May 17, 2022
On this midweek show, Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell joins Crystal for an extensive conversation about public safety in Seattle. Their discussion ranges from how to handle an officer shortage with a long hiring pipeline, the Harrell administration’s approach to encampment sweeps, how safety involves more than just policing, and the thought process on creating a third department (beyond Fire and Police). The importance of negotiating the SPOG contract in removing obstacles to progress is covered, as well as the thinking behind hotspot policing and strategic use of limited public safety resources. The show wraps up with what steps we can all take to help create positive change and make our streets safer.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Find the host, Crystal, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell at @RuleSeven.
“Seattle clears Woodland Park homeless encampment after months of trying to place people into shelter” by Greg Kim from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/seattle-clears-woodland-park-homeless-encampment-after-months-of-trying-to-place-people-into-shelter/
“Harrell Outlines Public Safety Strategies: Expanding Policing, ‘Hot Spots’ Focus, Police Response Alternatives” by Elizabeth Turnbull from the South Seattle Emerald: https://southseattleemerald.com/2022/02/04/harrell-outlines-public-safety-strategies-expanding-policing-hot-spots-focus-police-response-alternatives/
Community Police Commission (CPC) - Police Accountability Recommendations Tracker (PART): https://www.seattle.gov/community-police-commission/our-work/recommendations-tracker
Community Police Commission (CPC) - Accountability Ordinance Tracker: https://www.seattle.gov/community-police-commission/our-work/accountability-ordinance-tracker
Washington State Office of Independent Investigations - Final Bill Report for ESHB 1267: https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2021-22/Pdf/Bill%20Reports/House/1267-S.E%20HBR%20FBR%2021.pdf?q=20220517001510
“Harrell Touts Arrests at Longtime Downtown Hot Spot in ‘Operation New Day’ Announcement” by Paul Kiefer from PubliCola: https://publicola.com/2022/03/04/harrell-touts-arrests-at-longtime-downtown-hot-spot-in-operation-new-day-announcement/
“Harrell says he ‘inherited a mess,’ will solve crime issues by putting arrests first, social services second” by Sarah Grace Taylor from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/harrell-says-he-inherited-a-mess-will-solve-crime-issues-by-putting-arrests-first-social-services-second/
One Seattle Day of Service - May 21: https://www.seattle.gov/mayor/one-seattle-initiatives/day-of-service
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington State through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes. Well today, I'm pleased to welcome Senior Deputy Mayor of Seattle, Monisha Harrell, back to the program. Welcome back.
[00:00:47] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Thanks for having me.
[00:00:48] Crystal Fincher: Thanks for coming. Well, I suppose this is your first time as the Senior Deputy Mayor - your many, many previous roles and titles and accolades from before this proceeded you - but now you're in the role of Senior Deputy Mayor of Seattle in the Bruce Harrell administration. And how's it going?
[00:01:12] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: It's been a fast four and a half months - I think it's a little bit like dog years - each week feels like a year, and there's nothing like on-the-job learning.
[00:01:27] Crystal Fincher: Nothing like on-the-job learning. Now, what are you doing? What are you responsible for?
[00:01:33] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: So my portfolio includes Fire, Police, Office of Emergency Management, Office of Intergovernmental Relations, Budget, and HR.
[00:01:51] Crystal Fincher: And nothing else - that's it?
[00:01:55] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: I have a few things. I have a few things in the - I say anything that'll wake you up in the middle of the night is in my portfolio. It's helpful to have all those things in one place, and we're trying to envision the future of the City. There's a lot of work that has followed me from my previous experiences that I now have an opportunity to be able to put some of that visioning into practice in helping to lead the City, so it's exciting. I like it. It's a new take on some work that I've been doing for a long time.
[00:02:32] Crystal Fincher: Well and you've certainly worked in several areas of the public safety spectrum in several different roles. Now this is part of your portfolio in this role. So I do want to talk about just the - a number of things - starting in terms of public safety and the conversations that we're having - that are lively and starting off conversations, just this week, with regard to staffing in SPD and moving forward. And I think, as we're looking about it, certainly we've talked on the program before about it - whether or not people agree with the need for more SPD officers, the City is moving forward with hiring more SPD officers and talking about that being part of the solution, or your plan for helping to make people safer. But with that, even if we were to hire 50 people today, that is actually a really long pipeline and those folks aren't going to be making it onto the streets for a while. So if we're talking about public safety, that might be a solution for the fall or next year, but what - short of adding more officers, which can't happen - can be done right now to help intervene in the rising crime levels.
