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.