The City Council will vote this afternoon on legislation advancing the proposed new police facility in north Seattle at the intersection of 130th and Aurora Avenue North and requiring additional cost analysis and community review.
Here are the reasons I support moving forward with this project.
The current police precinct for North Seattle, located across from North Seattle Community College, is grossly overcrowded and can no longer meet the needs of the police department. We have known this since 1998 when the precinct was overcrowded by a factor of 30%. Today, it is overcrowded by 65%. One of the most significant problems withthis overcrowding is that detectives and other staff are located in nearby commercial office space, a fact that interferes with effective communication, efficiency and team building. Over 40% of Seattle’s population is north of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. These residents and those who visit or work there deserve excellent police services.
The proposed new facility is more than a replacement precinct. It also includes an urgently needed new Training Center, a key component of the city’s continuing path toward compliance with the federal court consent decree. Over a third of the new building can be used for police training, including seven classrooms and simulation areas, plus offices for training staff. Some of these classrooms are multi-purpose and can be used by the public as well. Combined with the training facility in the SODO neighborhood, this new center will provide significantly more room for the five-fold increase in in-service training officers receive each year. This training is essential to the successful reform of policing in Seattle.
The new facility also includes a large community room and a smaller conference room for the public to use for community meetings, special events, or police-community relationship building. Encouraging this type of police-community interaction is important to achieve full compliance with the federal court settlement agreement.
Some have objected to this new facility, claiming it is too expensive or that we shouldn’t be building something for the police when they are under federal oversight. Let’s be clear, this is not the most expensive police precinct in the United States as inaccurately claimed by The Seattle Times and widely repeated by opponents. By comparison, San Francisco’s Public Safety Building began construction in 2011, and was more expensive in 2017 dollars. On a cost-per-square foot basis, other public safety facilities in New York and Seattle are more expensive.
Could we lower costs further? Yes, of course. For example, we could eliminate the public community spaces and the Training Center. But why would we do that when these facilities will contribute directly to better police-community relations and better policing?
The city government is investing tens of millions of dollars in police reform separate from this facility; for example, underwriting the costs of the federal court monitoring team, paying for thousands of hours of court-mandated training, adding front-line supervisors, and investing in new data collection and analysis capabilities. These investments are worth every dollar.
So is the new police facility in North Seattle. Our officers are putting their lives on the line every day and they deserve a building that is not 65% overcrowded with equipment piled up in the bathroom. They deserve the highest quality training that will help us continually improve quality policing.
We set very high standards for excellence in our police department. We hold officers accountable because we expect professional, fair, constitutional policing. The people of Seattle deserve the best from our police officers. Our police officers deserve the best from us.