Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now Statement on Introduction of Bill Gutting Efforts to Divest from Policing and Invest in Black Community
Coalitions Urge Council Members to Reject Surrender to Durkan and Defend Black Lives
Seattle City Council President Lorena González will introduce a bill that guts efforts to divest from policing and invest in the Black community. This is unacceptable. This is anti-Black.
The gutted bill follows a pattern of the Executive branch bleeding into the Legislative branch, with Mayor Durkan reshaping legislation that Council has already passed. This new bill represents an utter capitulation to the Mayor, who has shamelessly not moved from her anti-Black, pro-police position. The bill does not get us closer to creating true community safety. We reject this approach and question the motives behind it. We urge Council members to override the Mayor’s veto outright. For the first time in their careers, we urge them to stand on the right side of history, stand for Black lives, and against the Mayor’s anti-Black obstructionism.
This summer’s historic uprising in defense of Black lives—following the police murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Manny Ellis and too many others—inspired millions across the country to demand a rethinking of our reliance on racist policing. These movements compelled our Council members to heed the calls for an end to the era of bloated police budgets and failed models of “public safety,” an era that resulted in the police murders of Charleena Lyles, John T Williams, and many others. Council members voted for the first time to minimally cut a police budget, rather than grow it. They voted for a modest $3 million to fund a Black-community led research process to let those most impacted by policing lead the planning of a new world beyond it. They voted for $14 million to fund community interventions to generate safety that do not rely on policing, including $4 million to urgently address gun violence needs in the Black community.
These bills passed with a veto-proof majority. Mayor Durkan’s August 21st veto was anti-Black. It was offensive to all those who stand with Black lives and against racist policing. But it was not unexpected. In fact, this was her fifth veto of a council bill—more than any of the previous five mayors had during their tenure. Council members knew when they voted that they were signing up for an override vote. Nothing has changed except for the Mayor’s public relations machine going into overdrive to justify a veto of a cut to a tiny fraction of SPD’s overall budget, as well as a veto of an investment that pales next to SPD’s overtime budget. That brings us to this moment, to a so-called compromise that reflects a Mayor who continues to attempt to strong-arm the City Council into doing her will.
We reject the new bill, a bill which reflects the Mayor’s contempt for Black people and nothing more. We reject a bill that does not reduce the size of SPD, that keeps the failed Navigation Team mostly in place, along with budget lines for mounted police, police officers in school, and more. We reject a bill that offers $200,000 in bonuses to cops hired in 2020, even as essential city workers face layoffs. We reject a bill that outright slashes community investments in true public safety to $2.5 million down from $14 million. As these investments are needed to address substantial gun violence happening in the Black community right now, this gutted proposal is straight anti-Black. We reject a bill that locks thousands of Black community members (especially elders, youth, and those without political connections to the Mayor) out of the process of reimagining public safety.
Our council members were elected to serve their constituents. This summer, we saw them begin the process of creating true community safety. We saw them vote for Black lives. We urge them to override the veto and reject surrender to the Mayor’s pro-police agenda. We urge them to stand for Black lives and restore badly-needed balance to the legislative/executive relationship. We ask them not to flip-flop on one of the most important votes of their careers. Nothing has changed—our city is still in urgent need of rethinking our approach to public safety. The material conditions for most Black people haven’t changed. They won’t change without the City Council standing in defense of Black lives and avoiding capitulation to the Mayor’s defense of the status quo. We urge Council members to stay the course, follow through on their public commitments, and vote to override.