King County Proposes Millions For New Policing Alternatives

BURIEN, Wash. (AP) — King County Executive Dow Constantine on Monday proposed measures to boost public safety in Washington state’s most populous county with alternatives to traditional law enforcement.

Many of the proposals for the county including Seattle focus on alternatives to incarceration and law enforcement oversight, as both the county sheriff department and correctional staff look to add employees with hiring bonuses and recruitment drives, The Seattle Times reported.

The priorities of funding both law enforcement and less-traditional approaches — represent what Constantine said were dual goals — stopping “immediate harm” and addressing “root causes to prevent future offenses.”

“We cannot simply address any of these challenges with a single function like policing,” Constantine said, announcing his proposals alongside the county’s law enforcement, corrections, public health, human services and public transit department leaders.

He proposed $5 million in funding to provide long-awaited body cameras for every sheriff’s deputy, while another program would focus on keeping low-level youth offenders from incarceration. Another would pay for housing and health programs for about 80 people who most often are in and out of jail for minor offenses.

Four new units with mental health professionals would respond to some emergencies alongside law enforcement.

Constantine’s proposals will be part of the biennial budget he unveils next week and will go to the Metropolitan King County Council for discussion and any changes this fall.

King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, chair of the Law and Justice Committee, said the crises of housing, mental health, agency staffing, and the pandemic are exacerbating one another.

“Public safety has to be the top priority for any local government,” Zahilay said. “And despite what some might tell you, there is no simple fix for all of these unprecedented challenges.”