SEATTLE, WA – How’s this for irony?
The Seattle City Council passed the 2021 budget. Included in their new budget plan was a 20% cut to the Seattle Police Department. Meanwhile, as the council was busy restructuring and planning, two people were stabbed.
Yet they still voted to cut police funding in an 8-1 vote.
As the Seattle City Council met to discuss the budget on Monday, a man stabbed a woman to death in Belltown just before 11 a.m.
According to police, the woman was a caseworker at the apartment building, which is operated by Plymouth Housing and serves formerly homeless people.
Her identity has not yet been released and no motive has yet been determined.
The 58-year-old suspect, formerly homeless, fled on foot before officers arrived. after an hours-long search for the killer, police tracked down their suspect in Seattle just before 4 p.m. and arrested him, police said.
About an hour before the arrest, the council approved a budget cut of 18% to the SPD.
Among the cuts, the council will pursue a dangerous plan to have social workers respond to some 911 crisis calls.
There is a tragic irony here. The stabbing victim was a caseworker, potentially like one the council will send on 911 calls. Unarmed and untrained, they won’t have a chance to defend themselves against dangerous residents in crisis.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only stabbing of the day. A second stabbing occurred around 3:30 p.m. Monday afternoon in downtown Seattle.
A 33-year-old man was walking nearby when a 27-year-old man stabbed him in the neck. It was a random attack. The victim first thought he had been randomly punched, but soon realized he was bleeding. The victim was sent to the hospital and will make a full recovery.
Police said responding officers found a pocket knife on the suspect, who also has a Department of Corrections felony warrant for escape from community custody.
It’s not a coincidence that there were two stabbings during council deliberations to defund the police.
The stabbings are a direct consequence of a city spiraling out of control. Seattle has historically low police staffing. Currently, the city has the lowest deployable staff since at least 1990. The fewer the officers, the higher the crime and the longer it will take to respond to violent crimes and track down suspects.
The problem is only getting worse. Not only have 144 officers already left the department in 2020, the number could very well exceed 200 by the new year. Due to the hiring freeze, those officers won’t be replaced.
Right now, there scores of officers eating up accrued sick time ahead of leaving the department for a neighboring agency. Who can blame them, when their own city’s elected officials don’t even have their backs? These officers’ positions won’t be easily filled once they leave.
So how is Seattle City Council dealing with the whole issue?
In the summer of 2020, after the death of a black defendant by a white police officer in Minnesota, activists first called for city officials to cut SPD funding by 50%.
Astonishingly, a majority of Seattle City Council members agreed to that principle. Councilmembers tried to make immediate cuts in salaries and certain police units.
This led to Chief Carmen Best resigning over their methods. As discussion began on next year’s budget, it became clear that council wasn’t seeking a 50% cut right away. Teresa Mosqueda chairs the Budget Committee. Here’s where she says they ultimately came down:
“Regarding our Seattle Police Department, the Seattle City Council, along with the mayor’s combination of both cuts, it’s about 20%.”
That includes both cuts, and transferring some functions outside of SPD. So, it’s only 20 percent, not the originally requested 50 percent. Not bad, right? Wrong!
If you look at other cities, it’s very significant. Councilmember Mosqueda has pointed out Seattle has gone farther in this effort than any other U.S. city, except maybe Austin, Texas. A year ago, a cut like this would have been unthinkable, but people supporting what they called the solidarity budget kept the pressure up right until the end of this week.
But this is no regular year, this is 2020! This year, we’ve seen teach-ins, street protests, everything in between. To say that it’s been a tense climate around this issue is an understatement.
We saw BLM and Antifa factions move in to, not only peacefully protest, as the MSM would like the world to believe. They set out to destroy, loot, and even kill, all under the guise of saving black lives.
Yet Seattle Council Members actually took the line of the “protestors” and went after SPD when officers tried to control criminal activity. The movement to abolish police, or to defund police, is a high-energy, youth-led movement.
Just last week a call was made to cut another $9 million. This time the council rejected their demand. Councilmember Kshama Sawant said that was a disappointment:
“And because of that, there has been justifiable anger and disgust at the establishment over the weekend from thousands of ordinary people who have been committed to Black Lives Matter.”
This weekend saw car caravans of activists going to city councilmembers’ homes, and Monday the council agreed to cut an additional $2 million from SPD’s budget. They say that cut should make it so there will be no net increase in police officers hired next year. They expect to hire the same number as the number of projected to leave, which is 114 officers.
