I’ve been pretty cheerful lately about certain trends in the U.S. There seems to be a widespread rejection by everyday people of the progressive narrative that holds the U.S. to be irredeemably racist, the police in need of defunding and little kids wanting a good dose of critical race theory. President Biden’s approval numbers are abysmal, parents are besieging school boards and city councils and voters overwhelmingly rejected progressive candidates and issues in last month’s elections.
But alas, despite all that common sense, some remain deaf to the obvious message. Those include the Seattle City Council who, three weeks after the election that should have taught them so much, voted 8-1 to continue defunding the city’s police. The budget they approved continued a three-year slide in funding. Next year’s budget for the police is 12% lower than 2019’s.
Part of that may stem from the fact that the force itself has about 17% fewer officers than in 2019, largely the result of the open contempt for the police emanating from council members. Oh, that one vote against the budget? That came from Councilwoman Kshama Sawant who voted ‘No’ because it didn’t cut funding enough. She wanted a 50% reduction.
Now, it’s hard to know just what Seattle cops have done to warrant the unbridled animosity of council members. It’s not as if they’re prone to violence. This report of Officer-Involved Shootings from 2005 – 2018 shows Seattle police discharging their weapons against civilians a grand total of twice in 2018, six times in 2017 and four times each in 2015 and 2016, not exactly the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
And, compared to other major cities, Seattle has a very low homicide rate. Its population of about 756,000 last year produced only 52 homicides. What if, say, Chicago, had the same homicide:population ratio? In that case, it’d have about 186 murders per year. Last week, Chicago logged its 1,000th homicide of 2021 with a month yet to go in the year.
The real problem in Seattle is property crime and drug addiction. As the excellent documentary film “Seattle is Dying” tells us, of all the major cities in the country, only San Francisco surpasses Seattle in its rate of property crimes. New York City’s rate in 2018 was 1,448 per 100,000 population, but Seattle’s was almost four times that at 5,258 per 100,000.
The reasons? There are at least two, the most important being that the city attorney has adopted a policy of - shall we say - tolerance for property crime. “Seattle is Dying” reports that almost half of property crime reports are simply ignored and only 18% of police arrests for property crimes result in criminal charges, prosecution and conviction/plea bargain. As a result, the police have largely stopped even making reports, much less arrests. Why bother? Again and again, the documentary shows that, in the Emerald City, arrest is a revolving door with suspects back on the street within a day or so of apprehension.
Second, Seattle has a huge homeless population who’ve been attracted there by the open tolerance for “illegal” drug usage and sales. Possession of up to three grams of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, etc. will result in neither arrest nor charge. Shooting up in broad daylight in the middle of downtown is common. With theft offenses going unprosecuted, addicts happily commit robbery to fund their habits.
Unsurprisingly, morale among police is non-existent resulting in a flood of officers out the door over the past two years. What Seattle’s KOMO TV calls a “mass exodus” has reduced the police force from 1,357 officers two years ago to 1,122 today. And it’s likely to fall further as officers increasingly can find no reason to remain on the force.
All of this of course is a blight on a once-beautiful and prosperous city whose merchants, businesspeople and ordinary citizens are not amused. In a recent public statement, the Downtown Seattle Association pointed out that “Seattle voters sent a clear message earlier this month that they want city government to prioritize addressing homelessness and improving public safety.” Needless to say, further defunding of the police isn’t exactly what they had in mind.
But, as KOMO reports, the progressives running the city seem not to care.
Angélica Cházaro from Decriminalize Seattle said: “I want to live in a city equipped to address the current and coming crises without resorting to armed cops to protect the rich at the expense of the poor.”
Yes, it’s the same old progressive line: the police protect the “rich” and ignore the “poor.” That’s so much bunk. When it comes to violent crime, the poor are far more likely to be victims than anyone else, so reduced police presence means greater danger to the poor. As to property crime, take a look at the City Council meeting shown by “Seattle is Dying.” No, those people screaming at council members aren’t the “rich.” They’re everyday people desperate to lead sane lives in a deeply dysfunctional city.
But, in case you thought Seattle’s progressives had learned a lesson from the last election, think again. Cházaro once more:
Our cross-movement coalition helped us secure a defund of SPD two-years in a row, and we’ll be back for more.
One of those police defunders was current mayor, Jenny Durkan. She lost her bid for re-election and seems to have gotten the message.
“Now is not the time to both be cutting officers also but every time council acts, they’re telling officers that are here today if they’re valued or not,” said Mayor Durkan. “Mayor-elect Harrell ran on adding more officers and I’m trying to set him up for success as much as I can.”
Mayor-elect Harrell was opposed by Councilwoman M. Lorena Gonzales who was then and is now an enthusiastic defunder. Voters gave Harrell, whose campaign promised more police and effective law enforcement, a landslide 62%-38% victory. Needless to say, Gonzales learned nothing, three weeks later voting again to defund.
This is all good. The more progressives cling to their favorite mythologies, the more they alienate voters and the more predictable and painful will be their thrashing at the ballot box and in the court of public opinion.