Was the sheriff of King County trying to send a message to the city of Seattle when she informed her employees this week that they must work from home because it’s too dangerous to come to Sheriff’s Headquarters in the Pacific Northwest city’s downtown?
After all, Seattle is known for being at the forefront of the move to defund police as well as for its inability to curb its homelessness problem.
In a memo delivered to all sheriff personnel Tuesday, Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, a Democrat, explained that the conditions surrounding the King County Courthouse are unsafe, reported local KOMO-TV.
Last week, the ABC affiliate noted, prosecutors said a court employee was sexually assaulted by a homeless man in a women’s bathroom not far from the sheriff’s offices in the building.
The offices are near a homeless camp in City Hall Park, which has been the scene of violent attacks in recent months. And for years, KOMO reported, employees have accused the city of failing to respond to the regular complaints of attacks.
“Effective immediately,” the sheriff wrote, “due to the unsafe environment around the courthouse, administration, parking garage, and corrections facilities, and concerns from labor unions, we are returning to 100 percent remote telework for professional staff members who do not routinely interact with the public.”
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn told KOMO that it certainly is significant that the county’s chief law enforcement officer is telling employees it’s unsafe to go to work.
“It shows you there isn’t any ability to control the safety of the courthouse with the encampment right next door and all the other crime going on,” Dunn said.
KOMO reported King County and Metro employees are planning a demonstration at noon on Friday, marching around the courthouse to demand a safe work environment.
Exodus from police department
Meanwhile, more than 200 Seattle police officers have left the department since the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, which led to the City Council voting to cut salaries and jobs for as many as 100 officers. The city’s first black police chief, Carmen Best, was among the officers who resigned.
The issue is at the center of the primary vote in the Seattle mayor’s race, which opened Tuesday. A former council members who wants to hire more police officers in response to a rise in shootings, Bruce Harrell, a Democrat, currently leads the field of 15 candidates. The top two finishers in the nonpartisan race advance to the November election.
The election also comes six years after Seattle declared homelessness an emergency. But as Newsweek reported, Seattle “remains mired in a humanitarian crisis, with tent encampments and open air drug use a feature of many neighborhoods.”
In the summer of 2019, Fox News conducted an investigation “to chronicle the toll progressive policies have had” on the homeless crisis in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland.
“In each city, we saw a lack of safety, sanitation and civility,” Fox News said. “Residents, the homeless and advocates say they’ve lost faith in their elected officials’ ability to solve the issue. Most of the cities have thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at the problem only to watch it get worse.”
San Francisco, which has more billionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world, has a homeless problem “so severe that it rivals some third-world nations.”
“On any given day you can see souped-up Lamborghinis and blinged-out trophy wives in one part of the city, then walk over a few blocks and see piles of human feces, puddles of urine and vomit caked on the sidewalks,” Fox News said. “The misery of homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction hits deep in San Francisco and has turned parts of a beautiful city into a public toilet.”
‘Seattle is Dying’
In Seattle, KOMO aired a news special on the homelessness problem, titled “Seattle is Dying,” which prompted a national conversation.
Seattle radio host John Carlson, who is on the board of a number of non-profits that help the homeless, said that in his more than half a century in the city, he doesn’t “recall a television news special provoking such an ongoing, sustained conversation as this one.”
Far more people have seen it online than saw it on television.
Carlson said the reason “Seattle is Dying” angers “critics anchored to the status quo is that it confirms what many people who live and work here see and believe.”
“It swats down silly talking points about homeless encampments being the result of greedy landlords, Amazon employees or” in the words of one critic, “our regressive tax system, generations of racial discrimination and long-term cuts in public housing.”
“Please,” Carlson wrote. “The problem is that Seattle’s political establishment and a constellation of activists and service providers have created a system that incubates drug abuse, refuses to enforce relevant laws against it or the quality of life crimes associated with it, and then are somehow surprised when the problem of drug-related homelessness swells instead of shrinks.”
Carlson noted that “Seattle is Dying,” by KOMO reporter Eric Johnson, finds one solution in Rhode Island’s Medication Assisted Treatment program for the incarcerated. The state screens every individual who enters the correctional system for opioid use disorder. It then offers, along with drug counseling, all three types of FDA-approved drugs to treat addiction.
See the KOMO-TV special “Seattle is Dying”:
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