[00:03:58] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Yeah, that's a good question. We have to prepare for the short-, mid-, and long-term. And so one of the things that we've been doing in the short-term is civilianizing some positions that were previously certified positions. And so that helps us to be able to spread out our resources a little bit more - taking some internal positions, be they administrative or other, where we've asked - does this position need to be a law enforcement officer, a certified law enforcement officer, or can this be a civilian or a civilianized position and moving those to civilianized positions? So that is a short term solution - we are currently working on that, the chief has currently been working on that for the last several months. And so we're working through extending our resources through that.
And that's a great long-term solution as well - analyzing what has to be a certified position and what can be a civilianized position. In the midterm, we do have to recruit folks to be willing to go into the academy. And policing across the country - there's a shortage of officers across the country. I don't know one department right now that is fully subscribed, that has all of the officers that it needs. We have seen a lot of people, especially officers, leaving the workforce over the course of the last couple of years. It's been a toll. It's been a toll on absolutely everybody. And in particular, as we've been having discussions - deep, deep discussions - around policing and the future of policing, some people in the profession have taken a look at whether or not they want to continue in that line of service. Some have been retirement age and some have decided that they want to take different paths - but those are all culminating in this moment. We have people - good people - who have reached an inflection point in their life and want to do something different. Some of them may turn towards policing, many of them have turned to other ways to support and help the community.
So we have to talk to - and on the long end of the pipeline, it's talking to a lot of our young folks and seeing if there are people who want to be part of the future of what policing will be. And not looking at what it is now, but looking at what it could be for the future - and being a part of that, and being willing to step into something that is wholly uncertain at this moment. What policing is today is different than it was 10, 20 years ago, will be different than what it will be 10, 20 years from now. And so there has to be a willingness to embrace some of the uncertainty and wanting to be - and be willing to be - a part of what it could be in the future and shaping that.
[00:07:15] Crystal Fincher: So is it possible to make people safer in the existing staffing footprint that we're going to be dealing with for the near term?
[00:07:25] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Safer is - I think safer involves more than just policing. Safer involves getting more mental health support, safer involves better conflict resolution solutions beyond guns, safer is never going to be a police-only solution - and so we have to, candidly, be able to walk and chew gum in terms of yes, working on our policing shortages and working on shoring up our mental health systems, our physical health systems. Acknowledging that even if we have community members who had food on their table, a roof over their heads, jobs to attend to, their financial needs - the last couple of years haven't left many people in better mental and physical health than they were prior to 2020. And so even those who have had all of the means are still going to be unstable in some way and need help and need support. So safety really looks like - how do we build a larger support system and safety net to even catch those who wouldn't otherwise be considered vulnerable?
[00:09:12] Crystal Fincher: Well, you know I agree with that. And I guess that's why it has been confounding in some of the actions that have been taken, whether it's some of the hotspot policing or the sweeps of encampments, where there certainly has been a lot of talk about having those kinds of supports and interventions and people reaching out to be there, but that being absent in so many of those situations where we are seeing predominantly public safety-led, and some of those situations only law enforcement-led, sweep or intervention. And looking at whether that can effectively address the problem and whether that's really delivering on the vision that you laid out. How do you explain that?
[00:10:06] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Absolutely. So I think that people only see a portion and it's really hard. People only see a portion of what we're doing - of what any administration or any government agency is doing. Some of the things that are not as readily accessible is how much transitional housing we have actually opened up and made available over the course of the last few months - we have done an amazing job in terms of making transitional housing available and getting people into that transitional housing. In terms of some of the encampment removals, we've made a tremendous number of referrals and we've gotten people help and support that have been on the streets for years. Some of these stories of people being living on the streets for five years - that is never going to be a success. It's not a success that somebody lives in the street in the same spot for five years. That is an absolute dead end, and we should never be satisfied with somebody having that as an outcome and that as an option. And we have done quite a bit, this administration has done quite a bit, in terms of getting resources to many of those folks.
[00:11:27] Crystal Fincher: So are you disputing that some of those have taken place without that outreach taken, done at first? Are you saying that that has occurred with all of them?
[00:11:39] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Every person has been given the opportunity for support services - they're offered that. They don't always take it, and some people might not be in a place to be able to take it at that time period. I will talk a little bit about the Woodland Park encampment removal. There were, I think, 85 referrals made from the Woodland Park encampment. And those are real offers of help that we're getting out to folks in that we're making spaces available for them to be able to come indoors. Not everybody is ready for that, and certainly there were - there have been more people who have come on site who have needed help and support, and we're still working on getting supports for those folks. But when we have something open, we're trying to get people in it.
