The Case for #NoNewCops in the 2021 Seattle Budget

The Case for a 2021 Hiring Freeze

The uprising in defense of Black lives this summer has forced a reckoning with the role of policing in Seattle. If we are truly reckoning with how to build healthy and safe communities, we must question whether hiring new police officers will help us reach that goal. The 2021 budget Mayor Durkan sent to Council includes funding for hiring 114 officers in 2021. The Seattle Police Department is forecasting 89 resignations/retirements in 2021. By including funding for 114 officers, the Mayor expects Council to sign off on a budget that funds both the replacements for the 89 officers who leave the force AND 25 additional officers on top of that. Instead of acquiescing to the Mayor’s proposal, Council should pull the $9 million from SPD’s 2021 budget (the equivalent of the hiring budget for those 114 new officers). This is the only move remotely in line with a veto-proof majority of Council pledging to defund SPD by at least 50% only a few months ago. 

Why should Council pull the $9 million hiring budget from the budget and reinvest those funds in community solutions? 

A hiring freeze is in line with a scale-up of community-designed and implemented responses to harm. A hiring freeze would halt the replacement of officers who will be leaving the department over the course of the coming year (not all at once). It would immediately inject an extra $9 million into building up community-based responses to harm. Added to the $10 million dollars already earmarked for this purpose, the $19 million would be a meaningful investment into scaling up community groups to address situations that have previously been under the purview of SPD. The scale-up of community solutions (which already exist, but have been under-funded) can and should coincide with the scale-down of SPD. The hiring freeze is a modest but necessary step in the scale-down. 

An investment in new officers exceeds the $9 million budgeted this year. It includes the cost of training, recruitment and retention bonuses, equipment and uniforms, salaries for this year and beyond, health benefits, and eventually, a pension. Additionally, it includes the cost of required supervisors for police officers, and the costs of addressing any misconduct (settlements, legal fees, etc.) an officer may produce during their tenure. When considering a hiring freeze, we are also considering freezing long-term investments in a model of policing that has failed to produce true health and safety, particularly for Black communities. 

Prior budgets have over-funded SPD past the number of officers they could hire. Council members resisting cutting the hiring budget may point to the vacant positions already being defunded and abrogated. While this is a step in the right direction, it can’t be the stopping point. What other city department has been funded for 150 positions over those it could fill? What SPD is receiving this year is a budget that matches their staffing – this should have always been the case. Meeting the challenge of this moment requires going beyond defunding already vacant positions – it means actively making moves to shrink the department by removing the hiring budget for the year. 

Until this year, SPD has received nearly ¼ of the City’s General Fund. They have received more money than 25 other city departments combined, including the departments charged with housing, education, city planning and community development, labor standards, economic development, sustainability and the environment, and immigrants and refugee affairs. Including funding for 114 new police officers sends the wrong message at a time when Seattle is grappling with the outsized police budget and the harmful impact of policing, a public health crisis, and a massive looming recession. It is the opposite of commitments publicly made by Council members at the height of this summer’s uprising. 

There is no justification for leaving money in the budget for 114 new officers, when we don’t even have a nurse in each of our public schools.  There are so many urgent unmet needs in our city, and none of those needs can be met with 114 new police officers. They can start to be met with more school nurses, more counselors, more housing, more community health workers, etc.. Continuing to invest in hiring and training new police recruits at a time when we are finally taking on the task of rethinking what will create true health and safety for all Seattleites takes us in the wrong direction. The Council approved $3 million towards Black-led research this Fall to let us know what actually creates true community safety. Let’s listen to the results, and invest accordingly. 

New police recruits can’t guarantee a change in SPD’s culture of violence and anti-Blackness, and don’t change the role of police. Some council members may be wary of a hiring freeze because of a desire to attract new recruits, particularly women and BIPOC, as older officers retire and “bad apples” are laid off. This presumes that the problems with policing can be addressed through more diversity in the ranks of sworn officers. However, a look at the challenges facing other police forces that more closely match the demographics of their populations (including those of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Baltimore) prove this to be a false assumption. The problem is not a lack of diversity in policing, the problem is structural racism inherent to policing. 

