Seattle mayoral candidate looks to reimagine policing to help address homeless crisis
With Seattle set to elect a new mayor in 2021, Chief Seattle Club Executive Director Colleen Echohawk is entering the fray on a platform of addressing the city’s homelessness crisis, and how reimagining policing can serve that goal.
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Echohawk serves as a homelessness and housing advocate as part of her role with the Chief Seattle Club, with a focus on providing aid to the city’s Native American community. She also serves as a commissioner on the Community Police Commission, and is a board member for the Downtown Seattle Association.
She hopes to attack the city’s ever-escalating homeless crisis at its source: housing.
“Permanent supportive housing does work,” she told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show. “It’s true — the data is clear that it works.”
That’s also an approach Echohawk acknowledges will “take a lot of time to build.”
“It is expensive, and in between, there are problems that are unacceptable,” she noted. “I feel that every single person in the city of Seattle should be able to walk down the street and feel very safe, and so that’s something you definitely have to be working on in our community.”
For that issue, she believes a robust mental health support system is a necessity, pointing to a “tremendous amount of services that are excellent,” yet are also extremely under-resourced.
That’s where changes to the police department could come into play, with a de-emphasis on having officers responding to those experiencing mental health crises, and instead having “a whole group of community mental health workers” doing that work instead.
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She imagines that effort functioning as its own department outside of Human Services or the SPD, occupying its “own special place” in the city’s infrastructure.
“I think that if we want to be effective in supporting our relatives and getting off of the streets and into housing, police officers, that’s not their job,” she described. “Their job is to be out there protecting the community, and I don’t think it’s the best use of their time.”
You can learn more about Echohawk’s positions and Seattle mayoral campaign on her website here.
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