Rantz: Seattle councilmembers feigned police support before ‘defund police’
The Seattle City Council is suddenly attacking the Seattle Police Department by supporting the defund police movement. But previously, when they needed the votes in the last election, some councilmembers pretended to support law enforcement. One even sought preferential treatment from the police.
The council currently holds veto-proof support of a dangerous defund Seattle police movement, which aims to cut the budget by 50% without a concrete plan. All we know is they want community rights groups to take the place of police and move the 911 call center to civilian control.
Not everyone on the council treated police with such venom in the past. Indeed, two newly elected councilmembers campaigned on hiring more cops. Now, they want to cut their budget in half.
Phony Seattle police support before defund movement?
When Councilmember Dan Strauss was running for office, he knew the concerns of Ballard residents. They were sick of the criminal homelessness crisis worsening. His future Ballard constituents wanted more police to patrol their streets.
When asked by The Seattle Times if he supported more officers on the force, he said yes. Months later, as he courted the police vote, Strauss expanded on that, saying we needed another precinct to serve North Seattle, arguing we must hire more officers.
“We’ve got some of the best trained police officers in our state and it’s oftentimes why other districts try to poach our officers,” he said during a Seattle Police Officer’s Guild candidate forum.
Now, in order to ingratiate himself with the activist class he hopes will keep him in power, Strauss villainizes police.
Then-candidate Andrew Lewis made the same claims of support to The Seattle Times, as he took on former police chief Jim Pugel. At the SPOG forum, Lewis offered his thanks to the police officers in attendance for their service, saying he’s proud of the dignity and courage of police.
“We need to hire more police officers in the city,” Lewis then declared. “I see on a daily basis that there’s parts of our city where we don’t have the staffing numbers to have effective community policing strategies and deter the kinds of crimes of opportunity that are prolific.”
Now, Strauss and Lewis stand to fire as many as 1,100 staff members from the department, handing over positions to untrained, ideologically driven community activist groups that oversaw the death and chaos at the CHOP.
Incumbent Councilmember Lisa Herbold claims to respect the police, backing a plan to grow the SPD by 200 officers, though she has never been outwardly pro-police. Indeed, she tried to gut the Navigation Team — a specialized group of SPD and social workers connecting homeless with resources.
Still, Herbold wasn’t above using her privilege as a councilmember to seek special treatment from the department she now aims to dismantle.
When a derelict RV was parked in front of her home in October 2019, Herbold personally texted Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best for assistance.
City leaders usually get the courtesy of Chief Best’s cell given they’re involved in unique security concerns as public officials. This makes sense. But as I wrote at the time:
This call wasn’t due to a threat, but something everyday citizens deal with on a regular basis, without the luxury of a personal call to the chief. Herbold’s constituents have repeatedly asked for something to be done about derelict RVs in front of their homes and businesses, with little meaningful response thanks to the Council limiting the work police are allowed to do to engage with the homeless. When Herbold was directly impacted, she was afforded the special privilege of contacting the chief directly.
Best didn’t give Herbold special treatment. She told the councilmember to call the non-emergency line, which is what she should have done from the start.
It’s hard to tell if Strauss or Lewis lied to voters when they portrayed themselves as pro-police. Strauss seems imminently untrustworthy. Lewis came off to me as honest and less extreme than he’s become, so maybe I misjudged him. Herbold was never pro-police. She was not shy, however, to try to use her privilege for special treatment.
So, what changed? Nothing locally.
After the murder of George Floyd, departments across the country were under siege, including here in Seattle. The SPD was ordered to protect the East Precinct from a specific threat, according to the FBI. But this created an opportunity for all of these councilmembers to expand their base and stay in power.
So what changed?
Strauss, Lewis, and Herbold — along with five of their colleagues — saw a specific movement to jump on. If handled right, it could propel both their careers and their fringe ideologies forward. Strauss and Lewis are young, fresh faces to the council. Throwing cops under the bus to prove to an activist class that they’re one of them? It’s worth it when it means they stay in office for years to come.
Herbold doesn’t want another uncertain election, so the support from activists will help. Some of the other candidates? It’s easy to see what they’re up to. Socialist Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales are rigid socialists who financially benefit from the young Socialists Alternative cult-like members they exploit. They simply don’t like cops, so this is easy for them. And Councilmembers Lorena Gonzales and Teresa Mosqueda both seek higher offices (King County Executive and Mayor, respectively). This only helps their campaigns.
But what do everyday Seattleites get? Perhaps we grow jaded in how fringe the council has become. But more worrisome, we get a city that will see the CHOP expand from a six block radius to every Seattle neighborhood. And with that, I suppose Seattle gets the government it deserves.
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