Seattle is at a crossroads. Will we continue to invest in failed policing, or will we accept the challenge before us to invest in a new paradigm of health and safety for all? The Homeless Remembrance Project, who track deaths of our homeless neighbors in King County, report that thirteen homeless people died outside, in a public place or by violence, in the period of October 21st to November 9th alone. That brings the total to 119 deaths this year. Would 114 new police officers have stopped those deaths? Hiring new police officers wrongly presumes that they can fill the role of nurses, social workers, housing specialists, mental health workers, drug treatment providers, etc.  We don’t need SPD to keep hiring to replace cops who leave the force. We need to follow the lead of community members who have said enough is enough, and fully invest in a new paradigm of health and safety for all. 


Deaths of homeless neighbors in King County:

“Bad apples” are not the problem with the police (so new “diverse” officers aren’t the fix):

Police Diversity is Not the Answer:

SPD’s budget compared to other uses of the general fund:

Decriminalize Seattle Response to Mayor Durkan’s Executive Order 2020-10

In response to widespread and growing calls to defund the Seattle Police Department by at least 50%, Mayor Durkan issued an Executive Order announcing the creation of two new formations of city employees (a “Community Safety Workgroup” and an “SPD Function Analysis Interdepartmental Team”). We demand that the Mayor stop wasting our time with the fatal combination of liberal rhetoric and bureaucratic delay tactics. 

  1. The Executive Order represents an inexcusable obstruction tactic. We don’t need months of study by city employees to tell us policing has failed to keep us safe. We have all the evidence we need. Looking at the use of force complaints from this summer’s uprising alone paints a picture of a violent, out-of-control police force. We could fill libraries with the available evidence that police don’t keep Black communities safe. The evidence shows that the criminal punishment system targets BIPOC at every level – from who is surveilled, to who is arrested, to who is kept in jail pending prosecution, to who is ultimately prosecuted and imprisoned. The evidence shows that the City has invested billions in violent policing systems that hurt us, while our neighbors remain houseless, and while basic needs remain unmet. As we face COVID-19 and an economic crash that includes an impending eviction crisis, all of which falls most harshly on Black communities, the City must transfer money out of the policing system that makes everything worse and into housing, income support, childcare and health care.
  2. The Executive Order lacks any actual commitments to change that would materially benefit Black and Indigenous people. As designed, nothing can come of this order but yet another set of anemic reformist recommendations, which will be packaged as somehow new, despite the fact that previous calls for reform, regulation, training, and community accountability have failed. What’s more, even a cursory review of recent task forces and interdepartmental work groups shows the Mayor’s pattern of ignoring recommendations. These kinds of task forces are delay tactics aimed at demobilizing the uprising in defense of Black lives by pretending to address it, while ensuring that no material change takes place. 
  3. The Executive Order splits the divestment conversation from the investment conversation. The conversation about what investments are needed to build real safety and well-being in Black communities must be integrated with the conversation on divesting from policing. Police target poor people, and most “crime” prosecuted in Seattle is a result of poverty. If people had housing, we would not have special teams of cops to harass and sweep homeless encampments. The Mayor’s attempts to split the conversations, by creating this Executive Order on the one hand, and a separate (equally problematic) taskforce to distribute $100 million for Black community members, reveals her lack of commitment to truly reckon with the role police play in Seattle, and what investments would be needed to build true safety. Investments that are not coupled with divestments from government functions that shorten the lifespans of our Black and Brown community are the wrong approach.
  4. The Executive Order puts the wrong set of people at the table. It calls on the very individuals who have been responsible for creating and sustaining the current policing system, and who have vigorously resisted every effort at reform and accountability, to be put in charge of “reimagining” their role. It calls on the same people who have disproportionately harmed Black and Indigenous communities to set the agenda, and influence and direct the outcome of the process. Every prior attempt at reform has been met with extreme resistance by the Seattle Police Department and the Police Officer’s Guild. Even with three City-funded groups charged with creating accountability (Community Police Commission, Office of the Inspector General for Public Safety, Office of Police Accountability), this summer has shown we are farther than ever from curbing police violence or changing police behavior in this City. We know that the Seattle Police Department will not recommend defunding themselves. The Mayor must stop pretending otherwise. 
  5. The results of the process will be a reflection of the Mayor’s perspective – and she’s made clear she’s dismissive of the movement to divest from policing in defense of Black lives. City employees assigned to the work group and interdepartmental team serve at the pleasure of the mayor. Given these power dynamics, what’s most likely to come out of this is a repackaging of reforms that have already been tried and failed, both here and elsewhere. Even if transformative ideas somehow get developed through this process, they may never see the light of day because the Mayor has made clear her opposition to the movement to divest from policing, and she does not have to accept any of the proposals made by the work group/interdepartmental team delay tactic.
  6. The Executive Order is designed to divert attention away from community-designed and led processes already generating real plans for creating true public health and safety. If the Mayor really wanted to do something helpful, she would direct city agencies to offer technical support to this fall’s Black community-led research and next spring’s participatory budgeting. Instead of backing community-led and designed-processes, the Mayor has rejected community voices every step of the way. She vetoed the bills proposing the modest initial divestments and investments, including investments in Black-led research. She insists on running the show so she can set the priorities herself, revealing the Executive Order as yet another power play. 

