King County Sheriff Johanknecht takes a walking tour of White Center; Time for Q & A and a chance to meet business owners
King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht and community members shared a walking tour of White Center on Friday, April 6 to ask her questions, and give her local perspective on the neighborhood. She's not unfamiliar. Though she was elected last year she's been in law enforcement for 32 years and grew up in the area and said she recalled, "coming to the Chubby and Tubby to shop and skate at the Southgate Roller Rink" when she was a child, and still comes back to the area "when I'm off duty to take advantage of what is the unique community of White Center."
The event began at Noble Barton restaurant with a Q and A session. Event organizer Aaron Garcia, Director of the White Center Community Development Association led the questions noting that a recent survey in neighborhood revealed that 2 out of the top 3 concerns about White Center are in regard to law enforcement. Specifically, "there have been a lot of issues with the homeless community destroying property," Garcia said. The Sheriff said, "This is really complex. We want to make sure we are respecting everybody's rights and treating everybody like human beings with dignity and respect. But the business community is having to deal with it. Just last week I had a brief interaction with Mayor Durkan because there's connectivity at our boundaries. There are things we can do together so I have an appointment to meet with the King County Executive and get up to speed on the initiatives of King County and the uniqueness of the area. As you know we are limited in resources for cops but we have to create this one portal through which we work all services and that we are cross talking together and getting the best people there, it's not always the cops." She said she is in meetings with King County to make progress on the issue, hoping to streamline and refine a portal to services to improve the quality and time of delivery.
White Center Chamber President Sheryl Clinton asked about the sixteen broken business windows in White Center in the last eight months. The Sheriff turned to Major Bryan Howard who was in attendance and said she selected him to help address the issue or provide an explanation regarding choices made in enforcement. Earlier in the week Store Front Deputy Kennamer addressed this by noting two of the culprits had left the area but one with behavioral health issues was still around. The Sheriff said they can hold a person for 72 hours and then route them to mental health care if that is warranted but still hold them accountable for their actions. Clinton explained that the priority for enforcement seemed to have gone down for the police "but for me it's pretty high on the list because I can't afford to replace a giant window." Sheriff Johanknecht said she would have Major Howard work with the community on the issue.
One of the White Center hotspots for crime is the transit stop near Roxbury Street SW and 15th SW in front of Bartell Drugs. A question was posed about the fights, and drug deals that seem to happen near there (Editor's note: This location has also been the scene of violent crimes from murder to beatings to rape in the last few years). The Sheriff said that "Major Howard can work with Metro Transit. When those things come up and people say something they will come out and address it. We will work with officer Kennamer to coordinate and see if we can have a better response."
Geoffrey “Mac” McElroy of Mac's Triangle Pub, which sits just inside the Seattle City Limits asked about the way King County works with the Seattle Police Department. The Sheriff said she had a chance to meet Mayor Durkan on the campaign trail as both were running for office. "We talked about the need to build a really strong relationship between the King County Sheriff's office and the Seattle Police Department. For the first time ever, two weeks ago we had an executive staff meeting.... Senior staff from the Sheriff's office met with senior staff of Seattle Police and it was really good engagement... We're using the same vendor for our records management system so how can we broaden that and regionalize getting folks on the same system. That would be police reports. It should be easier to write reports and we're going "into the cloud," meaning the database and records will soon be in cloud storage for the county. She explained that the two agencies use the same radio frequencies at times.
A question came up about the homeless camp on Myers Way. The Sheriff asked Major Howard to work on an update regarding crime and other issues regarding the camp.
On her annual budget she said that next week she will begin the process of formulating the budget allocations for 2019-20. "Previously we've never had someone to deal with equity and social justice so I've asked to have somebody come in to deal with that and we've never had anyone in the office help to implement what is legislated into ordinance... so I've asked for a civilian staff member to start that. That person will also be heading community engagement for us. The connecting piece is how we do our hiring. I want to get us back to hiring more local folks... but that social justice piece ties into us talking to different communities, including communities of color about what are the barriers that are stopping you from coming into law enforcement and promoting justice... We need to hire people more quickly both civilian and deputies, because everyone is working with the same pool of humans, all of law enforcement is seeking from the same area. So we need a full time recruiter and haven't had one for years. As we go through the implementation of Initiative 940 (editor's note: It requires law enforcement officers to obtain violence de-escalation and mental health training) which talks about use of force and training... so when we deal with people in crisis we have more tools available to us.
Johanknecht said she is getting Naloxone out to deputies "so if we have someone have an overdose we can quickly help them recover." She explained that in the next two weeks the Sheriff's office will issue "less lethal shotguns" with bean bag rounds which give them another option in crisis situations. "I'm trying to push the use of lethal force further down the road."
She explained she only has six or seven officers now "for really huge areas" and in the upcoming budget hopes to add more.
Mrs Lee selling produce is at LEE’S MARKET