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Mayor Durkan issues executive order to review SPD functions to move into civilian control

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. (Seattle Channel)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order Thursday to start a wide-ranging evaluation of the police department, and look for functions that could possibly be transitioned to civilian control.

Durkan’s order promises the creation of an “accountable and transparent timeline” to evaluate the Seattle Police Department’s role in public safety. It also establishes what the mayor’s calling a “Community Safety Work Group,” which will gather community input to better prioritize potential changes. That group will be led by the Department of Neighborhoods, the Human Services Department, SPD, and the Office for Civil Rights.

The timeline laid out by Durkan includes an analysis of SPD’s 911 response efforts, as well as a plan to further develop what an unarmed civilian response for some police functions could look like in the future.

That also entails research into a technological solution to manage low priority 911 calls, strategies to regulate and reform SPD’s overtime policy, and a possible transition to more neighborhood-centric patrol models for officers.

This move comes amid changes Mayor Durkan will soon be enacting, as passed by city council as part of its rebalanced 2020 budget packaged. That will see her moving forward with roughly 70 out-of-order layoffs for SPD, but on a longer timeline than the council had initially stipulated when it passed its budget in August.

In a letter to the city council, Deputy Mayor Mike Fong explained the out-of-order layoffs – based more on misconduct rather than the usual required seniority to retain newer, more diverse officers – will first have to go through collective bargaining with the police unions after both the Seattle Police Guild and Seattle Police Management Association demanded bargaining.

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When councilmembers overrode Durkan’s veto of the 2020 budget last week, central staff had informed them that because the proposal necessitated layoff notifications three months ahead of the effective date in November, that wouldn’t leave enough time to recoup salary savings that would flow from the move.

“We are not going to be able to effectuate the intent of these provisos, because it’s the middle of September, and we need at least three months to get an understanding whether this will come to fruition — it does not appear like we’ll be able to realize that,” Council President Gonzalez confirmed at the time.

KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott contributed to this report

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