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Seven of nine Seattle City Council members pledge #defundSPD support

(Image: CHS)

Seven of the nine Seattle City Council members say they will support the effort to reduce the Seattle Police budget by 50%, the key component of demands from activists and community groups after weeks of Black Lives Matter protests, marches, and rallies in the Pacific Northwest.

The important threshold would represent a veto-proof majority on any council action as the representatives shape major changes to the city’s budget in the face of predictions of a significant downturn in revenue due to the COVID-19 crisis — a rebalancing process planned to be finalized and voted on in the next two weeks.

CHS reported on Wednesday’s council budget committee session’s deep dive into SPD spending and the strong support for #defundSPD voiced during public testimony. Massively reducing spending on policing has been at the center of demands during weeks of protests and demonstrations around Seattle in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

“We’ve seen a lot of unrest over the last six weeks, much of it built upon generations of struggle for Black liberation,” activist and lawyer Nikkita Oliver said in a media conference hosted Thursday by the two coalitions driving the #defundSPD effort and a spending plan for the diverted funds “We are, though, at a very significant moment as this movement continues to grow and seeing the discussion of defund the police be more than a chant in the street.”

The Decriminalize Seattle group and the King County Equity Now Coalition have unveiled a new four-point plan that activists says would best reallocate money currently spent on patrol officers for community needs including major changes to how Seattle’s 911 system works and social initiatives including housing:

The call to scale up community-led solutions highlights and honors the expertise that already exists in community, while also drawing attention to the consistent under-resourcing of many of the organizations and projects that are actually best equipped to serve communities that are disinvested in and consistently brutalized by the police. Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now organizers believe that with appropriate funding created by defunding the police, existing organizations that already have accountable, rooted community relationships will be able to scale up, while also building from trusted relationships to create the proposed community roadmap to life without policing.

Angélica Cházaro, a law professor at the University of Washington and organizer with Decriminalize Seattle laid out a plan for the council Wednesday to replace 911 operations with a civilian-led system, increase restorative justice solutions spearheaded by the community, invest in housing, and fund a community-led process to “create a roadmap to life without policing.”

“The time for reforms is passed,” Cházaro told the council. “It’s clear to us now that more training, more accountability measures are not going to cut it. We need to move away from an armed response to social problems. We can’t train our way out of the problem of police violence.”

Cházaro said cuts to the SPD could come from various aspects of the department, including cutting its training budget, freezing hiring, and reducing patrol staff, among ten specific cuts that could be made.

City Council hears proposals for Seattle Police changes, strong public support for #defundSPD during budget deliberations

Capitol Hill and Central District representative Kshama Sawant, South Seattle’s Tammy Morales, and citywide council members Teresa Mosqueda and M. Lorena González have already pledged their support to the plan. Thursday, West Seattle’s Lisa Herbold, Ballard’s Dan Strauss, and downtown rep Andrew Lewis said they would join in support of the Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now plan.

North Seattle’s Debora Juarez and Alex Pedersen representing Northeast Seattle and the University District are the council’s remaining holdouts. That duo also represented the council’s two votes against the passage earlier this month of a new $200M+ per year tax on large businesses to help the city bridge its expected budget gap caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

The debate over how exactly to #defundSPD will come to a head as the council reshapes the mayor office proposal for changes to the city’s budget in the face of the expected economic downturn. The council is scheduled to hold a final vote on the rebalance on July 20th.

K. Wyking Garrett of the Central District’s Africatown, the group leading King County Equity Now Coalition, said Thursday his organization “is rooted in the principal that dealing with making our communities safer includes addressing the violence in our community as a cultural and public safety issue.”

“Taxpayers should get better return on their investments. Citizens should demand more effective solutions and better outcomes for the dollars invested.”

“Police don’t stop crime,” Garrett said. “They respond to crime.”

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10 thoughts on “Seven of nine Seattle City Council members pledge #defundSPD support

  1. 1. Is 911 failing? What about fire and EMS? I’m pretty sure it already is civilian controlled, so is the request to privatize? What sort of check and balances would this new system include?

