King County Budget Priorities: Homelessness and Policing

As Seattle Council continues to explore long-term and sustainable changes to Seattle Police Department's funding in ways that make sense for local communities, here's a look at how policing budgets in King County can be better spent.

We ask the police to take on too much.

911 calls commonly involve responding to homelessness - often from someone in crisis or in need of mental health support.

Across the country, people experiencing homelessness average more than 20 interactions with police over a 6 month period. The problem? Police aren’t equipped to help people who are in a behavioral health crisis.

Instead, once they arrive, the police call mental health professionals who are trained in de-escalation and crisis management. The end result? A wasteful and inefficient process that doesn’t work for anyone.

The good news is, we don’t have to look far for real solutions - they’re already in our own backyard. Seattle Police Department often calls DESC's Mobile Crisis Team, which travels to the individual & provides the specific services they need.

Providing these kinds of services shouldn’t require a police referral. By reallocating some of our police budget to these outreach agencies, we can empower them to reach more people with the services they need. We all stand to benefit when homelessness response and outreach is put in the hands of trained professionals. This means:

👮Police are able to focus on crime
🙍People in crisis are met with help and compassion
💰Costs are lower for everyone

A better system for all is possible, but we can only get there if our budgets and priorities reflect our values.