Interim SPD Chief Rahr on police-city relations: ‘Can we please hit the reset button?’

Jun 13, 2024, 1:40 PM | Updated: 5:16 pm

rahr police...

Interim SPD Chief Sue Rahr (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell appointed Sue Rahr as the city’s interim police chief after removing Adrian Diaz from the role due to accumulating allegations, and the uphill battle of being the Emerald City’s top cop has already presented her with numerous challenges right out of the gate.

There have been 21 reported shootings over the last six days, just Rahr’s second week on the job.

“The first big most important step is we need to get a larger pool of applicants,” Rahr said on “The Gee and Ursula Show” on KIRO 97.3 FM. “If we want to improve diversity, if we want to have more choices of who we choose to put in a uniform, we need to have a bigger group to select from. I am focused on improving and expanding our recruiting and hiring. We have some very tangible steps in mind.”

‘SPD is dying’: What Seattle police officers are saying during exit interviews

Among the steps, Rahr mentioned was lobbying the Civil Service Commission to change the testing for recruitment in order to “dramatically increase” the size of the police force’s applicant pool. Streamlining the hiring and onboarding processes, removing the “many” barriers blocking quality candidates and staffing the field training program are other immediate goals for Rahr and her team.

“When we make these changes, we’re going to have a deluge of new applicants and we have to be ready to bring them on board,” Rahr added.

One of the violent instances that occurred in Seattle over the past week was the shooting and killing of 17-year-old Garfield High School student Amarr Murphy-Paine. The high school canceled classes for two days, increased its police presence when it reopened and became a hub for multiple rallies led by parents and students. The suspect in the shooting has yet to be caught, as of this reporting.

More on the Garfield High School shooting: Teen killed in Garfield High School shooting in Seattle; classes canceled

“We have just a mountain of digital information from cell phone cameras and all other kinds of cameras that are around the community,” Rahr said. “Lots of people have pieces of information. Lots of people are posting things on social media. What people are not doing is calling our tip line, so we can’t take a piece of information that is posted online when we can’t go to the original source to validate and verify whether that information is accurate or not.”

“Are you confident that you will get the suspect in this case?” Gee Scott, co-host of “The Gee and Ursula Show,” asked Rahr.

“Yes,” she answered.

The removal of school resource officers

School resource officers were active and apparent on campuses across the city until the summer of 2020 — when the Seattle School Board canceled the job during the backlash against policing after George Floyd’s murder. Now, after a string of violent crimes on campuses with no school resource officers in sight, leadership among the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and the city are considering bringing them back.

“I 100% stand on that there is a great benefit to having police officers in the schools, but their role has to be crystal clear,” Rahr said. “Their role should not be, ‘We are we’re extra school security, we’re here for discipline.’ That should not be the role of the police officer. The greatest benefit of having resource officers in the schools with carefully designed roles and responsibilities is to build relationships.”

Jason Rantz on the end of school resource officers in Seattle: Latest Seattle school shooting again shows Democrats to blame

More than one in 10 schools with a regular police presence removed officers from facilities since 2020, according to new federal data. Before 2020, 58% of schools, including 72% of high schools, had resource officers. That number was just 36% by 2004.

“I think in the last five years, the idea of police in schools has been politicized,” Rahr said. “I know there are bad stories out there about school resource officers being misused. I would like to start a dialogue with the Seattle Public Schools and say, ‘Can we please hit the reset button?'”

“Rahr, I would like to see you put that on a t-shirt,” Gee said. “The next time I see you at a press conference, I want to read on your shirt, ‘Hit the reset button.’ Reset Seattle. That is the message to everybody.”

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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Interim SPD Chief Rahr on police-city relations: ‘Can we please hit the reset button?’