Tutta Bella questions customers on whether they trust Seattle police
The Seattle Police Department is using Columbia City to test out new communications and community outreach strategies.
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria on Rainier Avenue South quietly started distributing surveys this spring to the restaurant’s customers and to people at the Columbia City Farmers Market and the neighborhood’s Heritage Parade.
The surveys are part of SPD 20/20, a series of 20 changes Mayor Mike McGinn proposed to reform the police department a few months after a 2011 U.S. Department of Justice report showed that Seattle officers have a pattern of excessive force that disproportionately targets people with mental illness and people of color.
The surveys ask a number of questions about SPD officers’ work in the neighborhood, including:
Do you trust Seattle Police Officers to enforce the law fairly in your neighborhood?
Do you believe that Seattle Police understand your neighborhood crime prevention Needs?
Do you believe that the Seattle Police have the right crime prevention strategy in your neighborhood?
The survey, eight questions in all, covers police professionalism, communications skills and whether the department has gotten better or worse.
Tutta Bella designed the surveys, and the Seattle Police Foundation paid the printing costs.
Seattle Police Department officials could not yet explain how the results of the survey will be used but described it as a pilot project to improve community outreach in the department.
“We’re trying to build a world-class communication strategy here,” said John Buller, a consultant who has worked on several surveys and community outreach projects for SPD.
The surveys in Columbia city are an experiment to see if SPD can improve trust by targeting a specific neighborhood for feedback, he said.
It’s just one of several efforts SPD is making to change its public face, said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, spokesperson for SPD.
SPD, he explained, has a history of keeping the public at arm’s length. He wants SPD to emulate the Washington State Patrol and the King County Sheriff’s Office, which he said are better at being accessible to the public.
“It’s a shift in our culture,” Whitcomb said.
In addition to this targeted community outreach, SPD will start allowing police officers at a crime scene to answer questions from the media, neighbors and community groups.
Whitcomb and Buller could not yet say exactly how the surveys in Columbia City will fit into these reforms. Tutta Bella collected the last of three surveys in the neighborhood the weekend of Oct. 12, and Buller has not yet compiled the data.
The results will inform whether SPD replicates or expands the pilot project, Buller said, adding: “We just don’t want to speculate on next steps.”
The SPD is in the middle of a number of internal reforms required by the Department of Justice following the 2011 report. A settlement between the city and the DOJ outlined a number of reforms and called for an independent monitor to ensure reforms are working.
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