The Double Standards of “Defund the Police”

Gun Rights

Kshama Sawant, Seattle City councilor and member of the “revolutionary Marxist organization” Socialist Alternative Party, has been an enthusiastic proponent of drastic cuts to local law enforcement funding, calling the police a “racist, violent institution.” In a 2018 speech, she explained her “view that the Seattle police have had a long record of police brutality and racial bias, and that this is an ongoing problem… For many on the left, the police are the force that physically stops you from exercising your free speech rights, the force that defends the interests of the billionaires and those in power against everyone else. And the reality is, that is how big business and corporate politicians use police forces around the world.”

A budget amendment Sawant proposed in 2020 would have cut the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) remaining 2020 budget by fifty percent. After that amendment failed, she continued the “unchanging demand[]: Defund SPD by at least 50%.” By late 2021, Seattle politicians had approved cuts – although not as extreme as those Sawant advocated – to the police budget for the second year in a row, with Sawant being the lone holdout, still, for funding to be slashed by half.    

Sawant’s views on law enforcement didn’t stop her from demanding that the SPD “follow up with real urgency” on a matter of personal concern. In late 2020, Sawant had asked City officials to investigate threats allegedly emailed to her office from a Seattle Fire Department (SFD) employee’s email account. (SFD officials had already advised they were investigating.) In a memo to then-mayor Durkan and the interim police chief, Sawant complained about the police department’s “lackadaisical approach,” interpreting it as evidence of the “serious systemic problem of right-wing ideas within the department,” and the threats as more generally a “means of trying to intimidate all who dare to fight for workers’ rights and against the racism, sexism, and oppression which stem from the capitalist system.”

One commentator alleges that Sawant failed to report the emails to the SPD directly, with the police “only learn[ing] about them after Sawant’s comments went public,” and highlighted that Sawant was complaining to the police chief “whose department she’s trying to defund by 50% but now hopes will spend limited resources tracking down an emailer she chose not to report.”

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Soon after, a fire department employee was criminally charged for using a coworker’s account to send the emails, in the hope that coworker would be punished. Rather than some grandiose scheme to suppress the proletariat, he apparently chose Sawant as the recipient simply because the coworker lived in Sawant’s political district.

Council member Sawant is back in the news again, with a fresh complaint about the police.

A local blog reports that Sawant’s political group has released Sawant’s letter to the new mayor and police chief, in which Sawant accuses the SPD of “failing to investigate a series of disturbing incidents at my home. Six times now, bags of human excrement have been thrown into my yard.” It “does not appear that the Seattle Police Department agrees that this is in any way a serious matter.”

Both the mayor and the SPD responded, with the mayor advising that the “SPD will follow all standard protocols and practices.” An October 20th posting on the SPD’s “police blotter” page notes that the “department takes incidents involving public officials seriously, and investigators have canvassed for evidence, gathered information from witnesses and reviewed everything collected thus far.”

Sawant, it is claimed, expects the SPD to “post officers outside her home from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. until the suspect is arrested.”

The expectation for government-funded personal security is especially glaring given Sawant’s position on the rights of law-abiding Americans who want to defend themselves and their families. Sawant has called for “common sense” gun control, like banning the most popular firearms that Americans overwhelming purchase for self-defense.

Assuming the SPD apprehends the perpetrator of the feces dumping, Sawant’s radical rhetoric could backfire spectacularly, should the suspect claim that the acts were a “peaceful protest” not much different in kind than those Sawant has consistently (e.g., here, here and here) defended from arrest or criminal charges.

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