The issue of police jurisdiction in the U-District flares up | News

Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers attempted to investigate a threat of domestic violence and a court violation order on May 3, but encountered uncertainty with the UW Police Department (UWPD) .

The SPD contacted the UWPD for assistance because the suspect is believed to be living in a UW building. This is where the confusion set in, as the two police departments communicated different expectations on how to handle the investigation.

Is a UW building in Seattle under the jurisdiction of city police or university police?

SPD Police Chief Adrian Diaz sent a letter to UWPD Police Chief Randall West and UW Vice President for Student Life Denzil Suite shortly after the situation.

“When officers contacted the UWPD for assistance in checking the building to see if the female subject was present, it was apparent that the UWPD did not know to what extent they could assist the SPD in coping. to this life-threatening situation,” Diaz said. The letter was first published by Q13 News.

Diaz listed several questions in the letter, asking whether the SPD should assist the UWPD with custody when the suspect is in UWPD jurisdiction. Should the SPD plan to request mutual aid, and does the UWPD expect the same mutual aid support? Can the SPD safely assume that the UWPD will always help with life-threatening issues?

Diaz hopes the two departments can agree on expectations to keep everyone safe in the event of a serious or violent crime.

“There are important details and information about the potential threat included in Chief Diaz’s letter that had not been provided to the UWPD previously,” UW spokesman Victor Balta said.

The UWPD and SPD discussed the altercation over the phone. SPD spokesman Sgt. Randy Huserik said this was an opportunity for both police departments to provide their version of the incident.

“I think for both agencies to move forward, we have to have an understanding of what expectations there may or may not be,” Huserik said. “We need to know if we will need to contact the University of Washington Police Department or go to the university premises for any enforcement action.”

Huserik believes what led to this incident is that, in the past, nothing of this nature has happened where confusion between the two police departments has prevented an investigation. Huserik said the SPD has always had a good working relationship with the UWPD and wants that relationship to thrive in the future.

Some of the uncertainty was spurred by a June 2020 letter to the Suite Black Student Union and UW President Ana Mari Cauce. The letter clarified guidelines on policing both on and off campus, noting that the UWPD is entirely autonomous from the SPD.

For those who live near campus, the UWPD is the first responder, not the SPD. With respect to the security of all on-campus events, UWPD does not contract with SPD for these responsibilities.

“We have not, and will not, transfer individuals held in the custody of the Seattle Police Department, nor will we transport individuals on their behalf,” Cauce and Suite wrote. in the letter. Areas outside of UWPD’s jurisdiction but near the UW campus — such as the area north of Northeast 45th Street, where many students live — are handled by UWPD pursuant to an agreement with the SPD, according to Cauce and Suite.

On rare occasions when immediate action to ensure public safety is required, such as an imminent threat of death, the two departments intersect.

“We are committed to making the goal of creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable campus a reality, and these are just some of the actions we are taking,” Cauce and Suite said.

Huserik said the SPD is looking to improve communication and clarify expectations with the UWPD to not only avoid future confusion, but to effectively ensure everyone’s safety.

The SPD did not arrest the May 3 suspect because police believe the individual is out of state and at large.

Contact journalist Shamaar Thomas at [email protected] Twitter: @ThomasShamaar

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Thelma J. Longworth