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How long will Seattle police provide traffic control at Mariners games?

Seattle police outside the stadiums in the city's SoDo neighborhood. (MyNorthwest photo)

Welcome to the Mariners Opening Day edition of Chokepoints.

10 reasons why we’re excited for the start of Mariners baseball

Seattle police officers will be back directing traffic in and out of tonight’s Mariners game at T-Mobile Park, but they might not be doing that job for much longer.

This is the intersection of Seattle police reforms and unexpected real-world applications. Seattle wants to move the parking enforcement division under a new civilian umbrella. That would mean that parking enforcement officers would no longer be badged or sworn officers. That hasn’t happened yet, as the city figures out how to make the transition, but it is coming.

State law does not allow non-sworn people to direct traffic from the middle of intersections. That means that once Seattle makes the shift to civilian staff, they would not be allowed to direct traffic as we see it today.

“We have an RCW that might make it harder for our stadiums and for our arts organizations to be able to coordinate with their local jurisdictions,” State Senator Rebecca Saldana said.

She has introduced a bill that would fix this, adding non-sworn flaggers to the list. She also said this wouldn’t make traffic control less safe.

“There still would be the possibility in a large venue for police officers to be on site,” she said. “A police officer just doesn’t have to be the one person that is actually doing the flagging.”

Mariners Vice President Fred Rivera has testified in favor of this before both state House and Senate transportation committees this session. He told lawmakers it adds flexibility to their traffic management plans.

“This is an opportunity to expand the options, not necessarily to replace SPD for security around the ballpark,” he testified. “It expands the options by allowing a civilian work force to manage traffic and the right-of-way. We think that optionality is in the best interest of, not only us, but also of our community.”

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Rivera testified that sworn Seattle police officers will continue to be inside and outside of the ballpark, and doesn’t believe this will impact safety.

“They would be trained,” he said. “They would be staff, frankly, that are already in SPD for the most part — it’s just moved over to a civilian agency, and they’re not sworn police officers.”

Allowing civilian flaggers will also save the Mariners a lot of money. Rivera said they pay on-duty SPD officers overtime “from hour one.” He also testified it should also make getting into and out of games more efficient.

“On the efficiency side, it’s very difficult to get the time of the SPD and the attention to come up with traffic patterns that, frankly, are in the best interest of the community, whether it’s the International District or Sodo, so we think we will be able to get better attention to that.”

Senator Saldana also suggests this would provide new job opportunities for civilian flaggers.

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