Candiate Answers: Tim Burgess

1) Crime is down in the city, but we’ve seen some horrible incidents with the police in recent years. How do we ensure public safety and not have those sorts of things happen in the future?

We make certain the Office of Professional Accountability, and the related civilian Auditor and the seven-member civilian Review Board, have the tools and resources necessary to thoroughly investigate complaints of misconduct.

This may seem insignificant, but we should transform the public face of the OPA—printed materials that explain the process of investigations, notification and update letters and the office environment. The current OPA environment—website, printed materials, offices—express a strong police orientation. Instead, the OPA environment should be professional, neutral and welcoming. First impressions matter.

As we have heard from the past four civilian OPA Auditors, the quality and thoroughness of OPA investigations are not the issue. The real issue, as identified by current Auditor Anne Levinson, is what we don’t know. Some in the city believe that our police officers use force far more often than is reported. My office will soon ask the City Auditor and the OPA Review Board to examine this issue and conduct independent research of arrestees to determine whether force was used during their arrest and whether the arresting officers properly completed required “use of force” reports. This type of external, proactive examination will identify problems and will also help build public trust and confidence in the Police Department.

Turning to crime prevention, emerging evidence indicates that we should shift away from the policing of people, but not all people, to the policing of place. This would be a major shift in American policing.

This change is necessary because crime is geographically concentrated and anchored at micro places. Crime is not randomly distributed across a city. In Seattle, using 16 years of crime data, researchers have found that about 50% of reported crime is found at just 5% to 6% of our street segments. More than 20% of crime in Seattle is concentrated at just 1% of street segments.

Changing to policing place would have dramatic impact in reducing crime and improving police-community relations. Inherent in the “policing of place” is a strong community-based orientation; police officers working with the community to resolve problems, rather than police officers arriving to just arrest people or “enforce the law.”

This strategic shift would transform the Police Department. It would give officers a strong sense of mission. A spirit of innovation would take hold as officers digested crime data and worked with community members to design appropriate intervention tactics.

2) Now that the Viaduct is coming down, what should the waterfront look like?

The central waterfront should become a place that celebrates Seattle’s maritime and industrial history, honors our Native American heritage, reconnects the city with Elliott Bay along key east-west corridors, and provides a series of public places where individuals and families can enjoy parks, pedestrian promenades, outdoor restaurants and views stretching from Pike Place Market to the stadium district. Port of Seattle operations and jobs must be protected.

3) As the great recession drags on, the city budget is still hurt. What do we need to cut, what do we need to keep, and do we need to raise more money via taxation?

We should adopt an outcome-based budgeting philosophy so we understand why we are investing in particular projects and what we are achieving. Unfortunately, we don’t really know what many of our investments are producing, especially when it comes to human services, youth and family, and crime prevention expenditures. A much stronger performance orientation is needed in city government.

We should continue to protect human services and public safety programs as our highest priorities. For example, one of the best crime prevention programs in the country is the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), a 30 year effort to link specially trained nurses with first time mothers living in poverty. Seattle currently provides funding to reach about one-third of the eligible moms in the city; two-thirds of those who qualify do not receive services. Yet, the NFP has consistently shown through high quality research that it can reduce criminal behavior, strength the families involved and save government tens of thousands of dollars. We should fully fund the

I helped craft the renewal of the Families and Education Levy that is on the November 8 ballot. If passed by the voters, this measure will nearly double the amount of funding for highly targeted intervention efforts for our most at risk public school kids. This tax increase is justified because continuing to accept the status quo in public education where nearly half of our students are at great academic risk will only cost much more long into the future.

4) With its budget shrunk at least until the end of the recession what should Seattle parks look like?

We need to maintain our parks so they are inviting and accessible to all. Funding for parks maintenance has suffered in recent years because of the economic slump. In 2008, I worked with Councilmember Rasmussen to craft a Parks levy for the November ballot. That measure passed overwhelmingly.

There are discussions under way to identify other Parks funding options.

5) What is the Seattle’s role in education and public transportation given how important they are to the city, but that other agencies are tasked with them?

With regard to public education, our role is to make certain that Seattle students receive a high quality education. The City has many opportunities to influence the direction and policies of the Seattle School District— Families and Education Levy, joint use agreements for school playgrounds and parks, collaboration between the Council and the School Board.

City services should be aligned with the policies and outcomes of the School District. For example, we do this now with the Levy that is designed to provide academic and support services consistent with the District’s goals and with police services at specific District buildings.

SDOT is responsible for city streets and bridges and we work closely with King County and state agencies related to Metro bus services and state highways that traverse Seattle. We have good relationships with these other agencies; witness the new regional transit service principles for allocation of Metro service that eliminated the old and flawed 40-40-20 rules.


  1. 1

    Michael spews:


    Inherent in the “policing of place” is a strong community-based orientation; police officers working with the community to resolve problems, rather than police officers arriving to just arrest people or “enforce the law.”

    is completely awesome and not a radical shift to something new, but a shift back to how policing was done, and done effectively, in the past.

  2. 3

    Michael spews:

    I had a couple of great uncles that were beat cops in pre-WWII America. Half the time when something disappeared off of a back porch or out of garage they’d just put out the word that they’d like it to be returned and a couple of days later whatever was taken would magically reappear.

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    There was a series sometime back that starred George Kennedy about a beat cop like that. My own great uncle (ore WW II) was a cop in NYC. I could was allowed to look at his gun, but could not touch it. (Nothing Freudian there)