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County Council respond to calls to defund the sheriff’s office

By: Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff

EVERETT- Monday, June 8, the Snohomish County Public Defender Association (SCADA) joined the nationwide protests to defund law enforcement agencies in the wake of police brutality against George Floyd, a Minneapolis man killed by an officer during an arrest.

The team of public defenders, private attorneys, legal professionals, and social workers had a specific request for the Snohomish County Council, demanding that the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department be defunded, cutting the budget by 50% and reallocating funds towards social service agencies providing access to education, healthcare, mental health, housing, and youth services to invest in underlying factors that contribute to crime.

Beginning at the Snohomish County Campus Plaza, SCADA marched a mile alongside community activists. Then, the crowd gathered behind SCADA, who delivered their demands via the video-conferencing software Zoom at the county council’s Law and Justice Committee meeting.

Chair of the Law & Justice and Human Services Committee and co-chair of the Snohomish County Law & Justice Council Jared Mead, Snohomish County Councilmember District 4, says that he is open to considering various ways of doing things differently when it comes to Snohomish County Law Enforcement.

“If recent events have shown us anything it’s that it’s time for us to do something different, stated Councilmember Mead. “The old way hasn’t been working for everyone, specifically people of color. And until the justice system is working for everyone, it isn’t working for anyone.”

Councilmember Mead continued, saying that the council needs to listen to the communities that have been historically marginalized during these conversations, and make efforts to reform the criminal justice system based on community input.

Nate Nehring, Snohomish County Councilmember, District 1 says he is strongly opposed to defunding or abolishing the police department, saying that the “idea is not serious” and the effort undermines criminal justice reform efforts. Alternatively, he asserts that he supports policy reform and will continue listening to all sides as conversations move forward.

Sam Low, Snohomish County Councilmember District 5, is also not in support of law enforcement budget cuts. Explaining the reasoning behind his position, Low says that defunding deputies “is a short-sighted solution with big-time consequences,” and will result in the elimination of training and response times to crime.

“We do need more community conversations and opportunities for learning/ training. Building trust with every member of our community across all levels of County government is also needed now more than ever,” stated Councilmember Low. “Defunding our Deputies is not the answer.”

Councilmembers Megan Dunn, District 2, and Stephanie Wright, District 3, did not respond for comment about their position regarding the growing public calls for the defunding and/or abolishing of Snohomish County law enforcement agencies.

While Councilmembers Mead, Nehring, and Low were not all in agreement about the consideration of law enforcement reform, all agreed to continue to listen and engage in conversation with the community.

“I think we have an opportunity here to use this energy and passion in the community to create real reforms that can make our society more safe and more just,” said Councilmember Mead.

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