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Seattle hiring unarmed ‘responders’ in place of police

A police car. (Dreamstime/TNS)
August 25, 2023

In a new approach to emergency responses in Seattle, 911 callers may soon see unarmed “crisis responders” instead of police officers.

A newly announced “alternate response team” aims to shift paradigms in public safety, marking a significant step in Seattle’s effort to reimagine emergency services. Spearheaded by Democrat Councilwoman Lisa Herbold, the initiative seeks to offer an alternative avenue for certain emergency situations.

“Well, you know, usually I’m complaining about how delayed we are… But today I’m really, really happy to report that the city is hiring for the six positions for its first pilot alternate response team,” Herbold enthusiastically noted in a recent statement.

Further elaborating on the essence of this groundbreaking venture, she said, “It’s going to be a way for 911 operators to dispatch calls to somebody other than police, somebody other than fire, a crisis responder who is unarmed.”

Regarding the existing police infrastructure, Herbold noted that the police department will “be aware” of each dispatch of “crisis responders.”

“They may attend, they may stage nearby, or they just may have situational awareness,” she said. “Each call is going to be different.”

The move to hire alternative “crisis responders” comes after the 911 Dual Dispatch/Alternate Crisis Response program was allotted $1.6 million from the midyear supplemental budget, according to Fox News.

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According to details on Herbold’s official website, the new dual dispatch program’s focus is to send mental health professionals as the frontline to 911 calls that involve individuals in behavioral health crises. While police backup for the “crisis responders” will be available, Seattle Police Department officers will primarily intervene only when required.

Serving as the backdrop of the recent developments is a broader objective for the city of Seattle – to redefine public safety. “With this action, we can finally take the next step toward our community’s calls for policing alternatives,” Herbold said. “We know we cannot continue to ask police to do it all.”

Herbold has been active in her push for defunding the police and instituting police reforms. According to Fox News, the councilwoman notably backed a vote in August of 2020 that saw a reduction of 100 officers from Seattle’s police force and trimmed $3 million from its annual budget.

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.