Downtown Violence Forum This Sunday: Tensions Between City Attorney and SPD To Be Aired

The Rev. Sandy Brown is growing increasingly skeptical that Seattle Police are effectively dealing with disruptive and violent behavior that he believes is on the rise in downtown Seattle.

“We’ve had some incidents at our church,” recounts the pastor of First United Methodist Church, “and the police have responded to us in funny ways. They said people in Seattle don’t want people arrested that are just being disruptive.”

The August shooting of a Metro bus driver, the fatal stabbing of a local professor in September, and the recent melee at the Union Gospel Mission that ended in gunfire underscores the growing urgency to find solutions, says Brown.

On Sunday, the Church will host a lunch forum on downtown violence, where, Brown hopes, some of the tensions that persist between the City Attorney’s Office and SPD will be aired. At issue is what do about repeat offenders who commit crimes downtown.

Police have urged more aggressive crackdowns, but when, in late August, acting Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel named 28 people he said were ignoring repeat warnings about minor infractions, City Attorney Pete Holmes said it was expensive and ineffective – that instead of arresting and prosecuting these people, social services were a better long-term solution.

At Sunday’s forum, the panelists will be Pugel, Holmes and Seattle City Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw. Should make for an interesting show.

“We’ve have expanded our feeding program on Sunday and are now feeding 200 to 300 people,” says the Rev. Brown. “And we’re seeing a lot more going on now than before, with people with behavioral issues, drug abuse, violent behavior. We had to establish a security detail for the first time a few months ago.”

Brown adds that First United allows a certain number of homeless people to sleep on the church’s front porch, who in turn report to him and other church officials about what kinds of trouble they see at night.

“They tell us that they called police to report things like public urination and other kinds of disruptive things, and that when the police come, nothing happens,” says Brown.

“We are concerned that city leaders are not allocating adequate resources to public safety and not communicating well with each other about what crimes should be prosecuted and shouldn’t be prosecuted.”

During the forum, panelists will answer questions from the audience, questions submitted ahead of time from residents at the First Chuch men’s shelter, as well as questions that have been asked via the First Church Twitter and Facebook pages.

Time: 11:45 a.m.

Address: First United Methodist Church is 180 Denny Way (next to the Pacific Science Center).

The event is free to the public, though a $5 donation is suggested for the lunch.

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