The bottom line is: the Executive Order to reimagine policing and safety will do more harm than good. For many in Seattle’s Black community, the ask is not to reimagine safety; it is to imagine safety for the first time. The process of imagining and creating safety for the first time will be doomed to failure if it is trusted to the same actors who have defended and supported the racist status quo. The work to imagine safety for the first time has already begun. It’s time for the Mayor to get on board. 

The impossible task of rooting out anti-Black racism from the Seattle Police Department was always too large for any one person: Decrim & KCEN on Chief Best’s resignation

The Seattle Police Department has a long and storied history of anti-Black violence. Unfortunately, but rather predictably, this violence did not relent under Police Chief Carmen Best. Racism is built into the very structure of policing. The impossible task of rooting out anti-Black racism from the Seattle Police Department was always too large for any one person. 

Chief Best’s public resignation comes soon after the Seattle City Council’s first votes towards divesting from SPD and investing in a new paradigm that values all Black lives. Our goal has never been to oust Chief Best. Rather, we have organized to draw attention to the limits and false promises of individualized reforms for ending police violence. We know that only deep structural change – not the resignation and replacement of any single person – will protect Black lives and stop racist policing. This fight is about rethinking how we achieve public safety in this city for Black communities, and acknowledging that continuing to pour money into policing will not get us there. 

Our movement will remain centered on the lived experiences and conditions of Black communities. Accordingly, while Black representation in leadership positions is critical and necessary, it must be meaningfully connected to improving the lived experiences and conditions of the Black community. 

We know that anti-racism is not about diversifying the police and lifting up Black women or anyone else to head SPD. We celebrate the movement in defense of Black lives and we recommit to the work ahead to generate safety for all people in Seattle. The Seattle Police Department – and our city’s entire approach to achieving real public safety – requires wholesale structural change. Fortunately, there is a community-driven process under way to address this very issue. We encourage the Mayor and Council to endorse the overwhelmingly-supported BIPOC-led community process towards true public safety for all Seattle residents.

Dear Satterberg and O’Donnell: Regarding the Cruel and Unusual Punishment of Children of Color

A Public Letter to King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg & Judge O’Donnell 

Regarding the Cruel and Unusual Punishment of Children of Color (Auto-Declines)

Dear Mr. Satterberg and Judge O’Donnell,

We write to you as community members who are deeply concerned with the ways in which auto-decline prosecution disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) youth. We echo the demands and spirit of the No New Youth Jail movement advocated by community members and the legal community. Incarceration is not rehabilitative, it is cruel and harmful for anyone, much less for children and youth. In fact on Thursday August 6th, Judge O’Donnell will sentence James and Jerome Taafulisia, who were auto-declined at 16 and 17 years old respectively. Despite the lack of consideration of their youthfulness in the initial filing of charges in Superior Court, we hope the court’s sentencing can recognize the two as children at the time of offense. That they too, are victims and survivors of conditions they had no control over as children. 

