Mayor Durkan Signs New Executive Order to Evaluate Seattle Police Department Functions, Identify Areas to Transition to Civilian Response

2021 Proposed Budget Builds Off Community Safety Programs Including Expanded Health One, Youth Safety Programs, and Crisis Connections One Call

Seattle (October 1, 2020) – Following the transmittal of her 2021 Proposed Budget which proposes reductions to the Seattle Police Department and a $100 million investment in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan signed a new Executive Order to create an accountable and transparent timeline to evaluate Seattle Police Department (SPD) functions and identify areas of SPD response that can be transitioned to civilian and community-based responses.

The Mayor’s 2021 Proposed Budget also creates a Seattle Emergency Communication Center (SECC) and a new Safe and Thriving Communities division in the Human Services Department (HSD). The new division at HSD will house all of the department’s safety programs, including the Victim Advocates unit which is currently transitioning from SPD to HSD. The SECC is the first step towards unifying emergency response across the City and addressing the goals of reducing dispatches for SPD and substituting alternate responses from other City departments or community-based organizations.

“The roots of institutions that have historically marginalized Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities run deep. In addition to reductions proposed by former Chief Best, Chief Diaz and me to the Seattle Police Department, my budget reflects a historic $100 million investment in BIPOC communities and continued investments in alternatives to policing. With 800,000 911 calls in our City, it will take thoughtful analysis and deliberate action to truly transform policing. With this Executive Order and real community investments, we’re committing ourselves to a rigorous, transparent, and community-led discussion on issues of policing and community safety,” said Mayor Durkan. “Investing in community wealth and strength is in part how we reduce the need for emergency 911 responses. We also need to conduct a data-driven analysis of SPD with the community to identify functions that can be divested from the department. Then, we need to develop an alternate, civilian response, and ensure it can be integrated into our current emergency response protocols. With the Seattle Fire Department’s Health One and our unarmed Community Service Officer program, we’ve laid the groundwork for those efforts already. We can – and will – invest meaningfully in civilian public safety alternatives.”

The Mayor’s Executive Order outlines an accountable timeline for the community to expect analysis to:

  • Review and identify SPD functions to be transferred, eliminated, reduced, civilianized, or expanded;
  • Develop and/or identify unarmed, civilian responses to replace some current police functions;
  • Conduct a rigorous analysis of SPD’s 911 dispatch and call volume, current functions, expenditures, and staffing models and personnel deployment. The results of this analysis will be available to the public; and
  • Research and advise on policy changes to SPD, including a potential transition to neighborhood-based patrol models, a technology solution to manage low priority calls for service, and strategies to regulate and reform the department’s need for overtime.

Understanding the expertise and technical information from City employees across departments, the Mayor is ensuring departments and staff across the City are involved in both community engagement and accountable work plans through a Community Safety Workgroup as well as Function Analysis Interdepartmental Team.

“The Mayor’s Executive Order provides the essential framework for the reimagining of community safety that I, and the entire SPD, stand ready to engage,” Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said in response to the Mayor’s new order. “As we move forward I have directed the department to focus on this work, as well as the priorities of humanizing each individual we encounter, reinventing what community engagement can be, operating as true fiscal stewards of the public funds we are given, and ensuring the wellness and morale of SPD employees so they can provide exceptional public safety services. I and my command team are committed to each of the elements outlined in the Mayor’s order, and I look forward to partnering with community to move this work forward.”

The Mayor’s 2021 Proposed Budget creates two new civilian organizations including the Seattle Emergency Communication Center for 911 calls and the new Safe and Thriving Communities division within HSD to elevate and consolidate the department’s investments in community safety and violence prevention. This new division will have an initial budget of over $21 million and will house the City’s work to counter domestic violence and sexual assault, a team of victim advocates transferred from SPD, and HSD’s investments in youth and community safety.

As the Community Safety Work Group and Functional Analysis IDT identify elements of SPD’s work that could be civilianized and transferred or divested and reinvested in community, this new division will in part manage new, community-based safety models that are developed by the IDT and community. This will expand on current investments like Health One, mental health professionals in police precincts, and Crisis Connections One Call.

“The Seattle Human Services Department is centered on equity–which is so closely tied with community safety and well-being,” said Jason Johnson, director of the Seattle Human Services Department. “We invest in organizations that address root causes of violence, causes like institutional racism, poverty, and access to health care and education. Today’s announcement allows us to deepen these investments by partnering with community to determine how to best build out and steer this work into the future.” 

The Mayor’s 2021 Proposed Budget includes reductions to the Seattle Police Department, which are accomplished both by cuts in spending and unit transfers to other civilian City departments. A full copy of the Mayor’s 2021 Proposed Budget can be found here. In addition, members of the public can review these SPD 2021 Proposed Budget and Community Safety 2021 Proposed Budget presentations for further information.

The IDT is expected to issue its first reports in October 2020.