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Do Not "Defund" SPD

Posted Friday, August 7, 2020 by Andrew Charles Huff

I live in Seattle and love our city, the people, places and history that make this area an amazing place to live. I am also a practicing criminal defense attorney in downtown.

I am fearful for the safety of my family and many others if the Seattle City Council moves forward with efforts to defund the Seattle Police Department by 50 percent. Cutting back on key law enforcement services will no doubt lead to reduced public safety and an increase in criminal activity and response times. As a growing city, the council should be increasing SPD’s budget to keep up with the demand for police services, not decreasing it. This includes basic services such as enforcing traffic laws, responding to shoplifting calls from merchants and immediate response times for more serious crimes such as burglary and assault. Recent action by the Seattle City Council included cutting mounted patrol officers, school resource officers, community outreach, Harbor Patrol, SWAT, and more. An amendment removing 14 police officers from the Navigation Team was also approved, and subsequently the city’s infrastructure for sweeping homeless encampments.

In my practice, I work with police officers from Seattle P.D. and many other agencies around the area. While naturally in an adversarial position to them as a defense attorney, I have found the high majority of these officers to be hardworking and dedicated public employees seeking to follow protocol and training standards. These men and women put their lives on the line every day when they put on a uniform and focus on protecting the public.

At the same time, I have also dealt with law enforcement who have clearly crossed the line in their decisions, either through poor training or other issues that have led to problems. These officers are dishonest in their statements or tend to push the line in terms of what is accurate and allowable. Other times and as seen recently, some officers unfortunately cannot be trusted to properly use force against others. However, this is the exception, not the norm.

From a budgetary point of view, simply deciding on an arbitrary 50-percent reduction to SPD’s budget is both reckless and nonsensical and will surely put the public at risk. Instead, councilmembers should first identify wasteful, repetitive or outdated services as a starting point for any budgetary reductions. Then in coordination with SPD begin studying and potentially reforming the training methods used for officers if such changes can lead to better trained police force.

There are changes and reforms needed in the Seattle Police Department and due to the federal oversight for the past five years, the department has made strides but more needs to be done. The answer is simply not to reduce the department’s budget in half or “defund SPD”. Otherwise, the citizens and business community of Seattle will be at risk.

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