[00:12:41] Crystal Fincher: So would it then be a fair characterization to say, in the case of an encampment sweep or a hotspot enforcement, if - or I guess that's a different situation - looking at encampment sweep. If a person there hasn't had contact with a, whether it's a caseworker or service provider - someone with a connection to services available to them if they are ready to go, that meet their circumstances, that they meet the qualifications to go into. If that doesn't happen, that is not your policy, that would be something going wrong in the process and not what you had ordered to be carried out?
[00:13:32] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: So we don't have as many resources to allow people to pick their exact type of transitional housing. There have been times where we've said, there is a tiny home available and people might decline that because they would rather have a hotel, or there might be a tiny home available within a particular village and they don't want to go to that area of town. We don't have control over all of the inventory available, but we make something available.
[00:14:09] Crystal Fincher: So something is always available for someone?
[00:14:13] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: When we are doing - when we are doing removals, we make offers of support. There is a crew that goes out in advance that makes an offer of support prior to the removal.
[00:14:26] Crystal Fincher: And so one of the issues, and it's been covered - in looking at offers of support. There seem to be some disconnects in what is available and what people need. And some really understandable and justifiable reasons why people may not be able to go to a shelter. Sometimes the situation may be - hey, shelter requires people be in by 7:00 or 8:00 PM, I have a job that requires me to be there later or to leave earlier. And so I can't keep my job and both go into the shelter. Obviously, keeping the job is something that preserves a pathway into housing. In those situations, does the City have a responsibility to find something more suitable, or to wait on sweeping them until there is something more suitable available?
[00:15:25] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: So the removals are based on a number of different criteria and we'll be sharing more about that criteria in the coming weeks. There are some occasions where there is a safety reason to need to engage in a removal. And some of those safety reasons might be if there is a lot of - if there are some gun violence in that area or if there has been - and I'm just going off of specific instances that have increased the need for removals - if there was a sexual harassment, sexual assault incident within an encampment. There are any number of reasons - a number of fires that have been occurring in an encampment - those might be public safety reasons where we would prioritize dispersement in those cases. And so we use all of the resources that we have available - doesn't mean that we're going to have exactly what they need at that moment. We do our absolute best. Some people will be able to tell us what they are hoping for and if there's a match, we will try to match it.
But this is also where the Regional Homelessness Authority comes in. This is part of taking the regional solution - we have 84 square miles in the City of Seattle to be able to accommodate folks. There is more housing available outside the region, and we want to make sure that there are options available for folks all over. That's part of why, when I refer to something like the Woodland Park encampment - we had services for everybody that was at Woodland Park during the time that we took the inventory of the area. Those people received housing and new people came in because they knew that the people at that encampment were able to access housing. And so we're trying to get to as many places and as many people as we possibly can, and we need the support and the help of the regional authority to be able to bring their resources to bear, to be able to get more transitional housing faster.
[00:18:05] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. In terms of just community-based interventions overall, certainly some of those are useful in and addressing some of the issues that the unhoused population is dealing with, others are direct interventions to help prevent crime and people from being victimized - with lots of evidence to show that they're very effective interventions. And the Harrell administration - you have talked about the intention to establish that - it looks like the last place where that left off was Mayor Harrell saying that there was an evaluation of some of the partners and service providers that you would potentially be working with. Where does that stand and what is that evaluation based on?
[00:18:58] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Yeah, we're asking a lot of our providers to share with us what they've been doing with the resources that they are being provided by the City. And we're looking at the effectiveness rate - the rates with which people are able to support the community based on the resources provided. We had two - I don't want to call them necessarily summits, they weren't really summits - but they were information fact-gathering sessions with the providers who are doing that work - to be able to let them tell us how they're able to use their resources, and what else we could do to support them in their work.
[00:19:53] Crystal Fincher: So what are you hearing from that?
[00:19:56] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: We are hearing a lot of need, quite candidly. There is a lot of need, particularly in and around as we spoke about earlier, mental health supports, emotional supports. Some folks are meeting communities' need to just be connected with one another in order to better manage their challenges. And we're really trying to assess who has set up systems to be able to make greater advances with more resources if they were provided to them. There are certainly some services that I think people have heard quite a bit about that have had pretty good levels of success, and we're trying to figure out how to get some of those organizations more resources. And there are some organizations candidly that didn't fare as well through the pandemic, where their organizations might not be as strong as they were before and they may be in a position where they have to regroup before they're ready to receive more supports from the City. So we're evaluating all of those things, but we've seen a lot of really good things out there. Organizations like JustCare, for example, they've been able to remain pretty steady and and do some great work across the City. And certainly they've been resourced to do some great work, but we're looking at all of the, all of our providers out there who have a part of the puzzle piece that we need in this moment.