The courageous protests led by Black communities nationwide against state sanctioned murder and violence has led to several declarations deploring the racism of the criminal legal system by elected officials. In Washington State, Supreme Court judges have recognized the injustice of the system they oversee. Most recently, King County Executive Dow Constantine has declared that he intends to pursue Zero Youth Detention and depopulate the youth jail by 2025, recognizing how it is rooted in “systems of oppression.” 

Lost in the current discussion, is the terrifying phenomenon of children and youth being sentenced as adults through a process called “auto-decline.” Washington courts have sentenced children of color as young as 13 years old to face lifetimes in prisons. At 16 years old, they are automatically referred to adult court to face exorbitant sentences. This form of sentencing emerges from the 1990s racist criminalization of Black and other youth of color as inherently criminal “superpredators.” Continuing in this spirit of dehumanizing children is completely contrary to the message and spirit of the recent declarations by politicians. 

In 2017,  Black youth make up 48% of the 16 and 17 year olds charged in King County adult courts. Statewide data also reveal alarming statistics, with non-Hispanic whites making up a disproportionate 26.2% of youth who are auto-declined while youth of color make up 68.5% of such cases. 

Brain science has revealed that children are categorically different from adults. Children’s frontal lobes that govern impulse control, judgment and decision making are still forming. To charge and sentence them as adults amounts to cruel and unusual punishment for youth. Furthermore, children who find themselves in such predicaments are often exposed to trauma, violence and poverty, among other systemic forms of oppression. Rather than prioritizing the healing and support of children and youth who have undergone insurmountable trauma in their youth, your office and the criminal legal system chooses instead to dehumanize and punish them to lifetimes of incarceration. The complicity of state institutions such as DCYF, CPS, DSHS and the foster care system cannot be erased from the contexts in which these children of color find themselves perpetuating harm.

There are community-led strategies targeted at youth who have caused harm. Culturally competent and compassionate approaches led by community organizations locally have proven successful and effective in holding children and youth accountable while upholding their humanity. 

James and Jerome Taafulisia are two youth of color who will be sentenced in King County Superior Court Judge O’Donnell’s courtroom on August 6th. These two youth were charged as adults for their involvement in the events that led to the deaths of James Tran and Jeanine Zapata in the area known as “the Jungle” in 2016. They were 16 years old and 17 years old respectively, and had been subject to neglect perpetuated by the state’s foster care and social services systems. In fact, they were houseless and living in the outskirts of the Jungle, as wards of the State when the tragedy unfolded.

Sentencing these children as adults is unjust, cruel and racist.  We call on your office to immediately cease auto-decline and sentencing children as a systemic practice. Charging children and sentencing them to incarceration is unjust as is, charging them as adults is further cruel and unusual punishment. 

We hold you, Dan Satterberg, the leadership and judiciary system of King County to do the work of undoing “systems of oppression” that the criminal legal systems have perpetuated. We call on you to rectify the violence done to Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities and cease with the racist and harmful practice of auto-declines that allows for the sentencing of our young community members as adults. 


King County Executive Dow Constantine 

King County Prosecutor’s Office Deputy Chief of Staff Carla Lee

King County Council Member Rod Dembowski

King County Council Member Girmay Zahilay

King County Council Member Kathy Lambert

King County Council Member Jeanne Kohl-Welles

King County Council Member Dave Upthegrove

King County Council Member Claudia Balducci

King County Council Member Pete bon Reichbauer

King County Council Member Joe McDermott


 Asian Pacific Cultural Awareness Group (APICAG)

Creative Justice

COVID 19 Mutual Aid

Community Passageways

Decriminalize Seattle 

Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together (FIGHT)

Murdered and Missing Indigenous People (MMIP)

Progress Pushers


Watch the Defund SPD Teach-In: Breaking Down the 4 Point Plan

Pinkish-orange background with black bold lettering saying "Defund SPD Community Teach In" on the left top of the image. Lower right corner has a pen illustration drawing a line.

