Should SPD Do It?

IF YOU HAD CONTROL over Seattle’s dispatch system, when would you send an armed police officer, and when would you prefer another option?

This page contains possible alternative responses for common call types. Though unarmed options are not yet robustly funded, city budget deliberations are an opportunity to change that.

For data sourcing and methodology, click here.


Armed police officers with standard equipment. The gun, the badge, the radio, the taser, the handcuffs.


Non-police government workers. Unarmed responders with capacity to fill out paperwork and follow-up on calls. They might escalate to the police for backup.


Community-based organizations (CB Org). Paid community members provide culturally-specific care designed to meet people’s basic needs and prevent crises. They avoid collaborating with the police.


You and your neighbors provide direct support. In crisis situations, neighbors are already often the first and best responders. You can contact relatives, provide food/water, organize to provide ongoing support, etc.


No action is needed. The situation does not need a response.

What kind of response should these call types receive?

All done? Click here!

What Can You Do?

WRITE AND CALL city council and the mayor’s office. Tell them you took the Should SPD Do It challenge and determined at least of calls should be handled by non-police responses. Insist that next year’s budget reflect your vision of public safety. You can find email addresses and sample language here.

GET TO KNOW your neighbors and discuss how you can support each other. Talk to friends and colleagues about what keeps your community safe. Here’s some ways to get started.

PARTICIPATE in mutual aid near you.

SEEK OUT de-escalation and bystander intervention trainings.

SUPPORT the Seattle Solidarity Budget.

VOTE FOR and help pass ballot initiative 135 (social housing).

SHARE THIS WEBSITE with friends and family.

Dig Deeper

There is ample evidence that SPD should respond to fewer calls and that community-led responses should grow:

  • The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform recommended that SPD only respond to 27% of the calls that it currently handles.
  • The Center for American Progress and Law Enforcement Action Partnership found that SPD should only respond to 28.6% of the calls it currently handles.

Programs in other cities are having great success:

  • In Denver, the STAR program handles call types that account for over 23% of SPD’s current load.
  • In Eugene, the CAHOOTS program handles call types that account for over 10% of SPD’s current load.

Last November, Seattle City Council asked the SPD to provide it with the call types that it could pass off to a different agency, with a deadline of April 1, 2022. This action would have started the process of fulfilling the recommendations laid out in the NICJR report. But the SPD has failed to comply.

The creators of this website do not support solutions that involve ramping up SPD’s “Community Service Officers.” Doing so does not reduce SPD’s harmful footprint in the city. Until and unless the CSOs are not employed by SPD, they will still fall within the department’s chain-of-command and will still have a financial incentive to keep SPD involved in as many calls as they can.

Not all police reforms are helpful. Learn more about reforms to avoid, and look at this chart comparing reforming vs. reimagining SPD.

Community-led organizations have been shown to provide dramatic improvements to public safety. A 2017 study found that every 10 additional community nonprofits in a city with 100,000 residents leads to a:

  • 9% reduction in the homicide rate
  • 6% reduction in violent crime
  • 4% reduction in the property crime rate

About Us

This website is intended to support abolitionist thinking and organizing. It was created by a group of artists, activists, and researchers working to promote nonviolent and democratic use of public resources.


This website uses data from this report by the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR). Appendix D of the report provides three years (2017 to 2019) of call data. During this time, there were 1,287,597 unique calls for service. Calls originate mainly from SPD officers on duty (39%), 9-1-1 (36%), and the SPD non-emergency line (22%). Most calls were labeled with one of over 350 call type descriptions.


Call types were consolidated into the 12 categories above, which constitute 88% of all calls. The remaining 12% are omitted for simplicity. None of the less-common categories exceeded 2% usage. This spreadsheet shows the consolidation process and includes the less common categories. About 5% of calls were not assigned a type at all. This website uses only labeled data.

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