Some calls go unanswered as Seattle Police change priority protocol

Jun 22, 2022, 3:00 PM
Photo by RJ Sangosti...
Photo by RJ Sangosti

If you call 911, you might not get an officer to respond to your situation if your call is determined to be of low priority, according to a new policy put in place by the Seattle Police Department.

Last year, under the previous program, when call volume is too high for SPD to respond to, the department would issue a call priority status alert to the 911 call centers, causing all lower-priority calls to be ended at this stage.

There were 223 days when SPD issued this alert and did not respond to these lower priority calls for a period of time in the day.

At a meeting of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee (PSHS) of the Seattle City Council, the new call priority system was discussed alongside a new measure passed in the police management contract.

Under the new system, the calls determined to be a level 3 or 4 priority are logged, and the caller is asked if they are simply reporting the incident or would like to follow up with an officer. These lower priority calls include noise complaints, reports of an off-leash dog, or beach campfires.

From there, a supervisor, if available, will go through the call logs and respond back to incidents that they subjectively think are ongoing issues and need a follow-up. Otherwise, calls are marked with the “z-disposition action” and are cleared by a supervisor from the list of incidents set for SPD to respond to.

Greg Doss, a senior analyst at the PSHS committee meeting explained the process of supervisors using the “z-protocol.”

“The SPD supervisors make the subjective call using the z-protocol criteria, and if there is a call back request, they do attempt to make that call if available,” Doss said. “I don’t want to speculate what that protocol is.”

Alongside this, overtime spending for officers has doubled from 2021 and is expected to get worse heading into the summer when more officers are needed as events become more and more common.

This year the overtime budget for SPD was $26.4 million, of which $6.2 million has already been spent in the first three months of the year. Compared to last year’s overtime budget of $25.4 million, only $3.6 million was spent in the same timespan.

In the meeting, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda questioned how the protocol for determining which calls were considered a significant enough priority to receive a response, especially among rising issues of police presence investigating issues like sexual assault.

“It sounds like the 911 dispatchers were put in the impossible and uncomfortable situation of having to tell someone that was making a priority 3 or 4 call that basically ‘we aren’t taking those calls right now, please call back later,'” said Mosqueda. “I appreciate that this is working on not putting those workers in this situation, I just have some questions on who makes the final decisions [to authorize z-protocol].”

SPD stops assigning adult sexual assault cases, loses 100 detectives over 2019

Councilmember Sara Nelson believes the policy change is the result of understaffing. Per a recent SPD finance and response time report, response times have increased at all Seattle precincts over the past four years.

“Let’s be clear, the Seattle Police Department has lost over 400 personnel since 2020,” said Nelson. “Investigators, 100 of them, have been moved out of specialty units like sexual assault and into patrol. There still aren’t enough officers out there to ensure a rapid response to 911 calls.”



Local News

(Photo credit should read JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)...
MyNorthwest Staff

Seattle Airport expects more than 150,000 travelers per day this holiday weekend

This holiday weekend, air travelers should be prepared to face delays as large amounts of people are expected to pass through Seattle Airport. 
15 hours ago
(KIRO 7)...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Judge revokes release of Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer, orders $100,000 bail

Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer had to post $100,000 bail to stay out of jail today as he awaits trial for charges of false reporting.
2 days ago
Follow @
MyNorthwest Staff

Initiative to decriminalize drug possession fails to make November ballot

A statewide initiative that sought to decriminalize drug possession in Washington State won’t be on the November 2022 ballot.
2 days ago
Photo by Karen Ducey...
MyNorthwest Staff

AG unveils law to lower healthcare cost for millions of residents

Starting today a new law goes into effect that makes 4 million Washington residents eligible to receive free or discounted hospital care.
2 days ago
A member of the Washington State Patrol guards an entrance as Washington National Guard personnel w...
MyNorthwest Staff

Inslee prohibits Washington State Patrol to aid out-of-state abortion investigations

Inslee is continuing to look at additional steps to protect patients from investigations initiated by agencies and vigilantes in anti-choice states.
2 days ago
Washington State Cougars running back Deon McIntosh (3) gets into the end zone for a Cougar touchdo...
MyNorthwest Staff

Gee and Ursula’s top stories: Future of the Pac-12, Inslee’s Vaccine Mandate

KIRO Newsradio’s Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin bring you their top stories on the day on July 1.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

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 […]
Some calls go unanswered as Seattle Police change priority protocol