Seattle Honors Calls to Defund the Police...Kind Of

A defund Seattle Police Department (SPD) sign is pictured on a protester’s skateboard during a “Defund the Police” march from King County Youth Jail to City Hall in Seattle, Washington on August 5, 2020.
A defund Seattle Police Department (SPD) sign is pictured on a protester’s skateboard during a “Defund the Police” march from King County Youth Jail to City Hall in Seattle, Washington on August 5, 2020.
Photo: Jason Redmond (Getty Images)

“Back the Blue” advocates would have you believe that the “defund the police” rallying cry is a call to end policing in America outright. While there certainly are those who wish to abolish the police, “defund the police” is a call to take some of the funding normally granted to police departments and allocate them to other things such as mental health resources or social work.

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In Seattle—a city that saw so many protests against systemic racism in policing over the summer that the Department of Justice declared it an “anarchist jurisdiction”—officials appear to be honoring “defund the police” calls by slashing the city’s police department’s budget for 2021, but not by as much as activists wanted.

NBC News reports that the Seattle City Council decided Monday to cut the budget of the Seattle Police Department by nearly 17 percent. Many activists demanded the department’s budget be cut by 50 percent, but Mayor Jenny Durkan basically said, “Nah, but we’ll cut a little bit.”

“I believe we are laying the groundwork to make systemic and lasting changes to policing,” Durkan said in a statement. “We have rightly put forward a plan that seeks to ensure SPD has enough officers to meet 911 response and investigative needs throughout the city, while acknowledging and addressing the disproportionate impacts policing has had on communities of color, particularly Black communities.”

From NBC:

Council member Teresa Mosqueda, who heads the the budget committee, said it was a top priority to “downsize the SPD’s budget” and move money to other social programs that will “invest in community alternatives that produce healthy outcomes for” minority communities.

She cited the police slayings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville as key moments that moved Seattle residents.

“We have much more work to do, and we must get to work on those next steps now,” Mosqueda said.

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According to a city hall spokeswoman, Durkan is expected to sign the 2021 budget into law next week.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

DISCUSSION

I grew up in Tukwila, a suburb of Seattle, and whewww things are indeed a bit strange downtown anymore. Seeing the Starbucks on Pioneer Square all closed and boarded up (bc protests) is a bit mentally jarring, and the general atmosphere in that area is decidedly bleak (bc la rona). The homeless situation downtown is more linked to drugs than anything, and as a port city, naturally, Seattle has an influx of drugs coming and going from all directions. DHS and DEA have essentially been asleep at the wheel since Trump had them focus on everything but their core missions, and it is visibly apparent in Seattle.

I wholeheartedly agree that policing on a nationwide scale needs to be more humane (and de-militarized), but as someone who intimately knows NYPD and NOPD, Seattle’s police force is small potatoes in the grand scheme of police brutality. SPD is relatively defanged compared to police departments in larger cities, and I would say that Carmen Best did her.....best...while serving as police chief. Mayor Durkan, on the other hand, is a mealymouthed faux-democrat, and I hope expect her to not serve much longer. She is basically the Andrew Cuomo of Mayors, and she needs to kick rocks.

That said, I think the cardinal sin of the entire police reform movement is putting it under the umbrella of “Defund the Police,” in the first place. Call it Reimagining Policing, Budget Reallocation, Police Budget Reform.....ANYTHING but defund the police. Just the connotation of defunding leaves enough room for white people to be scared about the implications of actually reforming policing. Whoever started this movement essentially killed it in the crib by naming it that.

Protip: Consult with a PR firm whenever trying to name necessary, but nebulous reform movements. Words matter.