Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best ended a thirty-year career by announcing her resignation shortly after the city passed a police budget cut—and a reduction in her pay.
Seattle City Council members voted to reduce the department’s budget by $4 million for the balance of this year (out of $170 million), which equates to a loss of 100 officers from a department of 1,400.
The council also cut the department’s budget for officer training and development, choking off the possibility of replacements. In addition, the council reduced the police chief’s salary, a move Best called “vindictive and punitive,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
Many Seattle citizens believe the cuts to the department will punish them even more than they hurt Best. A 40-year Seattle resident and chair of the Seattle Police Department’s African American Community Advisory Council, Victoria Beach expressed grave concerns to the Seattle Times.
“I’m fearful,” Beach said. “I feel like now I need to arm myself. So many of my friends are saying that.”
Living just a few blocks from the CHOP zone, Beach witnessed marchers armed with sledgehammers, neighborhoods thoroughly defaced with spray paint, and literally murderous violence. Beach says she is ready to move.
“People are going to leave Seattle and go where they feel safe,” retired Albuquerque police SWAT Sergeant Steve Rodriguez told Budget & Tax News.
Rodriguez, a former resident of Washington state, said, “I left Washington because the city is willing to give up sections of town to looters rather than protect regular citizens.”
Basing his judgment on his many years of experience in law enforcement, Rodriguez says the city’s policies will lead to disaster.
“There is going to be an inability to provide basic safety services,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what’s happening in Seattle.”
Still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent protests, riots, and establishment of the CHOP zone, Seattle residents are now being told there will be many fewer police and the city’s police chief has been driven out.
“These decisions are an embarrassment that show mind-boggling disrespect and devaluation of our police chief and that have potential impact for recruitment and retention of women and women of color in law enforcement and SPD,” writes Jacqueline Helfgott for the Seattle Times.
“Having the city’s first Black police chief get driven out, supposedly in the name of furthering Black equality, was an embarrassment for our city,” writes Danny Westneat for the Seattle Times. “But that’s what city leaders needed at this moment—they needed to get embarrassed, to be chastened or humbled a bit by their own slipshod performances. Thanks to Best, it appears that at least some of them were.”
The pay cut was orchestrated by a City Council member who has openly called for revolution, Westneat reports. Council member Kshama Sawant also proposed budget cuts that could have forced the police to eliminate its entire workforce.
“At rallies this summer, she has expressed support for completely abolishing police (to which she adds that the police’s paymaster, the capitalist system, must be taken down, too),” Westneat writes. “‘And that will only happen when we fight a revolution!’ she urged at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest in June.”
Law enforcement experts know what Seattle residents can expect next.
“The long-term implications of defunding or weakening law enforcement officers will be felt when small but constantly present evil begins to impact society, affecting every citizen,” says former Police Sergeant John Bodde. “Brutal crimes against women and children will become unfathomable and uncontrollable.”
Cities with increasing crime tend to experience a corresponding decrease in residents. And with the option of remote work rising during the coronavirus lockdowns, more people are choosing to live in places other than where they work. Surveying 371 San Francisco Bay Area tech workers, the recruitment firm Hired found 42 percent said they would move to a less expensive city if able to work remotely, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Such an exodus would have big economic implications and social ripple effects. High-tech workers in Big Tech-favored places such as San Francisco and Seattle tend to be highly compensated, so losing their income means losing a significant amount of municipal tax revenue. Seattle has already provided a strong incentive for high earners to leave, by levying a tax on employers with local employees making more than $150,000 per year, the Western Journal reports.
Crime proves costly for a community and its residents in multiple ways, as documented by a 1999 research report for the Minnesota House of Representatives which examined the full weight of costs associated with crime beyond the tangible property costs. These include medical and mental health care costs for victims and victims’ families and legal costs for individuals or families when crime occurs in their home or neighborhood.
Crime also exacts expenses on society in general, the study notes. The government may end up covering costs for injured victims through various support programs. As crime increases, government costs increase to pay for additional police officers, court services, jail cells, and victim services and support.
Many human costs are typically not calculated in assessments of the cost of crime, the Minnesota report notes.
“Most studies conclude that child victims are at increased risk of having school problems, psychological problems and delinquency problems as a result of their victimization,” the report states. “Another example is the intangible cost to victims of their continuing pain and suffering due to the criminal event and their actual or perceived lost ‘quality of life.’”
These intangible costs of crime can be considerable.
“Crime is the most burdensome, soul-crushing tax one segment of society can impose on another, law-abiding segment,” attorney Luis Robles told Budget & Tax News. “Defunding the police puts people in the hands of those who can arbitrarily impose this tax, in the form of crime. For people who don’t have much, having to fix a broken window or replace a stolen or damaged car can be onerous.”
“People who can have things taken away from them by force, they are the ones who need protection,” Robles, said. “We have to protect the weak and vulnerable.”
While reducing police funding, the Seattle City Council decided to provide $17 million in what it calls community-led safety efforts, The Wall Street Journal reports.
In a statement after Chief Best’s resignation, U.S Attorney General William Barr said, “This experience should be a lesson to state and local leaders about the real costs of irresponsible proposals to defund the police.”