Op/Ed: Even Seattle Recognizes the Value of Police Now

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In early February, the Seattle Police Department responded to a massive firefight in one of the city's most liberal neighborhoods and not accustomed to such violence. Multiple shooters fired over 40 shots within the span of a few minutes.

Luckily, no one was injured. Because it happened around 2:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, businesses were closed.

The people asking the police to investigate this incident and find the culprits so they can sleep soundly at night are the very same people who call the police a threat to public safety. They supported a city council that cut the 2022 police budget by more than $46 million over what it was in 2020 when the Defund the Police movement began. That represents more than an 11 percent cut. More than that, it represents reductions in personnel and equipment.

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"The Seattle Police Department's (SPD) interim chief Adrian Diaz thinks the department needs 1,400 officers to properly respond to the city's public safety needs. Currently, the department has about 1,015," KING 5 News in Seattle reported.

Such cuts resulted in what just about anyone who wasn't a police hater could see coming. Crime in the city increased significantly.

"The fact of the matter, we have seen an increase in violent crime," Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said, according to KIRO 7. "When I see what I continue to see out here, I can't sleep at night."

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He's not the only one who can't sleep. Citizens are on edge, particularly when violence crashes in on an upscale area of the city.

However, it is the police who should be worried. Shootings in the city were up 40 percent last year, a record number. While citizens can run away or hide from violence, police are asked to run toward it and combat it not by arresting the criminals but by handing them an information card about social programs available to them. That may be over the top, but it is probably closer to reality than it should be. Not only is the Seattle Police "handcuffed" in their effort to fight crime, but they are also forced to do it with fewer resources.

Mayor Harrell's predecessor, Mayor Jenny Durkan, said last year when the city council cut her budget, "Now is not the time to both be cutting officers also but every time council acts, they're telling officers that are here today if they're valued or not."

And in Seattle, the council has shown they don't value their police too much. That is until the bullets start flying toward them in their neighborhoods. Then the politicians expect the police to be on the scene within a few minutes and arrest armed criminals who are more than happy to shoot at the police.

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It is only a matter of time before a police officer who is overworked and tired is caught off guard and killed or dies because he or she wasn't issued needed protective equipment because of budget cuts.

At least the voters of Seattle seem to have had enough. One of the reasons they elected Harrell was because he promised to take a tough stand against crime. He's had to try and do that with a smaller budget, though, since the city council didn't seem to get the message from voters.

He is also having to take a hardline stand against crime in the face of groups like Decriminalize Seattle, which wants the Seattle Police Department budget cut 50 percent, not 11.

Seattle was the city that was the poster child for the "Defund the Police" movement in 2020 when rioters took over part of the city and declared it an autonomous area. That triggered an upward trend in police deaths. So far in 2022, about one officer a day in the United States has died in the line of duty.  

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Michael A. Letts is the CEO and Founder of In-VestUSA, a national grassroots non-profit organization helping hundreds of communities provide thousands of bulletproof vests for their police forces through educational, public relations, sponsorship, and fundraising programs. 

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