Herbold: 2020 budget re-balancing deliberations
District 1 City Councilmember Lisa Herbold shared this news about the Seattle City Council's deliberations on the budget rebalancing that will materially affect the Seattle Police.
Wednesday’s Budget Committee meeting was a busy one, with Councilmembers voting on a slew of amendments related to the Seattle Police Department’s budget. Along with Council President González, and Councilmembers Mosqueda and Morales, I introduced a package of narrowly-defined and careful cuts and budget provisos that includes:
- 38 FTE reductions, starting in November, suggested from specific units, including Mounted Patrol, School Resource Officers, Navigation Team, Harbor Patrol, and Public Affairs, SWAT
- 30 FTE from expected attrition through officers voluntarily leaving or retiring from SPD
- 32 FTE suggested general reduction in sworn officers.
It’s important to understand that ultimately, Chief Best holds the authority to make decisions about how and where these reductions may occur. While Council may determine the overall appropriate size of the police force, and suggest units (such as Mounted Patrol) where layoffs may be made, it’s the Chief of Police who will make the determinations as to where layoffs occur.
In addition, all the reductions take a very specific format, in order to set the City up for the most positive labor bargaining outcomes. Instead of making cuts of positions, the amendments put a proviso on two months’ worth of salary for each position that is targeted for reduction. We have received expert advice that it may take between two to four months for each reduction to be bargained. If it takes longer than that, Council may need to vote to lift the provisos, so that the officers can be paid as the bargaining finishes up. But the proviso format means that the City will have those dollars on hand, just in case they are needed.
The actions, if approved by the Council and bargained as described above, will result in a reduction of SPD’s police force by 100 officers (from the current level of about 1,400 officers), and result in savings of about $2.9 million in 2020.
The package also includes modest cuts to the SPD’s travel, training, and recruitment budgets, which seemed appropriate given current travel restrictions and the Mayor’s hiring freeze. These cuts total less than $1M.
Finally, the budget actions also include and intention to create a civilian-led Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention; and remove certain functions from the Seattle Police Department including:
- Move 9-1-1 communication functions and funding from SPD to a civilian-led department
- Move the Office of Emergency Management from SPD to a different City department
- Move some Harbor Patrol functions from SPD to the Seattle Fire Department
- Move parking enforcement functions from SPD to the Seattle Department of Transportation
The Budget Committee meets again on Monday and will consider legislation to make investments in community safety, as well as legislation I am sponsoring that re-establish budget spending levels for each of the 5 police precincts. Up until last year, the City Budget included budget control levels for each of the 5 precincts. With the 2020 budget, the 5 precincts were combined into a single budget level, Patrol Operations, at $147.8 million. With this amendment, the Council will be able to approve appropriation levels in each of Seattle’s police precincts. With wild speculation that any cuts to the SPD budget may result in the closure of the Southwest Precinct, this legislation will give Council the ability to ensure this precinct will remain funded.
On Thursday, I participated in a press conference along with Council President González and Councilmember Morales to share the vision behind this package. Here are my remarks:
Mayor Durkan keeps saying we should be “realistic” and that we’ve been irresponsible for committing to a goal before we had the details.
I have never, in my 22 years in government or 8 years prior as an activist - inside or outside government- seen a single hard thing, shaking up the status quo and responding to a historical moment, accomplished by limiting action to what seems “realistic.” In this instance, re-imagining policing, means imagining what may not at first seem realistic.
By signing onto a stretch goal, Council began a partnership with community that has brought us to the place we are now, a unified Council position on the 2020 SPD budget and a pathway AND A PLAN for how to leverage the decisions we are making now to reduce the size of the police Department in 2021. We have shared information about the very real barriers to our goals in real time with community as we were understanding those barriers ourselves. In doing so I hope we have built trust and made an investment in the leadership infrastructure of the people who are critical to this important movement. The activists, the advocates, the people who have experienced harm at the hands of our criminal injustice system and the allies who have never had these experiences first hand but know that the promise of justice will never be delivered if they remain complicit and silent to injustice that they see every day.
The Executive and Council clearly have a different approach to meeting the demands of the movement for true community safety. From what they have shared so far, it doesn't seem to involve meaningful, structural change or partnering effectively with and empowering community members with lived experiences.
The Mayor says the Council and community have the right ideas, but this is the wrong time. She tells us that she's working with the Chief to bring a package that "reimagines the police." The problem with this is that it ignores exactly what the community has been saying - they're not at the table and want to be. The community is here now pushing Council and working with us to do what she says we should do later.
The Mayor and Chief seem to be using the structural barriers in our government institutions to say what they CAN'T DO instead of trying to find a way for us to work together to try and accomplish what we all say we want to accomplish, reduce the footprint of armed police response for each and every social problem regardless of whether it’s the RIGHT response. Remember 56% of 911 calls are non-criminal and only 3% result in arrest. We are asking police officers to do too much and in doing so we make our communities less safe - whether in sending a police officer to a situation that doesn’t require an armed response or in reducing police capacity to address real crime.
There’s a lot of interest in the ability of the Chief to do out of order layoffs; this is one of the institutional structural, barriers I mentioned earlier. The bottom line is that the rule exists and thus it can be used. Our challenge is - the Executive and Council together should figure out how to use it to meet our shared objectives; not start from the supposition that a rule that clearly exists to be used can’t be used.
On Monday Daniel Beekman of the Seattle Times asked whether the Chief will submit an out of order lay off request with the Public Safety Civil Service Commission. The Chief answered that the decision lies with the Public Safety Civil Service Commission Director. We all understand that - the community understands that. Our request is whether she’ll work with us in developing a request to the PSCSC that has the best chance to preserve the diversity of the SPD in a way that is constitutional and legal according to labor law, does not choose law offs by race as some have claimed we are asking but instead does so in a way that preserves the efficient functioning of the department as the rule requires.
We’re re-imagining and so are local governments all over the country- how are they going to tackle these same issues? Let’s ask these questions and learn, and above all together, TRY.
And if we are unsuccessful then the council, using the proviso has voluntarily put ourselves in a position to be accountable and we will have to consider lifting the provisos. But if the Executive doesn’t try then they will be the ones being held accountable and the question to that branch of government will be, did you really want to re-imagine policing in our city?
Cutting 100 officers saving about 30k a year per each one? How about evaluating all those 300k+ salaries that exist in the police force today and cutting that? We could easily keep more officers that way. Do your research on the overpaid police force at the top! Lots of fat to cut there!
Support our police and our Chief. Cutting her salary for speaking truth is beyond petty.