Seattle Mayor Harrell looks to form third public safety department for unarmed responders

Jan 13, 2022, 12:56 PM | Updated: Jan 14, 2022, 7:20 am
Bruce Harrell inaugural address...
Bruce Harrell being sworn in as Seattle's next mayor. (Seattle Channel)
(Seattle Channel)

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell wants to supplement the city’s police and fire departments with a third public safety department.

King County looks for feedback on plans to expand 911 alternatives

One of the primary challenges facing Seattle’s new mayoral administration is a Seattle Police Department that chronically reports being understaffed. Last week, SPD reported 948 deployable officers, and city officials note that number should be closer to 1,500.

The last year has seen multiple attempts by the mayor’s office and Seattle City Council to decouple SPD from some of its former responsibilities such that it can operate at lower staffing levels. In August, the council moved traffic enforcement away from SPD to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). With the council’s 2022 budget, $1.9 million was allocated toward Triage One, an emergency service dispatch unit intended to reduce the city’s reliance on police as the reflexive crisis response.

The Seattle Fire Department has moved in a similar direction with Health One, designed to provide services in non-life threatening situations to clients who require assistance integrating into the city’s social service network. Health One expanded with a third operation center in south Seattle in December.

Adding to that milieu is a speculative third emergency services department.

“I want to create a third department, which is an unarmed unit, that will be masters at de-escalation,” Harrell said in an interview Thursday with KIRO Newsradio’s Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show.

“This is not a park ranger or a community service officer — this is a step below an armed officer.”

Details were sparse, and the plan has not been officially announced. However, Harrell did elaborate on the genesis of the program and why his office is interested in moving in this direction.

“The creation of this third department is where major cities must go in light of some of the political and social movements we see in this country, and I think it makes a heck of a lot of sense,” Harrell said.

Seattle CM: Changing how city responds to 911 calls needs to be priority

The exact purview of the department is unclear, although the mayor suggested that parking enforcement could be one of its responsibilities. Harrell mentioned that its transfer to SDOT “is still an awkward place,” and that “we’re going to look at a lot of those kinds of functions where the traditional police do not have to go.”

Harrell emphasized that the recruitment of the hypothetical department will be community-driven.

“They will [be] community members themselves [who] will be culturally competent,” Harrell elaborated. “Many people want to protect their own communities, I want to give them the tools to be able to do that.”

“I will go to high schools, and I’ll go to colleges, and we will recruit. But they have to believe that we’re trying to found a community trust, and the officers themselves have to help me. I’m meeting with officers as we speak, telling them, ‘Look, do you see the same Seattle that I see?’”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Gee and Ursula Show

Gee and Ursula

Dalton Day

Pierce County executive vetoes safe parking policy citing skirt of community feedback process

A measure to designate additional parking facilities for homeless communities in Pierce County has been struck down.
15 days ago
MyNorthwest Staff

City leaders lobby Congress to relax pot shop banking laws amid recent spate of armed robberies

Seattle city leaders called on Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act, a bill that would allow pot stores to access traditional banking services.
22 days ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Economist: ‘Particular concern’ for first-time homeowners amid rising mortgage rates

Prospective homeowners might be wondering if now is the right time to buy before interest rates get raised.
25 days ago
Cars at Pike Place Market...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Local officials attempt to kick out ‘Pike Street Drummer’ Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson, a street jazz drummer often performing at Pike Place Market, is facing the wrath of nearby residents who want him and his music gone after years of bringing entertainment to the area
27 days ago
COVID vaccine students...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Reykdal: Board of Health ‘landed in right place’ by not mandating COVID vaccine for students

Superintendent Chris Reykdal explains the reason behind the Board of Health not requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students this fall. 
1 month ago
Trygve (The Gee and Ursula Show)...
MyNorthwest Staff

‘Not enough to just say ‘no’ to drugs:’ Bereaved Mukilteo mother on the need for fentanyl education

A mother who lost a son to an accidental Fentanyl overdose calls on the Mukilteo School District to improve their drug education curriculum.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Seattle Mayor Harrell looks to form third public safety department for unarmed responders