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Seattle councilmembers join calls to defund police department

Seattle police at protests over the weekend in Seattle. (Getty Images)

Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda called for an inquest into the police department’s budget Monday, and to eventually use half of that money to invest back into other community programs.

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“We have done many of things to reform our public safety efforts, but what we’re hearing right now is that our residents don’t feel safe from our own police,” Mosqueda said in Monday morning’s council briefing.

To that end, she called for a “full, thorough, simultaneous deep dive” into what she labeled a “black box” Seattle Police Department budget.

Mosqueda said she expects “full cooperation” from the mayor’s office and SPD, and that as budget chair, she would not approve the mayor’s revised 2020 budget until the inquest is completed.

“Across this country, people are looking for a change, and here in Seattle, we have an opportunity for true progressive leadership,” she stated.

She hopes to start the inquest immediately and issue recommendations by mid-July, “to ensure that the 2021-2022 budget fully reflects our community needs.”

Mosqueda went on to emphasize the need for “transformational” changes to the way the police functions, saying that the council should “focus on replicating what Minneapolis has done.”

Over the weekend, a veto-proof majority of Minneapolis councilmembers announced their intent to disband their police department.

“Ideally,” Mosqueda said she hopes to ultimately cut 50% of the police department’s funding to invest back into housing, equitable transit, and homelessness.

Council President Lorena Gonzalez also spoke on the need for large-scale changes rather than simply reforming the current policing system in Seattle.

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“We have an obligation to respond to calls for swift, immediate, and transformational action — I don’t think we’re talking about reform anymore,” Councilmember Gonzalez said.

“I have spent my entire life trying to correct injustices, trying to find an opportunity to correct violence against black and brown folks across the state,” she continued. “I have nonetheless been committed to reform, to thinking this is something we can fix. I have come to believe we cannot fix what appears to be fundamentally broken.”

Other councilmembers echoed that sentiment, with Councilmember Debora Juarez using the “bad apple” metaphor to say that “we need to plant a new tree” (although she stopped short of endorsing a full disbanding of the department). Councilmember Alex Pedersen went on to note that he believes the city’s police officers are “working within a tainted system.”

Additionally, Mosqueda and Gonzalez expressed support for a measure Councilmember Kshama Sawant plans to introduce, which would completely ban the use of tear gas, pepper spray, and other “crowd control devices.”

Mosqueda and Tammy Morales also became the second and third councilmembers respectively to call on Jenny Durkan to step down as mayor, after Sawant put out a release to that effect on Saturday.

“I think the mayor should assess in this moment, ask herself if she is the right leader in this moment and resign,” Mosqueda said.

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