Capt. Bryan Grenon is a 25-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department and the newest leader of the East Precinct. He joins the precinct’s new Operations Lt. Paul Leung, who was promoted last November after 34 years with the department.
Together they will govern the precinct’s patrol officers for the next two to three years. The precinct’s previous leader, Capt. Paul McDonagh, was promoted to the Real Time Crime unit where he will synthesize data into direct police action.
“I’m very familiar with the challenges that surround the East Precinct and the issues, so I really want to jump in and get after those,” Grenon said.
According to the crime dashboard at seattle.gov, overall incidents of crime in the East Precinct are on a downward trend from 2012, while incidents of rape have doubled and aggravated assaults are up by 25 percent. Grenon was previously in charge of the department’s officer training program, and “the good news is I may be able to take some of those skills and opportunities I learned and apply them to our officers.”
City and state legislation around homelessness, illegal drug use and affordable housing are of major consequence to the rapidly expanding population of 70,000, which spans hundreds of street miles between Judkins Park and The Montlake Cut. Grenon and Leung’s jurisdiction, along with the rest of Seattle, are at the precipice of major legislation that will shape the East Precinct for years to come.
Grenon spent the weekend with his family before he and Leung got started on Monday, Feb. 26, with meetings at the Pine Street station. Grenon and Leung have 50 years of experience between them, including time with SWAT and the gang unit, and a combined 20 years just in the East Precinct. As operations lieutenant, some of Leung’s responsibilities include sourcing funds, creating staffing plans and meeting equipment needs, a role that has given him considerable insight into the efficacy of the city’s resource management.
As far as homeless encampments go, Leung said, “With constant pressure on politicians, eventually it will get better.”
Leung and the rest of the department must adhere to the decisions handed down by the municipal court prosecutor, who dictates what laws the city will enforce. Those decisions impact the ability of police to enforce legal precedence, such as arresting individuals for trespassing.
“We can arrest people, but if they don’t get charged...” he said. “Just look at the areas around I-90, how many times have they cleaned that area, which costs money, and within two weeks they move back.”
Leung said they need guidelines.
“Are we serious about cleaning that area-up?” he said. If not, “Why are we spending money time after time after time?”
One approach the precinct is using to mitigate issues with the homeless population is to increase their interactions and focus on social outreach programs, such as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). Leung said offering support to combat further entrenchment into homelessness “may not work the first time generally, but after the 20th time they may be more responsive. We don’t believe that sleeping in a doorway is what anyone aspires to do.”
With growing populations, increasing diversity and a spotlight on the use of force in departments across the country, Grenon addresses the public at large.
“Certainly, in the past, the police department hasn’t been the greatest steward of their responsibility, which led to mistreatment. In the past four or five years, we have really tried to change that perception, so we hope people will have an open mind and let us try to prove it and show how good a department we are.” Grenon was the first officer to pilot body-worn cameras in the East Precinct. “I took on the responsibility to be the sworn lead on that. Nine out of 10 times, it serves to highlight the outstanding work our officers do.”
Grenon began his career as a downtown bike officer, while Leung’s first assignment was as a patrol officer in the East Precinct. Leung spent his formative years in the gang unit (1991-98) where he saw similar threats to community health rise and fall. He attributes the success of bringing the roughly 70 yearly homicides in the early ‘90s down to about 20, in part, to the department’s cooperation with the Housing Authority. According to Leung, each time the gang unit would charge a gang member with dealing drugs, they would call the Housing Authority, who had grounds to issue a three-day eviction notice. Eventually, this tactic sent a message to the gangs that “if you live in Seattle housing and you mess up, you will be kicked-out.”
“I understand the dynamic of the nightlife,” said Leung, who spent 28 years working nights in Seattle, in contrast to Grenon, who has worked almost exclusively day shifts.
Leung is confident in Grenon’s leadership ability, and said, “He’s very flexible, which is the key to police work. You have to be somewhat of a military person,” referring to Grenon’s 28 years with the National Guard’s 81st Stryker Brigade. “However, there is no straight line — every situation is different, and you have to be really flexible, that is.”
Leung, who is adjusting to “pushing papers,” said he “loves working an investigation,” but spends his free time with his family, skis when he can and “works out a few times a week.” His appearance is serious but relaxed, while Grenon sports traditional military bearing.
“He has a personal side too,” Leung said.
For now, the East Precinct belongs to these two experienced law enforcement officer, who are primed to prove it.