One day after employees at the King County Courthouse provided testimony of harassment, assault and safety concerns surrounding the downtown Seattle location, some $600,000 in additional funding was approved to tackle security.
The King County Metropolitan Council voted unanimously to approve the funding, which will be split evenly between three different funds. This includes $200,000 for more King County Sheriff’s Office deputies on the county campus, three additional security staff to screen people at the 4th Avenue entrance, and a final portion for a social services worker to conduct outreach outside the courthouse.
King County Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers closed the 3rd Avenue entrance to the courthouse on Dec. 2 following an assault on a public defender and a bus driver. It adds to more than 160 assaults that have taken place around the courthouse between January and September, according to the Seattle Times.
The closures and assaults were discussed at a Dec. 10 meeting of the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, which heard testimony from employees who had been assaulted or harassed. A panel of judges and law enforcement representatives also discussed the courthouse’s security issues.
King County Council members Kathy Lambert and Pete von Reichbauer both said employees had quit over security concerns around the courthouse.
Along with the unanimous vote to provide emergency funding, several council members expressed a desire to see King County address homelessness in a comprehensive way, not just increasing spot patrols and security around the courthouse.
“I want to make sure our efforts aren’t narrowly focused on one block of downtown Seattle,” said council member Joe McDermott.
McDermott, whose district encompasses the portion of Seattle where the courthouse resides, said he supported the funding because it includes $200,000 for increasing social services outreach. Council member Claudia Balducci also voted to approve the measure, but said she wanted to address the underlying causes of homelessness. In a separate ordinance at the Dec. 11 county council meeting, a regional homelessness authority was approved to coordinate emergency response across King County. It will now go before the Seattle City Council at its Dec. 16 meeting.
Council member Larry Gossett also supported the social services in the package.
“I constantly think we have to figure out a way of dealing with this problem more comprehensively, and not in an isolated fashion by just having more police and security officers around the building,” he said.
Council chair Rod Dembowski said Judge Rogers had indicated that the 3rd Avenue entrance, which serves as the main entrance to the courthouse, could be re-opened shortly after the passage of the emergency funding.