Seattle Police Department Foot Beat Unit

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) does not currently have a Foot Beat Unit (FBU) which covers all of the Seattle neighborhoods. Due to increased criminal activity in certain neighborhoods, and per requests from residents, SPD has created emphasis details in certain neighborhoods to temporarily have Police Officers patrol the areas on foot. The Police Officers sign up for the detail by filling out a signup sheet, which is on a first come first serve basis. The foot beat assignment encourages officers to walk around the target neighborhoods and create a high visibility approach, while logging any special activity they might complete during their shift. This approach is a start, but not a long term solution to an established and community building oriented Foot Beat Unit. The two main hurdles the city and police department may face in an attempt to create a permanent FBU is funding and personnel.
My first step in my proposition to create a permanent FBU would be to obtain adequate funding for this. Currently, the police vehicles being used by SPD are the police package Ford Explorers which cost approximately $25,000 per vehicle and an additional $5,000 in equipment to make them ready for assignment. These vehicles are purchased by the City of Seattle’s Fleet and Services Department (separate department and budget from SPD) and then leased to SPD. With a price tag of $30,000 per new vehicle, the police department ends up paying four to five times what the vehicle is actually worth by the end of its service. The total price tag of each vehicle can cost the agency up to $150,000 per vehicle and with approximately (40) Ford Explorers at the North Precinct, this is a total of potentially $6 million dollars every 4-5 years. If each police precinct in the city paid for their own police vehicles instead of leasing them from the city, we would be able to start the initial funding of an SPD permanent Foot Beat Unit.
SPD officers would have to apply for these positions and the agency would hold interviews like they do for every specialty unit in the agency. Once the respective precincts make their selections, the FBU would be filled pending the availability of allocation of personnel. The remaining officers on the eligibility lists who are waiting for their replacements for their current assignments could work the foot beat assignments before and after their shifts, on their days off, and would be re-assigned to the unit when staffing numbers are fulfilled at the patrol level. The officers who are selected would be assigned to a specific area, which would include parks, business districts, known tourist areas, and anywhere else deemed feasible to achieve the unit’s vision of community building and prevention of crime. The permanent assignment of an officer to a specific area would create that long term community building goal which is needed for the program to succeed.
In addition, every sector in the north precinct would have a FBU hub. For example, a hub would be placed in a small space in Ballard. This space could be at a small office, a business, a city facility, or anywhere else suitable where the unit can work from. This is where the officers can store paperwork and would be a safe space to meet with community members over a cup of coffee and discuss issues, or simply how their day is going. Some of the duties the FBU would be tasked with are as follows:

  • Take a holistic approach and utilize a Community Policing approach to the FBU details.
  • Walk around their assigned areas for high visibility and to deter criminal activity.
  • Hold a monthly “Coffee with a Cop” in their area to allow the community a day to come out and interact with the officers.
  • Handle calls for service in their foot beat area coverage to alleviate call loads for patrol officers.
  • Interact with the homeless community and work with outreach programs to pair them up with potential services.
  • Enforcement of simple nuisance laws and ordinances that assist with the preservation of neighborhoods.
  • Patrol community events such as neighborhood Farmers Markets, block parties, and Art Walks.
  • Work with business owners to create ideas and plans on how to connect the business community in crime prevention.

The purpose of a FBU would be to deter crime, build deep and long term relationships with residents and business owners, and allow the much needed sense of community between the police department and residents. This is an extremely effective approach to policing which is practiced around the nation and the world. The power of walking around and connecting with the community is where Community Policing starts. This would create a better understanding between the community and police department, in addition to many of the other benefits. This is an effective, proactive and smart approach for SPD to connect with every community.

