Seattle Councilmember Dan Strauss recently said in a July 13 Twitter video that “defunding the police does not mean decreasing public safety, in fact it means increasing public safety.” However, all of the data that we have on this issue shows the exact opposite. In Minneapolis where they voted to abolish the police department, there has been a 95% increase in crime with 41 murders already this year, compared to 21 all of last year. Armed robberies in Minneapolis have also skyrocketed. Residents have been warned to “never walk alone,” and to only carry items that they are comfortable being stolen. Other major cities who have also made similar cuts to their police forces have seen increases in crime as well. There is no data or reason to believe that the Seattle Council defund plan will not also result in large increases in crime.
Edmonds should be fully prepared for an increase in crime heading northbound to our community due to the poor planning in Seattle to forgo effective and reasonable social justice reforms in lieu of already proven dangerous cuts. We should expect that the increased immunity in Seattle will result in criminals there expanding operations into the surrounding communities. To prepare for this, we need to make sure our EPD is well supported, and we also need have a full time Chief (ideally Chief Lawless) appointed as soon as possible. While moving forward with a full time social worker recommended by Chief Lawless is an excellent idea, we should ensure that there are no cuts or diversions away from the EPD at a time when they are most critically needed.
Seattle was already listed as one of the most violent cities in the U.S. In fact, people may not have realized that data from the site Neighborhood Scout shows that Seattle has a crime rate higher than 98% of other U.S. cities in the nation with a whopping chance of 1 in 19 of residents being a victim of property crime. Violent crime rates there are also one of the highest in the nation. Many of these problems were identified as being attributed to a lower sized police force size compared to other similarly sized cities, as well as a continued refusal of the prosecutor’s office to pursue cases referred to them. This already undersized police force has resulted in consistent overtime requirements and increased call response times. Many of these issues have been detailed in the documentary “Seattle is Dying,” and the ‘Prolific Offenders’ report. Two of the Seattle Councilmembers (Lisa Herbold and Dan Strauss) who are now supporting a defund plan, had previously campaigned on increasing SPD staffing levels to address these problems.
Even though the cuts announced in the August 3 city council meeting amount to less than the 50% originally threatened for 2020, the members have still promised very large cuts in the 2021 budget that will lead to massive increases in crime. When it comes to policies on SPD funding, a Seattle July 27 poll found that only 32% of Seattle voters support the council’s plan, while 43% support the mayor’s plan, 21% support no cuts, and 4% were undecided. Many Seattle city councilmembers have been accused of not listening or responding to their constituents. In this case, they are willing to risk their constituent’s lives without even listening to their concerns on it.
Councilmember Lisa Herbold in a July 19 West Seattle Blog article discussed her view on what SPD departments she would like to cut or eliminate. Herbold includes cuts or eliminations of many of the core police components that would make it much harder for them to provide essential services to anyone in crisis. In addition, she also lists cuts to many of the programs designated to provide better trained and more community focused policing services.
Partial list of SPD Cuts proposed by Lisa Herbold
• Freeze hiring.
• Remove the Office of Collaborative Policing,
• Eliminate Community Outreach Administration
• Eliminate spending on new equipment
• Eliminate Data-driven policing
• Eliminate Professional Services — Including:
-Sworn Hiring in HR
-Recruitment and Retention
-Implicit Bias Training
• Eliminate SWAT Team funding
• Eliminate SPD’s travel and training budget
• Reduce patrol staffing, with corresponding reduction in administrative staffing
Jordan Royer in the Seattle Times opinion article “Cutting SPD’s budget by half is irresponsible,” is correct when he states that “Cutting the department by 50% would eliminate any hope of expanding community policing and the concept of police officers as guardians.” Programs that are responsible for the de-escalation training and community outreach are slated for cuts in addition to the ones that directly impact public safety.
While social services have shown many benefits to addressing issues of mental health, they are not set up to replace many of the core functions of police. Nikkita Oliver in a recent Converge Media interview noted how social service programs could be used in Seattle to address issues of mental health, but she gave no indication and perhaps even recognition of the core public safety functions of police that social services workers would not be able to replace. Many of the major defund narratives and supporters have argued that it is physically possible to replace police funding with social worker funding, but they have surprisingly not addressed the key question of how they would actually make up for the loss in key services from the police.
Having social workers deal with reckless drivers, home invasions, car burglaries, murder investigations, and many other cases would only make the situation much worse. Social service workers have key strengths, and If they are put in more situations than they can handle, they will be set up to fail. As the unnecessary deaths pile up from the unaccounted for loss in police services, Seattle will serve as a model for what not to do in the nation, and the movement to responsibly integrate more social services into our justice system will face a monumental setback.
Here in Edmonds, we just have to be prepared to weather the storm.
Publisher’s note: We don’t normally include sources with letters to the editor but since we’ve already received a question about it, we’re listing what the author noted here:
Survey of Likely November 2021 Voters City of Seattle, WA July 2020 – EMC Research July 2020
‘Crime Is Out Of Control’: Minneapolis Officials Address Uptick In Violence: Jennifer Mayerle – July 31 2020
Interview with Katrina Johnson, Spokesperson for the family Charleena Lyles, and Nikkita Oliver – July 20 2020
Cutting SPD’s budget by half is irresponsible: Jordan Royer – July 28 2020 https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/cutting-spds-budget-by-half-is-irresponsible/
SEATTLE, WA CRIME ANALYTICS
‘DEFUND’ SPD? Where it stands, what it’s about, and how West Seattle’s city councilmember explains her change on police $: Tracy Record – July 19 2020