Cropped photo depicting interim chief adrian diaz speaking.

SPD Outlines New Community Response Group Initiative, But Questions Remain

by Carolyn Bick

Joined by two other officers, Seattle Police Department (SPD) Interim Chief Adrian Diaz held a brief press conference on Oct. 7 about the new Community Response Group (CRG), which was announced in early September. However, several questions remain.

As announced last month the group is composed of 100 officers and 10 sergeants and is a response to “increased 911 calls throughout the city.” Diaz said that since its creation, the group has been able to respond to 400 911 calls, each in less than seven minutes. However, it is unclear who exactly will be on the CRG, aside from Capt. Mike Edwards, who is leading the group and appeared at the press conference with Diaz and West Precinct Lieutenant John Brooks. Diaz said the group is composed of “volunteers” from within SPD’s officer ranks, but did not list any names.

And despite Diaz’s and Edwards’ repeated assertions that the group is meant to be for the community, it does not appear that community advisory groups are able to directly contact the CRG. Instead, Edwards said, community advisory groups “have the ability to notify the precincts of things they are seeing, needs they have, and those also will be funneled to our group, who will then look to resolve community interest and community needs.”

Precinct captains, on the other hand, will have direct contact with the CRG, and would appear to be the ones to communicate not only precincts’ needs — staffing needs and ongoing or anticipated issues, Edwards said — but also the needs of community advisory groups. Regardless of who will be in charge of directing this communication, it is unclear how quickly community advisory groups’ needs will be passed along, and how precinct captains will be directed to prioritize precinct need versus community need. 

Edwards said that the CRG is a “citywide response team,” and that the decision as to where to place officers who are part of the CRG throughout the city will be “based on the data polls that we have” and “predictive analytics.”

“It is based purely on the data we have. Also, during the course of the shift, supervisors are constantly in contact with other supervisors in the precincts to determine the call loads, what’s going on, the level of activities, and will shift resources accordingly,” Edwards said. However, he did not say what the data is currently showing.

In response to a reporter’s question towards the end, Diaz also said that, for the last several months, morale has been low, but that “when I was out Friday night, because of all the different shootings and the different situations that were going on — and, honestly, I saw officers … just in their element, going out and doing their work. They were happy, they were talking, they were engaged, and it felt like it was a different level of energy.”

He then went on to twice make the distinction between what he called “the feeling that they were doing something good, and actually going back to doing police work” and having to “handle demonstration after demonstration after demonstration.”

“So, I think, if we can get back to police work, that’s what we really want to do,” Diaz continued.

Earlier in the press conference, Diaz said that destructive, riotous behavior “will not be tolerated, and we will respond appropriately,” and pointed to the “events of the past week” as an example of how “this consistent approach to the ongoing demonstrations and riots, it’s setting clear standards of behavior, and I believe we are starting to see a shift.”

“We are having to engage these groups less and less, and we are seeing less destruction occurring. I think this first week of focusing on the importance of patrol makes it clear that when we are properly staffed, it is clear our amazing patrol officers can and will do the necessary and good work of building solutions with community,” Diaz said, possibly alluding to recent, repeated calls for different levels of shifting funds from the police department into support for different community aid groups, which would necessitate cutting staff.

Neither Diaz, Edwards, nor Brooks mentioned the ongoing and well-documented allegations of police brutality demonstrators have faced over the last several months and about which approximately 19,000 complaints have been filed with the Office of Police Accountability. There has also been at least one lawsuit filed against the SPD.

“We won’t release a roster of the officers in the CRG,” SPD Sgt. Randall Huserik said in an email to the Emerald. “As for the precinct level and contact with the community, the idea behind that is the for precinct advisory councils to work directly with their precinct captains to identify problems within each precinct that can then be brought to the attention of the CRG.”

He did not address the Emerald‘s repeated questions regarding how community concerns will be prioritized or Diaz’s comments regarding the difference between “police work” and “having to handle” demonstrations.

Carolyn Bick is a journalist and photographer based in South Seattle. You can reach them here and here.

Featured image: Seattle Police Department Interim Chief Adrian Diaz speaks, during a press conference at the West Precinct in Seattle, Washington, on Oct. 7. 2020. (Photo: Alex Garland)