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The Durkan Digest: Investing in a Holistic Approach to Public Safety and Our Criminal Legal System

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This week, I announced a series of proposals to advance public safety and dedicate new resources to community-based services and programs.

Seattle’s Chief of Police Carmen Best and I are deeply committed to ensuring all our communities are safe. In conversations with the Chief and her officers, it became clear that we need to do more to support our officers and build the best community police department in America. That’s why this week, I proposed investing $1.6 million to strengthen recruitment, speed up hiring, and improve officer retention at the Seattle Police Department. As Seattle grows, we have to make sure we are recruiting, hiring and retaining the most experienced officers who can provide public safety and are committed to lasting reform. I also believe we can expand our Community Service Officer program and continue supporting community-based emphasis patrols in 2020, which are an evidence-based strategy to fight crime in neighborhoods across the City.

Mayor Durkan and Chief Best shake hands during SPD recruitment and retention press conference

Continued growth means we also must ensure our ability to deliver emergency and non-emergency services keeps pace. One area where we have a great need is to better serve some of our most vulnerable neighbors with health care, behavioral health or substance use disorder issues. The City is launching “Health One,” a team of specially trained SFD firefighters and civilian specialists that help people with non-emergency 9-1-1 requests for issues like substance use, non-emergency medical issues, and a need to access services. In addition, I am proposing new investments including four additional mental health professionals for SPD, a new dedicated nurse line for homelessness service providers to call for non-emergency medical needs; and dedicated nurses at our largest shelters. Having these additional resources means we can address medical and behavioral health needs with the right response.  

Mayor Durkan poses with Councilwoman Bagshaw, Chief Best, Chief Scoggins, HSD Director Jason Johnson and others in front of a Health One vehicle

The complex intersection of behavioral health, substance use disorders, and the criminal justice system, deserved a more focused approach across jurisdictions in our region. While no single jurisdiction oversees all the tools, programs, or resources needed to address these challenges, it was clear residents and employers expected us to work together and make meaningful progress. That’s why yesterday, I stood with City Attorney Pete Holmes, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg to announce four new pilot programs that focus on people cycling through the criminal legal system in Seattle and King County. You can learn more about these pilot programs, which focus on our hardest to serve communities, here. In addition, the City will continue to support investments focused 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. 

With these investments, we’re committing to address public safety holistically, because we know that true public safety means that everyone, regardless of their background or history, can have access to lasting opportunity.

As always, please continue to write me at, reach out via Twitter and Facebook, and stay up-to-date on the work we’re doing for the people of Seattle on my blog.


Mayor Jenny Durkan

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan's Signature

This blog post is an excerpt from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s weekly newsletter. If would like more content like this, and a weekly recap of the exciting things happening in the City of Seattle, you can subscribe here.