North Precinct

Currently, the North Precinct provides services to all of North Seattle. The boundaries of this area are south from both the Ballard and Fremont bridges, north to the city limits of Shoreline, east from Lake Washington, and west to the Puget Sound. On top of dealing with staffing issues, this precinct provides services to approximately 43% of all of Seattle, handles a quarter of all calls for service of all the precincts combined, and does so with under 40% of the staffing. The precinct is located in the Northgate area and is divided into five (5) different sectors. The sectors are as follows; Lincoln sector (Lake City area), Union sector (University/View Ridge area), John sector (Phinney Ridge/Green Lake area), Boy sector (Ballard/Fremont area), and Nora sector (Haller Lake/Northgate area). As of now, all sectors work out of one precinct and operate under one chain of command, utilizing one radio frequency, North Radio. Between driving to and from the precinct, responding to calls for services, and preparing for the start and end of their shifts, officers spend a big portion of their time driving. During traffic hours, it can take an officer assigned to Ballard approximately 20-25 minutes to respond to the precinct, 40-45 minute round trip. In addition, the building is outdated, too small for its staffing necessities, and has no parking for officer’s personal vehicles which creates a burden on homeowners in the area, officers, as well as students who attend North Seattle Community College across from the precinct.

The city has approved a $12 million dollar renovation project for the Seattle Police Department’s North Precinct. This project plans to turn the small park on the south side of the precinct into a gravel parking lot for police vehicles. The current parking lot in the rear of the building will instead become a space for portable containers intended to provide additional work space for officers. Additionally, the project plans to relocate the break room from inside the building into one of the containers. In order to facilitate these changes, the current parking lot will be dug up so that plumbing and piping can be installed for the unnecessary break room move.

My proposition as a council member is to immediately halt the renovation project at the North Precinct. I would preserve the green space south of the precinct currently planned to become a gravel parking area, and instead turn it into a fully functional park for the residents in the area to utilize and enjoy. I would use a fraction of the $12 million dollars available for the renovations and sign a long term lease on the old Sam’s Club building located at 13550 Aurora AVE N. Without using the entire $12 million dollars budgeted for this project, I would advocate for the Seattle Police Department to lock in a long term lease on the property and make the proper structural adjustments needed to convert the building into a fully equipped precinct. This property has adequate parking already available for both police and employee vehicles. The location has a fuel pump system installed to fuel the police vehicles. The space is centrally located, and has adequate room for the agency to grow along with the rapidly growing city. I would then divide the scope operation into two (2) sectors; Northwest and Northeast. Northwest would cover everything west of 99 (Aurora Avenue) and Northeast would cover everything east of the 99. Northwest sectors will include — Boy, John, and Nora. Northeast includes the remaining Lincoln and Union sectors. Both Northwest and Northeast would have their own individual chain of command (Officer-Sergeant-Lieutenant-Captain) but will work out of the same precinct. This would shrink the area of coverage and automatically improve response times when residents call for police services. This would also allow for officers to concentrate more in their assigned sectors and build better relations with the residents and business owners in their respective sectors. With the additional money left over, a lease on a small building south of NW/NE 65 Street would be attainable. This location would provide a mini-precinct for officers to avoid the constant drive north and south. This building would supply basic necessities and create an additional facility for community members to interact with officers. Once vacated, the current North Precinct would be utilized for North follow up units such as Community Police, K-9, and the Burglary Detective Unit. These divisions are all currently working out of leased private offices. The city would actually begin to save money by utilizing city owned facilities.

This proposal is fiscally responsible, practical, and will assist in providing better services to the community even with the current staffing issues of SPD. If Public Safety is a concern of yours, then voting in a candidate with nearly fifteen (15) years of Public Safety is the correct decision. A candidate who can get to work immediately to address numerous issues within Public Safety without having to spend years learning the culture and operations of a police department is so incredibly valuable to our community. “More Police Officers!” and “Support the Police Department” are vague statements which are not solutions to get it done NOW. We need to start working with what we have in front of us today. We need a candidate who can really hit the ground running when it comes to public safety. There is no price tag on the importance of keeping our families safe.

