No longer downplaying Seattle’s uptick in violence as another “summer of love,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is now calling for the city to hire more police officers and rebuild its depleted police force. Over the weekend, four people were killed and seven were injured in six separate shootings across the city.
The total number of shootings in the King County area is up by 33 per cent compared to the same period between 2017 and 2020. The total number of people shot has already gone up by 61 per cent compared to the same time period in previous years.
The Seattle police force has seen almost 300 resignations and transfers out to other departments following widespread calls to “defund the police” and “abolish the police” following the George Floyd protests last summer.
"As a city, we cannot continue on this current trajectory of losing police officers," Durkan said at a Monday press conference. "Over the past 17 months, the Seattle Police Department has lost 250 police officers which is the equivalent of over 300,000 service hours. We’re on path to losing 300 police officers."
Durkan said that the weekend violence was a “reminder” that there are, in fact, situations that require the presence of police officers, while downplaying the city’s redirecting of funds to community-based policing efforts away from real police.
"We are creating meaningful alternatives," Durkan said, referencing the city’s redirection of funds and manpower to community-oriented groups. "But, as I said last year, the city has an obligation to still continue constitutional policing and respond to 911 calls.”
"It is a false choice between community-led solutions and police officers," Durkan said. "We need both."
The mayor said that she planned to submit a proposal to hire more police officers and rebuild the depleted force.
"Not unexpected, losing this number of officers, when city leaders talk about cutting the department by 50%," Durkan said. "You will lose employees. Families need security. Workers, even police officers, need working conditions that support them. We cannot just cut. We need a plan."
Last summer, Seattle became the first city to see the establishment of an Antifa-run “autonomous zone” within its Capitol Hill neighbourhood, which prohibited police and emergency workers from attending to emergency calls in the area amid nationwide protests against the police. The location saw multiple murders and numerous acts of violence, which remain unresolved.
At the onset of the autonomous zone’s establishment, Durkan downplayed the takeover and angered local residents by calling it a “block party” amid the “summer of love.” Durkan, like other progressive officials, refused to send police into the area and reestablish control.
Durkan, a Democrat, fought against the city council on police funding but ultimately vetoed a resolution attempting to strip the department of its budget.
Many police officers resigned or transferred to other departments in the months thereafter, citing a lack of support from the city government. Seattle’s police chief Carmen Best quit her position last August, and later called out the media for downplaying the violence in the city, Rebel News reported.