• Raya

From Proactive to Responsive Policing: An analysis of Seattle's CHOP Zone and the Need for Police

*This is Part I of a 3 part blog series*

Recently, there has been an increased emphasis on defunding the police, dismantling police departments, and a desire for a variety of professionals to replace police in different situations depending on the nature of the call for help. My issue with dismantling and defunding the police is that not all cops are bad, and we do need them. We are all aware of the bad cops who abuse their power and neglect their jobs, but what about the good cops who actually perform their duties? They are currently being overlooked in clumped into the same group as they bad cops.

It is intriguing to hear “defund” and “dismantle” the police with no concrete back up plan. Do we really believe that taking money away from police departments will end or lessen police brutality? From my research, defunding police is meant to demilitarize them, but let’s think about ways that police kill and brutalize people. George Floyd was killed because of a knee to the neck, not a weapon. Now some might argue that the knee is a weapon, which in this case it is, however, if officer’s want to place their knee in an individual’s neck, how do you stop that? By defunding them? No. In officer involved shootings, are the officer’s using some hight tech assault weapon? No. The point I’m making is, we can defund the police all we want, but we can’t completely strip them of their weapons, thus the possibility of their weapons being used in inadequate ways always will linger.

I’ve seen the argument, defund the police because education has been defunded for years. This is a fair argument, but it is a separate issue. Is lack of educational resources a black and white issue, or is it a socioeconomic status issue? In lower class neighborhoods, which are inhabited by all races, not just African Americans education is inadequate for various reasons. What i’m saying is, education reform does need to occur, but education being defunded and the desire to defund the police are two separate issues. There are a lot of racial disparities that exist in endless institutions across the country but each has it’s own separate needed solution.

I wholeheartedly, understand the need to redistribute money it into communities that need it.

As far as the argument that has been floating around that states mental health professionals should be called instead of the police for cases that involve someone suffering from a mental breakdown or a related issue, is somewhat unrealistic. When a mental health professional is inside of a mental health facility there are certain factors that are controlled, thus making the environment safer than any other. In that type of environment, the ability to restrain and administer medicine is less complicated than on the outside, for example in someone’s front yard.

If there is a call for someone having a mental breakdown and a mental health professional goes to the scene who will protect them? If the situation escalates and becomes too much to handle then what? Think of the comparison of trying to restrain someone within a facility versus out in their yard, an area you're not familiar with. Some might try to debate with me and say not all mental health calls take a turn for the worse, which is true, however, in my opinion it’s not so much about the patient/subject themselves, but it’s about the other factors the mental health professional will encounter.

It is better to say that we should have a variety of people from different professions accompany police officers on these calls, rather than to say they should go instead of the police.

Think of all of the duties that police officers complete and how they risk their lives everyday.

Imagine a society with no police officers.

Pictured Above is the CHOP Zone located in Seattle, Washington.


The chop zone, also known as ‘Captiol Hill Organized Protest’ originated in Seattle, Washington. It is a 6 square foot area run by protestors, meaning law enforcement was absent. The protestors called for their local police department to be defunded by 50%, and the basis of their argument was that police officers shouldn’t be dispatched to mental health, homelessness, and poverty issue calls. Thus the police left the chop zone.

With the police gone, the protesters were tasked with enforcing law and order, on top of working their regular jobs. The area also came to be known as the “Captiol Hill Autonomous Zone.” The zone was centralized around Cal Anderson Park. Before the start of the protest the area was fairly clean, however, once the protest began it became unkept and heavily inhabited by homeless people. Just like with other protests, the message behind it began to be taken over.

The area was known as a “no cop co-op” zone.

There were medical tents set up, in which volunteers worked out of to treat or assist anyone who needed it within the 6 square foot radius. A group of volunteers also stepped up and took on the role of security. They were known as the sentinels, and they deemed their role as standing up for and helping those who were oppressed by the state but they acknowledged they weren’t trying to replace the government.

Their method of control was deescalation. As the John Brown Gun Club advised the group to “not be cops” in dealing with different situations.

On June 12,2020 police officers were told not to enter the CHOP zone unless there was something major occurring, which meant that paramedics and firefighters wouldn’t enter either.

In comparison to law enforcement outside of the CHOP zone who go through training and have to follow specific guidelines, the sentinels positions were based on their reputation, thus they had to constantly prove themselves to stay in power. Imagine, a world where police officers have to constantly show their authority to maintain their position as a police officer.

One night during the CHOP a man was driving recklessly through a crowd, it was believed that it was a drunk driver, but once it was discovered that it wasn’t and it was in fact just a drunk driver the driver was let go. This is interesting, because a drunk driver is is dangerous, yet they let him go, granted the focus of the CHOP was fighting for the oppressed, but they still should have intervened. This is the foundation of why the CHOP failed-issues from within.

The CHOP zone became overrun with homeless people, as they made up 40-60% of the population, as a result of this the area became too much too handle and too unstable. The CHOP began to go downhill quickly.

There were 2 people shot, 1 survived and the other didn’t,as the paramedics were unable to enter the premises. As a result of this the volunteer medics left because they didn’t want any blood on their hands. The John Brow Gun Club also departed.

Then there were 2 more shootings. Therefore, the security job was handed over to a new group. On June 29,2020 a 14 and 16 year old were shot, the 16 year old did not survive.

This led to the departure of the Sentinels as they stated that they “couldn’t handle some things.” In other words, they weren’t equipped to handle sexual assault, homicide, and ATF responsibilities. The Sentinels feared they would be retaliated against so they abandoned ship.

The Sentinels in the CHOP got to experience what it is like to be a police officer tasked with ensuring law and order, and they crumbled under pressure. They felt what it was like to be afraid to do their “job” out of fear that someone opposed to how they handled a situation would come after them. There are people out there who are angry and can’t understand the fear that accompanies being a police officer and not knowing what is going to happen. There are anti police extremist out there who purposely aim to harm officers.

The truth is, in general, I am not talking about incidents involving innocent African American people, there are instances where officers have to make “tough” decisions that some people might not agree with. However, we have to try to put ourselves in their shoes and be factual and not act or think based off of emotions, then I think we as a whole will start to show more empathy, understanding, and appreciation towards law enforcement.

During the CHOP zone, the president of the Seattle Police Union, Mike Solan, stated “we’re being asked to do way too many societal issues.” In other words officers are asked to have the solution to everything that they encounter. This is true, people call on police officers for probably almost every reason we can think of and they are expected to show up and handle it.

My point is, if the police no longer exist to do their jobs, who is going to consistently step up and enforce law and order? Who is going to deescalate situations, keeping in mind that not every situation can be deescalated? Will these same people continue to perform their responsibilities knowing there are people out there who want to hurt them? Will these individuals have better training than the current officers?

With the abolishment of police departments, will “volunteers” or the new group in charge be able to handle internal conflicts?

We have to be realistic. We need law enforcement.

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