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Mayor Harrell Announces Investments Supporting Upcoming Launch of CARE – Seattle’s New Public Safety Department

Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell provided updates regarding the upcoming launch of Seattle’s new Community Assisted Response and Engagement (CARE) department, detailing the vision, timelines, and staffing progress for the department, including his proposal for a $6 million increase in the department’s budget.

In a preview of next week’s budget announcement, Mayor Harrell is proposing to increase the CARE department budget by 30% in 2024 from 2023, hiring 13 additional full-time staff, making needed technology upgrades, and investing in enhanced violence intervention efforts. Formerly the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC), the mayor is proposing a budget of $26.5 million, a significant increase from the department’s 2023 budget of $20.5 million.

“Our new CARE department will deliver on Seattle’s long-standing need for a public safety system with diverse emergency response options designed to meet community needs. Building on lessons learned locally and from around the country, we will build a stronger public safety system and a safer Seattle for all residents,” said Mayor Harrell. “This has been a priority since Day One of my administration – and we are grateful for the insight of experts and community leaders from inside and outside of government who continue to be thoughtful partners in this work. We will continue to work together as we seek to build a public safety system recognized for its commitment to building a safe, welcoming, and thriving city for all the people of Seattle.”

Advancing a new approach and learning from best practices implemented by other jurisdictions, CARE will be Seattle’s third public safety department, aligning existing community-focused and non-police public safety investments and programs. The new department will have three divisions: emergency call takers and dispatchers in the 911 Center; community-focused public safety responders including behavioral health professionals; and violence intervention specialists currently siloed in different departments.

Mayor Harrell announced that the Dual Dispatch pilot program – a collaborative effort between the Mayor’s Office and the City Council – will begin work in October. The CARE department will work closely with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and Seattle Fire Department (SFD) to identify the appropriate types of calls, starting with low-risk priority 3 and priority 4 person down and welfare check calls. The Dual Dispatch pilot has fully hired its initial pilot teams and training has started this week.

The CARE department will be led by Amy Smith, Ed.D., Deputy Director of the CSCC, announced Mayor Harrell. Acting Chief Smith has led design and launch efforts for the new Dual Dispatch pilot program and administrative business functions of the department. Following her successful efforts leading the department’s transition, CSCC Interim Director Rebecca Gonzales will return to her command position with the Seattle Fire Department (SFD).

“It is deeply gratifying to participate in a such a significant moment in Seattle public health and safety,” said Acting CARE Department Chief Amy Smith. “I applaud the willingness of this Mayor and City Council to reimagine first response, to center what is best for community, and to balance optimism and pragmatism. We are positioned to use resources in a more strategic and efficient way and to better support our first responders.”

“I look forward to further seeing Acting Chief Smith’s leadership and experience in action as we work to respond to complicated safety challenges with nuanced solutions,” said Mayor Harrell. “Thanks to the hard work of Interim Director Gonzales, we have rapidly improved staffing at the 911 Center and put the CARE department on a trajectory for swift and effective service. I am also thankful for the work of our 911 call takers and dispatchers – first responders who aren’t always in the limelight but work tirelessly every day to keep Seattle residents safe.”

The mayor also announced that Seattle’s 911 Center is on track to be fully staffed by the end of the year after experiencing a high vacancy rate and long recruitment and onboarding timelines. Through improved recruitment, hiring, and training processes, the 911 Center has hired over 45 new employees in 2023, addressing a critical need and function in Seattle’s emergency response system to ensure calls are answered in a timely, efficient, and effective manner.

As part of the City’s Youth Mental Health Initiative, Reach Out Seattle, the CARE Department will oversee the implementation of community-wide mental health training through Shine Light on Depression, creating an approach that applies mental health training throughout the city to ensure all communities are being reached in a culturally inclusive manner.

Under Mayor Harrell, the CARE department will work to create a safer city, operating with the following vision statement: “The CARE department will strive to improve public health and safety by unifying and aligning Seattle’s community-focused, non-police public safety investments to address behavioral health, substance abuse, and non-emergent, low-risk calls for service through diversified programs that are equitable, innovative, evidence-based, and compassionate.”


Police Chief Adrian Z. Diaz

“We are excited for the launch of Seattle’s new Community Assisted Response and Engagement (CARE) Department. We have been working with the CARE department on the implementation of their community focused assisted response and believe this could be a model for the country.”

Fire Chief Harold Scoggins

“As the primary public safety answering point for the city, the CARE department’s dispatchers work closely with our Fire Alarm Center firefighter/dispatchers to transfer more than 170,000 emergency 9-1-1 calls annually for incidents that require fire suppression or an emergency medical response. We also foresee a collaborative relationship between SFD’s Health One program and the newly established unit in the CARE department that will dispatch behavioral health responders in the field. We welcome the CARE department as the City’s third public safety department.” 

Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park)

“In August of 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Councilmember Lewis and I and Council President Juarez sponsored Resolution 31962, establishing the Council’s intent to create a civilian-led 3rd public safety department and approved a budget adjustment moving 9-1-1 communication functions out of SPD.  Three months later, in November of 2020, the Council passed CB 119949 declaring our ‘shared vision for reimagining Seattle’s system of community safety recognizes the importance of providing alternatives to armed police officer response, including civilian and community-based services and solutions.’  I thank the mayor for embracing this priority and I look forward to learning more when Mayor Harrell’s budget is proposed next week. This transition represents a long overdue step forward for our public safety network. While the dual dispatch work that this department will be leading is exciting and new to Seattle, similar programs have been tested and proven successful across the country. I am confident that Acting Chief Smith will lead the department in data-driven efforts to bring our city’s response to behavioral health crises into the future.”

Councilmember Andrew Lewis (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia)

“For years, I have pushed for an alternative 911 response model that delivers rapid civilian public health assistance to community members in crisis and frees up police to focus on preventing and solving crimes. Public safety is our paramount duty and requires a comprehensive approach. Cities across the nation are showing us that not every emergency requires a badge and gun. Mayor Harrell and his team have been incredible partners in this work to build true community safety through the creation of this new civilian public safety department. I look forward to working with Mayor Harrell to scale this service and realize our shared vision for a safe community.”


Acting CARE Chief Amy Smith holds advanced degrees in ethical leadership, administration, and organizational learning, most recently completing a doctorate at Vanderbilt University where she honed her data science and behavioral research skills. She has spent twenty years in leadership at human service organizations in Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, consistently driving positive change to ensure more people are availed of services and interventions that work.