[00:21:51] Crystal Fincher: So in short - taking a look at, hey, you've had resources. Have you demonstrated that you have used the tax dollars that you've received to further the mission and deliver results, when it comes to tangible increases in prevention of crime, interventions, reduction of recidivism - metrics like that.
[00:22:18] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Absolutely. And then also looking at whether or not we've got the right mix. Do we have enough across the spectrum of the needs that are required? Do we have enough in the healthcare arena, both mental and physical? Do we have enough in the internship and apprenticeship arena to ensure that particularly folks have access to being able to set up their futures for themselves? Those are all of the things that we have to look at because we have a finite number of resources - as a city, we have to manage and take care of all of our basic functions. And then what we have, we have to be really - we have to really pay attention to - are we using these dollars effectively because we don't have the endless pot that we would want.
[00:23:11] Crystal Fincher: Right. So basically, are you getting a bang for your buck, is the money that you're spending resulting in safer streets?
[00:23:20] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Exactly. And not just safer streets, but prosperity for those who have access. Part of safer streets is - there are components of economic justice that are related to that. I don't think people - if they have to resort to any sort of stealing, I don't think they do it because they want to do it. I think they do it because there is a need that's not being met, so how else can we meet that need? Is it through additional education? Is it through apprenticeships? So stronger work opportunities, better paying jobs, access to education - we have to look at that whole ecosystem because it's not one lever. If it was one lever, somebody would've pulled it a long time ago.
[00:24:13] Crystal Fincher: That makes sense. And as I look at it, especially with - looking at the money that we're putting into community-based interventions, it is not an unlimited budget, need to make sure that that money is delivering a result. It makes sense to do the same thing with the police department, doesn't it? Are you using that same kind of evaluation to determine if the police department should receive more funding, if we should pull back and redirect to other areas?
[00:24:42] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: And that's exactly what we were doing when I mentioned earlier - looking at positions and seeing which positions can be civilianized, looking at the job functions and trying to evaluate whether or not those job functions need to be certified in order to be effective. And so we're looking at the whole ecosystem of that. One of the things that I think we talked about before was the third department that would be on par with Police and Fire. What does that third department look like? What services still need to be met in an emergency situation that we need to dispatch, where Police or Fire are not the solution in that instance? We've talked about the history of EMTs and EMS, where you would no longer send police to a heart attack, but there was a time period where that's exactly what you did. And so we're looking at what are the calls that don't need a a law enforcement response or a fire response? What are the needs that are not being met and how do we put that department together? We're working on that - our goal, our hope is to have a white paper and structure for that third department by the end of this year, that we would then begin to structure in 2023 for a 2024 deployment.
[00:26:16] Crystal Fincher: So then am I hearing that it's a possibility that some of those community-based interventions, non-law enforcement-based interventions may be made functions of the City within a public safety department that doesn't have a sworn officer. So you're looking to build up that infrastructure. So that actually may not occur from service providers that you're partnering with today? That may be an internal thing?
[00:26:45] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Absolutely. It's also part of - what I will say is - we are looking at the functions that are provided and of course, if that's the case, the third department will be just, will be a professional entity, just like fire and law enforcement - where there will be a curriculum and a program and the proper certifications for whatever is needed within that body of work. It will be a professionalized entity that is able to respond to 911 calls that meet their unique skillset.
[00:27:20] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Have you received - which makes sense - have you received pushback from SPD on civilianizing parts of it? There were some - there was a recent report about responses to 911 calls potentially being handled by alternate responders that they recently pushed back on. Are you hearing that, and how are you working through that?
[00:27:44] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: I think that's natural and I think that's to be expected. It is part of - would I want that? No, I want everybody to work together and I think by and large people are working together. But it's the job of their police union to push and try to negotiate and try to get as much for their members as they possibly can. We know that some of it is founded, and some of it is just part of what they have to do in trying to negotiate for their next upcoming contracts. What they see is - they might see - well, that used to be a body of work that pertained to us, and we don't want to lose that body of work. But the truth of the matter is policing is many different professions rolled under one title. They're not all the same. Somebody who is on a beat isn't necessarily trained to be an effective detective. Somebody who might be doing homicide might not be right for a domestic assault. There are different skillsets, there are different trainings - and depending upon the line that an officer wants to go into, they might need a different career development path.
