For years now, leftist politicians across America have promoted a pro-criminal agenda that included gun control initiatives marketed as “public safety” measures, no-bail and other criminal law reforms, and “depolicing” communities.
Seattle, the tip of the progressive spear in Washington State, is now facing a crisis in crime arising from its commitment to defund the police.
In 2020, seven out of nine city council members in Seattle, Washington were reportedly in favor of defunding the Seattle Police Department (SPD) by as much as 50%. Ultimately, the city adopted a smaller reduction of nearly $35.6 million in police funding for 2021, but followed up last December with further cuts to the 2022 police budget, approved almost unanimously (the sole council member opposed was holding out to slash police funding by 50%). Carmen Best, Seattle’s first Black female police chief, resigned in 2020, hours after the city council vote on the SPD budget, blaming the city’s “overarching lack of respect for the officers.”
By December 2021, one source reports that over 330 Seattle police officers, out of an authorized force of 1,347 officers, had opted to follow the chief’s lead and resign or retire. This year, an additional 122 officers have left the SPD, and 350 officers will be eligible to retire at the end of 2022.
The predictable result of the city’s new policing priorities is that Seattle’s violent crime rate has climbed to a 14-year high. According to an SPD report released in February, aggravated assault numbers alone “are the highest reported in the last 10 years,” and “2021 represented a ten-year high for shootings and shots fired in the City of Seattle.”
Chronic police understaffing means there are less resources for investigating crimes. Due to the officer shortage, adult sex crimes have “become much less of a priority in Seattle,” according to one news report. “[I]n some cases, people calling to report a sexual assault are routed to the automated telephone reporting unit, designed to address non-urgent calls such as stolen checks.”
Another consequence of the city’s misguided reforms is a reported “$5 million parking ticket debacle” caused by switching parking enforcement responsibilities from the police to civilian employees who apparently lacked the necessary legal authority to write tickets, impound cars and have cars towed. The city is now refunding and voiding parking tickets (at a cost of around $5 million), and faces additional liability for 10,000 tows and 1,700 impounds that are potentially illegal as well.
Concerns over the rise in violent crime have prompted employers to rethink working in Seattle. Earlier this year, Amazon moved 1,800 of its employees out of its downtown Seattle facility to an alternative worksite, with a spokesperson commenting, “[w]e are hopeful that conditions will improve and that we will be able to bring employees back to this location when it is safe to do so.” Another large employer based in Seattle’s downtown tells a local newspaper that “my employees are reluctant to come to our offices … they are afraid to take public transportation. If the problems are not addressed, we also will have to consider moving our headquarters out of the city where we have been for over 100 years.”
Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), describes the unsustainable “mass exodus of policing” as one that will have negative public safety repercussions for years to come. “We can barely get any recruits… It’s going to take at least a decade, at a minimum, to get to the level of 1400 to 1500 [officers].” In the meantime, “what happens is that criminals fill the void when there’s no law enforcement.”
Unfortunately for city residents, these disastrous police reforms coincide with an extreme gun control agenda embraced by Seattle politicians and the State of Washington, one that treats legitimate gun owners as part of the crime problem and makes it increasingly difficult for responsible adults to obtain and possess firearms for home protection and self-defense (here and here, for instance). Just this year, Washington State legislators introduced bills to ban the possession, manufacture, and transfer of ordinary semi-automatic firearms arbitrarily classified as “assault weapons,” ban the manufacture, possession, sale, and transfer of so-called “large capacity” magazines, expand the list of places where firearm possession is prohibited, repeal the state firearms preemption law, and more.
Across the country in Chicago, another Democrat–run gun control utopia experiencing a precipitous drop in police staffing, soaring crime and lawlessness, a resident sums the situation up perfectly. “We can’t live like this. The city has become – I would even say, Gotham City is a little bit better, because you have Batman. Here you don’t have Batman. I’m going where they have the well-funded police departments and where they want our business.”