I can hardly contain myself, the news is that good. As you must know by now the city council in Seattle marches to the beat of a different drummer than the rest of us. To show you just how different, they’ve passed a resolution that I pray will come to fruition, because they deserve it.
This council, the smartest in the nation, more liberal than San Francisco, has in it’s infinite wisdom, prepared the draft resolution below, indicating their intentions to reinvent the police department with community specialists, without guns, pepper spray and tear gas.
I want them to get their way, not because I have anything against the citizens of Seattle, even though they elected the council, but moreover because this could be one of the greatest teaching moments in American history, if only this council will follow through.
If you don’t have time to read the Seattle resolution, here’s a summary:
The Seattle City Council proposed a resolution to defund the city’s police department and create a “Civilian-led Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention” on Friday.
The new resolution prioritizes the creation of a civilian-led safety department to supervise the city police. The resolution also aims to reassign current police responsibilities, including emergency dispatchers and parking enforcement, to other city departments and shift an unspecified amount of money from the city’s police to fund “community-based investments.” This would be tiny houses and communal type living facilities where residents can ride bicycles and will have no need for cars.
The resolution says the council is dedicated to “addressing the racist institution of policing” and confronting “the Seattle Police Department’s role in perpetuating racism and violence.” It also blames the police department for using tear gas and rubber bullets to control violent rioters in the city. There is no need for such mean things, says the city council.
Earlier this month, seven of the nine city council members said they would support a 50 percent cut to the city’s police department—a move that Seattle police chief Carmen Best said would be “absolutely detrimental” to the city. But, what does he know, compared to the city council?
“Just lopping off 50 percent of our officers, I would think at this time would be a reckless maneuver and I’m hoping that people will calm down and look at ways that we can have a real plan in place of how we might transfer some of the responsibilities and services to other areas.” A reckless maneuver, ya think so Chief? That’s pretty tough talk, better watch it or they might cut your pay too.
Rioters in Seattle have rampaged the city for weeks, burning police cars, using Molotov cocktails to set the juvenile detention center on fire, and looting local businesses. Last month, a group of anti-police protesters took over a police precinct and attempted to create a police-free autonomous zone, which was disbanded after four people were shot to death and others were allegedly sexually assaulted in the area. It was not quite the picnic the mayor claimed it to be.
Now their resolution – read it and feel free to send them a letter of encouragement:
CITY OF SEATTLE RESOLUTION __________________
A RESOLUTION related to policing and public safety establishing the Council’s intent to create a civilian led department of community safety & violence prevention; identifying actions in 2020 to remove certain functions from the Seattle Police Department and provide funding for a community-led process to inform the structure and function of a new department of community safety & violence prevention; requesting modifications to policing practices; requesting reporting to the Council; providing guidance on lay-off decisions; and establishing a work program and timeline for creating a new department…body
WHEREAS, the Council recognizes that the nation’s and Seattle’s history of racism and the current impact of institutional racism and structural racism cause over-policing and underinvestment in communities of color and especially in Black communities; and
WHEREAS, the Council is committed to confronting structural and institutional racism as a fundamental step towards addressing the racist institution of policing; and
WHEREAS, in May 2020, Minneapolis police officers [murdered]George Floyd, setting off nationwide protests against police brutality and for justice for Black victims of police violence; and
WHEREAS, these protests forced many nationwide and in Seattle to confront the racism that has been plaguing the Black community for centuries and spread to other communities of color, the harmful impacts of white supremacy culture, and the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) role in perpetuating racism and violence; and
WHEREAS, during the course of the protests, thousands of complaints were lodged against SPD for their arrests, threats of arrest, and use of force against City and County residents, including the indiscriminate use of tear gas, blast balls, and rubber bullets; and
WHEREAS, SPD has allegedly used these tactics against legal observers, medical personnel, and journalists; and Ketil Freeman / Greg Doss / Lish Whitson / Asha Venkataraman LEG Public Safety Dept Reorg RES D1 Template last revised December 2, 2019
WHEREAS, in response to both recent events and through the efforts of decades of organizing, anti-racist organizations coalesced around the following demands made to the City by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now: 1. Replace current 911 operations with civilian-controlled system; 2. Scale up community-led solutions; 3. Invest in housing for all; and 4. Fund a community-led process to create a roadmap to life without policing; and
WHEREAS, the co-leads of the City’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) sent a letter on 8 June 8, 2020 to the Mayor requesting that she “Commit to a community participatory budget process. The anti-racist organizations named above must oversee and co-design a community-centered process to determine how the funds are reinvested”; and
WHEREAS, members of the communities most impacted by policing support the demands to the City to push back against the harm the police cause to the Black community and correct years of failure to invest in Black communities; and
WHEREAS, the Council recognizes that over many years, more social service functions have fallen to police officers because of the defunding of social safety nets, among which are mental health, public housing, health care, and education; and
WHEREAS, the lack of funding in these systems also disproportionately affect communities of color, compounding the harms of over-policing; and
