SafeCampus and the Police: FAQs

Questions often arise about how SafeCampus relates to other offices that handle safety for the UW community, particularly in light of recent efforts to reimagine safety at the University of Washington. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about what SafeCampus does and how we relate with the police.

How does SafeCampus support UW?

SafeCampus provides initial safety planning, support and resources for the University of Washington community, including students, faculty, and staff. We serve people on the Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell campuses, UW Medicine system, or anywhere UW members are located. Visit our What to Expect page to learn more about what happens when you call.

Our Approach is:

  • Multidisciplinary: Our team includes experts in threat assessment, social work, and public policy.
  • Survivor-centered: We aim to make sure that people who call feel empowered, validated, supported, and equipped to make informed, sound decisions. We provide people with options, rather than telling them what to do.
  • Trauma-informed: We aim to do work with kindness, compassion, transparency, and with holistic attention to the many ways trauma can affect people.
  • Intersectional: UW community members who are minoritized due to racism, patriarchy, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, classism, xenophobia, and other forms of structural oppression are disproportionately impacted by harm and violence. Our goal is to provide safety assessment and planning that is tailored to people’s lived experiences and contextualized in a nuanced understanding of what both safety and healing entail.

Is SafeCampus part of the police?

No, SafeCampus is not part of the police department. We are a seperate UW resource that functions independently from local law enforcement. We do not provide on-site emergency response, security guards, nor mobile crisis response.

To learn more about the history of SafeCampus and why we stand out nationally as an innovative campus program, visit our page about the history of SafeCampus.

What is a welfare check?

“Welfare check” is an umbrella term for the protocols around reaching out when there are imminent concerns for suicide and/or the well-being of someone in our community. Checking in can help assess if an individual is struggling with mental health concerns like depression or suicidal ideation, and enable them to get connected to support.

SafeCampus relies on a variety of initial strategies to check-in with an individual:

  • Directly contacting the person by email or phone
    Reaching out to their emergency contacts
  • Working with Residential Life Specialists for Student Care
  • Engaging with campus-specific resources such as LiveWell’s Suicide Intervention Program, Human Resource Consultants, WA Employee Assistance Program (WA EAP), and the Student CARE teams that exist on all three campuses.
  • Engaging with outside-campus resources if needed, including: crisis connection lines and community service providers.

SafeCampus typically gets a response when we use one or more of these strategies. Once we hear from the person in question, we provide them with a comprehensive list of resources that can help them get back on track with work or school. There are rare circumstances when law enforcement may also be engaged; for more information, please read the FAQ on “When does SafeCampus work with the police on welfare checks.”

When does SafeCampus work with the police for welfare checks?

SafeCampus works with the police when there’s an emergency that requires a first responder.  We use the police so rarely because in many situations where there is no concern for imminent suicide or violence toward others, calling the police is not the correct or appropriate resource, can exacerbate situations, and can place a person in need in harm’s way. We, like many members of our community, amplify the call of Black Lives Matter activists both here at UW and across the country who have advocated for investment in options other than the police in cases where a first responder is necessary.

How often does SafeCampus work with the police for welfare checks?

Very rarely. In 2019, welfare checks in which SafeCampus called the police made up less than 1% of our total caseload. We are still analyzing trends from 2020 and 2021 in an effort to make sense of how the pandemic has affected the nature of our work, and will update this page with that data as soon as it is available.