The Progressive Prosecutors that Won’t: Seattle’s Failed Experiment in Criminal Justice Reform

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office refuses to prosecute 65% of criminal cases referred by police. That is one of the mind-blowing revelations outlined in a new report commissioned by neighborhood business groups. The study excoriates City Attorney Pete Holmes’ dysfunctional department, who is rightly held to account for the mass exodus of police officers who were done putting their lives on the line day after day just to watch criminals walk free and victims go without justice. Over the course of one year, Seattle officers completed approximately 12,000 misdemeanor non-traffic police reports with less than one-third (~4,000) of them ever resulting in meaningful resolution.

Seattle is part of a rising trend of cities across the nation where a demoralizing, anti-police sentiment at the behest of elected activists has contributed to a rapid decline in quality of life. The data underscored in both System Failure reports point to the source of a pervasive breakdown in law and order — progressive, ‘social justice’ prosecutors who work to release criminals rather than bring them to justice.

Sparked by civil unrest following the 2014 Ferguson shooting, voters across the country are electing reformist DAs to replace the tough-on-crime prosecutors who’ve historically been popular. Criminal justice “reformers” Pete Holmes and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg have used their unchecked discretionary power to replace rule of law with rule of ideology. Their shared philosophy in practice exempts ‘vulnerable populations’ including people of color, the homeless, drug addicted, mentally ill, and poor from having to comply with what they believe to be inherently corrupt American laws and institutions.

In a 2015 TEDx Talk, Satterberg articulated his moral obligation to right our “racially disproportionate system” by diverting criminal cases to a “caring community that’s ready to help” and sending criminals with addiction issues to the LEAD program instead of jail. He justified refusing to prosecute driving while suspended charges because it wasn’t fair to poor people who could not pay their tickets. And he took pride in helping Washington to maintain one of the lowest incarceration rates in the nation.

The impact decriminalization ideology has had on our neighborhoods is now undeniable, as homeless junkies openly shoot up, defecate, and urinate in public, on innocent strangers and force retailers and restaurants out of business by robbing them blind.

Satterberg and Holmes justify their catch & release / “ peace on drugs” approach as part of a 2011 pilot project called LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), which purports to improve public safety and public order by reducing recidivism. Over the past eight years, this experimental program has been adopted in almost 40 U.S. cities and is propagated as being a model of success for America. The brains behind this program is a woman named Lisa Daugaard, who has fittingly been designated Seattle’s ‘ reformer-in-chief. “ Daugaard is an accomplished activist and public defender who has earned tremendous influence over local politicians. Her background and philosophy are an important component in understanding how we got to this point.

Lisa Daugaard is a radical progressive who has spent her career fighting for victims of racial injustice, for legalized decriminalized prostitution [1], for sanctuary city designation, and for the rights of homeless [2] people to permanently pitch tents in parks and for RV dwellers to camp on the streets. She was instrumental in getting the Obama Justice Department to investigate [3] the Seattle Police Department for systemic racism and brutality, which resulted in a DOJ consent decree. Daugaard also supports the legalization decriminalization of drugs drug-related offenses [4] and is currently fighting for taxpayer-funded heroin injection sites.


Despite its failure in Seattle, Daugaard’s LEAD program has continued to receive millions in both public and outside private funding. Not surprisingly, activist Rep. Pramila Jayapal scored millions in funding through Congress. Privately, Left-wing billionaire George Soros, whose philosophical agenda supporting amnesty for illegals, drug legalization, open borders, and ending mass incarceration aligns nicely with Daugaard’s, has been particularly interested in her work. Soros’s Open Society Foundation put $425,000 towards the LEAD pilot and now awards hundreds of thousands in grants to cities willing to implement the program.

This fact should not be overlooked, considering Soros has spent tens of millions of dollars over the past couple years buying DA elections in order to reform our criminal justice system and reshape society to his worldview. His financial influence put ‘progressive prosecutors’ in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Baltimore and backed NYC mayor Bill de Blasio’s ‘ Progressive Agenda for America’- all of which have all been disastrous. These cities have something else in common — they have all adopted the LEAD program and subscribe to the same ideological approach to law enforcement started here in Seattle.

The symptoms we are experiencing in Seattle are the same ones being felt in other cities who’ve chosen to imitate our policies. In Chicago, Philly, NYC and Baltimore, decriminalization experiments carried out by anti-cop DAs who increasingly decline to prosecute have resulted in the same outcome — confusion and backlash from police, skyrocketing crime rates, a surge in homelessness and low-level crimes associated with addiction, and growing number of citizens and business owners who are fed up with watching their neighborhoods become lawless cesspools. The stories being told should sound very familiar.