So we really have to look at the body of work and whether or not it fits in with solving some of those crimes and getting justice in that way and if not, there might be instances where the presence of a uniform could escalate a situation. And there's somebody who has not got a weapon on the other side - then we don't want to send a certified officer into that particular situation - that might not be a best fit for them. We know that labor will want to negotiate that and those are some things that we'll have to address. And there are some where labor might want to negotiate that and we say - but that's not, that's not within the purview of your scope anyway. So it's a conversation.
[00:30:18] Crystal Fincher: It's a conversation. And as you just brought up, that conversation is about to be codified into a new Seattle Police Officers Guild contract, and you will be at the negotiating table. And there there's been lots of discussions in the greater conversation about the role that police officers have and the larger public safety conversation and how and whether their interventions do result in people being less likely to be victimized. Lots of conversations about what is appropriate, what's not appropriate to be in a contract, what oversight should be more independent and not internal. So I guess starting out, are there, especially in light of the prior public safety ordinance that had a lot of reforms in there - some of them rolled back with the contract - are you looking to reimplement those? What approach are you taking in this negotiation?
[00:31:27] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: So our prioritization is absolutely on accountability. We have to move forward aggressively on accountability for many different reasons, not not the least of which is we have a consent decree that - at this moment, it's not benefiting the City or the people of the City to still have this as an operating standard or practice for the City. It reminds me of - there's this old Thomas Jefferson quote that kind of refers to - if you wear the clothes, if you try to wear the clothes that fits you as a boy as a man, it doesn't work. And to me, that's where we are with the consent decree - we are 10 years into this and those clothes no longer fit - we have moved well beyond that. And if we want to get to what the future of policing is, we need to move past this past that is not even close to the picture of where we want to be.
And so it has to be a prioritization on accountability - that has to be everything. And I know some people - going back to the other part of what we were talking about - some people will want to jump ahead and say, well, let's negotiate what the third department looks like and the trading off of those roles. The police contract is only three years and we're already one year into a three-year contract. We can negotiate the roles of that next contract in the next cycle. We're one year into a three-year contract, so we have to focus on accountability - that has to be our number one goal. And then once we get the right accountability measures in place, within the next contract we can start negotiating roles and responsibilities as pertains to what might be a third public safety department.
[00:33:45] Crystal Fincher: There've been several recommendations related to collective bargaining from lots of entities, including the CPC. Some of those including fully implementing the reforms in the accountability law, removing limits on civilianization of OPA and ensuring civilian investigators have the same powers as their sworn counterparts, removing clauses in the contract that take precedence over local laws including that accountability ordinance, the police being empowered to place an employee on leave without pay, and ensuring OPA has authority to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct. Do you agree that those should be implemented in this new contract?
[00:34:37] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: You named so many that I just want to say that the answer is yes. But let me - that's bad radio to be like, the answer is just yes - but the answer is yes. And I'll just pull out a couple of them that are of particular interest - civilianization of investigators at OPA - I think that is something that we need to seriously explore for many different reasons, but let me just go on a couple. One of which is - the statewide Office of Independent Investigations that we'll eventually move to - it was envisioned to eventually be a civilianized body so that there were no conflicts of interest in those investigations. And we have to look at the same thing for SPD - that these are officers that are being forced to investigate their fellow officers. That can't be a good place to be. It can't be a good place to be to - you're working in one department and you're working alongside your team, and then you move and have a rotation to the next department. And in that next rotation, you're having to investigate the people that you were just working alongside of.
And I use this example because - no matter how many firewalls you put up, there is always going to be the potential - and a strong potential - for conflict of interest. Crystal, you and I have known each other for a really long time and - we're not that old, we've known each other for a little while - and we would both do our jobs if we had to do an investigation. And yet I think that the way that we've crossed paths over the years, it would be really hard to be an absolutely unbiased independent investigator if something were to come up, because I know you're a good person. And I wouldn't believe that you would do anything terrible, so it would be hard for me to say and now I want to investigate you. And then when my rotation in this department is over, now I just want to go back to working alongside you. That's a tough place to be. And I think that exploring the civilianization of investigators at OPA - it protects us from some of those potential conflicts of interest, and we really have to take a hard look at that.
[00:37:04] Crystal Fincher: And not just civilianization, but giving them - removing the limits to make sure that they have the same power and authority in all instances of investigation. Because I think that's been a frustrating part - to be like, well, I'm not part of the police department - even the elements that are civilians just being kneecapped and not having the authority to fully investigate or to make any recommendations that hold any weight. Is that part of your vision, and what you plan to negotiate is also providing them with that authority?
