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Expect Seattle police defunded 'by 50 percent ideally' says Seattle council member

caption: Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda.
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Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda.
Courtesy of Jamie Rand Imaging/Jamie Colman

Teresa Mosqueda, a Seattle City Council member, called for a radical dismantling of the Seattle Police Department on Monday.

"We are not going to pass the mayor’s 2020 revised budget until we as a council have a chance to have a full, thorough, and transparent deep dive into the Seattle Police Department’s funding," Mosqueda said.

What follows is a transcript of her address to her council colleagues.

We have done many things in the City of Seattle to reform public safety efforts, and I want to thank the folks, including Council President (Lorena) Gonzalez who helped to lead on the issues.

But what we’re hearing from community right now is that our residents do not feel safe in our own city from our own police.

Today, I’m using my privilege to change this.

As budget chair, I am announcing today that we will be launching an inquest into Seattle Police Department’s budget.

Unlike past practices, we are not going to nibble around the edges of the mayor’s proposed budget. This year, we are not going to pass the mayor’s 2020 revised budget until we as a council have a chance to have a full, thorough, and transparent deep dive into the Seattle Police Department’s funding.

We want this to be part of this month’s conversation around our budget as a City Council.

I expect the full cooperation of the city departments that can often only share with us what the executive has allowed them to share. And I am committed to defunding the police. To using most of that money, 50 percent ideally, to invest back into communities that we’ve failed.

Creating anti-racist, low-barrier housing options, investing in equitable transit, providing permanent supportive housing, providing housing options for survivors of domestic violence, and shelter for the thousands of people on our streets who are unsheltered.

Many people have been frustrated by the black box that is the Seattle Police current budget.

We know we have over $400 million in that bucket, and we want to know, as many councils have asked, what is the current cost going to? Specifically, what has the cost been over the last week and a half?

How much has this escalation cost us? How much have we spent on tear gas? Rubber bullets? Jailing people, like the young man who recorded the 9-year-old getting tear gassed. He was arrested and remains in jail today.

Many of us have asked what the cost is to train folks to travel to learn from other areas of the world about escalation strategies.

We want to know why we haven’t applied the lessons of the WTO? There was an inquest done, there were strategies learned, there was cost and analysis of whether or not it was the right thing to do. And just from the fiscally conservative perspective, it was the wrong thing to do when you look at how many people were paid out because the city was in the wrong.

That was during the WTO. There was a reason they stopped using CS gas (tear gas). We want to know what those lessons learned were, and why we have not implemented those mechanisms to the current budget.

We want to know how many individuals have experienced hardship and will be filing grievances against the police, and what we expect that cost to be.

But we have to recognize that defunding the police is not the end of the problem. We need to continue to invest in Black-led organizations, organizations creating change so that they can continue to hold us accountable.

Organizations like AfricaTown, which are looking at community owned property to create community owned housing.

I’m committed to doing this with all of you, and doing so by July 17 of this year, so that we can work with Seattle residents to ensure that the 2020-21, and 2021-22 budget fully reflect our community needs. … We can begin this conversation in June with suggested changes by July.

We know that we have a serious crisis in our street right now.

We are calling on the mayor and SPD to immediately cease the use of weapons against our residents or anyone who chooses to protest in this city.

If this seems drastic to you, let me tell you why we need it.

Our police department, as we have seen last night and the night before, and the night before that, is using weapons of war on our own residents.

I heard reports last night of people being three stories up and not being able to breathe because of the gas. Last week we heard the story of the 3-month-old baby who was foaming at the mouth. We heard other stories subsequently of a 6-month-old baby sitting in the hallway with its parents trying to get fresh air.

These are stories that we must respond to, and we also have to recognize that we have a budget that allows us to maintain controls over this effort.

I support the legislation being put forward today by Councilmember Kshama Sawant to ban these materials. As a budgetary item, we also have control over identifying where our dollars go to ensure that it better aligns with our values.

All of this has been sanctioned by the executive.

Just one day after we committed to no tear gas, protesters in the street experienced pepper spray. Yesterday, the executive said that she and the chief would deescalate. But last night’s headlines read that this was the most aggressive form of tactics used in the last week and a half.

Across this country, people are looking for a change. And here in Seattle, we have the opportunity for true, progressive leadership. We have headed in the opposite direction.

There are other headlines that say that as other cities go forth and deescalate, Seattle is going in the opposite direction.

Instead of working on the systems that create inequity -- municipal government is one of those systems – we turn our backs on our own residents. The responsibility of being an elected official is protecting our residents. It’s not tear gassing them, it’s not pepper spraying them. It’s not shooting rubber bullets at them.

I was on Capitol Hill on Saturday night. I want to thank the city councilmembers who were out there, and the King County council members, and the state representatives. We should not have to be out there to prevent people from getting sprayed. Councilmember Sawant was out there yesterday, and she experienced spray herself.

When is this going to stop?

Those are the emails, the calls, and text messages I’ve been receiving in the middle of the night. People just want this to stop.

I made a decision to leave my baby sleeping in her crib, because I was thinking about that individual who was experiencing the type of tear gas with their own kiddo sleeping in their crib.

We have community residents who have been writing us over the last two weeks, talking about, yeah, maybe it’s time for additional reforms. And then it went to, it is time to defund the police. And then it got to, we have got to have major radical change from the leadership because this is not working, and there needs to be change now.

I heard folks out on Saturday night who said they were happy that there were councilmembers out because they believed that it stopped the situation from escalating. But we cannot afford to put ourselves in front of Black and Brown bodies every night. Councilmember Sawant tried that last night and there was still gas.

Colleagues in Minneapolis, they’ve said that they used to believe in reform was needed, and now they are in the process to completely dismantle their police system. They’re working with Black and Brown organizations, Black and Brown community members to start from the ground up.

We have seen their council president say they knew that they needed to do more, and they are taking this effort to radically change what policing looks like and to reinvest in community.

Council colleagues, Wednesday, during our budget committee, begins that process.

Wednesday, we will get to the black box that is the Seattle Police Department’s budget.

I disagree with the mayor’s statement yesterday. She said that she thought we had the foundation to make changes on our existing system, and that it did not need to be dismantled from the ground up. I disagree. I think we need to replicate what Minneapolis has done. …

We cannot wait for others to lead. When taxpayers have had their tax dollars used against them in the form of police violence, when residents are told they cannot be on the streets they paid for, we are disconnected from Seattle.

There is a vacuum of true leadership, and colleagues, let’s fill that void. Let’s be the leaders that this moment calls for.

Leaders from communities of color have told us that a change in a figurehead without radical change is not transformation…

A number of elected officials signed onto that letter in the hopes there would be no escalation.

How many people need to write in about being gassed?

How many people have to be sprayed in the street every night?

The mayor should ask herself if she is the right leader, and resign.

We need to elevate the urgency and the scale that is needed.

The weapons that the police are using are not illegal. The tactics they’ve been trained on. We’ve allowed them as a city to grow into the entity that they are.

We have continued to invest in the very system that is being criticized. We have continued to fund them.

How are we going to take ownership of the budget?

We are going to take bold action into our own hands.

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