New Seattle 911 response pilot program and the OIG criticizes SPD’s protest response

This Week’s Council Briefing

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to this week’s Seattle Council Briefing!
CM Herbold announced she has a bill coming before Full Council next week (on July 26) designating facial recognition software as a surveillance technology for the purposes of the existing ordinance that allows the Council to review such technology. Chief Diaz has said the SPD has no intention of beginning to use Clearview AI at the department, as one officer did recently without permission. She also reminded us that the less lethal weapons bill won’t come before the Full Council for a vote before August 16 at the earliest, as she wants to wait for Judge Robart’s consent decree status conference on August 10.
On the agenda of the public safety and human resources committee meeting this coming Tuesday, July 27, is a briefing and discussion about the Office of Inspector General (OIG) Sentinel Event Phase 1 Report, regarding how the SPD handled the protests last summer, as well as briefing and discussion on “Summary Findings on the Executive Order on Re-imagining Policing and Community Safety.” You can read the OIG report here, which includes recommendations on how SPD can improve their protest response. This report only includes the first three days of last year’s protests. Among other things, the report suggests shifting away from the police as crowd control and more towards protest facilitation, and tactical changes like police not leaving weapons unattended in vehicles, being allowed to express solidarity with protesters, minimizing unnecessary arrests at protests, and replacing police radio communication with encrypted messaging system (like WhatsApp) for protests. The report offers 54 recommendations in total.

Seattle News

Today Mayor Durkan announced a new plan for Seattle’s response to 911 calls that don’t require armed officers, tentatively called “Triage One,” the funding for which she will be including in her proposed 2022 budget this fall. It will begin as a pilot program with limited capacity. As The Seattle Times reports:
The idea is for Triage One to be housed in the Fire Department and be staffed by civilian city employees, possibly partnered with officers or firefighters, Durkan said. The responders will know de-escalation techniques and how to navigate people to social services, she said.
The new Triage One team would respond to lower acuity calls than those responded to currently by Health One, and would have the ability to contact police or Health One if necessary.
After many delays and much foot dragging from Mayor Durkan, this week the City of Seattle also announced the recipients of the $10.4m in grants for community safety capacity building. 33 organizations are receiving these one-time grants; you can read the list of which organizations have received them here.
Chief Diaz wrote a blog post this week detailing what changes the SPD will be making in response to changes in state law this year. He says the new laws will cause changes in how officers handle “Terry stops,” stops made without probable cause for arrest. The department will also do away with its high-caliber rifles and shotguns, but they will not turn in their high-caliber rubber bullet launchers unless they hear otherwise from State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

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