MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Veto-proof council majority now supports defunding SPD by 50%

Jul 10, 2020, 11:18 AM

Seattle City Council, tax, coronavirus illegal immigrants, police...

Seattle City Council. (Seattle Channel)

(Seattle Channel)

Seven of nine Seattle City Councilmembers — a veto-proof majority — now support a bid to defund the police department by as much as 50%.

Opinion: No more reform — it’s time to rebuild Seattle policing

The measure was first floated by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda in early June, following weeks of protests in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Those protests saw police clash with demonstrators numerous times, often releasing tear gas into the residential area to disperse late-night crowds.

That quickly garnered support from Councilmembers Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant. Sawant also spearheaded a unanimously approved bill to ban the use of tear gas, pepper spray, and other crowd control weapons. That ban takes effect on July 26.

Council President Lorena Gonzalez joined the call to cut SPD’s budget in half as well this week, stating that “the current public safety model does not produce safety for Black, Indigenous, and brown people.”

Mosqueda, Gonzalez, Sawant, and Morales all vowed to advance a joint plan from Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, which lays out a roadmap for sweeping cuts to the Seattle Police Department. The plan has been described by that coalition of councilmembers as the “north star” for what they hope to accomplish in the days ahead.

Councilmember Andrew Lewis also stated this week that he is “100% in favor” of that roadmap, “including the goal of a 50% cut of SPD’s budget.” Councilmember Dan Strauss was similarly supportive, while emphasizing a need to “define how 50% cuts occur.”

After Decriminalize Seattle called on Lisa Herbold to voice her opinions on the defunding proposal, Herbold stated that her staff had sent a copy of her own proposed budget action for a 50% reduction to the SPD budget.

The lone holdouts on the council are now District 4’s Alex Pedersen and District 5’s Debora Juarez. Both have expressed that they believe the city’s police department is in need of fundamental changes, but have stopped short of advocating for a halving of SPD’s funding.

What does it mean when protesters call to defund the police?

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s own proposal for cuts to the police budget fell well short of the goals expressed by councilmembers. Her planned reduction would total $20 million, accounting for 5% of SPD’s total budget, and 10% of its remaining budget in 2020. That reduction encompasses $16 million that had been identified prior to calls to drastically defund the department, as well as $4 million in funds originally set aside for a new North Precinct facility.

Durkan also asked SPD to draw up models for possible 20%, 30%, and 50% budget cuts “for community engagement.”

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