Public Safety

THE PEOPLES PARTY POSITION ON PUBLIC SAFETY

We cannot arrest our way out of unaddressed social problems. We cannot imprison our way out of poverty, mental health issues, and drug addiction. For too long, criminal legal policy and incarceration have been tools lazily used to cover up our inability to address unmet needs within our communities. The vast majority of people entangled in the criminal legal system are accused of “quality of life” crimes that are driven by poverty, diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health issues, drug addiction, and lack of meaningful intervention in their lives as young people. Simply relying upon punitive criminal legal policies and outdated incarceration models targeted at bad actors does not address the underlying symptoms. Instead, it 1) defines members of our community as “disposable;” 2) fills expensive Seattle jail cells without making our communities healthier; and 3) criminalizes poverty and mental illness.
Nikkita and the Peoples Party are dedicated to ending this vicious cycle and pursuing a just model of accountability and community health. We believe a healthy and equitable community is not formed by jailing and over-policing its members. We believe a truly progressive city does not require a militarized police force. To that end, Nikkita will identify and pursue best practices among law enforcement and human services. We must move toward accountability and rehabilitation and away from retribution and punishment if we are to transform the criminal legal system and create safe and healthy communities.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

Position: In 2011, after an extensive investigation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) found that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive use of force that violated the Constitution and federal law. The DOJ also raised serious concerns about discriminatory policing. In 2012, SPD entered into a consent decree with the DOJ and agreed to institute reforms to eliminate unconstitutional practices.
Nikkita and the Peoples Party will transform the presence and role of law enforcement in our communities. We will work to ensure the City of Seattle implements community-based policing practices, as defined by those communities most impacted by the concerns raised by the DOJ. We will center intervention around access to services rather than aggressive policing that leads to incarceration. We value harm reduction and seek to address symptoms of crime rather responding with punitive retribution.
The Community Policing Commission, Seattle City Council, and current Mayor Ed Murray have made strides in the right direction, but the police accountability legislation currently before the Seattle City Council does not go far enough. Our city must pursue radical reform in order to address longstanding public mistrust of the police and our criminal legal system.
Action Agenda: Nikkita and the Peoples Party will pursue a more robust version of the legislation currently before the Seattle City Council, which will include: 1) forming a permanent and politically independent Community Policing Commission (CPC); 2) granting the CPC certain enumerated powers to drive reform rather than merely offering recommendations; 3) requiring the Mayor and the SPD Chief to accept public comment and to provide a written rationale justifying any refusal to institute non-binding CPC recommendations; 4) establishing politically independent civilian oversight of the Office of Police Accountability (OPA); 5) hiring a mix of civilian and sworn OPA investigators, ensuring that impacted communities are represented within the office; 6) developing an independent Office of Inspector General with authority over SPD policies, procedures, and operations, tasked with auditing and community outreach.

Nikkita and the Peoples Party commit to address the concerns and recommendations offered by impacted community members, some of which include:

  • Assessing the efficacy of using police body cameras as a means to address police brutality and their impact on already over-policed communities of color. We must ensure that body cameras do not become another means to surveil communities, but rather a means to pursue transparent and accountable policing.
  • Increasing the number of mental health professionals available to assist police when interacting with individuals in mental health crisis in order to reduce the likelihood that police will resort to force.

