Last week, we have seen many headlines about the discussion taking place at City Hall about Seattle Police Department funding. Last week, we sent a letter to Council about the need for more clarity, direction, and nuance around what significantly reallocating funding from SPD means for delivering a basic city service.
We firmly believe there is a strong foundation of common ground. The killing of George Floyd and the subsequent months of protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have laid bare the systemic racism that has always existed in Seattle and in our country. Every resident, employee, and visitor in our region deserves to be safe, and we have fallen short of that goal when it comes to protecting Black people in particular. This is a collective failure for which we, as business leaders, share responsibility. Police reform is a key part of the conversation. This is a historic opportunity to realize critically needed change and we cannot miss it.
We do not need armed officers to serve in every function and component of our public safety. Changes like removing the 9-1-1 call center and other civilian-led groups from under the sworn chain of command make sense. We also support a close examination of the SPD budget, and firmly believe that all city budgets should be regularly audited and analyzed to ensure that city spending is efficient, effective, and transparent.
However, we do need to see a plan for what it means to reallocate a large amount of funding that currently goes to the Seattle Police Department so that it is clear what that means for delivering public safety services through the end of 2020 and beyond. How will SPD’s budget will be reallocated and what is the timeline for how and when the City plans to equip new systems and organizations?
For our broad and diverse business community, which has experienced public safety concerns in neighborhood business districts as well as downtown, other key questions include:
- How does Council plan to measurably reduce violence and property crime throughout our city?
- How does Council propose to offer timely, compassionate responses to people in crisis while community organizations properly scale?
- How do the community investments that the Council proposes keep small business districts vibrant?
This is an ongoing conversation, and we will continue to stress the importance of prioritizing meaningful reforms to our system over the rhetoric of a budget cut statistic.
There is an opportunity for the Council to refocus this conversation away from what could be cut, and instead share what we can build to ensure that the City’s public safety functions truly work for all members of our community.
I encourage you to reach out to Alicia Teel
, our senior vice president of public affairs and communications, if you have thoughts you would like to share on this issue.