blaming gun violence on the mentally ill is just political rhetoric perpetuated by the NRA and other entities with personal or financial interest in the status quo.
Recently there were six deaths attributed to ‘vaping’. Federal response? Suspend all sales of vaping products until we learn more. 100 Americans dying every day from gun violence? Nothing to see here folks, move along. As someone who carried a gun for 35 years as a police officer, who trained on how to use these weapons, who investigated the tragic consequences of gun violence, it is abundantly clear that the federal government is abrogating its responsibility to keep people safe—and when the federal government fails, we need our local government to step up.
I was proud when Washingtonians passed Initiative 1639 last year requiring more gun safety measures, but so much more needs to be done to keep people safe. We need leaders who will respond to every-day gun violence as well as tragic mass shootings—leaders willing to act to prevent suicides, domestic violence, and accidents caused to kids and others.
We must also do better at educating our kids. Too many of these recent mass shootings have been committed by young people. Our state raised the age to buy an assault weapon to 21 years—but we need to match that with expanded educational programs to prevent further gun violence. Teaching students what to do if a shooter is present is absolutely vital—but we should also include education that seeks to prevent the factors that lead a young person to commit such a terrible act.
While with the police department, I was involved in implementing an initiative in Seattle known as ‘Options, Choices, Consequences’ that created teams of emergency room doctors, people formerly incarcerated for gun crimes, survivors of gang violence, and prosecutors to meet with middle and high school students to reduce gun violence. Let’s recreate it and expand that program to include survivors of school shootings and implement it city wide. I later helped kickstart the ‘Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative’ that incorporated the work of Dr. Slutkin and Professor David Kennedy, prominent gun violence prevention leaders who use evidence and data to demonstrate the most effective ways of reducing gun violence. Their work found statistically significant reductions of 40% – 71% in gun violence in municipalities that implemented it. Gun violence is a learned behavior and much like many other public health issues can be managed and eliminated over time if we immediately implement the short-term prevention programs and adequately invest in long-term education and solutions.
The bottom line is that we must do better. We must pass the strongest measures we need to keep all Seattleites safe.
- Work with known populations susceptible to thoughts of suicide (veterans, LGBTQ youth, tribal communities) to connect folks with already established mental health programs and crisis workers to prevent suicides;
- Reduce access to lethal weapons.
- Lobby the state legislature to revoke the statute that prevents municipalities from implementing an assault weapons ban—then implement an assault weapons ban.
- Continue a “Means reduction” approach to suicide prevention
- Keep working with SPD, King County Sheriff and partner organizations to aggressively enforce legislation seeking to stop people who commit domestic violence or abuse from obtaining lethal weapons
Keep Guns Safe:
- Issue gun safes to SPD for safe home storage of their issued pistol: we issue guns to officers, they also need the means to keep those weapons safe;
- Strengthen the new safe storage requirements in I-1639 to be proactive: current law holds gun owners accountable if their weapons are used, but does not make safe storage mandatory—we need proactive legislation ensuring guns do not get into the hands of our kids;
- Mandatory training before purchasing a firearm: you need a license to drive a car, you should be trained and licensed to carry a lethal weapon.
Education & Prevention:
- Bring back the ‘Options, Choices, Consequences’ and other programs that will reduce gun violence through long-term commitments to education
- Create a permanent ‘Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative’ to help end the tragedy of youth-caused gun violence
We can and must do more to address the interrelated public safety challenges facing our city. Some of our challenges can be addressed by simply redeploying resources to programs and policies that are more effective and focused on the root causes of crime, addiction, or gun violence. Other approaches will require additional spending, coordination with other governments, or legislation to implement programs — such as legislation to limit access to high capacity magazines and other gun safety measures.
Our next City Council will have more new members than any council in a generation. We need leaders with the ideas, relationships and expertise to hit the ground running and make positive changes that improve the safety and safeguard the quality of life for all residents.
I’ll bring over 3 decades of compassionate, reform driven policing to City Hall, rooted in our District 7 neighborhoods and reflective of both our progressive values and desire for safe, supportive communities for all people.