[00:37:47] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Absolutely. And again, following the statewide model of the Office of Independent Investigations that will follow the same path. We'll see who races each other first to that finish line, but very much following the same model. And the one thing I want to just clarify for folks - sometimes people hear the term "civilianization" and they think sloppy or not as professional - we are talking about professional investigators that just may not be certified officers. And there are a ton of highly trained professional investigators in a lot of different professions that could have skillsets that apply to the work that would be needed for these types of investigations. I'll give you an example is - there's always forensic auditors for things like financial accounting crimes - they may not be law enforcement officers, but they are trained professionals in forensic accounting who can help with some of this criminal problem solving. There could be people who are forensic anthropologists or other such things, who know how to contain a crime scene and who know how to collect the evidence. When we say civilianized, we're not talking about anything less than the highest level of professionalism. It just means that they are not trained officers in the way that they would respond to an immediate and imminent crisis.
[00:39:28] Crystal Fincher: That makes sense and is certainly valid. We've seen that operate very successfully in similar areas. And I think an even bigger deal - we're seeing the current system not working, so a change is in order. So is that a red line for you in this negotiation? Is that something that you're starting with as a foundational this is where we need to be?
[00:39:54] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: It will probably take us, it will take us more than this contract to get to a fully civilianized team, investigative team at OPA, but we certainly want to begin to move in that direction where we have very professional civilian investigators available to us for that work. And I believe that there's going to be a bigger demand for that particular career going forward. I do believe that sometimes Seattle is on the frontline of a lot of this work, but where and how we make these things successful, we will see them roll out in other areas across the state and across the country.
[00:40:44] Crystal Fincher: So it's possible that we walk out on the other side of this contract and there are still situations where the police are investigating themselves.
[00:40:53] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: For certain things. So, as the Office of Independent Investigation gets set up, they will take all lethal use of force - that will go to the state regardless - that body of work will go to the state. As pertains to any accusations of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that will go to the state. So we are going to, we absolutely will honor state law. And quite honestly, I think folks should be grateful that the state is doing that work. I think that what they're setting up will be revolutionary in order to ensuring that we have unbiased, less-biased investigations. And do I believe you can eliminate bias 100% entirely? I would love to say yes, I don't know if that's ever completely possible, but I think we can get to a system that is more accountable and more transparent for everybody involved.
[00:42:02] Crystal Fincher: As we look forward in the short-term and some of the interventions that are going, do you expect a continuation or more deployments of the hotspot policing strategy?
[00:42:18] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: I think that while we have limited resources, we have to be really strategic about where and how we deploy them. And so, I wouldn't call it hotspot policing because it's a little more nuanced than that, but what I would say is when you have limited resources, you have to be really, really strategic about where and how you deploy them. And that's what we're having to do - we're having to look at the areas that are in the greatest need and providing resources to those areas in those moments. And so we look at things like - what are the big events coming up in and around the City and how do we deploy in order to make sure that yes, we can cover the Mariners game, the Sounders game, a concert at Climate Pledge, because we are short-staffed and that there's no quick way to make up for that.
This has been a while in the making and even if we had all of the body signed up right now, we still only have one Criminal Justice Training Center to run all of the state's recruits through. So we're going to have to be strategic for a little while - we can't, we don't have the staffing at every precinct and in every neighborhood that we would want to have. And so that means looking at what is on our social calendars, trying to get people back to normal, right? This is - it has been many years since we've had a full cadre of parades and outdoor events, and we want people to be able to get back into life again and get back into life safely. So how do we have the Torchlight Parade with such a limited number of officers available to staff? How do we have one of my favorites, the Pride Parade, with a limited number of officers to staff? So we really have to be a lot more strategic and it means that we really have to look at the chess board. I think what people see are hotspots and it's not as much hotspots as we have to be more predictive about where we go and strategically plan for that.
[00:45:01] Crystal Fincher: And I can see that - I guess the challenge, as you articulate that, the mayor certainly articulated certain spots that were spots of emphasis that were going to be receiving increased patrols and resources and have folks stationed basically there full-time to, I think as he talks about, calm the area. So it seems like there have been point - that kind of thing has been referred to by lots of different terms, whether it's a hotspot or an emphasis patrol or however we want to characterize it, we are focusing our admittedly limited number of resources in a concentrated area. And are we expecting, are you expecting to deploy resources in concentrated areas, not talking about surrounding events that may happen, but on day-to-day, as we saw before - Tuesday through Friday in a place - is that part of an ongoing strategy, or have we seen the last of that?
