In a recent interview, Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez, who presided over the city being thrust into national and international headlines for nightly riots, spiking crime, defunding the police and an armed occupation of a neighborhood, defended the council’s actions and even blamed the city’s crime on COVID.
VICE said to Gonzalez, “…it seems like everyone's unhappy.” Gonzalez responded “In my line of business that's politics. When everybody is unhappy, you probably did something right.”
Gonzalez added that she intends on staying the course of continuing to defund the Seattle Police Department. “You know, I would have wanted to see something happen faster and… be bigger. But at the end of the day, it would be difficult to in one budget cycle, undo 400 years of institutionalized racism and a police station.”
Unfortunately, Gonzalez appears not to be knowledgeable on her local history as Seattle was founded in 1865 and SPD was established in 1869. Rather, she seems to be reciting talking points from the now debunked information from the 1619 project which alleges that America really began with slavery in 1619 was built through "systemic racism."
Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan told The Post Millennial, "Falsely claiming that four hundred years of institutionalized racism, for the Seattle Police Department is so incredibly misguided, tragically false and grossly hypocritical that uttering any form of analysis of those words is exhausting."
Solan continued, "Just days before George Floyd… Councilwoman Gonzalez applauded the Seattle Police Department as being a model police agency. A police agency that was boasted by our elected officials at that time as the benchmark for constitutional policing, training and de-escalation tactics. For her to now spew this nonsensical rhetoric about the great men and women of SPD is appalling. And yet it’s not surprising due to the level of unreasonable activism the city council currently governs this city by."
VICE asked the Council President what she thought the Seattle Police Department should look like. Gonzalez answered, "We have asked police to solve homelessness. Affordable housing issues, mental health crisis, and substance use issues and poverty…policing is not the solution to those issues. And so we need to, with the scalpel approach, begin the process of taking those duties and tasks away from the policing system and put them into the proper systems that have been getting defunded for years now. So now it's time to flip that script."
This summer, the council defunded the Navigation Team, which consisted of officers, social workers and Waste Management employees, who would offer shelter and services to people living on the streets of the city. The council voted to replace the team with only social workers with no police protection.
In a cruel twist of fate, as the council was cutting the police budget by an additional eighteen percent, a social worker was stabbed to death at the site where the worker provided services to the homeless, by one of her clients.
Before the defunding, Navigation Team reports show that over eighty percent of the people they encounter on the streets have a substance abuse issue. Gonzalez and the council have budgeted money in the 2021 budget for heroin injection sites, rather than treatment. Recent studies have demonstrated that injection sites in North America, create more crime and lead to more overdose deaths.
VICE was curious how Gonzalez and the council pledged a fifty percent cut to SPD but only managed a number far below that. Gonzalez responded, "I, and so many of my colleagues did make a sincere commitment to… defund the police department by at least 50 percent... we realized that they had spent most of their budget for the year and fifty percent would be hard to do without completely abolishing the police department."
Gonzalez continued, "…we also came up with a realization of how extremely powerful the police guild is as it relates to protecting the budget and the personnel of the police department. It’s going to take us awhile to unravel those things so that we can actually make more deeper reductions to the police budget …first and foremost, how can we prevent the police department from continuing to grow? We reduced their hiring budget by about $6.1 million in the form of transferring divisions out of the police department to make them a true civilian function. So, it's a combination of cuts and transfers that led to a 20% reduction of the police department's budget… it's about recognizing that there is value in our black and Brown and indigenous neighbors and community members."
As a result of the armed occupation of the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle during race riots, crime spiked over five hundred percent. Since the council began defunding SPD, the homicide numbers have more than doubled those in 2019.
VICE took notice of those statistics and asked, "Is there a danger of defunding the police before these other programs that are supposed to fill that gap before they're built up fully? Is there a risk to public safety?"
Gonzalez claimed that the spike was due to the pandemic. "…we are dealing with all of this amidst, a global pandemic that has created mass historic levels of unemployment and, and has increased poverty for many people… I think that that oftentimes results in an increase in crime because people are trying to survive and we have as a country and as a city criminalized being poor, I want to be mindful of that, but I also want to be mindful of the fact that there are victims to serious crimes in our city."
In a statement the The Post Millennial, Solan addressed the Council President’s claims. "The Seattle Police Officers Guild is comprised of a diverse membership that reflects Seattle’s values. We work hard to protect the hours, wages and working conditions for our union. We also take great pride in protecting the reputations of the human beings that do the job of policing in Seattle. As the president of this union, I take pride in the professional working relationship that SPOG has with the department’s sworn and civilian administrators in police accountability and any other areas pertaining to protecting our CBA. If councilwoman Gonzalez wants us to be 'partners' moving forward, perhaps she can “flip the script” with her council’s nonsensical activism toward undermining Seattle’s reasonable populace of their public safety rights and the council’s incessant strive to politically malign the great men and women that police our city. Until that time, the fantastic human beings that protect our community will continue to be that 'model' police agency despite the council’s constant politicization of the profound public safety issues of which they created, that is sadly swallowing our entire community."