Interim Chief Adrian Diaz decried the “unrelenting pace of violence” this summer. We asked the two candidates for City Council Position 8 on the Nov. 2 ballot about their approaches to public safety. Teresa Mosqueda is the incumbent. Challenger Kenneth Wilson is an engineer. Read the answers from the candidates for mayor here and the answers from Position 9 candidates here.
Q: How would you respond to concerns about slow police response times to violence and property crimes?
Teresa Mosqueda: We all deserve to feel safe and supported in our communities. We can improve both response times and the types of response by making sure the right personnel are dispatched, and we have appropriate staffing levels of all types of emergency and public safety responders.
A recent report commissioned by Mayor Jenny Durkan by the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform found that an “alternative, non-sworn response” could be appropriate for up to 49% of Seattle Police Department calls, or about 685,000 dispatch responses between 2017 and 2019.
By offloading the types of calls highlighted in the NICJR report to a larger array of responders, we can ensure that when someone calls for help the response is quick and effective.
The council has already begun this work with the creation of the Community Safety and Communications Center. This department is where many of the non-police responses will receive immediate attention. We must continue to scale this department up and ensure that 911 dispatchers have a menu of options when fielding calls.
Kenneth Wilson: I would immediately restore a positive council relationship demonstrating support for our police and return the council removed police budget. Major understaffing challenges are causing impacts to every aspect of policing. When more than 20% of staff is missing, all levels of staffing are impacted such that detectives and office support police are reallocated forward to support patrols and crime prevention so that property crime investigation and other police work is eliminated. A simple analogy is if you were running a small business with 20% of staff missing but couldn’t change operating hours, the chef and kitchen staff would have to work the dining room. Customers receive poor service, staff is unhappy and utilized in areas they did not want, quality suffers, and the system works inefficiently and poorly. 911 is having to prioritize by asking “is a weapon involved” and our community is not receiving proper support. All crime must be responded to, and today’s problems are the responsibility of current council. Council’s lack of support for police, cutting police budget and now removing an additional $15 million of available police budget during “unrelenting violence” is creating the lack of response to violence and property crimes.
Q: In 2012, a city report determined that 55% of Seattle’s crime prevention programs could not provide conclusive evidence of their effectiveness. What metrics should be used to monitor community alternatives to policing?
Mosqueda: Community alternatives to policing should include community-driven metrics reflecting on-the-ground experiences, needs and priorities. Neighborhood level perception of safety and health is molded by well-being, community connection, access to healing and the ability to access: food, water, housing and economic stability. The effectiveness of crime prevention should be measured by large indicators of improved social determinants of health: less youth with access to a gun, more accessibility to foods, less crimes associated with poverty like stealing food or clothes, more community members stably housed, more access to job training and apprenticeship programs, access to healthy, nutritious foods, and reduced poverty-related stress.
As we build restorative justice programs we can create a sense of safety that is far more profound than centering punishment. We should both address crime and prevent crime. Creating barriers to economic stability and social inclusion through negative interactions with the legal system too often reinforces the root of crime.
Creating culturally competent and noninvasive community alternatives that pursue true safety means centering their voices and ensuring they are defining public safety. We can build systems of accountability that demonstrate progress and performance while not losing sight of the holistic needs of true community safety.
Wilson: Use of an almost 10-year old auditor report for current crime prevention effectiveness is unrealistic. Seattle’s population growth has exploded, and unprecedented council restrictions to police budget/staffing prevent correlations. Important crime prevention programs such as police patrols and neighborhood activity support create valuable and measurable reductions in violent crime and property crime incidences. Chief Diaz stated police are tracking, in real time, crime statistics and data for each neighborhood and know well the hot spots but have too few staff to provide necessary patrols that prevent crime and provide near immediate police responses. Police already monitor valuable metrics for budget, number of patrol assets and locations, number of officers responding and arrests, service calls (emergency and nonemergency), reports filed, real time/historic statistics on violent crime and property crimes. The Department communicates this information to the community via Crime Dashboard and SeaStat online. As accountability for its budget, Community Alternatives must track all these same metrics, as well as compare SPD to Community Alternative interactions/outcomes. However, their activity is simultaneous and not distinct, creating duplication. Community Alternatives instead should replace homeless first-responses as an excellent value without duplicate metrics. (Most are provided today by Seattle Fire Department due to police reductions.)
Q: How would you reduce the number of shootings and gun crimes?
Mosqueda: With my public health background and deep commitment to the safety and welfare of kids, women and families, I understand the importance of gun responsibility. Using a holistic approach with input from communities and gun violence survivors, we can address this unacceptable problem. I will continue to champion efforts to increase education and awareness, promote stronger local gun laws, improve gun data collection and enhance gun responsibility laws, and immediate adoption of gunshot echo tracking to help isolate and address hot spots of gun violence. We know that through community investments and policies that keep guns out of hands they shouldn’t be in, we can reduce gun violence.
I’ve championed efforts that address the underlying causes of gun violence, including passing a 2020 budget that makes critical investments in social and mental health services. I added a third Health One team with social workers and case managers, and prioritized funding for youth violence prevention. I am the council’s leading voice for strong, stable communities, including investments in education opportunities, housing stability, access to good living wage jobs, access to behavioral health, mental health and addiction related services, and reducing chronic stress in our communities to name a few.
Wilson: Gun crimes and shootings in Seattle have dramatically increased in 2020 and continue in 2021, while smaller crimes, misdemeanors and existing laws are not enforced. The escalation from lesser crimes to serious and violent crime is occurring and is demonstrated in the statistics. Council-caused major police reductions and resulting staff re-prioritizations meant that investigation teams were eliminated as they fill basic positions. This prevents detection and apprehension of prolific offenders. Lack of staffing and budget eliminates valuable patrols in known areas that prevent crime, and unfortunately eliminates time for community engagement that provides for insight and de-escalations. The effectiveness of our police force is also radically diminished because a loss of 20% includes many valuable senior experienced officers taking early retirement and some with unique skills/training that easily found positions at other more supportive municipalities. The solution is to: Enforce existing laws; elect a council that supports and demonstrates appreciation for our police; restore budget and aid in training/support of existing team members to retain staff; financially and otherwise incentivize hiring of new police staff; importantly, rotate teams and individuals to provide time away from emergencies to prevent burnout; actively promote positive engagement by teaming officers and communities.