[00:46:16] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: It has to be a little bit of both. And so I'll give you an example - some of where people have seen us focus have been in areas where there have been increases in gun violence - and so Third Avenue is an example. So what people saw is they saw us move the mobile precinct to the Third Avenue area right after we had two incidents - two pretty painful incidents - of gun violence deaths in that area. And what that additional patrol allowed us to do was to be able to add more investigative resources to both of those cases. And we've made - we have two suspects that have been arrested for both of those shootings on Third Avenue where - it was an area that there was an increased amount of gun violence. And two, all murders are painful. It is particularly challenging when one of them is really just a child, a 15-year old. And because of the police work that we - the police and the officers were able to put in that area - to be able to canvass and collect the camera information from in and around the area, we were able to bring forth two suspects in both of those murders. And so, that is part of the job. It's not just about patrolling for what is happening in the moment. It's also patrolling and doing the detective work to solve crimes that we know have been happening in that area, that families will want answers for.
[00:48:14] Crystal Fincher: Well, I think that's an excellent point. I actually think there's a very strong case to be made for increasing the deployment of resources in investigative roles. It seems like that's actually an area of unique specialty and opportunity, and results that come from that can yield long-lasting results. So it feels like people in the City see that, it seems like that's been widely acknowledged. However, when we have these conversations about - hey, we're short staffing, the conversations are - we have to move people out of these investigative roles, these victim liaison and services roles - a lot of things that get at preventing behavior from people who are currently doing it. So does it make sense to continue to move people away from those investigative roles onto patrol, especially in these conversations as we continue to identify areas where patrol doesn't seem like the most effective intervention?
[00:49:29] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Yeah, we need both. It's - this is the Catch-22. We need both. We have to find ways to be able to, in some ways, tamp down ongoing incidents. And sometimes the presence of a mobile precinct can do that, can be a little bit of what just helps take some of the fire out of the air. There's some things that we've done over the course of the last few years - back in the olden times when people used to go out, for example, and they talked about - well, instead of everything closing at the same time every night, what if we were to stagger release hours from some of the different clubs and bars? For the young people listening, who don't remember what clubs and bars are, and that was a way to not push everybody who might have a little bit of alcohol in their system out into the street at the same time. So we are having to do a little bit of column A a little bit of column B because we have imperfect resources.
[00:50:40] Crystal Fincher: Well, and seem to be saying - we need to do all we can to meet patrol numbers, and we will take from other areas to deploy on patrol - that's what the chief was saying. Should we continue taking, or should we rebalance, because both are going to happen. Should we be deploying back in the detective arena and investing more in actually trying to solve some of these crimes and find some of the people who are doing them?
[00:51:16] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: For those people who are trained to be detectives, we are doing everything we can to get them back to their primary functions. And in the meantime, taking a try to do-no-harm approach, which is in not letting people continue to get victimized as we're trying to do that. And that's why I said it's gotta be a little from column A and a little from column B, because we have to solve crimes that have occurred and we have to do what we can to prevent additional crimes from occurring. Not everybody is trained to be a detective, but for those who have those trainings and have those skills, we want to be able to give them all of the resources we can to get them back on those jobs.
[00:52:05] Crystal Fincher: And you've been very generous with your time - we are just about to wrap up. I think the last question - we could cover a ton - but appreciate getting through the chunk that we did today. You talk about some of those emphasis patrols or areas where more resources are being deployed - whatever name it's going by. With those, there was a press conference that even Chief Diaz seemed to acknowledge that those increased patrols and having the mobile unit nearby does have an effect on that area during that time. But he brought up instances in this current iteration, and certainly we've seen in prior iterations, where the result isn't that the crime stops, it moves to other neighborhoods.
And it sets up a situation where it looks like - for moneyed interests, for downtown interests, they're getting super special police deployments in the name of safety. And sure it may improve things on that block while those police are there, but it actually is moving that activity elsewhere in the City. And he said they were working on trying to track that. And are we succeeding? Is that the best expenditure of resources if that's the result that we're getting, which is seemingly - hey sure, maybe a win for those businesses on that block, but a loss for the neighborhood and the residents that are receiving that activity. Should we - is that the most effective way to address that? Is that the most equitable way to address that for everybody in the City?
[00:54:03] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: I would say that there is still a benefit to having those resources visible and available. And think about when somebody - there might be an area where people are used to speeding and then they put up the electronic board that says you're going this fast, and it reminds people to slow down. Sometimes the visual cues that we use for some of the public safety is just - you're in this area and you might have something that might pop off, but just calm down. It's a visual reminder to calm down, a visual reminder. And that doesn't necessarily always move someplace else, but it can be a reminder to - this is not your time and this is not your moment.