WHEREAS, though SPD has been under consent decree since 2012 and has been making reforms to the department, SPD officers continue to kill Black city residents more often than they kill white residents; and
WHEREAS, the Council acknowledges the harm that policing and other institutional racism has 23 caused to Black communities; and Ketil Freeman / Greg Doss / Lish Whitson / Asha Venkataraman LEG Public Safety Dept Reorg RES D1 Template last revised December 2, 2019 3 1
WHEREAS, RSJI principles to which the Council has committed include centering communities most impacted by the City’s policies; and
WHEREAS, by taking the lead of anti-racist organizations by meeting their demands, the Council is implementing its commitment to racial justice work; and
WHEREAS, the Council is committed to implementing public safety for all residents, and not just for white people; and
WHEREAS, by working to fulfill the anti-racist community’s demands, the Council has the potential to address the systemic root causes of violence; and
WHEREAS, although the Council is unable to immediately effect all the changes demanded by community, this resolution lays out a commitment to achieve community’s goal through a clear timeline and work plan;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SEATTLE, THE MAYOR CONCURRING, THAT: Section 1. Intent to Form a Civilian-led Department of Community Safety & Violence 15 Prevention. The Council intends by the fourth quarter of 2021 to create a new civilian-led 16 department that will take a holistic approach to public safety. Creation of such a department will 17 be informed by the process and principles outlined in Decriminalize Seattle’s and King County 18 Equity Now’s 2020 Blueprint for Police Divestment / Community Reinvestment attached to this 19 Resolution as Attachment 1. 20 Section 2. Actions in 2020. By the end of November 2020, the Council intends to 21 consider legislation that would: Ketil Freeman / Greg Doss / Lish Whitson / Asha Venkataraman LEG Public Safety Dept Reorg RES D1 Template last revised December 2, 2019 4 1 A. Remove 9-1-1 communication functions and related communications 2 funding from the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and establish those operations in a temporary 3 new department or temporarily place those functions in an existing civilian-led department; 4 B. Remove the Office of Emergency Management and Harbor Patrol 5 functions from SPD and establish those functions in the Seattle Fire Department; 6 C. Remove parking enforcement functions from the Seattle Police 7 Department and establish those functions in the Seattle Department of Transportation; 8 D. Provide sufficient appropriations in a Finance General Reserve and 9 staffing support for a community-led research and participatory budgeting effort to inform the 10 structure and function of a new Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention; 11 E. Fund new appropriations through phased reductions to SPD’s budget; and 12 F. Make other reductions of not less than $____________for community13 based investments. 14 Section 3. Interim Modifications to Current Practices. While the structural changes 15 contemplated in Section 2 of this Resolution are developed for Council consideration, the 16 Council requests that the Chief of Police undertake the following: 17 A. 9-1-1 Response. Prioritize 9-1-1 responses as follows: 18 1. Calls involving reports of firearms; 19 2. Calls where a slow response could reasonably result in loss of life 20 or serious injury; 21 3. Calls involving sexual violence; and 22 4. Calls involving reports of abuse or neglect of vulnerable 23 populations, such as children, elders, and people with disabilities. Ketil Freeman / Greg Doss / Lish Whitson / Asha Venkataraman LEG Public Safety Dept Reorg RES D1 Template last revised December 2, 2019 5 1 B. Biased Policing. Work with the Council, Mayor’s Office, and Community 2 to determine the enforcement practices that should be deprioritized based upon a 3 disproportionate impact on BIPOC communities, including disproportionate impacts resulting 4 from the partnership between SPD and the Department of Corrections (DOC) for persons in 5 DOC supervision. 6 Section 4. Reports to Council. The Council requests that Chief of Police and City Budget 7 Office provide the following reports to the Chairs of the Public Safety and Human Services 8 Committee and Select Budget Committee by September 15, 2020: 9 A. A report detailing expenditures by year since 2010 for contracts with law 10 firms defending the City from claims brought against SPD and individual officers. The report 11 should include information disaggregated by race for officers involved in the claims and the 12 claimants. 13 B. A report detailing expenditures in 2020 on weapons and equipment. 14 Section 5. For any personnel cuts in 2020 or 2021, the Council requests that the Chief of 15 Police: 16 A. Pursue out-of-order layoff authority from the Public Safety Civil Service 17 Commission; 18 B. Prioritize laying off officers with sustained complaints; 19 C. Consistent with the consent decree, maintain sufficient qualified, first line 20 field supervisors; and 21 D. Make no layoff decisions that conflict with the City Charter obligation to 22 maintain adequate patrol staffing in every district. Ketil Freeman / Greg Doss / Lish Whitson / Asha Venkataraman LEG Public Safety Dept Reorg RES D1 Template last revised December 2, 2019 6 1 Section 6. Work Program and Timeline. The Council adopts the following conceptual 2 work program and timeline for creating a new Department of Community Safety and Violence 3 Prevention. Actions Time Frame Council and Mayor consider: ▪ Reducing SPD’s budget ▪ Funding a community-led research process ▪ Removing specified functions from SPD ▪ Work with SPD and community to identify police practices with a disproportionate impact on BIPOC communities August 2020 – November 2020 Community-led organizations: ▪ Conduct research ▪ Conduct a participatory budgeting process ▪ Recommend a structure and functions for a Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention ▪ Present recommendations to the Council and Mayor August 2020 – July 2021 Council, Mayor and City Attorney ▪ Develop draft legislation for public review ▪ Identify any necessary City Charter amendments ▪ Develop ballot language for Charter amendments, if necessary, and submit it to King County Elections for a November vote April 2021 – June 2021 Council and Mayor: ▪ Introduce, consider, and act on proposed legislation creating a new Department of Community Safety &Violence Prevention and making associated budget changes September 2021 – November 2021 4 Section 7. The City Council will not support any budget changes to increase the Seattle 5 Police Department’s budget to offset overtime expenditures above the funds budgeted in 2020 or 6 2021.