Harrell Outlines Public Safety Strategies: Expanding Policing, ‘Hot Spots’ Focus, Police Response Alternatives

by Elizabeth Turnbull

In a press briefing Friday morning, Mayor Bruce Harrell and other City officials spoke on the City’s public safety strategy for the coming year — outlining a focus on certain crime “hot spots” in the city, emergency response options outside of the police, and adding staffing to the police department.

Harrell cited police statistics of rising crime rates and a general “demoralized police department” as reasons to “rebuild our police department and have the right number of officers and the right kind of officers.”

Recently, Harrell suggested offering $5,000 retention bonuses to combat SPD staffing shortages, but in Friday’s briefing, he did not mention specific hiring strategies or how many officers he intends to hire.

Newly into his term in office, Harrell’s plans were far short of some progressive activists’ desires to defund the police, while he also stated that the police should no longer be relied on as the only emergency responders. Harrell suggested that the City is working on building systems that explore alternative safety responses outside of police. He did not detail any specifics on those potential systems, however.

At the press briefing, Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell (who is Harrell’s niece) echoed the idea that police and the fire department should no longer be the catchall responders when problems happen in the city.

“One of the things that we know is that over the many years of our society, whenever we’ve had a problem that we don’t know what to do with, we’ve always thrown it on police,” Monisha said. “Our vision for public safety goes beyond just those two departments; it goes to how do we set up the proper mental health support systems.”

In terms of specific public safety strategies, Harrell and SPD Chief Adrian Diaz said they are taking a “hot spot” approach to policing, where they will focus on areas where crime is concentrated and on specific individuals who are causing the most harm.

Although Harrell didn’t provide a list of the “hot spots,” he and Diaz both referenced 12th and Jackson as one area of focus, where some local businesses have recently been strained by break-ins and shootings.

Chief Diaz presented SPD statistics showing an increase in violent crimes in 2021 — up 20% — and he said Black men between the ages of 18 and 25 made up a disproportionate amount of shooting victims in the city, at 52%. 

In 2021, the Seattle Fire Department ran more than 94,000 calls for service compared with the year before when they ran 80,000, according to SFD statistics. SFD Chief Harold Scoggins referred to the number of calls as “pretty significant” and noted that the number of “scenes of violence” calls have also increased.

Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.

Featured image is attributed to Kevin Schofield under a Creative Commons 2.0 license (CC BY-NC 2.0).

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