Comments were heard for over an hour at the meeting, most of which revolved around public safety concerns. Many were urging O’Brien to approve more funding for the police department, with some saying the current force can’t handle the volume of incidents in North Seattle.
“We need more police officers. They’re not able to respond,”John Wisdom, chairman for Speak Out Seattle, said. “There are some people that are prolific offenders that need to be incarcerated — we’re all dealing with them every day.”
Elizabeth James, also on the chair of Speak out Seattle, urged O’Brien to ratify the new SPD contract. “Seattle Police have been underfunded and understaffed for years. Please fund our police department or we’re going to lose them,” James said. “If you really care about public safety, that’s what you’d do.”
A police officer and resident Sergio Garcia spoke about the strength of Community Service Officers, or CSOs. “It’s a phenomenal program, but we need more cops before we need CSOs.
“We also need to attract hiring minorities. We barely have any female officers, we barely have any black officers, we barely have any Hispanic officers. There have been times where I’ve been the only Spanish-speaking officer from here all the way to the south end,” Garcia said. He also mentioned how hard it is to afford to live in Seattle on an officer’s salary.
“There have been times where I’ve only been able to pump $4 of gas into my truck because I cannot afford living in Seattle. I want to stay in Seattle, but you’re making it very difficult if you don’t pass this contract.”
Cary French, a Ballard resident, told O’Brien she’d like to see more transparency about where money for homelessness is going.
“We had a homeless encampment in Ballard with tiny houses. Everybody was happy. And then they kicked them out, and now they’re on the streets again. We don’t see anything happening, and the police can’t do anything,” French said.
“We need more policemen. We can’t even call when a car is stolen anymore — we have to do it online,” she said. “We need policemen to take care of us.”
O’Brien didn’t give a firm response on where he stands regarding the new police contract, which would increase officers’ salaries and add more jobs. He did, however, mention the work being done to add housing units for homeless.
“Last year the city opened 250 units of affordable housing,” O’Brien said. “This year, it’s about 350, next year it’s going to be about 900. It takes awhile to secure land, get an apartment and build it. But, the efforts put in a few years ago are starting to show.”
There will be a public hearing on the city’s budget at city hall on Tuesday night.