Photo courtesy of South Sound News

Photo courtesy of South Sound News

Office of Law Enforcement Oversight director issues statement on behavioral health response

Calls for non-law-enforcement teams to respond to non-violent emergencies related to mental health.

The Director of King County’s Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, Tamer Abouzeid, issued a statement in response to the announcement made by King County officials that more investments will be made to support the mental health needs of King County residents.

The statement read as follows:

Taking care of our people’s needs is the best way to ensure public safety for all; on the other hand, involving law enforcement can escalate situations that can better be addressed by other professionals. When it comes to mental and behavioral health, that means we need the right people to respond, we need them to respond the right way, and we need to be able to provide services to those who need them after contact is made.

I call on the newly announced coalition to implement a system where non-law-enforcement mobile crisis teams are the sole first responders to non-violent emergencies related to mental health or illness, poverty, and/or substance use. These professionals can make informed decisions on whether they need to involve other responders.

The STAR program in Denver County, Colorado, which diverts calls away from law enforcement, results in almost no arrests and no calls for police backup. Similarly, the system in Maricopa County, Arizona, handles most cases without involving law enforcement — it also gives law enforcement personnel the chance to expeditiously drop off community members who may benefit from treatment or intervention.

The success of any program will also depend on the availability of short-, medium-, and long-term services focused on mental health, substance use, and poverty. That means investing in walk-in clinics, outpatient and inpatient treatment, housing, material support, and more.

By diverting calls away from law enforcement and to the best equipped professionals, we can improve public safety for all while reducing incarceration and alleviating the strain on law enforcement hiring and retention.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Kent School Board bans fellow member from labor contract talks

Controversial 3-2 vote singles out Donald Cook because his wife teaches in the district

Ex-Seattle Seahawks lineman Chad Wheeler received a prison sentence of six years and nine months for assaulting his girlfriend in 2021 at their Kent apartment. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Seattle Seahawks
Judge sentences ex-Seahawks lineman Chad Wheeler to prison

Receives sentence of six years and nine months for 2021 Kent assault of his girlfriend

Vehicle strikes, injures two juvenile pedestrians in Kent

Police say the juveniles ran across SE 256th Street on Feb. 28 while traffic had the green light

Public Health – Seattle & King County staff administer a COVID-19 vaccine to a local emergency responder. COURTESY FILE PHOTO, Public Health-Seattle & King County
Kent COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic to close at end of March

Still time to get free shots before federal funding for clinic expires

Kent Police catch Soos Creek Elementary School burglary suspect

Officers arrest 23-year-old Kent woman after foot pursuit in Feb. 26 incident

Kent Police Blotter: Feb. 14-22

Incidents include vehicle robbery, machete threat, teen shot and injured

Medical examiner identifies pedestrian, 56, killed on Kent’s West Hill

Bruce Brooks died from multiple blunt force injuries in collision with vehicle on Pacific Highway S.

Kent Salary Commission proposes $9,132 pay hike for mayor this year

Annual pay to jump to $212,088; residents can offer input about increase at March 14 meeting

Trooper shot in Kent ‘lucky to be alive,’ according to sources

Tourniquet had to be applied to his leg to save his life

Donald Cook. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District
Kent School Board member Cook focus of proposed resolution | Update

Measure would form Labor Policy Committee that excludes Cook due to potential conflict

Seattle male pedestrian killed in Kent after collision with vehicle

Reportedly stepped into lanes Feb. 26 in 24400 block of Pacific Highway South

Kent Police make robbery arrests after West Hill carjacking

Vehicle reportedly taken near Pacific Highway South; pursuit ends in Auburn