We can't stop every single incident from occurring, but we certainly want to be able to give people pause before they might do something that would be regrettable later. So, it's not the perfect system. It's certainly not the perfect system, but there are benefits across the board if we can get people to think about how they might seek help, or how maybe just the presence can calm people down, or how we can even regain a sense of normalcy to an area that might draw in more foot traffic - and where there is more foot traffic and more positive activity than in the absence of nothing which can create some negative activity. We're bringing people back to an area that would allow us to get some good activity back on the streets. One of the best approaches for public safety, quite candidly, is for people to start going out again - filling up those spaces with positive activity, filling up those spaces with positive engagement - because where you have more eyes and positive activity, you actually need less policing.
[00:56:24] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely true. And I guess my question is, even in a situation where - okay, you do that, you intimidate someone away and they aren't doing that there. In the instance that they're then moving somewhere else, we have not necessarily successfully intervened in their activity, but have moved it.
[00:56:49] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: I don't think it's a hundred percent though. I do think that there are places where you can put in positive activity and attract positive activity response. So I think about some of our young folks where the hours where they would get in the most trouble would be those immediate hours after school. If they are in a space that is filled with positive activity, then perhaps they will adopt and take on that positive activity. If they're in a space where there is negative activity, then they can take on that negative activity. That's the case where it's not just it would move to a different place. It's - you're giving idle hands an opportunity to do something more productive. And that's what I'm talking about filling that positive activity space - not everybody would necessarily fill that space with the sort of activity that we wouldn't care for if we get more more positive engagement in those areas.
[00:57:47] Crystal Fincher: I certainly agree about the benefit of positive engagement. I am certainly hoping that maybe we can envision a time where we actually deploy resources surrounding positive activities and positive connection to opportunities - in that kind of emphasis patrol and intervention that we have. But I appreciate the time that you've taken to speak with us and help us understand better what's going on in the City and what you're up to, and certainly look forward to following as we continue to go along.
[00:58:27] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Well, this is a conversation, it's a dialogue. We've got a lot of work to do. There's no one group that has all of the answers, and so I appreciate the opportunity to come on and speak with you. And I know we get a lot of feedback and that's good, because we listened to the feedback and we'll make adjustments as we go along, but we're trying to do everything we can to make sure that we get the City back on track.
[00:58:54] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Okay, I'm going to sneak in one more question. You talk about you get a lot of feedback - is there something that people can do, or a way to engage that you think is a great opportunity to get involved in making a difference, helping to create positive change, helping to keep our streets safer? Is there one thing that you would recommend that they could do to be a part of that?
[00:59:14] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: I'm going to give you two things. So the first thing is I'm going to mention our One Seattle Day of Service on May 21st, and just say that it's more than about just cleaning up some aspects of our city and helping us put some positive activity out there. It's also about a sense of building community with one another - that we're really hoping that everybody who comes to the Day of Service will find somebody new that they haven't connected with, that they haven't built community with and be willing to reconnect with society in doing some positive work together. So I'll talk about that because I think that there are significant benefits to our mental health - to rebuild positive social skills and positive social relationships. So that's one thing that if people were like, I don't have a lot of time on my calendar, but I can commit to a couple hours on one day.
And then the other thing that I would say is - we need to return to the old scripture - being our brother's keeper. And that may mean reaching out to nonprofit organizations that are doing this great work. We will help their dollar stretch farther when we provide them resources through serving on boards, through providing hands-on activity or volunteer opportunities to help them further their missions. And so anything that we can do to pitch in and to add - whether or not that is - maybe even it's reaching out and having lunch with a young person and providing them paths that they might not have otherwise thought of, letting them know young or old - quite candidly in this one - that somebody out there cares and will listen to them. We have a lot of - our older folks - and I know you are wrapping up, I'm sorry - but I'm just gonna make this one last pitch. We have a lot of older folks who've actually struggled through this pandemic. They have suffered from withdrawal because their social structures have been pulled from them, and older folks who withdraw from society have higher instances of high blood pressure and hypertension - all of those things that result from depression and not having a social network around you, can result in physical health loss as well as mental health loss. And so being a part of - I know it's a tough time period because COVID is still out there, but the ability to reconnect with one another as humans - social skills deteriorate a little bit when we're not with each other. And so just taking these moments to rebuild our social skills, having some patience with each other, but rebuilding them together. When our City gets healthier in all aspects, especially mentally healthier, we'll be able to help each other better.
[01:02:26] Crystal Fincher: I agree with that. Thank you so much for your time, Monisha.
[01:02:30] Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell: Thank you.
[01:02:31] Crystal Fincher: I thank you all for listening to Hacks & Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler with assistance from Shannon Cheng. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. Now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks & Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in - we'll talk to you next time.