On the evening of Oct. 19, the Southside Chamber of Commerce hosted its Public Safety Forum. The meeting consisted of law enforcement from Burien, Tukwila, Des Moines, Normandy Park, and SeaTac. Each department presented various metrics and updated the viewers on the crime environment of their cities. Fire Department chief’s from Tukwila and Burien also presented, along with LEAD staff members.
The meeting failed to produce new information not already presented in the slide deck at the City Council meeting a week prior. During the forum, the police and fire department reaffirmed their commitment to serving our community; their heart and concern were evident. However, it still needs to address the issues facing Burien businesses.
No additional information was presented to address the status quo, which is unacceptable in light of Burien’s surging crime rate. Reported crimes are up 4.8% in the category of assault and robbery. Businesses have increasingly given up on reporting crime, seeing it as an unfruitful activity and not worth their time; therefore, the actual crime numbers are most likely higher.
Acting Police Chief Morrell confirmed that Burien is down 6.8 officers. That would not include the four on administrative duty because a policy binds officers to desk duty after encounters with suspects and criminals involving firearms while an investigation is in process. See our September 30th article.
The Gem finds it troubling that the City Manager, Adolfo Bailon, issued a press release “correcting” The Gem. This correction turned out to be incorrect. A city-posted media article stated that The Valley Independent Investigative Team (VIIT), on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, issued an update on the Sept. 10 officer-involved shooting that killed one in Burien… VIIT says that four Burien Police officers were involved in this incident and have been placed on Administrative Leave. The City of Burien is not investigating this shooting. It is not allowed to investigate its own department shootings. VIIT is the independent investigating team assigned to this investigation, and they have stated that 4 Burien officers have been put on administrative leave.
The upshot is that we are down to 10.8 officers who are able to patrol and answer calls. The Burien officer count is .71 per 1000, the lowest in South King County. Chief Morrell commented that they also have a young officer staff, stating, “I have seen more change in the last two years than in all my 25 years.”
Once again, court rulings and legislative actions have greatly limited the tools at our Police Departments’ disposal. But that does not change the fact that the number one responsibility of a city is to keep its residents safe and secure. The proposed budget does not address the low staffing concerns. Is the city acting in the best interest of its residents by directing funds to lower-priority departments and events (some of which do not target the majority of Burien residents) even as the police are underfunded and Public Safety is yet a significant concern?