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Chief O’Toole’s First Year Message to Employees

Chief O’Toole shared the following ‘thank you’ message to department employees yesterday. She recounts department achievements during the past year and speaks to the challenges that lie ahead. While the message was intended for employees, it is certainly worth sharing with the community we serve.

Having just completed my first year as Chief, I want to thank members of the SPD. Due to your hard work and dedication, we are in a much different place than we were last summer.

The upward trend in crime that began in 2013 has been reversed. Part I crimes are down 13 percent this year. Motor vehicle thefts have been reduced by 30 percent. There have been 1600 fewer car prowls.

Statistics are, of course, one thing. You can also see it and feel it in many parts of the city. Look no further than Westlake Park. I have received so much positive feedback about Westlake and the surrounding area. A number of people have told me it has not looked this way for decades.

This drop in crime did not happen by accident. I asked you to get out there and engage – and you have. Last month, for example, you conducted over 9000 on-views. That is almost 1200 more on-views than were conducted in June 2014. Gun recoveries, as another example, are up 40 percent. As I mentioned at the press conference for Operation Crosstown Traffic a few months back, thanks to your great work, the Seattle Police Department is back in business.

You are doing all this while embracing our reform efforts. The last two Monitor’s semiannual reports (December 2014 and June 2015) have been overwhelmingly positive. Just this week, US District Court Judge James Robart, who is overseeing our Settlement Agreement, praised our ability to work collaboratively with our partners. He was both surprised and encouraged that our new de-escalation training is being hailed as a national model, and added that if he had been told three years ago that the New York Times would feature the Seattle Police Department as an example of how to police correctly, he would not have believed it.

You have a lot to be proud of as members of the Seattle Police Department. Instead of negative publicity, the SPD is considered a model in many aspects of policing. During the past month, Baltimore, Dallas, Orlando, and Louisville police departments have visited us. The NYPD is coming in July. The Attorney General of the United States will also travel here soon. We certainly have much more work to do. We will continue to address concerns about crime and disorder in all parts of the city. We will work hard to strengthen trust between the SPD and our diverse communities. We will also focus on operating the department as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

Policing is a very difficult business. No doubt we will face more challenges, but we will continue to confront them head on, together as a team. Hold your heads high. You have a lot to be proud of. Again, thank you!