Seattle Peoples Party Position on Public Safety
In 2011, after an extensive investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice found that the Seattle Police Department engaged in a pattern of excessive use of force that violated the Constitution and federal law. The DOJ also raised serious concerns about discriminatory policing in our city. Though Seattle and the SPD have instituted reforms to eliminate unconstitutional practices as part of a court mandated consent decree, the tragic death of Seattle resident Charleena Lyles this past year shows we still have a long way to go.
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, criminalization and incarceration have been tools used to cover up neglected 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Simply relying upon punitive criminal legal policies and outdated incarceration models targeted at “bad actors” does not address the underlying causes. Instead it:
- Defines members of our community as “disposable”
- Fills expensive Seattle jail cells without making our communities healthier
- Criminalizes poverty and mental illness
The Seattle Peoples Party is dedicated to ending this vicious cycle and pursuing a just model of accountability and community health. We advocate for restorative justice: a practice that repairs harms through the cooperation and participation of all stakeholders. Restorative justice can transform people, relationships, and communities and offer a new path for dealing with criminalized behaviors. Currently both our city and county support policies that incarcerate youth and further condemn communities of color to generational poverty and unhealthy police involvement. It is high time our government recognize that we are dealing with a broken system, not broken people.
In terms of detention our region could also do much more to support our immigrant residents. Seattle’s current commitment to being a “sanctuary city” is one mostly of word and not deed. We need a city that actively protects immigrants and refugees, going further to change policies that leave our residents vulnerable to detention and deportation.
We believe a healthy and equitable community is not formed by detaining and over-policing its members. We believe a truly progressive city does not require a militarized police force and does not cower to inhuman federal policies. We must move toward accountability and rehabilitation in our criminal legal system and increase protections for residents if we are to create safe and healthy communities.
What we are doing:
Increasing capacity for campaigns and coalitions that work to bring an end to youth and immigrant detention.