Seattle City Council votes to cut Seattle Police Budget, transfer 911 and parking enforcement out
The Seattle City Council passed its final vote on the 2021 City of Seattle Budget on Monday Nov. 23 choosing among other budget measures to make cutbacks to the Seattle Police. The total is nearly an $80 million dollar reduction including provisos and cuts according to Councilmember Lisa Herbold.
The legislation reads: "Cut $2.0 million GF from SPD for sworn salary funding to reflect greater-than-planned attrition in 2021, add $2.0 million to HSD for community-led public safety investments, and impose a proviso"
The vote was preceded by a 30 minute public comment period that was heavily in favor of making a full 50% or deeper cut to the police budget.
The adopted budget is similar in many respects to the budget proposal from Mayor Jenny Durkan which outlined the idea of a civilian-led Community Safety and Communications Center. Seattle’s 911 call center and parking enforcement unit would be taken over by that new department by June 1, 2021. The 911 dispatch would likely be transferred later.
The council’s proposed 2021 cuts to SPD falls short of the 50% or greater cuts that. community activists called for during protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In a statement read by District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold, she explained all the changes made for 2021:
"I just want to lift up some of the individual budget actions as well in response to widespread community advocacy in Seattle and throughout the country in response to the murder of George Floyd last summer and generations of activism prior to that, in the face of injustice in harm at the hands of police officers, the Council began work on a new approach towards public safety, an approach that does not assume that more officers means more safety.
This budget charts the next steps which will continue into 2021 and beyond. The budget includes unprecedented investments in alternatives to policing and reductions in the Police Department budget. It creates a community safety and communication center some major steps forward in the city's ability to re imagine policing and deliver city services that meet the needs of all of the communities. Shifting 911 dispatch out of SPD it also shifts out and asks the executive to look at expanding the role of parking enforcement officers. Perhaps we should start considering a different name for the role of these critical workers. It adds crisis responders and adds a new Health One unit health Two. Thanks to the leadership of Budget Chair Mosqueda and in line with the Council's action last summer, transfers victim advocates to the Human Services Department. Thank you, Councilmember Strauss.
And from a total of 197 officer positions in the adopted 2020,budget, today, the Budget Committee acted to adjust the funding in line with the number of positions SPD will be able to fill based on up-to-date information on separations with funding for 1343 FTE's (Full Time Employees with a request for an additional 35 out of order layoffs Council has expressed a clear desire for up-to-date information with monthly updates on SPD staffing and use of overtime, as well as reporting on traffic stops, including racial disparities and recommendations on training and policy changes to address this.
As far as the value of the SPD transfers and cuts. The 911 and PDO transfer and the transfer of victim advocates to HSD total $37,000,000 reduction in the SPD budget and the SPD staffing and related cuts directly to SPD is up to $42,000,000, including the proviso, so that is nearly an 80 million dollar reduction in the SPD budget, again, including provisos, transfers and cuts.
The budget itself follows through on commitments to re-imagine Community Safety and build and scale up alternatives to policing. It ensures that commitments made in previous years are honored. It funds the what was $10,000,000 investments to community safety. That council provided in 2020 and this morning we added an additional $2,000,000 as a result of the additional $2,000,000 cut in committee this morning. This will result in $12,000,000 for the Human Services Department to get out the door following a community engagement process to inform the request for proposals for these funds and expects to make awards by quarter one, 2021. It clarifies that investment should move the cities community safety strategy towards a public health centered harm reduction model of restorative justice crime prevention in ameliorating the harm caused by the criminal legal system to individuals and communities most impacted the budget also restores over $1,000,000 to the Seattle Office for Civll rights for organizations pursuing alternatives to or addressing harms caused by the criminal legal system that were awarded grant funding through the 2020 collaborative grantmaking process. This funding was the result of years of advocacy by community groups that resulted in the Council unanimously passing a resolution for zero use of youth detention in 2015 and the funds were meant to be an on-going annual investment.
It restores the $30,000,000 to the Strategic Investment Fund to address displacement in areas significant significant risks. Thank you to the leadership of Council members want in this area.
And it provides $30,000,000 for a participatory budgeting process that will fund alternative public safety models and programs building on the $3 million that Council provided in 2020 for community research into community safety, which is currently underway through the Black Brilliance Project.
This budget action is funded through cuts to the SPD budget in 2021, and I think we Council members who introduced reductions can really take a lot of pride in that those actions have led to this $30,000,000 for participatory budgeting.
As far as some other actions that I think are important to this budget, I want to just lift up funding to reverse cuts of the fire Department exams in reverse, a cut of 20 firefighters from the Fire Department Recruit class adding funding to the fire Department to fund automated external defibrillators, Lucas devices and ballistic sets, making sure that we are doing a better job tracking overtime and off duty work.
Working too to fund the South Park public safety coordinator. And then also working to ensure that we get good reporting on the West Seattle Bridge repair work as well as implementation of the Reconnect West Seattle program which is SDOT's mitigation program to fund projects that address the impacts of West Seattle detours on communities like Highland Park and South Park. We funded resources for the Landlord Liaison Program. We added funds to maintain family rapid rehousing caseloads to ensure families don't fall back into homelessness. We've restored funding for the age friendly Seattle program, and we've included funding both to permit contracting with public health for services recommended by the 2016 heroin and prescription opiate addiction task force as well as increased funding for services and harm reduction programs at social service agencies that serve people who use drugs daily allowing them to expand hours, increase staff, expands additional locations. We've also included funds for alternatives specifically for outreach to people experiencing homelessness.
With some geographically focused services within District One and also want to shout out that the West Seattle law. In-house crossing project is fully funded in this budget with two point $8,000,000 to be included for the funding.
In addition to the funding that we, the Council provided last year, we also included funding for the social Service provider Academy. And then Lastly, I should have spoken to this during item 414. Want to make sure that the viewing public knows that we also acted on legislation approving issuance of bonds?
Including another station $400 million in bond financing for the West Seattle Bridge. The Council earlier adopted a $70,000,000 interfund loan to provide short-term funding for the West Seattle Bridge and related work, and the Bonsell will pay back $70,000,000 to the internal funding source and provide $30 million in additional funding.
Many, many thanks to my colleagues, especially to the vision and leadership of budget chair Mosqueda, who had a vision for a no austerity budget.
Many thanks to the hard work of central staff in my staff, Christena Coutsoubos, Newell Aldrich Alex Clardy an as well my heartfelt gratitude to the activism of Decriminalize Seattlem King County Equity Now and the 10s of thousands of people who contacted my office and marched in the street, and testified in many hours of council public comment. Again, this work is just beginning and I commit to continue to walk with you in this exercise in re-envisioning how we can promote a structure for Community safety that benefits all of our communities. Thank you.
Captain Kevin Grossman, Commander of the Southwest Precinct for the Seattle Police Department released a statement saying:
"This is Thanksgiving week, and I usually like to pause during this time to think about all the things I am thankful for. Among the things I am grateful for is the decision by City Council to slow things down and carefully consider all of the factors involved with funding the police department, including staffing, call volumes and types, and the possibility of other entities or agencies who might be better suited to handle certain calls—along with the process of standing up those alternatives. It is encouraging to see our city leaders take a deep breath and intelligently debate these issues, with the challenging backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and its huge impact on Seattle’s budget.
I am also extremely thankful for the support of the West Seattle community, many of whom have reached out to me or my officers to express their support.
Seattle—and West Seattle in particular—is a great place to work and live, and I am proud to be a member of its police department.
Give the people what they want and cut the police budget the 50% they demand. Let them suffer their own consequence .