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How the SPD can regain public trust

A Seattle councilman offers nine suggestions for the city’s police department, which he says needs to increase the public’s trust and confidence in its officers.

On his blog, Tim Burgess writes a 14-page essay called “A New Philosophy of Policing.” Much of what he describes is a shift in police strategy, which he backs up with crime statistics in Seattle.

Burgess tells 97.3 KIRO FM he recommends shifting to a “policing of place,” particularly those areas in Seattle where the most crime is committed.

“Because individuals who are going to commit a crime go to places where they think they can get away with it,” he says. “So, it’s not just going in with the police and saying, ‘Who’s committing the crime? We’re going to arrest them,’ it’s going much, much deeper than that.”

He also says, “We should change how we select, train, motivate, supervise, reward and promote our police officers.”

BurgessHow should the department change?

Burgess suggests linking performance evaluations with crime prevention, or crime solving successes.

“Policing today requires extensive knowledge of human psychology and skills in crisis intervention, de-escalation, problem identification and problem solving,” he says. “Performance evaluations and promotions should be tied to crime prevention or crime solving outcomes and effectiveness in problem-oriented policing, not simply job tenure.”

In order for officers to earn a promotion, they should be able to demonstrate they embrace new skills “rather than memorization of facts and procedures,” he says. Those new skills are a combination of fundamental values and specific work capabilities.

Burgess concludes the Seattle Police department needs “deep, fundamental reform of what the police do and how they do it.”

“Only when we dig deep and turn this soil will we achieve the progress we desire,” he writes. “I believe the officers and civilian employees of the Police Department are ready for this challenge and will rise to the occasion with enthusiasm.”

Burgess tells KIRO it won’t be easy. “This is going to take a lot of hard work. It’s going to take guts. It’s going to take political leadership.”

Burgess was a Seattle police officer and detective in the 1970s. He’s the departing chair of the Seattle City Council’s public safety committee. He says he learned a lot during his time on the committee and wanted to get his thoughts down on paper to share with his colleagues.

AP file photo

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