Thursday, September 16, 2021
Sept. 16, 2021

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Report: Half of Seattle police calls don’t need cop response

Department is generally supportive of findings but questions percentage


SEATTLE — New findings from an Oakland-based nonprofit that spent recent months analyzing Seattle’s 911 calls say up to half the calls Seattle police receive can be responded to without armed, sworn officers.

The Seattle Times reports that police, while generally supportive of the findings, say they have questions about how realistic that number is.

The report, published last week, is a result of part of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s plan to reimagine policing in Seattle, which she launched last year.

The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform found that at some point in the future, an “alternative, non-sworn response” could be appropriate for up to 49 percent of Seattle Police Department calls, or about 685,000 dispatch responses between 2017 and 2019.

The institute also found that about 80 percent of Seattle Police Department calls are noncriminal responses — though it noted that some calls not coded as a criminal incident might still involve some criminal behavior. As for shorter-term changes, the report noted about 12 percent of calls, including “person down” and low-priority welfare checks, “can and should be explored for alternative responses” in the near future.

Chris Fisher, the Seattle Police Department’s executive director of strategic initiatives, said his team has examined the institute’s findings and “totally appreciates and supports the approach it took” — particularly its recommendation of a four-tier response model in which unarmed community members and officers work both together and separately on responses, depending on the call.

While the department generally agrees with the tiered model, Fisher said, questions remain over how to ensure safety for community responders and victims in each call type.

“Generally, the tiered model is a great approach. … It just needs another layer of analysis to make sure it’s operational,” Fisher said.