The Community Police Commission is working with city and community leaders to ensure the response to the Coronavirus Emergency is effective and equitable. To do that, the Commission approved seven guiding recommendations it will initially focus on during this time.
Proactively address disparity
Police officers and other public officials are being granted new responsibilities and authority as the government responds to the Coronavirus emergency. Historically, emergencies have tended to lead to disparate outcomes for many different communities. Furthermore, as we know from prior research, giving police officers more discretion, as often happens during emergency situations, can lead to greater disparities in enforcement. The CPC is encouraged by the initial correspondences it has had with Chief Carmen Best on this issue. The Commission emphasizes that we must be vigilant on this issue, and we will continue to work with SPD to monitor this issue.
Support communities seeing increased reports of hate crimes
Asian American communities have reported hundreds of racist incidents within the past two weeks. The FBI has also sent out a nationwide warning about a potential spike in hate crime incidents against Asian Americans. The CPC commends the work already being done by SPD to raise awareness of this issue. We will continue to work with Community to assess their needs related to this issue as this emergency goes on.
Support people experiencing homelessness
On March 13, the CPC questioned the city’s response to the Coronavirus emergency relating to people who are unhoused. That included raising concerns about the City’s policy of continuing to sweep homeless encampments during the crisis. The CPC commends the city and SPD for adjusting that policy, ensuring those sweeps will be properly limited, and directing the Navigation Team to focus on public health outreach and assistance. The CPC hopes those policy adjustments will continue.
Support victims of domestic violence
Like SPD and many others, the CPC is also concerned about the impact this emergency is having on victims of domestic violence, many of whom are stuck at home, forced into homelessness, or cut off from services. The CPC commends the public outreach SPD has done on this issue. We are committed to working with service providers and community groups focusing on domestic violence to advocate for their needs during this time.
Decrease criminal justice system contacts
The Coronavirus emergency is forcing jurisdictions across the county to reassess their policies around jailing. King County has taken actions to reduce the number of people in correctional facilities, including limiting the type of offenses that will be booked. During this time, leaning on our existing diversion programs to the greatest extent possible is imperative – especially when it comes to young people.
Reduce parking enforcement
While the city and SPD have made progress on this issue, the CPC has recommended further limiting parking enforcement to only those vehicles with create safety hazards, block access, or create other major issues. This emergency is forcing people to make decisions they otherwise wouldn’t have to make, including with their vehicles. We should not financially penalize them for doing so, especially as an economic crisis develops. Hopefully, SPD can divert resources normally reserved for parking enforcement to assist with public health outreach efforts to vulnerable communities, or other emergent tasks related to the emergency.
Protect the health and safety of first responders
The CPC is encouraged by the innovative efforts by the city to keep first responders safe. During this time, the CPC will work with police unions and the department to monitor and advocate for policies to protect officers and other first responders.