Seattle Police poised to re-boot Community Service Officer program

SEATTLE – The Seattle Police Department says it’s poised to re-launch a program that was cut due to budget constraints nearly 20-years-ago.

Community Services Officers used to walk neighborhood beats, and when the program re-launches early next year, their new focus will help link social services and outreach organizations to those experiencing crisis and help young people steer away from crime.

For more than 3-years, Chris Inaba has been working as a Downtown Seattle ambassador – the job means helping tourists find directions or help people in crisis locate resources.

“We do welfare checks out here if somebody’s in distress or need,” said Inaba.

But beginning next year, Inaba and nine more will be walking these streets as a Seattle Police community service officer.

“In the past the CSO would take more stolen reports, they would take bicycle thefts, wallet thefts, that work won’t be a focus,” said SPD Sgt. Kevin Nelson. “We’re going to focus on our community members and our larger community.”

Nelson says Inaba is the first hire out of more than a thousand applicants looking to become SPD CSO’s.

And while they aren’t cops, they will help in ways that could otherwise tie up regular police officers.

“An officer can only spend so much time with some members of our community due to priority calls, so what the CSO can do is get in touch with family, provide additional services to make sure we’re not walking away from the door and leaving people without the services they need,” said Nelson.

Plus, the work experience could make a perfect fit for a CSO’s wishing to transfer into SPD as a uniformed officer, helping the department fill jobs.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to work for SPD,” said Inaba.

After input from Seattle residents and community groups, the CSO’s could again be walking your street. It’s an effort, says SPD, to build trust and offer help to our most vulnerable.

“We’re going to be that bridge to connect people to services,” said Inaba. “We’re going to build the trust out here with the people.”