JUVENILE LEGAL SYSTEM

Position: Nikkita and the Peoples Party oppose the proposed new youth jail in the Central District for many reasons. Our opposition is based on our deeply held beliefs, developed through examining evidence-based research and observing the disastrous impacts among the youth in our own communities. Incarcerating young people is a costly proposition that ultimately fails to support healthy children or safe communities.
We are dealing with a broken system, not broken children. Jailing children is a traumatic and statistically ineffective tool that only increases the likelihood of negative life outcomes for children who are caught up in the juvenile legal system. If we truly desire positive outcomes for the children in our city, we must favor rehabilitation over punishment. Additionally, if we truly desire positive outcomes for all the children in our city, we must account for the racially disparate system of juvenile justice that we have built and preserved.
Second, we oppose the proposed new youth jail as a matter of public safety. The vast majority of youth detained in the youth jail are held for nonviolent offenses, while some are held for no offenses at all. Research shows that jailing nonviolent youth increases the likelihood that these children will come to commit crimes as adults. While we recognize that distinguishing between nonviolent and violent court-involved youth may be used to undermine the end goal of zero youth detention, we also recognize that the available data offers valuable insight into the disastrous impacts of incarceration that affects all youth in the juvenile legal system.
Third, we oppose the proposed new youth jail as a bad economic investment. States such as Texas, Georgia, and Alabama are seeing the positive financial impact of reducing their practices of youth incarceration. Evidence shows that incarcerating youth increases recidivism and decreases positive educational and social outcomes. All of these outcomes have costs. In short, not only is incarcerating youth ineffective, but its costs are multiplied by its ineffectiveness.
Action Agenda: Nikkita and the Peoples Party believe we can do better. We believe our children and our communities deserve better. Research shows that our classic models of incarceration are ineffective and outdated, and only increase harm to our children and our communities. Under Nikkita’s leadership, the City will invest in creating research-based, developmentally- and age-appropriate approaches to administering justice for children involved in the criminal legal system with the goal of eliminating youth detention in Seattle.

Nikkita and the Peoples Party commit to address the concerns and recommendations offered by impacted community members, some of which include:

  • Prohibiting Seattle Police Department officers from making material misrepresentations to youth while in the process of investigation.
  • Requiring the City to provide counsel to youth when being detained and questioned by the Seattle Police Department.
  • Revise the Miranda card provided to youth when detained by police with age-appropriate language.

WELCOMING CITY

Position: Immigrants and refugees should be as safe as possible within the City of Seattle. Seattle’s current commitment to being a “sanctuary city” is one mostly of word and not deed. Instead, Seattle should be a welcoming city that actively protects immigrants and refugees while acknowledging that City policies and practice cannot ensure total security. Currently, law enforcement and incarceration act as the primary funnel that leads non-citizens to detention and deportation. First, the City of Seattle should create and expand diversion opportunities and programs that provide alternatives to arrest or conviction that could lead to immigration detention and deportation. Secondly, when people can access workforce development, investment programs, and workplace trainings it increases the likelihood they will be able to sustain themselves and their families. Access to employment can reduce the likelihood of arrest or immigration detention. Finally, the City should reassess the way it tracks people who may or may not, for example, be gang affiliated because such tracking puts them in danger for arrest that could lead to immigration detention and deportation.
Action Agenda: Nikkita and the Peoples Party believe that there are many clear steps the City of Seattle can take to ensure the safety of our immigrant and refugee communities.
Law enforcement: Nikkita would ensure that 1) policies limit communication between local law enforcement and immigration enforcement regarding people in custody; 2) ICE cannot use city facilities or resources for civil immigration enforcement, including “check points” or traffic perimeters; 3) all people have access to city benefits and services regardless of immigration status; 4) city agencies and employees do not request information or investigate a person’s citizenship or immigration status; and 5) city databases, facilities, equipment, personnel, and other resources cannot be used for the purpose of implementing registries.
Reducing arrest: Nikkita would enact policies to reduce arrests, especially arrests for “quality of life” crimes such as crimes of survival (theft or sex work), certain drug related offenses, certain driving offenses, and loitering.
Employment: Nikkita would create programs to support vulnerable people’s access to meaningful employment.
Privacy: Nikkita would reassess SPD’s use of the gang databases to track alleged gang affiliation and create clear procedures for removing individual names.

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE AND THE COURTS

Position: Restorative justice is a practice that repairs harms through the cooperation and participation of all stakeholders. It can transform people, relationships, and communities and offer a new path for dealing with criminalized behaviors. However, people should be able to access services like restorative justice before becoming court-involved. We must make efforts to provide more effective diversion and human service opportunities outside of the courts and policing. The City of Seattle would benefit from a reduction in the prosecution of “quality of life” crimes, which people commit as a result of systemic inequality and poverty. Reforming the money bail system, which penalizes people for being poor, would allow people to exercise their right to a fair trial. Finally, expanding access to pre-trial services would lessen the negative effects of the criminal legal system.
Action Agenda: Nikkita and the Peoples Party will work with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and Seattle Municipal Court to develop an effective restorative justice initiative which responds to the multifaceted and nuanced needs of those impacted by harm and the criminal legal system in Seattle.