29 community organizations publish open letter highlighting that police reform legislation has saved lives, improved public safety

News Release: 
Friday, October 7, 2022
SEATTLE – Federal Way Black Collective, the Washington Defender Association and the ACLU of Washington along with 26 other community organizations published an open letter today in several South King County papers clarifying that police reform legislation has saved lives and improved public safety for all communities.

A recently publicized letter from eight of the 13 South King County mayors made the unsubstantiated claim that policing and drug policy reforms enacted by the state Legislature are driving an increase in crime. Those narratives aren’t just false. They are dangerous. The truth, supported by evidence, is that new policies are working. There was a 60% decline in police killings across our state in the year after the Legislature passed police reform bills in 2021 — something the mayors’ letter fails to mention.

Everyone deserves to live in a safe community, regardless of the color of their skin, size of their bank account or how humble their home is. We foster these kinds of communities, the allies argue in their letter, by investing in people, not law enforcement, and giving people the tools they need to thrive: housing, jobs, education, health care and social services.

Many law enforcement personnel and public officials have blamed criminal legal system and police reforms for rising crime, an assertion they cannot prove to be true. While rates of some categories of crime increased in Washington since 2020, the increase occurred before the state Legislature passed any of the 2021 reforms scapegoated by the mayors.

Law enforcement already has the tools they need to do their jobs, the community groups write in their letter, arguing it’s time to invest in other community-focused ideas and not scapegoat the meaningful reforms that have been enacted.

The ACLU of Washington’s Enoka Herat had this reaction:

“We know what keeps us safe. It is not the tough-on-crime approaches embraced by the mayors’ letter, which decades of research have shown are ineffective and harm communities. A safe community is one where all our needs are met, from mental health support and social services, to proven, community-based violence prevention programs. We need to invest in these new approaches at all levels of government and not fall for the false narrative that returning to failed policies will help.”

People Power Washington had this reaction:

“We at People Power Washington believe that, no matter your race, gender, or income, you deserve safety – including safety from community violence and safety from police violence. Public officials who champion spending resources on failed public policy are putting the health and safety of their citizens, especially those who are Black, Indigenous, people of color, those in mental health crisis, and with disability at risk. We know that the war on drugs and tough on crime policies do not create public safety. Mental health crisis response, substance use disorder treatment, housing, diversion, and violence interruption programs work. We have decades of research that give us the opportunity to achieve public safety in a way that is equitable, heals communities, and keeps us all safe. The health, safety, and wellbeing of Seattle area cities depends on our compassion for each other and our ability to look at the evidence and make a commitment to the safety of all residents.”

Jody Rauch, a nurse with Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, had this reaction:

"As a nurse who lives in south King County and works on affordable housing and homelessness, I see the value of public policies that make a real, positive difference in our communities. We are two and a half years into a pandemic that left too many people with fewer resources and more needs. Health, safety, and welfare improve when people get access to health care, housing, treatment, and the supports they may need. Spending and policies like this are effective at reducing recidivism and creating a safe community for us all."

Below is a full list of the community organizations who signed onto the letter:

A. Philip Randolph Institute Seattle chapter
Asian Counseling and Referral Service
Black Lives Matter Seattle King County
Borro Bay Bakery
Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC)
Civil Survival Project
Community Visions
Federal Way Black Collective
Fix Democracy First
Indivisible Eastside
Indivisible Washington’s 8th District
Lavender Rights Project
Next Steps Washington
Northwest Community Bail Fund
Northwest Progressive Institute
People Power WA
Proactive Persistent People for Progress (P4)
Progreso: Latino Progress
Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness
Southwest Youth and Family Services
The Black Community Lobby
Vashon Maury Showing Up for Racial Justice Criminal Justice Action Team
WA Partners for Social Change
Wallingford Indivisible
Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Washington Coalition for Police Accountability
Washington Defender Association
Washington Innocence Project