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Seattle plans to add special response for some 911 calls

UPDATED: Fri., July 23, 2021

Associated Press Seattle Times

Associated Press

SEATTLE – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and other city officials plan to add a response unit for 911 calls that don’t require typical, armed police officers.

Officials said Friday they are still working out details, and it won’t launch until at least next year, the Seattle Times reported.

Durkan said the idea is to provide 911 dispatchers with a new option for certain calls, like wellness checks, that are associated with neither criminal nor medical emergencies. The mayor said it could be similar to the city’s Health One program, which sends firefighters and social workers to nonemergency medical calls.

It will likely be staffed by civilian city employees, possibly partnered with certain officers, she said. The responders will know de-escalation techniques and how to guide people to social services, she said, adding that it might be called “Triage One.”

Durkan intends to include funding for the new option in her 2022 budget proposal, which is due in September. She hasn’t said what it might cost but said it would start as a pilot program, with limited capacity.

As many as 8,000 calls each year could be handled by the new response, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold said Friday. Herbold chairs the council’s public safety committee.

An analysis of Seattle’s 911 calls by the Durkan administration will be presented to the committee next week.

“We’re taking a deep dive into, ‘What are the calls police go to, what are the ones they really need to be at and how can we free up time for officers?’ ” Durkan said.

The Triage One concept is part of the city’s effort to “re-envision and reimagine what public safety looks like” after racial justice protests in Seattle and throughout the country last summer.

“We hear you and agree that not every 911 call needs” an armed officer, interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz said.

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