U Washington will reduce armed police presence by 20 percent, hire unarmed safety officers
The University of Washington’s Seattle campus will reduce the number of armed police officers it hires by 20 percent by the end of the fall.
It will instead rely more heavily upon unarmed safety officers.
Seattle was home to continuous unrest in the summer of 2020, as well as the CHAZ encampment.
After reducing its armed police force, the University of Washington’s Seattle campus will hire unarmed safety officers to serve on its campus.
During a town hall event on October 30, university administrators answered students’ questions about campus law enforcement.
“There's no question that safety is our top priority,” said university president Ana Mari Cauce. “And we need to recognize that the feeling of safety can vary depending on your experiences and your background. For example, for some students, walking in a library at night and seeing a police officer can make them feel safe. For others, it can actually be quite the opposite.”
After repeatedly promising that the university has “no contracts with the Seattle Police Department,” Cauce explained that the university will “reduce the number of armed officers” by at least 20 percent at the end of the fall semester.
She also stated that 20 to 25 percent of situations involving police on campus “do not require an armed response.” Therefore, the university will implement an online reporting system so that no in-person responders are necessary. In other cases, they will send in a safety officer for a non-armed response.
University of Washington Senior Director of Media Relations Victor Balta told Campus Reform that the new unarmed positions are in addition to the 38 current officers in the university’s police department. The new responders “would handle situations in which an armed officer is not needed, such as taking reports on stolen bikes or equipment, assisting people who are locked out of a building, [and] directing traffic.”
Balta also explained that the university would not lay off any armed officers; rather, they will allow the decrease to occur “through attrition and not backfilling those vacancies.”
Following the death of George Floyd, Seattle has been home to continuous unrest. Seattle Police Department Chief Carmen Best resigned over the summer, as did many other leading officers.
Seattle was also home to the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) — a six-block section of Seattle that demonstrators took over, declaring a “no cop zone” and preventing police officers from addressing emergencies in the area.
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