Mayor Durkan, Chief Best lay out proposal for ‘reenvisioning’ of SPD’s budget
Mayor Jenny Durkan and Chief Carmen Best have announced their own plan for reworking Seattle’s police budget over the next year.
The plan would move roughly $76 million in services out of SPD’s budget in 2021. Durkan and Best also vowed to oppose cuts from the city council they believe would “compromise SPD’s ability to provide service and safety to the residents and businesses of Seattle.”
“Chief Best and I believe we can build a new model for community safety in Seattle by reimagining our approach to policing and investing deeply in community,” Durkan said Monday.
The proposal involves a series of “common sense” measures designed to transfer “an initial set of SPD civilian functions” out of the department’s purview. That includes:
- Moving $32 million out of SPD’s budget to have the city’s 911 call center operate outside of police control
- Moving $13.7 million in civilian parking enforcement funding to place it under the control of the Seattle Department of Transportation
- Moving $3.3 million to have the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) operate outside of the police department
- Moving $4.5 million to have the Office of Police Accountability function under its own independent budget (while already functioning as an independent office, the OPA’s budget currently falls under SPD)
For OEM and the 911 call center, Durkan and Chief Best are still assessing whether to move them into existing city departments, or have them each function independently.
The hope is to have 911 services function in a more specialized manner, including “a dedicated 911 line for shelters,” and expanding a city program to have mental health workers embedded with officers. That said, the mayor also noted that “building a new kind of 24/7 response network will take time.”
In terms of straight reductions, Durkan is proposing a cut of $20.5 million from SPD’s 2021 budget, including $13.7 million originally set aside for new hires, $4.1 million to leave 40 civilian staff positions vacant, and a $2.7 million cut in overtime spending for police at special events.
Durkan and Best both emphasized their opposition to a proposal from the Seattle City Council to cut SPD’s budget by as much as 50%. As of last week, a veto-proof majority of council members supports that proposal to halve the city’s police funding.
“This new approach to community safety requires deep community engagement and thoughtful analysis. It cannot be accomplished by abolishing police or by a blunt cut of 50% with no alternative plan,” Durkan said. “I think this city needs to see us working together — we need to show that we can rise to this occasion and make meaningful and thoughtful change. Unfortunately, the council is approaching an alternative approach.”
The council is currently favoring a joint proposal from King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle, which would lays out a roadmap for sweeping 50% cuts to SPD, including a fully civilian-led 911 system modeled off of a similar program in Eugene, Oregon.
“That sounds like an easy political fix, but in reality it is far more complicated.,” Chief Best said of the council’s plan. “We need to come together and truly envision community safety.”