Harrell pledges needed change in City Hall, restoring trust and supporting programs, staffing, and reforms to improve the health, safety and quality of life for the people of Seattle
Seattle – Bruce Harrell today announced the endorsement of the Seattle Fire Fighters Union, IAFF Local 27, the highest profile public safety endorsement in this year’s mayoral election. Harrell used the occasion to pledge a new direction for public safety leadership and focus in Seattle, following a year of rising rates of gun violence, property crime, and tension over homeless encampments in parks and public spaces throughout the city.
“Public safety and health in our city has reached a crisis point,” said Kenny Stuart, a 25-year veteran fire fighter and President of IAFF Local 27, representing over 1,000 Seattle fire fighters, EMTs and other frontline personnel. “We are either going to have a new Mayor committed to rebuilding trust with both community and first responders, or more of the failure we have seen from City Hall.”
“Fire fighters are proud to support Bruce, not only because of his past partnerships and his deep commitment to safe streets and neighborhoods, but because he recognizes that we need to unite our city in these challenging times and take responsible action on shared priorities – from helping end the homelessness crisis to reducing gun violence,” Stuart continued. “Fire fighters are on the front lines of these issues and more, and we are asking our Seattle neighbors to help us by electing Bruce Harrell as our next Mayor.”
Harrell welcomed the support as part of his larger message of taking a more holistic approach to public safety, and ending calls for arbitrary defunding of law enforcement.
“The unacceptable state of public safety in our city will not improve without new leadership in City Hall committed to increased staffing of our police and fire departments, culture change to ensure bias-free response, and investing in safety solutions that work – from increasing non-armed responses to individuals in crisis, to community-led programs that engage and educate to deter crime, gun violence, and drug use,” said Harrell. “We won’t accomplish this with finger-pointing and threats to strip resources away from frontline services. We improve safety through coordinated action, clear protocols, and innovative policies.”
Specifically, Harrell is calling for several integrated strategies that he believes will help fire fighters and other non-armed responders de-escalate and assist people in acute situations before law enforcement is needed, as well as reduce the number of people who require emergency intervention and support, including:
Greater investment in proven upstream prevention and intervention programs, building up successful community-driven models that reduce gun violence, identify and mentor at-risk youth, assist crime victims and address trauma, and provide mental health support.
“There is incredible, lifesaving work being done by community-led organizations throughout our city that are a model for others, especially in historically marginalized or impacted communities,” said Harrell. “Working collaboratively with experts and practitioners, we will bring programs to scale that work, improve those not meeting goals, and rethink approaches that are simply not working.”
Expand “Safe Harbors” for individuals in crisis, including emergency supportive housing, sobriety centers, long term care and rehabilitation services, and other culturally and medically appropriate locations for people to begin the process of recovery and rebuilding lives.
“Right now, our fire fighters and paramedics have too few places to take someone in crisis,” said Harrell. “Jail cells and emergency rooms are not the first steps to recovery, they are short-term fixes that fail to address underlying needs. Instead, these responses lead to an escalation of need or law enforcement response, or both. We can end this cycle with a greater array – and greater availability – of safe, nurturing places for people to begin the healing process.”
Fire fighter leader Kenny Stuart echoed this idea as critical for first responders, stating, “We have plenty of outreach right now. Our fire fighters are doing an incredible job as the first professional outstretched hand for members of our community who need help. But what we need are safe harbors to provide the definitive long-term help that they need.”
Invest in existing – and build new – programs to increase recruitment and retention of fire fighters, police and other first responders from Seattle communities. Utilizing Running Start, Seattle Promise and other tools, Seattle can build training and coursework to match our values for first responders, prepare for the changing nature of this work, and reflect what fire fighters and police officers are encountering in the field. This includes skills related to Race and Social Justice Initiatives and implicit bias, but also conflict de-escalation and crisis communications. By providing onramps and certification opportunities that increase diversity and expanding opportunities for advancement among BIPOC responders, we build a public safety system that is representative of our city and restores a sense of pride and public trust in our police and fire departments.
“When we have police officers and fire fighters who look like the people they serve, and share our values and concerns, we have a foundation of mutual respect and support that goes a long way toward community-based safety,” said Harrell. “Building higher education opportunities for our public school graduates will create pathways to good paying first responder jobs in city government for homegrown talent – and also ensure our community values are reflected.”
Adopt emerging best practices for non-armed and alternative response protocols and staffing, reducing the number of calls requiring traditional law enforcement, and better utilizing fire fighters, social workers, and other emergency responders who can respond quickly, and address situations with compassion and care.
“We’ll review every situation involving a gun and badge, determining when and where uniformed officers are needed,” said Harrell. “Alternative responses to situations like mental health crises and non-violent disputes can address issues without escalation, staffed by a fire fighter and a social worker, or other qualified personnel, while police focus on the calls they’re best equipped to address.”
Harrell’s equity-centered approach is reflected in support from leaders in Seattle’s BIPOC communities, including elected officials, faith leaders and community advocates.
“We need leaders who have walked the walk on fighting racial bias, improving accountability and building community trust,” said Wyking Garrett, a leader in Seattle’s African American community. “From Bruce’s roots in the Central Area to his advocacy on the City Council for body cameras and police reforms, we know he will be a champion for equity and justice as Mayor. Better utilization of fire fighters, social workers, and non-armed police alternatives is part of how we improve safety, alongside his call for culture change, better representation in the Seattle Police Department and investing strategies that address the root causes of public safety issues.”
Harrell’s approach was also informed by his meetings with dozens of small business owners in neighborhoods throughout Seattle, many expressing concern about the safety of workers and customers in the wake of increasing crime and individuals experiencing crisis on our streets.
“We need a Mayor committed to working alongside small business owners to help people in crisis and address crime,” said Linda Di Lello Morton, co-owner of Terra Plata on Capitol Hill. “Bruce Harrell will put an end to the excuses and make sure people get the help they need from trusted responders like fire fighters, while our police are focused where we need them most – all while protecting the peace of mind for our workers, customers, and visitors to our city.’
Harrell believes he can hit the ground running to implement needed reforms and address the intersectionality of public safety, equity, and crisis response issues in Seattle.
“I am excited to work with Seattle‘s fire fighters, non-profit providers, community leaders, neighborhood safety advocates, and the vast majority of Seattle police officers committed to bias-free policing and reforms. Together, we are going to increase confidence, trust, and peace of mind in our city.”