May 16, 2021

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Seattle Residents: Fund the Police

4 min read

Seattle Police investigate after a suspect allegedly attacked a police vehicle with a burning piece of wood in October of 2020. A local hospital treated the officer for burn injuries.


David Ryder/Zuma Press

Just like people everywhere, even the residents of liberal Seattle are making it clear that they want law and order, enforced by police.

Gene Balk writes in the Seattle Times that the “defund the police” movement “gained more political traction in Seattle than it did in many other cities” in 2020. Adds Mr. Balk:

So it’s a little surprising that, according to a new public-safety survey of people who live or work in Seattle, confidence in the police barely changed in 2020.

He’s describing the results of the annual Seattle Public Safety Survey conducted by researchers at Seattle University. But a close examination of the data suggests that the defunding movement never got much traction in Seattle either, outside of media and political circles.

When Seattle residents were asked last fall to select their top public safety priorities, the most popular categories were police capacity, property crime and homelessness. By “police capacity” respondents mean there are not enough officers in their neighborhoods and law enforcement responses are not fast enough, whether for emergency or non-emergency calls. Within the broad category of property crime is the overall number one concern across all categories: “car prowls,” meaning something being stolen from inside a car. Meanwhile in the quality-of-life category, “too many police in the neighborhood” ranked an overall 64th.

“People are saying they want more” not fewer police, Professor Jacqueline Helfgott, the study’s principal author, tells Seattle television station KOMO.

Somehow that message didn’t quite come across in media reports from the city in 2020. Speaking of narrative-busting data, raise your hand if after consuming news reports last year, you concluded that black Seattle residents had a higher opinion of the police than white residents. Mr. Balk at the Seattle Times notes:

Respondents were asked to rate their perceptions of various public-safety issues on a scale from 0 to 100. Among them were a series of questions related to trust and confidence in the police, which were combined into a category labeled “police legitimacy.”… Helfgott’s analysis shows that white respondents rated police legitimacy lower on average than any other racial/ethnic group, at 57.5 (Black respondents rated police legitimacy at 61.3).

Some might ask why the ratings across all demographic groups aren’t even higher. But given various concerns expressed by respondents about the culture of lawlessness in Seattle, residents seem to trust the police more than many other members of their community. In a separate part of the survey in which respondents were asked open-ended questions rather than selecting from a list of options, “city politics” was the most frequently mentioned overall category in discussions about the issues of public safety. As for specific comments, criticism of the City Council was the most common, and “selective enforcement/racial bias” was 29th.

For anyone interested in learning about Seattle by listening to the city’s residents instead of watching MSNBC, the results are hardly surprising. KOMO’s Matt Markovich reported earlier this month:

Business owners in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood who are upset with City Hall’s handling of crime and homeless in the city’s biggest industrialized area have released a survey that paints a grim picture of conditions in the neighborhood… 70 percent of those surveyed said their workers feel unsafe working in the area and three out of 10 businesses have had employees quit over “non-COVID related public safety concerns.”

…“It’s very disconcerting to pick up the phone and call police because you know nothing is going to happen,” said Russ Myer, who works at Ben’s Cleaner Sales, a business on 4th Avenue that has been around since 1943 and recently suffered another break-in. “Our business is not safe and secure here.”

… Myer said he fears retaliation from brazen repeat offenders who know they won’t be incarcerated for long after their arrest.

“Those people are just going to retaliate more, so you’re more worried about the retaliation versus protecting yourself,” he said. “I don’t think the City Council really cares what happens to us.”


Eric Wilkinson of Seattle’s NBC affiliate KING-TV reported in February:

TR International, a global chemical distributor, is moving from its home of more than two decades in downtown Seattle, crossing the county line to neighboring Edmonds.

The company is one of at least 160 businesses that have left Seattle since last March… TR International CEO Megan Gluth-Bohan said the decision to leave was easy. She cited ongoing violence, along with rampant homelessness and drug use…

Gluth-Bohan said the company’s mostly female workforce simply didn’t feel safe downtown anymore.

“We had one female employee chased into a


” Gluth-Bohan said. “Business partners coming in for meetings were dodging human fecal matter and homeless people on the sidewalk. We had an employee paying for parking after work. She had her driver’s side window down working the parking machine, and someone attempted to enter her car.”


Just like everywhere else, people in Seattle want to fund the police.


James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”


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2021-04-27 18:16:00

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