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King County Councilmember says executive’s budget proposal is a ‘recipe for disaster’

A demonstrator holds a U.S. flag upside down during a picket and rally outside the office of King County Executive Dow Constantine as part of the nationwide Strike For Black Lives on July 20, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

King County Executive Dow Constantine released his budget proposal for 2021-2022 to the King County Council on Tuesday.

Councilmember Reagan Dunn joined the Dori Monson Show on KIRO Radio after he picked up the briefing book, and just before the executive’s budget presentation.

“I got a chance to take a first look at the executive’s approach to fighting crime in King County, and it’s discouraging news,” Dunn said.

“It’s not going to do anything to reduce crime. It’s going to increase crime,” he added. “It’s substantially cutting the number of sheriff’s deputies that we’ll see on our streets.”

The proposal takes 12 deputies off the board right away, Dunn explained, and would not refill the positions of deputies that retire, which Dunn says could be at least 30-40 more over two years.

King County sheriff, executive to meet on proposed cuts to sheriff’s department

“A substantial number of juvenile justice officers will be cut, not refilled, because of the zero youth incarceration initiative, a good chunk of the jail will be closed because those felons that were released as a result of COVID are gone for the moment,” he said. “… The gang unit in King County will now be eliminated.”

“It’s going to be a really substantial problem for folks because as much as I like to hope that people are good, violent criminals, organized crime, criminals with mental illness, they don’t care whether a social service officer is there to talk to them or not,” Dunn added. “They’re going to do what they’re going to do, and our community is gonna be far less safe as a result of it.”

Constantine has previously discussed his proposal to phase out the youth jail and initiative for zero youth incarceration, which Dunn says is maybe aspirational but is a “terrible aspirational goal.”

“We know that there are 16- and 17-year-old young people that are some of the meanest, worst criminals in the world, they’re murderers and a lot of them end up, in some cases, killing people and raping without consequence,” he said. “If you allow that to happen, you’ve got problems. If you decriminalize what we’re doing right now, like for example, a whole chunk of … felonies are now not going to be tried or heard. … They’re gonna be sent over to diversion where there’ll be no consequences for the actions, people are just going to reoffend.”

“If I’m organized crime, you might as well hang a big sign on the Space Needle that says, ‘Hey, organized crime: Seattle is open for business. King County is open for business,'” Dunn added. “… It’s just a recipe for disaster.”

Dunn says without consequences for actions, crime will grow.

“Call me in five years if we keep this attitude towards criminal justice here, and we’ll see where we are in community safety,” he told Dori.

Constantine said in a news release that the investments in the budget illustrate that King County “puts its money where its values are.”

“This year, 2020, will surely be remembered as one of the most pivotal of our lifetimes,” Constantine said. “How we act, what we do, the choices we make, the commitments we fulfill, will define us – not only now, but to generations to come.”

Find more details about Constantine’s budget proposal online here. Follow the council’s budget process here.

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