Relational Policing/Community Outreach

Relational policing is all about community connections.

It’s about creating, building, and maintaining lasting relationships between law enforcement officers and the people they serve, to improve public safety and enhance quality of life for all.

It is grounded in the premise that “police are the community, and the community are the police,” an idea derived from a set of policing principles developed in the 1800s by Sir Robert Peel, who is known as the father of modern policing.

Never before have positive encounters between cops and community members been as important as they are today. Relational policing embraces that reality, proactively cultivating meaningful opportunities for the police and the community to connect in a nourishing environment. Relational policing core tenets weave together neatly to reinforce law enforcement’s role as a guardian, protector, and enforcer of public safety, while prioritizing healthy interactions between the police and the people they serve.

The Relational Policing Unit participates in many community events throughout the year, all with the goal of fostering engagement between SPD and the Seattle community.

At the Seattle Police Foundation, we are passionate about relational policing and are dedicated to programs that support its growth. We are committed to its permanence within Seattle’s law enforcement framework and intentionally prioritize programs, policies, efforts, and initiatives that help further its mission of improving relationships between the community and the police.  

The following units, programs, and initiatives fall under Relational Policing:

Click on the images below to learn more about each


Providing beds to children in need throughout the Seattle area


Helping SPD build meaningful relationships with the community


Helping to better serve children impacted by trauma


Making a positive impact on local families in need during the holidays


Raising awareness and assisting victims of hate crimes


Providing athletic and recreational opportunities for Seattle-area youths


Innovative training for SPD’s newest recruits


Community Service Officers work as liaisons between the community and the SPD


Coming soon!

Additional aspects of the Relational Policing/Community Outreach supported by SPF:

As we join with the Seattle Police Department in the effort to build community and support diversity, equity, and inclusion, the ability to communicate with the non-English speaking members of our community is essential. The Seattle Police Department offers a variety of educational tools and resources to help our community members become more prevention-minded in terms of personal and property crimes. To help ensure that this information is easily and immediately accessible to all members of our community, SPF recently funded translation services and printing costs to reach our community members who speak Spanish, Chinese, Somali, Amharic, and Vietnamese.

The Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) Community Service Officer (CSO) Unit is made up of non-commissioned outreach specialists who are trained and work as liaisons between the community and the SPD. Through outreach, engagement, and ongoing relationships, CSOs bridge gaps and help individuals access essential resources such as housing, health care, and treatment.

To help support this work, SPF provides emergency supplies to CSOs to take with them as they make connections and offer resources to our community members in crisis. The supplies not only help with immediate needs, including personal hygiene, nutrition, and first aid, but help to establish trust and build relationships moving forward. The ability to meet people where they’re at is vital for our CSOs and we’re excited to be able to contribute to this important work.   

Although you may not hear about it every day, law enforcement officers often dip into their own pockets to help community members in need. This is extremely common, and takes place in departments and agencies across the state of Washington, including in Seattle.  

For many SPD officers, the desire to help people was one of their biggest reasons for going into law enforcement in the first place. There are times during routine calls for service that officers meet community members lacking basic needs, things like food, hygiene items, and more. In response to acute needs, our officers frequently use their own money to purchase critical items to assist community members in crisis. In 2020, three of Seattle’s Rotary Clubs heard about this and decided they wanted to do something to help.

The Emerald City, University District, and Puget Sound Passport Rotary Clubs each issued $500 grants to create an Out of Pocket Expense Fund to help officers get reimbursed for such purchases. Thanks to Rotary’s generosity, officers were able to purchase items needed for babies, warm clothing, food, or emergency transportation for those in need.

“Rotary works hard to be part of the community and we want to help officers make Seattle a better and safer place,” said Rotary member Howard Cohen.

The Seattle Police Foundation provides grants to officers to purchase fun police-themed swag that’s handed out at a variety of community events throughout the year. These trinkets, including things like SPD stickers, coloring books, pencils and more, are small in size but big in impact, helping officers earn the trust of our youngest community members and their families.  

“Having giveaways such as snacks, coloring books, SPD logo items, and safety items, gives the community a reason to start conversations and build relationships with officers. This in turn changes stereotypes about policing, increases officer safety by improving relationships, and helps promote a positive SPD brand,” said Sergeant Heidi Tuttle.