If you missed our Defund SPD Teach-in, where we break down our 4-point plan for community reinvestment, check it out here:

To access the slides from today’s presentation directly, go here:

If you’d like to provide input into the process for executing the four-point plan, fill out this survey.

Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now Statement on Durkan/Best July 13th Press Conference

The tide has definitively turned towards divesting from the Seattle Police Department and investing in real community health and safety. Our communities deserve better than failed, violent, militarized, and racist SPD practices. At this morning’s press conference,  Mayor Durkan relied on fear-mongering and outdated talking points to distract from the four-point plan Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now have presented, and that a majority of City Council members are supporting. 

To reiterate, we demand that immediate divestments from SPD’s remaining 2020 budget be reinvested in (1) development of a civilian-controlled 911 system, (2) scaling up community-based responses to crises that restore and build health and safety, (3) funding a community-led research process to develop a roadmap for life beyond policing, and (4) making investments in housing to support immediate survival needs. There is resounding support for these measures. The path forward requires significant investments that should be funded via significant police budget divestments from law enforcement practices we know cause harm and do not make our communities safer.  

For years, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community members and organizations have been working to push community-led alternatives to the life-threatening status quo. Now is not the time to distract from the urgent and clear demands from community. Even as the Mayor and the Chief of Police scramble to derail progress with their divisive rhetoric, we will continue to invest the time and energy in defense of Black lives to implement this four-point plan. We call on elected officials to do more than just listen to our BIPOC community. They must back our vision with action, investments, and support.  

7/3 Free Them All Rally – Political Education Resources

Collectively advancing our political education and showing up to rage and celebrate together in the streets is integral to victory in the fight against police brutality and for Black liberation.

We send deep gratitude to the cultural workers who energize us today and always. Cultural work and art is embedded and instrumental to every social movement in humxn hxstory. There are always attempts by the state to quell or suppress community artistry and cultural work, whether it be music, dance, or hxstorical narratives. 

In Trinidad, state sanctioned oppression literally took instruments away from citizens and as a result, improvisation and creativity of locals brought about Calypso music. Throughout Latinx Amerika the martial art of  Capoeira was disguised as dancing and used by Afrikans who were enslaved to train and keep their Afrikan cultural and spiritual connections. During the Khmer Rogue in Cambodia/Srok Khmer, the first main targets of the violence was directed at cultural workers, artists, musicians, educators and those who knew hxstory. 

This is why art is necessary in movement building. Art and artists tell the stories of hxstory in a way the media will not, in ways that we know is even more powerful. Arm yourselves with knowledge and culture. Hxstory only repeats itself because we aren’t listening. 

Until we share the streets again, read up, rest up, and keep fighting.

Safety + Security: Safety Tips for Protesters:
Security Culture Basics:

Grand Juries: FAQs:
“What You Should Know about Grand Juries””
More info on the history of grand juries and stories of grand jury resistance:

Policing and Counter-Insurgency: “Why Misogynists Make Great Informants”

“Slave Patrols and Civil Servants: A History of Policing in Two Modes:

Excerpts from Malcom X speech on police brutality + Decrim Seattle statement on the “good protestor/bad protestor” narrative:

Abolition: Excerpts from “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police”:

“If You’re New to Abolition: Study Group Guide”:

Cultural Work as Resistance: Art from the Black Panthers and statements by Emory Douglas, Jordan Casteel, and Fahamu Pecou:

Dear Pete Holmes and Dan Satterberg, #DropAllCharges

Today Decriminalize Seattle along with others sent this open letter to to City Attorney Pete Holmes and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to demand they drop all charges of those arrested in relation to the George Floyd protests. Read and share! Click here for the PDF version.

