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As Part of Her Proposed Budget for 2020, Mayor Jenny Durkan Announces Investments to Advance Safety Through Community Based Services and Programs

Mayor’s 2020 Proposed Budget Includes Funding for Five New Community Service Officers as Part of Program Relaunched This Year

Seattle (September 10, 2019) – As part of her 2020 Proposed Budget, Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced her plan to make new investments in community safety and building opportunity for young people. The Mayor’s proposed investments focus on alternatives to arrest and incarceration at every step of the system, from interactions with law enforcement, to diversion programs before a court filing, to reentry assistance after involvement in the criminal legal system. 

The Mayor is proposing investments in five key initiatives that address a spectrum of community needs:

  1. Significant Expansion of the Seattle Police Department’s Community Service Officer program that Mayor Durkan and Chief Best announced in April they would re-launch;
  2. Creation of a Native American community liaison position in the Seattle Police Department;
  3. Expansion of the Pre-Filing Diversion Program;
  4. Launch the City’s participatory process to distribute $1 million in funding for restorative justice programs; and
  5. Awarding $4.4 million to community-based organizations via the Human Services Department’s Safety Program.

“We must continue to invest to build a safer, more just city. That means renewing our commitment to community-based policing and investing in programs that help communities navigate the criminal legal system at every level,” said Mayor Durkan. “We know community based programs work. These five initiatives will make our communities safer, and they help build real and lasting opportunity for our young people. To truly address the impacts of the criminal legal system, we must continue to elevate programs focused on the needs of the communities most impacted.” 

The Mayor’s 2020 Proposed Budget invests $1.21 million to expand the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) Community Service Officer (CSO) program to a total of 15 civilian officers and three supervisors. The proposed investments would allow for the hiring of five new CSOs and one supervisor, and would allow the CSO team to expand their hours of service to seven days per week throughout the city.

In April, Mayor Durkan and Chief of Police Carmen Best announced their plan to relaunch the Community Service Officer program, which had previously operated for 33 years until 2004 when it was discontinued due to budget limitations. Community Service Officers are civilian officers who help residents and businesses involved in non-criminal calls navigate services, engage with communities and neighborhoods, and support programming for historically underserved young people.

“Civilian representatives of law enforcement help achieve crime prevention goals, emphasize building community and trust, and assist vulnerable populations,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle). “Since 2016, my office alongside the community have been working to bring this successful program back, which started in Seattle in 1971 and was an innovative program replicated by cities across the country. I’m pleased this cost effective and human-centered way of serving the public safety needs of our community will expand to new neighborhoods and seven days per week.”

“Our first responders work hard to fight crime and keep our community safe,” said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. “Our Community Service Officers will support them by following up to non-criminal calls for service, allowing our police officers to focus on those emergency calls where help is needed immediately.”

To further invest in community-based policing, Mayor Durkan’s 2020 Proposed Budget will create a dedicated Native American community liaison in the Seattle Police Department to provide culturally responsive services to Indigenous communities navigating the criminal legal system. This position builds off of Councilmember Debora Juarez’s resolution to deliver on investments that address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis.

“This new culturally-attuned liaison will leverage Seattle’s government-to-government relationships with tribal governments and strengthen ties between Native community members and the City as we move forward together to combat the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls crisis,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5, North Seattle). “In the face of a national epidemic of violence against Native women and girls, our liaison will foster the collaboration we need to improve data collection and bring justice to these cases.”

To help young people build a better future after an arrest, the Mayor’s 2020 Proposed Budget includes investments to expand the successful Pre-Filing Diversion Program through the Choose 180 program. With these investments, the program would serve an additional 100 individuals per year and double the number of workshops available for young people. The Pre-Filing Diversion Program is a partnership between the nonprofit Choose 180 and the Seattle City Attorney’s Office to divert young people (ages 18-24) away from criminal charges. Participants instead engage in a community-based workshop to help keep young people out of the criminal legal system by addressing larger underlying issues.

“I’ve sought to advance meaningful alternatives to the traditional criminal justice approach, and Choose 180 has been a strong and able partner. The young people who’ve completed the Choose 180 program with my office have had recidivism rates far lower than we even predicted,” said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. “I am glad we can further invest in diversion from low-level criminal charges and instead guide young people down a path of personal responsibility and redemption.”

The Mayor’s proposed budget also affirms the City’s commitment to invest $1 million in 2020 in community-based programs that provide alternatives – like restorative justice – to the criminal legal system, or address harms created by criminal legal system involvement. Funds will be dispersed through a participatory grantmaking model led by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) in which participants use a democratic process and shared analysis to make funding decisions.

“We thank Mayor Durkan for recognizing the importance of investing in alternatives to the criminal legal system. We are duly grateful for the work of community groups like EPIC (Ending the Prison Industrial Complex) and the Budget for Justice Coalition,” said SOCR Director Mariko Lockhart. “Their advocacy and leadership on this issue led the City to invest in the critical work of creating alternatives to the criminal legal system that focus on safety, health and healing.”  

This is in addition to Mayor Durkan’s $250,000 investment in 2019 for culturally appropriate re-entry for Indigenous people who are returning to community from incarceration. This investment was a result of recommendations from the Seattle Reentry Workgroup, whose report was released in late 2018, and called for the City to make investments that center and support reentering Indigenous community members. SOCR is currently developing an equitable Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process in partnership with the Human Services Department (HSD). The RFQ process is expected to be released by the end of 2019.

Finally, the Mayor has announced the awardees of HSD’s Safety investments, which will be funded in 2020. HSD’s Community Safety program invests $4.4 million in programs that focus on young people primarily ages 18 to 24 who have been impacted by the criminal legal system. Based on a needs assessment and work with Public Health – Seattle & King County, HSD identified a gap in support services for 18 to 24-year-old young adults. Additionally, the Mayor is proposing in her 2020 budget $1.3 million in one-time funding for seven community-based applicants who received funding in 2019 but who did not receive awards for this upcoming year.

HSD’s Safety investments support initiatives that work on violence prevention, intervention, and re-entry assistance to foster successful and lasting transitions to adulthood, and to create safer communities. More information on this program, including this year’s awardees, is available here.

“The safety and well-being of young people is one of the City’s most important responsibilities. We are excited to fund this year’s awardees—all are committed to cultural competency and advancing equity in diverse communities across Seattle. These investments help young people impacted by the criminal legal system live their full lives with more support to help them transition to adulthood,” said HSD Director Jason Johnson.