Rantz: Seattle council readies program that may kill social workers

Aug 27, 2023, 5:57 PM

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Seattle Police arrest a woman. (Photo by Jason Redmond via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jason Redmond via Getty Images)

The city of Seattle is hiring social workers as part of a new program that removes police from policing. Instead, they’re sending social workers to be hurt or killed.

During the Black Lives Matter riots and rallies, the council hoped to defund the Seattle Police Department (SPD) by 50%. It was an irresponsible plan that resulted in the staffing crisis facing the department. So far this year, through July, the department lost 68 officers, while only hiring 41. While the council abandoned their defunding efforts, there’s another dangerous idea that the council did not abandon.

Under the Alternative Response Team pilot program, the city will send unarmed civilian mental health professionals to certain 911 calls. Six mental health community responders will respond, generally, to emergencies related to drug addiction, mental illness, environmental threats, and personal safety. Once on site, they will “determine best course for care or to recommend ongoing case management (medical care, substance use treatment, therapeutic support, etc.),” according to a job posting for the responders.

This idea is remarkably dangerous for both the social workers and the public, which will likely suffer from longer 911 operator wait and call times.

Taking police out of policing

Herbold and her colleagues crafted this program because they believe police are inherent threats to people in crisis. They naively believe that when a uniformed, armed officer shows up to a crisis call, they only make matters worse. Using misleading data claiming the majority of calls to 911 don’t need police to respond, the pilot does what it can to keep cops from responding.

“The police department will be aware of the dispatch. They may attend. They may stage nearby. Or they just may have situational awareness. Each call is going to be different,” councilmember Lisa Herbold, one of the program’s proponents, said.

The social workers do not need any background or knowledge in the criminal justice system or self-defense. In fact, they only need one year of training and education on how to work with troubled individuals; they don’t even need hands-on experience. Of course, since this is Seattle, they must vow to “dismantle racist policies and procedures,” according to the job description.

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911 pilot program will lead Seattle social workers to death or injury

In June 2002, King County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Herzog responded to a crisis call around 5 p.m. in the afternoon. A naked man was causing a disturbance in the middle of a road, pounding on cars and interrupting traffic. Without a weapon, it’s precisely the type of call that a crisis responder would handle.

When Herzog arrived, he tried to de-escalate, but the man, Ronald Matthews, was agitated from having smoked crack cocaine. During a scuffle, the deputy’s firearm fell to the ground. The naked man grabbed it and shot Herzog while he was retreating, trying to keep stray bullets from hitting a nearby crowd. He then stood over the deputy and shot him ten times.

A trained deputy was murdered while responding to a crisis call. But anti-police voices, like proponents of this program, disingenuously argue that the cops are at fault because their presence further agitates and threatens those in crisis. Tell that to the social worker who prosecutors said was stabbed to death by Hans Van-Belkum in downtown Seattle. It occurred during the police defunding movement, so no officer was around at the time. It’s a self-serving argument that portrays those in crisis as merely triggered by police.

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This is a result of Black Lives Matter and Antifa domestic terrorism

Herbold, along with her council colleagues Andrew Lewis, Tammy Morales, and Teresa Mosqueda, developed this plan thanks to the Black Lives Matter and Antifa domestic terrorism in 2020.

Mobs of rioters demanded action, even showing up at the homes of councilmembers to threaten lawmakers into action. Their armed insurrection created the Capital Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), which was directly responsible for the murder of two black teens (black lives only matter to white Seattleites when they can earn some social currency for their activism). Cops were attacked and nearly murdered, while businesses were ransacked in order to force the city into dismantling the criminal justice system and starting anew.

Rather than call out the violence and threats, Radical Left lawmakers placated the mob with reforms conceived through an abolitionist lens. And out comes a pilot program to send social workers to their doom. We’re expecting a 911 operator to rely on the expertise of a witness to properly convey if a call is worthy of sending a social worker alone? And while the operator asks a number of questions to figure out who to send, other 911 callers will suffer even longer wait times to report a crime in progress.

Social worker embeds can work

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney thinks the Seattle plan is a disaster waiting to happen.

“I thought that had been tried and failed already. That amazes me. It is going to be an unmitigated disaster. I don’t even know social workers that are for that [program] anymore,” Fortney exclusively tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

His office has a model that should be duplicated: embedding social workers with law enforcement on certain calls.

“It’s actually a fantastic partnership,” he said. “The law enforcement is there as a resource to people on the streets if they’re addicted to drugs, and we want those people to get help. We have a long track record of Snohomish County getting those people help and the partnership with the social workers. By sending social workers out on their own in some of these areas with the fentanyl crisis that is raging right now? It is just not a good idea, Jason.”

Pierce County Sheriff’s Office employs a similar program. Neither Sheriffs’ Departments have anti-police lawmakers dictating their respective offices, giving them more freedom to craft common sense policies that don’t try to take the law enforcement out of law enforcement.

No one will take the blame in Seattle

The very people largely to blame for Seattle’s many crises are the ones now trying to fix the problem.

Homelessness has worsened thanks to the city’s permissive approach to drug use. And it all started precisely when the Seattle City Council got in the way of police being able to do their jobs. It strains credulity to think a solution is to continue to remove police from the equation. But Seattle councilmembers continue to either be blinded by their ideology, or they simply don’t care that their policies and political agenda are failing so spectacularly. (I wrote an entire book about their failures, including many examples from Seattle, called What’s Killing America: Inside the Radical Left’s Tragic Destruction of Our Cities, that is available now for preorder.)

Eventually, and unfortunately, a social worker will be hurt or killed. No city council member will take responsibility, of course. They’ll blame the gun that was used or a failing mental health system in the state (of which Democrats run). This current council, with the exception of Sara Nelson and Alex Pederson, has been consistently detrimental to the constituents they represent.

This time, however, the city will pay $36.47 to a social worker with little to no real-world experience to serve as a Guinea pig in their police abolition experiment. This silly risk is completely unnecessary if only the city council could push aside their seething hatred and distrust of police.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). He is the author of the book “What’s Killing America: Inside the Radical Left’s Tragic Destruction of Our Cities.” Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Seattle council readies program that may kill social workers