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Mayor Harrell Appoints Advisory Panel on Sexual Assault and System Reform as Part of SPD Comprehensive Review

Seattle (November 17, 2022) – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the formation of an advisory panel that will inform efforts to support victims of sexual assault and hold offenders accountable through effective investigations. Mayor Harrell and Chief Adrian Diaz are committed to identifying and addressing systemic issues in the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) response to sexual assault crimes.  The newly created expert advisory panel will provide recommendations to bolster and enhance this essential work.

“Every member of our Seattle community deserves to feel safe, and our response to sexually motivated crimes must reflect this commitment to justice,” said Mayor Harrell. “This summer, in partnership with Chief Diaz, we issued an Executive Order to support victims of these heinous crimes and improve investigations. This expert panel is a vital next step in our comprehensive review of our response to sexually motivated crimes, as is investing the resources needed to address SPD’s unprecedented staffing shortages.”

The new Mayor’s Advisory Panel on Sexual Assault and System Reform includes six local sexual crime subject matter experts. It has a broad mandate to assist SPD and make recommendations as part of Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order 2022-05 on this issue in July. Since then, SPD has restored the Sexual Assault Unit (SAU) to eight detectives, partnered with experts at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission to conduct reviews of past sexual assault cases, and begun a broad review of issues throughout the criminal legal system.

The members of the advisory panel include:

  • Megan Allen, Legal Advocacy Manager, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center
  • Michael Cervantes, Policy Manager, Seattle Indian Health Board
  • George Gonzalez, Assistant Director, Harborview Abuse and Trauma Center
  • Jackie Helfgott, PhD, Professor of Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Forensics; Director of the Crime & Justice Research Center, Seattle University
  • Sara Mooney, Pro Bono Counsel, Sexual Violence Law Center
  • Jennifer Wallace, Program Director – Sexual Assault, Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission

Detailed bios of advisory panel members available here.

 “The Seattle Police Department is 100% committed to providing all sexual assault victims the justice they deserve,” Chief Adrian Z. Diaz said. “SPD fully supports Mayor Harrell’s Advisory Task Force on Sexual Assault and System Reform and is committed to ensuring every sex crime report is screened by an SPD Supervisor for assignment to a follow-up Detective and/or referral to Victim Support. While our crisis-level staffing numbers continue to present significant challenges, SPD has already assigned additional detectives to the SAU, is doing additional case reviews, and is working to add even more resources. Sexual assaults are particularly traumatic, and the victims deserve SPD’s full investigative support and compassion.”

“The formation of this Advisory Panel is a step toward strengthening accountability, transparency and trust between community sexual assault victim advocates and SPD as new protocols are put in place to better respond to adult sexual assault victims who choose to report and engage in the criminal justice process,” said Mary Ellen Stone, chief executive officer of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. “As part of the Panel, we look forward to sharing what we know about the needs of survivors in order to inform and improve system response, in particular to those who are most vulnerable and marginalized.”

Mayor Harrell is committed to his charter responsibility to provide public safety throughout the City. This includes timely response to 911 calls involving life-threatening emergencies and crimes in progress and efforts to hold offenders accountable through effective investigations. To address significant staffing shortages which have negatively impacted the ability of SPD to conduct follow-up investigations of serious criminal offenses, including sexually motivated crimes, Mayor Harrell released his SPD Recruitment and Retention Plan earlier this summer.