And Today, Councilmember Debora Juarez said she agrees with many goals of the movement, but that she will not go at the pace that some activists have called for. She said she doesn’t approve of this climate of shaming people or calling them out:
“We’re going to slowly and systematically, as much as we can, redirect funds from the Seattle Police Department to upstream programs to meet the needs of what a police department, we believe, should look like within the confines of the consent decree, our bargaining responsibilities, and everything else.”
So, what exactly does 2021 and the new plan for SPD look like, according to this plan?
From this budget, Seattle will be awarding at least $60 million to nonprofits, community-based organizations, over this next year to create new types of crisis response. We will see those efforts grow, and they say that the council members may seek more cuts at SPD as these efforts come online.
Imani Dinish is a researcher with King County Equity Now. He envisions hubs around the city with staff who would help respond to 911 calls in their areas, explaining:
“If in the event 911 is contacted, and emergency personnel are dispatched, our team would simultaneously, or shortly thereafter, be notified of the call’s nature, and deploy in lieu of or with your general, known fire, medical, SPD.”
This is Dinish’s vision of what people mean when they talk about new kinds of 911 responses. He says these workers would also be in touch with people, before and after the emergency situation, to help address underlying needs, like housing or mental health services.
The Seattle City Council seems to be unbothered. They continue to push forward to defund Seattle police while the homicide rate grows as fast as the homelessness crisis.
Perhaps the council thinks social workers can help address the problems the city faces. We’ve seen one case worker lose her life already. Is this just the beginning of even more tragic, senseless, and avoidable loss of lives?
In the meantime, on Tuesday, the King County City Council voted to approve a new criminal justice program that puts the power of sentencing in the hands of community members.
The Community Restorative Pathways program will allow non-violent, first-time offenders charged with felonies to be sentenced through a “community based alternative.”
The program received unanimous approval with council members funneling $12.59 million to the radical program. Coincidentally, the King County Sheriff’s Office is in the process of having millions of dollars in funding stolen from them.
In September, King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed budgetary changes to “confront racism.” One of those brilliant ideas was a $6.5 million divestment in King County law enforcement agencies. In other words – to defund the police.
Another top notch idea from Constantine is to adopt a community panel to sentence felons.
The executive suggested that $6.2 million be invested in “Restoration Community Pathways” to keep offenders out of the court system:
“In lieu of filing charges, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will refer up to 800 young people by 2022-2023 to receive comprehensive, community-based services.”
The program received far more in funding than what Constantine initially suggested. The proposal claims that this process of sentencing would help reduce an incarceration cycle:
“A partnership between community organizations and the Department of Public Defense, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Community and Human Services, Restorative Community Pathways also includes appropriate services and support for harmed parties, and restitution so that youths who cannot pay fines and other financial obligations do not end up in a cycle of probation violations and incarceration.”
The executive continued:
“The Executive’s Office will work with the Department of Community and Human Services, and community organizations to implement King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg’s proposal to divert approximately 1,000 non-violent ‘first felony’ filings from the judicial system each year.”
A panel of community members will now be the judge and jury for accused parties. The panel will be given free reign to decide the fate of defendants, but the vague plan fails to address sixth amendment concerns.
The sixth amendment ensures the right to a speedy trial and a fair and impartial jury. When giving community members such heightened responsibility, the risk for unconstitutional outcomes skyrockets.
The outcomes provided by this program would not include jail time, or a conviction for that matter, according to a King County prosecuting attorney Dan Satterberg.
Satterburg spoke with KOMO News and argued that the community group will define what accountability means for these felons:
“We can send that person instead (of jail) to a community accountability group, who will define what they think accountability means,”
Later, Satterburg declined to comment on the term’s definition or what this new style of accountability might look like.
The attorney stated:
“That’s up to the community groups.”
“These are low-level felonies, property offenses, no domestic violence, no sexual assault cases (and) decisions you would make if you were in my shoes.”
King County Councilmember and Budget Chair Jeanne Kohl-Welles also spoke to KOMO News and claimed that jail time is not the answer for criminals that commit felonies.
“Locking people up is very costly and it’s not affirmative for people’s lives. But we also have to make sure to protect the public, so this is hard, it’s not going to be easy.”
The community sentencing program is set to begin in the middle of 2021 and be implemented no later than early 2022.
