Seattle Proposes Plan To Disband Police, Create Community-Led Department

( Calls to defund the police have rang prominently in cities across the country.

Protests denouncing police brutality and calling for widespread change have been very prominent in Seattle since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Now, the City Council of Seattle revealed a proposal that would completely overhaul the city’s law enforcement department.

The proposal, which was released last Friday, would completely defund the city’s current police force and replace it with a newly-created “Civilian-led Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention.”

This civilian-led department would actually supervise the police department. Current police duties would be re-assigned. This includes parking enforcement and emergency dispatchers, whose responsibilities would be shifted to other departments in the city. The plan would also shift money from Seattle’s police department so it could fund “community-based investments.”

According to the resolution, Seattle’s City Council is dedicated to “addressing the racist institution of policing” and also confronting “the Seattle Police Department’s role in perpetuating racism and violence.”

The City Council’s resolution blamed Seattle’s police department for using rubber bullets and tear gas to control rioters who were in the city.

This isn’t the first move to overhaul policing in Seattle. Earlier in July, a majority of the members of City Council said they’d support cutting 50% of the police department’s current funding. Carmen Best, the police chief of the city, said doing so would be “absolutely detrimental” to Seattle.

He said to NPR:

“I think that the impact would be absolutely detrimental not only for the police department but for the community that we serve. Just lopping off 50% of our officers, I would think at this time would be a reckless maneuver, and I’m hoping that people will calm down and look at ways that we can have a real plan in place of how we might transfer some of the responsibilities and services to other areas.”

Seattle has been at the forefront of protests and confrontations with police this summer. Protestors occupied a multiple-block area that became known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest. In early June, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered city officials to vacate the East Precinct police department, leaving the area to be fully occupied by protesters.

For a few weeks, the zone that was also referred to as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) operated relatively peacefully. Eventually, though, peaceful protests turned violent.

There were shootings inside the zone, which led to scrutiny nationwide about whether people should be allowed to continue occupying it.

In early July, police in Seattle were ordered by the mayor to break up the CHOP/CHAZ. They disbanded the zone, clearing out people as they were heavily armed and using tactical vehicles. They threatened to arrest people who refused to leave the area.

Now, with the CHOP/CHAZ area gone, Seattle legislators are working to try to reform policing in the city for good. Whether this community-led initiative will work is up for debate, but it would certainly change policing as the city knows it.