SPD launches new community response team, reports immediate success and faster response times to 911 calls

We’re getting our first look at the Seattle Police Department’s efforts to restructure resources, and what they call their “first step” to reimagining policing, with the launch of their community response team.

The community response team is made up of 100 officers and 10 sergeants, and its goal is to respond to the community in their time of crisis, as quickly as possible.

With just a week under their belt, Chief Adrian Diaz said SPD has already seen great success, drastically cutting down response time for when officers are needed most. An example he used was this past Friday night when officers were monitoring several demonstrations, potential street racing, multiple-complex shooting investigations, and several traffic collisions. The chief said because of the extra boots on the ground, they were able to handle everything thrown at them, something they likely would not have been possible before.

Chief Diaz said before this team was recently formed, resources were stretched thin and the amount of time it was taking for officers to respond to priority one 911 calls was unacceptable. In the last week, the chief said he’s seen an improvement in morale within the department, and they’ve gotten their response time down to six minutes for priority one calls. So far they’ve responded to over 400 calls.

In the week the team has been active the chief also believes things are improving with unruly demonstrations and riots. But as the department begins to see all this improvement, they know potentially large budget cuts for next year could be looming over them.

“Right now we’re working through the 2021 budget trying to identify how many officers were going to have in our department, and right now I think it’s very clear, even in the last weekend with over 140 rounds being fired, a couple of homicides, this just tells you the need for officers to be out, being engaged and being connected and being able to respond to 911 calls. So yeah I am concerned when we talk about lessening the size of our officers making the department smaller,” said Chief Diaz.

Forming the community response team isn’t the chief’s only step to improve response times. Last month Diaz also reassigned 88 detectives from specialty units such as domestic violence, burglary, and traffic and moved those investigators to patrol. He also said a key part of the community response team is to be present out in the community, building relationships, and laying down the groundwork to try to help prevent crime as opposed to just responding to it.

Diaz added a big takeaway from the team’s work so far is how much more success the police department can have when they have enough officers to respond to all calls, in a timely manner. He's hopeful this model will continue and will help strengthen and rebuild community relationships at a time when it’s needed most.