Wednesday 23 August 2023

Seattle PD will not respond to mental crisis calls. Unarmed 'crisis responders' will be sent instead.

 The city of Seattle will no longer dispatch police officers to mental crisis calls. Instead, unarmed "crisis responders" will be sent to address the situation.

Katie Daviscourt shared the development on social media, writing: "BREAKING: Seattle police and fire will no longer be answering to mental crisis calls. 'Crisis responders' or social workers, will be dispatched instead. They are not allowed to be armed." 

"Dispatchers will make @SeattlePD aware of the crisis call, but officers will only be allowed to observe nearby. Crisis calls often consist of the person in crisis brandishing weapons; like knives and firearms."

A video clip was included in Daviscourt's post, which featured Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold.

Herbold said: "Well, you know, usually I'm complaining about how delayed we are and how frustrated I am that we're not meeting our benchmarks for developing this program. But today, I'm really really happy to report that the city is hiring for the six positions for its first pilot, alternate response team." .

"It's going to be a way for 911 operators to dispatch calls to somebody other than police, somebody other than fire — a crisis responder who is unarmed. The police department will be aware of the dispatch, they may attend. They may stage nearby where they just may have situational awareness. Each call is going to be different, but it's really exciting that we're finally up and running, with hiring the folks who will be doing this really important work that we have been working on since, I think, August of 2020." 

The development of the Crisis Response Team came just months after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Protests and riots broke out as a consequence. The city of Seattle quickly entered the spotlight with the creation of CHAZ — the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

The Post Millennial reported that the Seattle police noted there was a 250% increase in rapes, robberies, and murders during the time CHAZ was in operation. In February 2023, the city of Seattle agreed to pay out $3.65 million in damages to business owners who brought a lawsuit after the formation of CHAZ. Those involved originally sought $2.9 million.

The Seattle Police Department's Crisis Response Team page says it uses "a co-responder model, partnering Mental Health Professionals (MHP's) with specially trained Officers."

"The Crisis Response Team focuses on taking a holistic approach to law enforcement encounters with persons experiencing behavioral health issues. Whether responding to in-progress calls or conducting follow up, the goal of the Crisis Response Unit is to divert individuals from the traditional criminal justice system and redirect them to the most appropriate resources."

Herbold announced earlier this year that she would not be running for re-election in Seattle. 

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