    2. How exactly should we defund? Can anybody provide any evidence that smaller police forces are safer? Norway is a pretty safe place, yet their police force is only 10-15% smaller than our own. Show us some evidence halving SPD will measurably improve its behavior or effectiveness.

    3. This seems like a reasonable goal, so long failure is baked into the plan. Some community programs may succeed, while others may not. Who determines when one approach is better or worse than traditional policing?

    4. Housing is important, but what does this have to do with police reform? Should we halve library, park and other budgets to pay for housing too? Can we focus on policing in one conversation and deal with other priorities elsewhere?

    I totally agree with Garrett’s comments at the end of the article. He’s concisely identified a problem without assuming a solution. I wish the council spent more time trying to understand, before assuming they have an answer to this very complicated issue.

    • When Budget for Justice made proposals 2 years ago, unsuccessfully, their coalition of community organization had no concrete plans at all, and no evidence that people with educational backgrounds and training to conduct the work were on their staff. Instead it was a “the justice system should be dismantled and we should get the money to do not sure why by not sure who.”

    • Dispatchers hired and trained by police wouldn’t be inclined to send a social worker on a non-emergency call. Cuts to the police budget, and fewer calls on the homeless, frees up money to spend on housing.

  2. Making housing more affordable ? Hmm the biggest expense from the city is typically property tax, followed by vastly over priced WSG. How about a real low income exemption from property tax – which would also carry across to rental property. Rent to someone earning below $60k you don’t pay property tax.

  3. >>>> “existing organizations that already have accountable, rooted community relationships will be able to scale up”

    Anyone have names of these existing organizations that’ll be stepping in place of the police? The “Y”? CAYA? Boys/Girls Clubs? Guardian Angels? Such details would be helpful.

  4. The Council seems to be rushing headlong into joining the “defund SPD 50%” bandwagon. This is very unwise and would result in many negative outcomes for the regular (non-activist) citizens of Seattle. Sure, have a look at the SPD budget as part of the upcoming budget process, and make some modest cuts which would not impact public safety. But be cautious, dammit, and don’t make quick decisions in a knee-jerk fashion.

    There seems to be general consensus that creating a team of professionals to respond to mental health/addiction crises is a good idea, and it has been done successfully in other places, such as Australia. But this approach would be expensive….where would the money come from?

    • For all the support the BLM group(s) appear to have, I think that council has forgotten that most of the City may very well support BLM but not defunding the police force by 50%. Further, one would think that would require the citizens to vote on it, since it affects *everyone* in the City.

      Reckoning day will come over the next several election cycles. If the rest of the City doesn’t approve of what these lemmings have done, they’ll be ejected from City Council and replaced with people who will undo what they’ve done. Unfortunately by then there’ll likely have been significant damage done. People bitch now when SPD takes hours to respond to burglar alarms, thefts, etc. With half the funding that’ll see like record timing, lol.

    • Bob, Bob, BOB! Listen to yourself! ” But this approach would be expensive….where would the money come from?” DEFUNDING OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT!!! The point of a partial defunding of the SPD is not to punish them (though, there is that added bit of justice) for their ignorance and recklessness. It is ti REALLOCATE 50% of their funds to programs that would use the money better to minimize violent responses and maximize effectiveness, proper training in concentrated ways and offer new solutions to problems that are NOT well addressed by the current policing models. Hire mental health officers (see: CAHOOTS in Eugene) to be mental health / some domestic dispute responders. Hire By-law officers to deal with non-violent crime as they do in many places already. Then armed police only respond to calls of violence and threats and from the mental health and by-law teams if/when things escalate and conduct patrols (alongside by-law officers, mental health officers).

      I’m not sure many posters here have really thought through their comments or are aware that most proposing defunding aren’t saying to just have zero public safety. We are looking at better alternatives with better outcomes, And, they do exist.

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