Seattle City Council votes to cut Police budget; Creates new department of Community Safety
In a widely expected move the Seattle City Council last week approved a series of legislative amendments aimed at cutting the police department budget, including eliminating funding for 100 officers through layoffs and attrition. The vote did not take place until after 5pm after a lengthy day of debate in a 7-1 vote with only Kashama Sawant voting no, based on her belief that the legislation did not go far enough.
The legislation reflects $3 million in cuts for Seattle police this year. Monies being reallocated include funds going to community services. A new department of community safety and violence prevention will be created.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best previously spoke out against the budget changes. Even though both Best and Durkan identified $76 million in cuts to the 2021 budget. For the 2020 budget, they've identified $20 million which can be cut an amount reflecting 10% of the remaining budget.
A lengthy public comment period and council discussion preceded the Council's vote.
The changes approved by the council include:
- Eliminating up to 100 sworn officer positions across various teams through layoffs and attrition (including 32 patrol officers), starting in November 2020
- Command staff pay willl be capped at $150,000 (not including Chief Best’s salary, which was reduced to $275,000).
- Eliminating the Navigation Team (14 of the 100 officers mentioned above)
The package also includes cuts or reduces funding to some of SPD’s specialized units, including Harbor Patrol, the SWAT team, Public Affairs, and school resource officers, and cuts $800,000 of SPD’s retention and recruitment budget.
"I think we are in a unique position to seize upon a moment," said Councilmember Herbold just prior to the vote. "I'm really encouraged by the work that we've done."
"We already are aware that 56% of 911 calls are non-emergency response," Councilmember Strauss said, stressing that the right kind of response when you call 911 is what is called for.
Councilmember Sawant said "The City is not defunding the police" suggesting that the legislation did not go far enough and said the vote would only reduce the police budget by less than 2% for the remainder of the year."
Lewis said, "I remain a big advocate of low acuity first response," meaning something more akin to the Cahoots model used in Eugene Oregon in which mental health professionals and social workers respond to 911 calls where appropriate.
Councimember Pederson said "Only 71% of the time police officers spend on calls are for Priority 1 or Priority 2 calls, which means we have an opportunity," to do something better. He also called for a re-negotiation of the Seattle Police Guild contract. He said ending the Navigation Team (a group of employees who deal with homeles camps) which was stopped by a 5-4 vote last week was a "hasty action with no real plan." He also opposed the reduction of salary compensation for "the first female black Police Chief in Seattle's history."
Councilmember and Council Presidnet Gonzalez"I recognize the legislation we are voting on today is not perfect..." and " I recognize that many people are worried about the effect this will have on their public safety."
Councilmember Mosqueda said,"We knew there were going to be tough choices," in scaling down the budget for the Seattle Police Department. "This is our beginning, this is our effort to begin correcting historic wrongs." She said, "We will walk with you in community."
A vote Wedneday will disagregate police patrols.
The SPD is a bloated organization with a history of being unresponsive to the public's concerns. I'm not anti-law enforcement, but I'm not going to buy the fear-mongering about public safety, either.
Every institution - yes, even a police department - has a vested interest in self-preservation, first and foremost. This is one of those lessons most of us learn early in life, or should have learned.
How do we start a recall petition on CM Herbold?