Chicago: nearly 600 police officers left the department between 2011–2016. Anti-police State’s Attorney Kim Foxx was recently made famous for her refusal to prosecute actor Jessie Smollett over his high-profile hate hoax incident. Chicago’s decriminalization of drug-related offenses and reclassification of some felonies as misdemeanor or summary offenses has affected how police do their jobs. In 2016 street stops were down 82%. Narcotics arrests, one of the most common arrests to stem from street stops, subsequently fell 47% citywide. Foxx’s first major policy move after taking office was ordering her prosecutors not to bring felony charges in shoplifting cases unless the value of the stolen goods exceeds $1,000 or the alleged shoplifter has 10 prior felony convictions.

In Seattle, shoplifting is simply not prosecuted. One shop owner in the International district reported shoplifting at her store 599 times over a 19 month stretch. Only 8 ended in some form of prosecution, mostly just because they involved assault. Over the course of 18 months, the City Attorney’s Office achieved resolution in only 11% of shoplifting cases referred to them.

Baltimore: In the first half of 2019 Baltimore hired 89 new officers but lost 87. They remain over 00 police officers short. As of 2018, the city’s murder rate was higher than that of El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. They also now rank 2nd in nation for opioid death rate, as the DEA estimates that 10% of Baltimore’s population — about 64,000 people — are addicted to heroin. As you might recall last year, Seattle hired approximately 68 officers, but lost 90. This year has been no improvement, as January to June they hired 36 officers, but lost 39.

Philadelphia: In his first year as district attorney, Larry Krasner’s office filed 18 percent fewer cases than in 2017, including 25 percent fewer misdemeanors. After being elected, he immediately disciplined or terminated nearly 100 police officers over personal social media posts dating back to 2010. Recently, U.S. Attorney General William Barr blamed Krasner for a shootout that left 6 Philly officers wounded, adding

“There is another development that is demoralizing to law enforcement and dangerous to public safety. That is the emergence in some of our large cities of District Attorneys that style themselves as “social justice” reformers, who spend their time undercutting the police, letting criminals off the hook, and refusing to enforce the law.”

Like Seattle, crime rate statistics do not reflect reality as U.S. attorney Bill McSwain recently pointed out, stating:

“some of the low level and mid-level crimes have also gone up, but they aren’t being reported. And the reason they’re not being reported is because the DA has said he is not going to prosecute them. So, you have, statistically, a bad situation that has developed in Philadelphia, but actually, the reality on the ground is even worse than the statistics.”

Philadelphia has also declared a public health emergency as Hepatitis Acases continue to skyrocket due to homelessness and human feces on city streets. Seattle recently declared the same emergency for the same reasons.

New York: Bill de Blasio stopped police from enforcing the law by enacting policies that decriminalize low-level offenses, including public drug use, urination, and littering. NYPD also announced they would consider a person’s history of past offenses as a determining factor as to whether an officer would choose to charge a violator with a misdemeanor. As a result of his Criminal Justice Reform Act ( CJRA), the number of criminal charges brought dropped 90 percent after a year. City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito explained that the policy is part of a greater program of racial fairness stating,

“Too often it is low-income communities of color that bear the burden of these ineffective policies. This creates a system where the punishment fits the crime.”

Homelessness is now up 40% and an increasing number of innocent citizens are being accosted and attacked by mentally ill junkies. New Yorker’s are experiencing an 80% increase in rat sightings, rampant open drug use, dirty needles all over the streets and parks, and a city full of garbage and filth. And yet like Philly and Seattle, crime statistics are reported at an all-time low. Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio remains determined to prevail in the fight for sanctioned drug injection sites and is firmly convinced that he should be our next President.

The story is the same wherever the progressive rule of ideology has subverted rule of law and the decriminalization movement has dominated the political agenda. In every city it has been tried, it has led to a dramatic rise in addiction which has spiraled into unmanageable homelessness, mental illness, filth, crime and disease. The only winners are the non-profit hustlers and progressive activists who stand to make millions by manufacturing an appearance of success. Liberal policies dressed as social justice create a never-ending cycle of poverty, ensuring demand for a continuous need of taxpayer-funded supply. New York City proved in the 90s that fixing the problems we see today require establishing and sustaining law and order.

While the intent of LEAD in diverting homeless and drug-addicted criminals to social welfare programs is good, it ignores the victims of their behaviors. The adoption of this program has had the unintended consequence of creating a parallel justice system for marginalized groups. This has enabled them to commit crimes and openly use illicit drugs without fear of retribution while sending a message that Seattle is a sanctuary for criminals. While it is not economically feasible to lock everyone up for low-level crimes, it is also unacceptable that a mentally unstable addict with 73 prior convictions including 14 felonies and 15 assaults was able to attack an innocent child because those tasked with protecting us are more concerned with their virtuous, social justice ideology and incarceration statistics.

After eight years in practice, the LEAD program has not met it’s objective of reducing crime. It has instead been used as an excuse by our progressive prosecutors to act as morally righteous activists looking to deconstruct rather than uphold the agreed upon laws governing our society. Furthermore, they do it at our expense, which as illustrated, has grown exponentially. Until we stop funding this radical social experiment, quality of life crimes will continue to rise as will the number of middle-class citizens and businesses who are driven out by a city that becomes increasingly unlivable.

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