Dear Pete Holmes and Dan Satterberg,

We write to demand that both of your offices, the City Attorney’s Office and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, drop all charges and not file any additional charges subsequently against those targeted and arrested by the various police departments, including the Seattle Police Department, during the George Floyd protests starting from May 29th to the present. 

From May 29th to early weeks of June, the Seattle Police Department, with support from Renton, Bellevue, Burien, King County Sheriff’s Office and other departments across the county, engaged in reckless and dangerous retaliation against everyday people to repress protests.  As of early morning, July 2, 2020, the Seattle Police Department has arrested up to 65 protesters and used mace, rubber bullets and other violent means to push people out of CHOP, the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest at the East Precinct.  They denied press access, threatened to arrest reporters, knelt on the necks of protesters, and also continued the cowardly act of covering their badges while enacting such violence. This overt and public display of brutality is characteristic of police conduct since May 29th, aimed at repressing the #BlackLivesMatter uprising. 

We have recently learned that the arrested protesters are being interviewed by the FBI while they are held in police custody. Though they are presented as “informal” interviews, the coercive effect of these interviews cannot be underestimated, especially because they are presented at a time of extreme vulnerability and distress for the arrestees. Sending in the FBI to interview protesters has a chilling effect on free speech, and thus is a violation of the First Amendment rights. Such blatant collaboration between local law enforcement and Trump’s federal law enforcement further signals the depth of both your office’s hypocrisy in supporting protester’s right to free speech.

The rebellion in Seattle is a local manifestation of a nationwide uprising driven by outrage at the unceasing murder, violence, and oppression of Black People (relentlessly perpetrated, generation after generation, by the police). In King County, during the last ten years alone, police have killed, among others: John T. Williams, Charleena Lyles, Che Taylor, Demarius Butts, Oscar Perez Giron, Renee Davis, MiChance Dunlap Gittens, Tommy Lee, Shaun Fuhr and Marcello Castellano. 

Dan Satterberg: Your office has not charged a SINGLE officer for these killings.

Instead, both of your offices insist on driving a wedge between what is being framed as “good” and “peaceful” protesters, and what you claim are “violent” “non-peaceful” protesters.  Both of you have released public statements declaring support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement by dropping charges against what you perceive to be “peaceful” and “non-violent” protests while continuing to persecute other responses to state violence.

Your actions criminalize  the righteous rage of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) communities, by declaring some kinds of protests legitimate and legal. You then isolate other acts, predominantly damages on property, as illegal and dangerous. In the meantime, you provide cover for law enforcement, police terror, and state sanctioned violence. 

To add insult to injury, your offices are participating in the continued violence against BIPOC individuals and communities. On January 16, 2020 the Seattle City Attorney’s office filed a lawsuit against King County’s attempts to hold community reviews, otherwise known as inquest proceedings, around the deaths of community members like Damarius Butts, Isaiah Obet, and Charleena Lyles and any other individuals killed by police officers in King County. It wasn’t until June 9, 2020 after weeks of political protests against police violence, that the Seattle City Attorney’s office dismissed its lawsuit. However, by then other law enforcement agencies had joined Seattle’s lawsuit and now the challenge that Seattle started to the inquest process still continues.

Your offices are part of a broader system of racist repression toward BIPOC communities. Apart from your condonement of police murders in the City and County, your offices also play a role in preventing Inquests procedures from proceeding. 

In addition, queer and trans individuals have been known to be severely mistreated in the King County Jail. Trans, genderqueer and non binary individuals are incarcerated in solitary confinement simply for their gender expression and identity. 

The violence of the jail, the police and the criminal legal system that your offices oversee, is immensely more disruptive, dangerous and harmful to human life than the property damage that some protesters may have done in the last month. 

We demand that all charges be dropped against all protestors. Specifically, cases should also be closed to prevent future attempts to file them. Additionally, no new charges should be filed against the protesters. Instead, we ask you to show your real support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement by holding police accountable for violence against residents.


Decriminalize Seattle
COVID 19 Mutual Aid
No New Youth Jail
& other community organizations and individual partners