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What are they thinking? County voters opt to make Sheriff position an appointed one instead of an elected one
KING COUNTY, WA- Voters have opted to make the King County Sheriff’s position an appointed rather than an elected position.
With this vote, people have lost the power to vote for their next sheriff, instead giving the power to politicians as outlined in Charter Amendment No.5.
Ground truth shows the voters of King County took away the right to vote for sheriff, a position that will now be appointed by representatives elected by a minority of citizens. Democracy died a little more in WA. Death by a thousands WA Democrat cuts. https://t.co/lDOpDJmwOe
— Ground Truth USA (@groundtruthusa) November 4, 2020
Former King County Sheriff John Urquhart is calling this decision by the voters a “head-scratcher.”
During a recent appearance on KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show, Urquhart said:
“I can’t figure it out, why they voted that way either. It’s just bizarre because they really take the power away from, under the state law, the chief law enforcement officer in the county. It’s just really surprising.”
As it stands, King County will be the only county in Washington where voters will not have a say in choosing their sheriff.
“You’re talking about the biggest county in the state, 13th largest county in the country and now they’re going to have a sheriff appointed by the King County Council and basically picked out, chosen by the county executive.”
“So, they’re taking the power away, the influence away from unincorporated King County, which is over 500,000 people. But, I think even worse, it means that the sheriff is not going to be able to speak his or her mind without checking in with the county executive first and seeing what they want him to say.”
Urquhart then gave an example of what decision making would essentially look like with an appointed sheriff.
“Take the youth jail. Executive Dow Constantine is adamant that there’s going to be no youth jail and essentially no bookings of people under the age of 18. Personally, I think that’s a bad idea.
“I think the next sheriff is probably going to think that’s a bad idea, but he’s certainly not going to be able to voice that concern or try to influence the public without checking with his boss first.”
“It means the county executive and to a lesser extent, the county council, are the boss of the sheriff rather than the people of King County.”
King County Charter Amendments 5 & 6 (make sheriff an appointed, rather than elected position; reduce sheriff’s duties & authority) are both passing as of tonight pic.twitter.com/sF6HVhJMhN
— Lewis Kamb (@lewiskamb) November 4, 2020
Urquhart also used the recent proposal about decriminalizing misdemeanors as another example.
“And if you disagree with that, as the sheriff, if they try to do that in King County and I’m sure they will, you can’t voice your concern. If they try to cut your budget, you can’t voice your concern.
“Look at what the, the City Council did to Carmen Best. They treated her horribly. The same thing is going to happen with an appointed sheriff, I guarantee you.”
“If you like the Capitol Hill’s CHOP, you’re going to love an appointed sheriff.”
According to Urquhart, the City of Seattle also got to vote on these charter amendments, yet the Sheriff’s Office answers no 911 calls in Seattle. Dori, the hose, pointed out that Seattle got a disproportionate vote on the issue that does not just impact the city.
“It’s like the city of Seattle telling Bellevue how to run their police department or how to manage their parks department when they have absolutely no say in it. They have no participation in it whatsoever. It makes no sense.”
The King County Council is trying to grab power from the voters and give it to themselves, please reject that:
Vote NO on Charter Amendment # 5
(No appointed sheriff; keep position elected.)
Vote NO on Charter Amendment # 6
(No de facto control of elected sheriff by Council.)
— Revived Citizens Party (@partyofcommons) October 14, 2020
“That’s the shame of the County Council who put this measure on the ballot knowing full well that they were taking the power away from unincorporated King County.”
According to Urquhart, it is the residents of unincorporated King County that ought to be the ones to decide what kind of police department they want.
“And they’re not allowed to do that anymore because of the voters in the city of Seattle, to a certain extent and certainly to the King County Council.”
Urquhart went on to say:
“If the residents of the city of Seattle want to legalize drugs or crime or whatever it is, that’s their choice.
“They can do that and they can live with the consequences, but they shouldn’t be able to dictate to the people that live outside of the city of Seattle, whether it’s unincorporated or whether it’s one of our contract cities and that’s over 500,000 people.”
The King County Council’s attempt to #Defund the police and grab power by making the King County Sheriff’s Office an appointed position instead of a position elected by the people is both irresponsible and inexcusable. https://t.co/PiFriF6IW3 pic.twitter.com/5Vnau2eTmT
— Save Our Sheriff (@SaveOur_Sheriff) August 26, 2020
“And yet they get to dictate how they live and that’s just plain not right. This shouldn’t have happened just from that standpoint alone.”
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