We must (gradually) defund the Spokane Police Department

The unjust killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department has rightly caused a groundswell of anger and frustration across the United States, which has manifested itself through at least 350 large, peaceful demonstrations in all 50 states. Protesters have expressed a variety of demands, but fundamentally, they center the right of black, brown, and indigenous Americans to exist in public space without fear or terrorization.

As we saw with Amy Cooper’s racist 9-1-1 call in New York, public space is inherently racialized. It’s our job as urbanists to advocate for fundamental change.

Spokane is not at all immune to these challenges. Spokane Police Department has a long-standing history of violence and unjust use of force, and continues to disproportionately use force in low-income neighborhoods and against black, brown, indigenous, and disabled Spokanites. Our community has been advocating for reform and change for years.

And yet, just months ago, an officer knelt on a citizen’s neck during an arrest in a similar manner to the way that former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. The Spokane Police Guild continues to hamstring independent oversight, and last year, members of the department shouted death threats at a citizen during an arrest. And that’s just a start.

Clearly, long-standing calls for change have not been enough. We need to dramatically recommit to the cause of abolition and decarceration right here in Spokane. In this short piece, I’ve collected a few ways we could get started.

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