We should all be able to live with safety, dignity, and power over our own futures.
In communities across Washington state, excessive funding is devoted to police departments while programs that make our neighborhoods truly safe go severely underfunded. In Washington, over four times as much state funding is budgeted for prisons and policing than for cash assistance and tax credits for working families.
In our state, police are authorized to seize any valuable property that they determine to be associated with certain drug-related crimes before the person being charged is even found guilty in court. If innocent, the owner must go through a very complicated process to have their belongings returned. Each year, police departments in Washington state keep millions of dollars in revenue from seized property, creating a profit incentive for police officers.
For too long, the state legislature has voted for policies that criminalize poverty, paving the way for an era of mass incarceration alongside sweeping cuts to basic needs programs. Instead of subjecting communities of color to over-policing – wasting valuable resources on failed models rooted in racism – we can create healthy neighborhoods by meeting basic needs. It’s time for a different approach that turns its back on the failed policies of the past.
What We’re Doing About It
Poverty Action supports the movement that emerged in the Summer of 2020 calling for true police accountability and defunding police to invest in communities of color through:
- Ending unfair property seizure and police violation of civil liberties.
- Redistributing resources from policing to social programs.
- Strengthening and expanding police accountability measures passed in the 2021 Legislative Session.