When the Seattle City Council defunded and demonized the police, homicides hit a 26-year high, a mass exodus all but crippled the department, and the voters, somewhat surprisingly, responded by electing a pro-police mayor and council member and a Republican city attorney.
By all measures, the defund movement was an epic and ultimately deadly failure. And yet the council just voted to defund the police again. They just won’t admit it, following the transparent national Democrat strategy of pretending they were never pushing to defund the police.
This newest move is part of a more sinister attempt to dismantle the police department while jettisoning the “defund” label.
By a 6-3 vote, the council passed its 2023 budget, which includes full funding for the Seattle Police Department’s hiring plan. But it also permanently defunds 80 police positions in a department that is already dangerously understaffed. Through a budgetary sleight of hand, left-wing council members are now claiming to have fully funded the police.
Mayor Bruce Harrell initially offered a temporary cut in police funding since it’s clear the department won’t come anywhere close to the hiring spree needed to reach its goals of hiring 200 officers next year.
Instead, his budget supported hiring 120 officers, which would still, admittedly, take herculean strength to accomplish. It was a short-term way to save some cash without compromising future budgets should the SPD finally make progress in hiring new officers.
But the council had other plans. Led by far-left budget chair Teresa Mosqueda, who once defended a man threatening to murder police, council members supportive of defund efforts saw an opening to shrink the department. While fully funding the 2023 staffing plan of 120 officers, they cut the remaining positions for good. In other words, they shrunk the department.
While most Seattleites — and journalists — don’t closely follow or understand the convoluted budget process, this permanent staffing cut earned the spotlight courtesy of council members Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen. They voted against the budget, specifically citing their concerns over public safety.
“I believe that eliminating these positions does reinforce a ‘defund’ narrative that got us here,” Nelson noted during the debate.
Council member Lisa Herbold responded, accusing Nelson of spreading misinformation and audaciously claiming it was Nelson’s support of police funding that is leading to staffing problems.
“This misinformation results in members of the public not understanding that the council has fully funded the SPD’s hiring budget, for now, the third year in a row,” Herbold said. “And I feel like this conversation that we’re having actually hurts retention, and it hurts hiring because we’re not focusing on what’s in the budget that supports public safety. Instead, we’re talking about the very small reductions in the mayor’s proposed budget.”
But those “very small reductions” send the message to future would-be recruits that the council isn’t done with their politically-motivated police reforms. The council could have made the cuts temporary, but they chose permanence.
The president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), the union representing officers, noted in an interview that Herbold is spinning. Nelson and Pedersen aren’t the problem; the council members who seek to defund the police are hurting retention.
“The big picture is quite clear that we can’t recruit enough people to be cops in this city, mostly because of the political climate we still find ourselves in,” Solan explained on the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “And as I look at this in a broad perspective, in terms of the budget, I’m seeing more activist moves to take the money away from police and put it to projects that fulfill an activist talking point. For me, we need cops, and we need people that want to be cops. And we need to be given the confidence to go forth and conduct policing to hold criminals accountable. Because we’re seeing the decay of the city.”
It’s not just union interests calling out Herbold’s spin. Even the notoriously left-wing Seattle Times urged voters to “take note” of the decision by the council.
“To be clear: Herbold and the council majority permanently eliminated open police positions and reduced the size of the department. It is true the budget funds officer positions SPD expects to hire next year. But that is the bare minimum, and little comfort to residents and business owners who want to see marked future improvement,” the editorial noted.
Before the defund movement, city leaders considered 1,500-1,600 officers necessary for a fully functioning department. But after the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter rallies and riots, nearly 500 officers separated from the department. Mayor Harrell then revised staffing goals to just 1,450.
Officers resented the commitment to cut 50 percent of the budget, even though the council managed less than 20 percent, and they were sick of being demonized by a council that considered them racist murderers. At one point, Herbold endorsed a plan to fire white police officers because of their skin color. It would allow the department to be more diverse while fulfilling a promise to defund and shrink the force.
The city’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, which resulted in approximately 100 terminations, didn’t help staffing, either.
The department now employs fewer than 900 deployable officers, leaving each precinct and every shift unable to meet staffing minimums. The Command Staff routinely ask officers to leave their specialty units to respond to 911 calls. It’s even led to rape cases being put on the back burner so that detectives can fill the gaps in patrol.
Meanwhile, crime continues to surge.
In 2020, when the council cut the Seattle Police Department budget by 18 percent, the city had 52 homicides, the highest in 26 years. This year the city hit 54, with three weeks still to go. More cops could help mitigate the threats and even thwart the crime surge.
But, at best, the city will get the barest of bare minimum staffing thanks to a council that hopes the public won’t notice it continues to dismantle the police department.