Neighborhood Officers Coming Back to Seattle After Long Hiatus

By Paige Browning, KUOW (Dec. 8, 2016)

The Seattle Police Department will soon have a bigger presence in neighborhoods. Community members will be trained to handle non-emergency incidents. They will be part of the Community Service Officer program, which the city is bringing back to Seattle after a 12 year hiatus.

Community Service Officers in other cities respond to neighborhood disputes, track down runaways, and help with low level investigations. It frees up police to focus on emergencies.

Councilmember Mike O'Brien led an effort to bring the program back, after the city cut it years ago for financial reasons.

Some people, like University District resident Nancy Amidei, say they've waited years for the city to bring these officers back.

Amidei: "They were very, very good at reaching out to people who probably would have been not very pleased to be talking to a police officer. They were super working with runaways (and) with homeless people."

Amidei has worked with homeless youth since the 1990s. She says community service officers are known to deescalate situations that might otherwise get out of hand.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has announced the police department will hire 26 non-commissioned officers. They'll be on duty as soon as the summer of 2018. They will wear uniforms, but not identical to ones worn by sworn police.

The program will cost the police department about $2 million.