Seattle Mayor Ed Murray addressed the Seattle City Council today to lay out the city’s groundwork for addressing public safety. The mayor described several upcoming initiatives that bring officials and community leaders into neighborhoods and that create opportunities and alternatives for young people. He also described plans for the city to focus on issues such as homelessness and gun trafficking.
Murray opened his remarks with a call to broaden the city’s focus on public safety beyond police reform. In 2012, the federal government entered into a comprehensive, cooperative agreement with the city of Seattle to implement reforms within the Seattle Police Department after an investigation found that the department engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force.
“We must broaden our focus beyond just police reform and beyond just the police department itself,” Murray said. “Police reform is but one thread of a much larger fabric of public safety, the entirety of which must be strong in order for people to feel safe and protected in their community. Let me be clear: Police reform is needed, is under way and is moving forward. We will continue to work with the federal court and the Department of Justice on implementing police reform. But police reform alone is not enough our communities deserve more.”
A study on Seattle police accountability released on June 23, called for greater independent oversight from outside of the department.
“What has developed over the past several decades is a system that is overly reliant on process and a legalistic framework,” the study stated. “From the perspective of the public, the process is opaque and conveys the message that handling their complaints is a burden that the police department only minimally cares about. From the officers’ perspective, the process is equally opaque, seems to presume their guilt and puts them at the mercy of anyone who doesn’t happen to approve of how they did their job.”
A focus on the community
Earlier this month, Murray told API leaders in Seattle that while there have been conversations regarding police reform, there have not been enough efforts taken by the city on the community levels and ensuring that there is programing that allows young people a place to go.
Today, Murray called on city departments and communities to take part in addressing public safety by participating in neighborhood patrols, attending the neighborhood Night Out Against Crime event on August 5, and becoming more active within their neighborhoods as individuals.
The city’s pilot program, Summer of Safety, will help to create opportunities for public participation and will be implemented in South and Central Seattle neighborhoods.
The Summer of Safety will bring focused attention to “hot spots” of crime and violence. The mayor cited research by criminologist David Weisburd that shows clear concentrations of crime in certain blocks, intersections, and public spaces in Seattle. Roughly 5 percent of Seattle’s city blocks were responsible for roughly half of all crime, he said.
To address these hotspots, the city is planning a series of “Find-It-Fix-It Community Walks,” where community residents, police, and city officials walk together to identify issues and find solutions such as graffiti removal, street lighting, litter and garbage clean-ups, and trimming overgrown bushes, trees, and weeds.
The first walk happens July 2 at 23rd Avenue and South Jackson Street. That evening, the mayor will join Councilmember Bruce Harrell and City Attorney Pete Holmes in a roundtable discussion about public safety with community groups.
The Summer of Safety will also include:
• Extending hours at community centers and parks to provide more programming geared at both youth and young adults during the day and in the evening hours.
• Expanding out-of-school time social hours for teens at local libraries.
• Partnering with communities to close neighborhood streets for a day of activities and games.
• Supporting the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative’s work with Rainier Beach residents in implementing events, cleanups and activities to address community concerns.
• Expanding summer employment programs for our young people.
“I’ve reached out to local business leaders and asked them to lead an effort to create more job opportunities for our young people,” Murray said. “In the coming year, we will work to streamline and unify this program, and at least double the number of opportunities for jobs in 2015.”