Seattle don’t need therapy, we need the SPD to drop their tantrum
Nope, Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, Seattle don’t”need therapyto improve public safety. What we need is a police department mature enough to follow the orders of duly elected officials instead of launching a two-year tantrum over legitimate complaints from residents about the cops. murder, beatand gassing the people they are meant to protect and serve.
But as long as the local mainstream media continues to reinforce a tired and factually incorrect narrative of “both sides” of childish bickering at City Hall, as Westneat did in his column over the weekend, we won’t make the progress on public safety that everyone claims they want so badly.
In Westneat’s analysis, the Council and the cops bear equal responsibility for failing to implement crime reduction programs such as Denver’s. STAR, which is a non-police crisis response unit. After all, he argues, the 2020 council hurt the feelings of the SPD when it suggested paying for such programs with money from a bloated police budget. And after all, some council members continue to hurt SPD feelings by “barely containing their contempt for the police” on the dais. In view of all this, it is only Natural for the cops to continue to block reforms that would help solve their alleged personnel problems and improve public safety.
In reality, the blame lies entirely with the Seattle Police Department and executive branch leadership that covered up the department’s recalcitrance.
First, a fact check. Westneat says the Council came after the cops “hard” by “cutting $54 million from their 2020 budget level (about 13%), and for a time vowing to cut a lot more.” However, this “cut” mainly reflects the decision to move 911 call operators and parking enforcement out of the SPD and under civilian control elsewhere in city government – a far cry from the 50% slash-and-burn approach demanded by activists in the streets.
And if the current council “still barely contains their contempt for the police”, then they have a funny way of showing it.
This is the same advice voted to approve former Mayor Jenny Durkan’s hiring bonuses for new officers in November 2021. Although the Council cut the SPD’s budget by $8.4 million at the end of this year, Council Member Teresa Mosqueda said at the time that the city was facing a $15 million budget shortfall, and most of the SPD’s reduction came from salary savings for vacancies the department could not fill quickly enough. And last week, eight of those nine board members voted to authorize even bigger hiring bonuses for new cops.
Despite backing up the Brinks truck to help the department hire more officers, the SPD continues to drag its feet, and not without a lot of help from the mayor’s office.
For example, council member Andrew Lewis, who represents downtown, has so often banged the drum for alternatives that he has become a drinking game in our press room. In 2021, the Council first tried to achieve Lewis’s goal by funding an alternative called Yard one. Durkan publicly called for the program in July of that year, and the Council funded the program, but the mayor’s office did very little work to set it up, as current senior deputy mayor Monisha Harrell admitted during a public safety committee hearing last June. However, when Lewis pushed for even a single-van pilot program built on the meager foundation left by the Durkan administration, Harrell emulated the cops’ delaying tactics and said more research and preparation was needed.
That same hearing in June revealed another example of the SPD’s dawdling of alternative response programs. The Board asked the SPD to conduct a “risk-managed demand” analysis of 911 call data to determine the number and types of calls that an unarmed team of mental health professionals could safely process. Two months ago, Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell told Council she expected that report “any day now.” At the last public safety committee hearing on August 9, council was still awaiting that report.
During this hearing, the Council tried to come up with another strategy to reduce the pressure on our overstretched and understaffed police service. They asked Acting Chief Adrian Diaz about the possibility of changing the direction of traffic at major sporting events from cops to civilian parking enforcement officers. Instead of embracing this show of concern for the welfare of his officers, Diaz responded with vague hand signals about Department of Homeland Security regulations which, it turns out, do not conflict. with the Board’s policy proposal.
I would ask the SPD to comment on all this, but they decided to close their public affairs office for this whole week. If I had to bet, I’d bet they’d blame staffing issues on their inability to complete homework on time. But you don’t need more cops to research DHS regulations, answer questions from the public, or listen to recordings of 911 calls and code them.
So, no, this is not a case where the Council and the SPD have to “retreat with a mediator” to settle their differences. This is a case where we all have to operate from a shared reality. The SPD has failed to retain enough officers over the past two years. Management has not sufficiently directed the officers they have to carry out core departmental responsibilities, such as sexual assault investigations. And yet, rather than working with the Council where they can to address these issues, the reports all point to the cops putting politics above public safety.