Comments from Deputy Mayor Washington on public safety in Seattle

Editor’s note: This morning in a Seattle City Council public safety committee meeting, Deputy Mayor Tiffany Washington preceded two agenda items — a $12 million spending plan for community safety investments, and a $5.4 million cut to SPD’s budget — with some powerful and blunt comments that speak directly to the tensions in balancing the needs to improve community safety, reform SPD, address long-standing issues of racial equity, and continue to deliver essential services in the city.  I asked Washington for a copy of her remarks, in order that we may all reflect upon them — not necessarily to agree or disagree, but at minimum to simply recognize the Gordian knot of issues that as a city we are trying to disentangle.


Good morning Councilmembers.  Chair Herbold, thank you for inviting us to your committee today.

  • In a moment I will hand this over to Director Howell and her team to share with you the findings from the community engagement for the “Reimagine Safety” RFP.
  • I have shared this before but feel it is appropriate to do so again given the subject at hand.
  • My older brother Michael spent most of his life in prison. I remember watching him being thrown down by the police and arrested on multiple occasions. This early introduction to police caused me to grow up with a negative image of who they are and how they treat people.
  • Unfortunately, my brother was shot and died at Harborview hospital over 10 years ago. 
  • With this history in mind, please know that I care deeply about this subject matter and agree that it is necessary to pour resources into communities of color to start repairing the harm done.
  • With that said, the budget adds this year are only the beginning. We will not see significant changes for decades as the community immune system is strengthened.
  • What this funding will NOT DO is result in instant community safety.
  • You will see this theme reflected in the community engagement conducted by HSD.
  • No one is saying that they believe that they can replace a police function. What they are saying is they believe they have an important role in ensuring that their communities are safe and thriving
  • Black people were enslaved for over 400 years and cannot be expected to get “better” in a year or two as there is a lot of repair needed.
  • Reducing the police budget to invest in communities this year, will NOT result in immediate change.
  • When I call the police for help as a black woman, I have an expectation that someone will come to assist me in a reasonable amount of time.
  • This is not our current reality in the City right now. As you will see in the presentation by SPD, our citizens are not feeling safe and supported. Our police force is short staffed and that has impacted their ability to respond.
  • Yes, the institution of policing was created to keep white people in power and needs to be rebuilt, BUT, in the interim, as public servants, we are responsible to ensure that all Seattle residents feel safe and supported.


  • Let us invest in communities of color for the long term, address institutional racism and white supremacy within SPD and let us do this apart from political grand standing. This is the commitment that I and the Mayor have.



  1. “Yes, the institution of policing was created to keep white people in power and needs to be rebuilt”

    Nice to know even Jenny’s staff isn’t above fabricating things about the history of Anglo policing, which started in 1929 with the London Metropolitan Police and has roots in the night watch of Victorian England.

  2. 1) this glosses over the fact that police have always been used as a tool to protect the rich – even in 1920s England
    2) In America, the history of modern policing is hopelessly entwined in our history of slavery and Jim Crow laws meant to oppress Black Americans. From its members being in the KKK and protecting their members when they murdered innocent black man to beating people and using attack dogs on them during civil rights protests to playing a big part in arresting and imprisoning so many Black community members when the US flooded its ghettos with crack.

  3. Thank you SCC Insight for reporting these introductory statements.

    An impassioned projection of deeply felt feelings. While bridges crumble. Or worse, are closed completely to traffic due to Council mismanagement of oversight. While the majority of citizens feel abandoned while parks, roadways, neighborhood parking strips and most all of downtown fill up with debris and unaccountable citizens while our Council trumpets equity. While police officers who may NOT have family lineage to the KKK or recent support of crazy trumpsters look for jobs elsewhere.

    What exactly IS the job of our Council, our Mayor and our elected officials? How bitterly ironic the Deputy Mayors line about ‘let us stand apart from political grandstanding’. Really, just do your JOB!

  4. This elides the fact that the Deputy Mayor was making a very specific historical claim which is, as it happens, made up and not true.

    If we’re going to get rid of every institution that ever discriminated, we’d have to tear down the school system, military, Congress… basically the whole country. Which is plausibly what the Sawant crowd wants, I guess. But it would be nice the Mayor’s staff lived in reality.

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