SEATTLE -- The heads of Seattle and King County law enforcement came together Wednesday night to answer questions from the community. From crime to homelessness, no topic was off the table.
The Seattle City Club invited citizens to the event at The Palace Ballroom in downtown Seattle, giving people the chance to bring their concerns to both Seattle’s police chief and King County’s Sheriff.
One of the first topics on the agenda was homelessness.
“'We can`t police our way out of this,” said King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht. “We are a cooperative partner in how we go about fighting homelessness.”
As for solutions to fighting homelessness, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best doesn`t believe prosecution should be the only solution.
“We all have a role to play,” said Best. “It’s going to take all of us coming together in very multidisciplinary approaches, and we are not going to arrest our way out of homelessness. We don’t want to conflate the issue of crime and homelessness, they’re not the same thing.”
When asked about crime in Seattle, the police chief says the city is safe and it’s all about perspective.
“It's really relatively safe city, as the article showed today when I was a [Public Information Officer], I remember reporting 80, 78, 79 homicides. And while we had a slight uptick, it's less than half of that now.'
When it comes to the issue of a lack of officers on staff, both the Seattle police chief and the King County Sheriff say while recruiting is competitive, their officers are working hard.
“Last year, we made just under 11,000 arrests,” said Chief Best. “Much more than they did in 2016 and 2017, and we also made thousands of referrals for people to get into services. The officers are working hard.”
Chief Best said the best way for people in the community to express their concerns is by getting involved in their many community policing programs as well as attending events like the one held on Wednesday evening.