Why is Seattle ill-equipped to deal with rising violent crime? Look to the City Council.
July 28, 2021
Today’s Seattle Times column “How the City Council left Seattle in a no man’s land on crime” from Danny Westneat is worth sharing today. Especially in the context of this terribly violent weekend where 4 people were killed by gun violence in Seattle. Westneat’s critique of the Seattle City Council’s approach to police and public safety is highly critical and spot on.
First, he lays out the scope of the problem facing Seattle. Seattle City Council leader’s premature promise to massively cut police funding led to a police staffing exodus and yet that same city council “is without any coherent plan to address the worst spate of gun violence in recent memory.”
He then quotes Adrian Diaz, Seattle’s interim police chief who shares the choices the council’s actions are forcing police to make being down 270 officers in just 18 months:
“Essentially my hands are tied between having enough officers to respond to multiple scenes of violence across the city, and having officers staff special events and other lower priority calls.”
This result should come as no surprise. As Westneat writes, “Imagine what would happen in your own workplace if the bosses came through pledging to slash the place in half. You’d be polishing your résumé before they hit the door.”
Westneat goes on to praise the idea from city leaders to move some 911 calls to a health team in order to best respond to callers and take pressure off the dwindling police force. But then he makes what might be the most important critique of the city’s police reform actions and rhetoric: “It’s a no-brainer that this should have been stood up first, before hacking away at the police…”
He expands on this critical point here:
“Seattle plainly needs both: Enough cops to respond to rising violent crime, and more counselors to try to prevent it. This is why ‘re-imagining’ or ‘defunding’ the police was always going to cost more money, not less. It was governing malpractice that the City Council jumped into this brandishing a protest slogan, and Seattle now is paying a price.”
The Seattle City Council must turn this around. Our city is ill-equipped to address the violence and public safety challenges of today and it’s time for a change. The council must launch a plan now to retain and attract police, make common-sense reforms like the 911 plan doable now and show that they take this violence seriously by responding with urgency to stop further loss of lives. We appreciate Westneat’s thoughtful take and hope to see the council respond.