In anticipation of a "summer surge" in 911 emergency calls, the Seattle Police Department on Monday announced that it is temporarily reassigning 25 officers — including those who currently staff the front desks in each of the department's five precincts — to bolster patrol units so that response times don't suffer.
In anticipation of a “summer surge” in 911 emergency calls, the Seattle Police Department on Monday announced it is temporarily reassigning 25 officers — including those who currently staff the front desks in each of the department’s five precincts — to bolster patrol units so that response times don’t suffer.
Over the past seven years, the department has seen, on average, a 20 percent increase in the volume of 911 calls between the Fourth of July and Labor Day, said Deputy Police Chief Clark Kimerer.
Last year, the average response time — the time between someone calling 911 to report an emergency and the first officer’s arrival on scene — was 6.2 minutes. But “now we’re bumping up against 7 minutes,” which is still “an enviable standard,” but one police brass don’t want to see exceeded, he said.
Earlier this year, the department juggled staff to create violence-prevention emphasis patrols in response to the increasing frequency of shootings in the city, Kimerer said.
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Those officers, who are typically deployed to crime “hot spots” on Fridays and Saturdays, are meant to be able to quickly respond to violent crime, with patrol officers responding to more routine 911 calls.
There has been a noticeable increase in violence, particularly involving firearms, since the start of the year. All but two of the city’s 22 homicide victims this year have been killed by gunfire.
“We need to take some pretty significant steps in the summer just to give us a safety net,” Kimerer said of the “calculated reassignments.”
“We have every reason to be vigilant about the violence we’re seeing, and we’re going to put everything we can toward it.”
The 25 officers being redeployed to patrol for the summer are being pulled from assignments on precinct desks as well from the traffic unit, community police teams and various federal task forces.
Now that school is out, the department’s school-resource officers also will work patrol, though a focus will remain on summer school and working with at-risk youth, Kimerer said.
While the decision to cut officers from the precinct desks has caused some concern, Kimerer said precinct captains will have discretion to staff the desks as long as patrol staffing levels are met.
“We’re hopeful we can have the precincts open as much as possible,” especially during special events like Seafair, but “there will be a noticeable reduction in hours of opening,” he said.
Anyone who shows up to a precinct office seeking help can call 911 from emergency phones at the front entrance of each precinct.
Kimerer also said parents who meet at precincts for custodial exchanges of children can also call 911 and have an officer meet them to “standby and hold the peace” during exchanges.
The department hopes to return officers to their regular assignments in the fall, he said.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or email@example.com