Crossing Guards/Traffic Enforcement Agents (T.E.A.s)

Currently in the city of Seattle, Police Officers comprise the traffic units that oversee traffic, DUI enforcement, investigation of collisions, and traffic control during collisions, events, etc. Alternatively, U.S. cities around the country have full-time Traffic Enforcement Agents (T.E.A.s). These agents direct traffic and monitor the flow of pedestrians at crosswalks. T.EA.s work to alleviate both vehicular and pedestrian congestion at various intersections during rush hour traffic.
The law states that pedestrians are to cross an intersection while the “Walk” or the walking person symbol is displayed. Pedestrians are not to begin crossing the intersection once the flashing or steady “Don’t Walk” or orange hand symbols appear. Often times, pedestrians ignore the instructed symbols displayed at a crosswalk intersection and will still enter a crosswalk even when “Don’t Walk” appears. This prevents the flow of vehicular traffic from turning while pedestrians continue to cross until the traffic light ultimately changes to green. Often, a minimum of one (1) car is allowed to turn per light cycle because of pedestrians crossing illegally which creates extensive backups throughout city streets leading up to an intersection. A prime example of an intersection with this problem in District 6, is the intersection of Leary Avenue NW, 22 Avenue NW, and NW Market Street. Traffic at this intersection during rush hour can back up several blocks while motorists sit at traffic lights unable to turn onto Market Street at a green light because of pedestrians crossing illegally.
My proposition is to create the position of a civilian Traffic Enforcement Agent in the City of Seattle to help alleviate the congestion of traffic caused by pedestrians crossing at incorrect times. While recruiting for the position of T.E.A.s, the City should focus on hiring the elderly seeking employment, those individuals transitioning out of homelessness, and people who are struggling with obtaining employment for various reasons. Individuals would be trained, provided with traffic control tools, and assigned to various busy intersections throughout the City of Seattle. The primary duties of the agent would include:

  1. Halt the crossing of pedestrians as soon as a flashing hand or “Don’t Walk” symbol appears. At an intersection where the flashing “Don’t Walk” or hand symbols appear for twenty two (22) seconds, the agent would stop all pedestrian crossing which would allow for an additional twenty-two (22) seconds of vehicular and bicyclist traffic to flow uninterrupted. At a traffic light with a cycle that lasts two (2) minutes in favor of vehicular and bicyclist traffic, this would result in a total of thirty (30) light cycles per hour. Ultimately, this will result in a total of eleven (11) minutes per hour, in each direction, of uninterrupted traffic flow.
  2. Help navigate vehicular and bicyclist traffic in gridlock situations at intersections.
  3. Assist with the crossing of elderly and limited mobility individuals which would result in less collisions from vehicles turning into the crosswalk.

This proposition is an inexpensive solution in contrast to what the City of Seattle would gain from it. The reduction of fatal collisions, instant relief of traffic congestions throughout the city during rush hour, assistance with the flow of public transportation during busy traffic hours, relieving Police Officers from working city intersections, in turn, providing more personnel for emergency calls, and providing more job opportunities and a sense of community for people experiencing difficulties obtaining employment. These are just a few incentives from the creation of Traffic Enforcement Agents in the City of Seattle.

RCW 46.61.060
Pedestrian control signals.

*** CHANGE IN 2019 *** (SEE 1325-S.SL) ***
Whenever pedestrian control signals exhibiting the words “Walk” or the walking person symbol or “Don’t Walk” or the hand symbol are operating, the signals shall indicate as follows:
(1) WALK or walking person symbol—Pedestrians facing such signal may cross the roadway in the direction of the signal. Vehicle operators shall stop for pedestrians who are lawfully moving within the intersection control area on such signal as required by RCW 46.61.235(1).
(2) Steady or flashing DON’T WALK or hand symbol—Pedestrians facing such signal shall not enter the roadway. Vehicle operators shall stop for pedestrians who have begun to cross the roadway before the display of either signal as required by RCW 46.61.235(1).
(3) Pedestrian control signals having the “Wait” legend in use on August 6, 1965, shall be deemed authorized signals and shall indicate the same as the “Don’t Walk” legend. Whenever such pedestrian control signals are replaced the legend “Wait” shall be replaced by the legend “Don’t Walk” or the hand symbol.