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Seattle police chief asks city council to involve SPD in reform efforts

Police Chief Carmen Best, center, speaks at at a news conference, Monday, July 13, 2020, at City Hall in Seattle as Mayor Jenny Durkan, left, and Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, right, look on. Durkan and Best were critical of a plan backed by several city council members that seeks to cut the police department's budget by 50 percent. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

While Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best announced their own plan for cuts to Seattle’s police budget, the city council (7-2) is pushing for a 50% cut across the department.

Chief Best posted a letter to the council on the Seattle Police Blotter Wednesday asking that they let the Seattle Police Department have a seat at the table before moving forward on $85 million in cuts.

“As you and the other Councilmembers are quickly considering significant budget actions, I cannot stress strongly enough how critical it is that you include SPD in the discussions in order to understand the foreseeable impacts and repercussions of any proposed cuts from Council or the Decriminalize Seattle/King County Equity Now proposals,” Best wrote.

She pointed out that Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s proposal would mean the reduction of 681 of 755 members of patrol.

Best went on to say that the department has a long standing history of supporting community based safety resources and seeking community guidance.

“I am gravely concerned, however, that by creating a false dichotomy between funding police services and investing in the community – where investments in services upstream of police intervention necessarily come at the expense of depleting police resources – Council is omitting from its analysis the decades of experience that so many in SPD have,” Best wrote.

The chief said she’s concerned that those who were on board with the involvement from federal courts are now questioning reforms enacted through the federal Consent Decree. She pointed out that, with help from the community, the department is committed to those changes.

Best said those commitments have been made available for all to read, as well as the department’s policies and data.

“Lack of awareness of these issues is not an indication of a need for more transparency; rather, it is a clear indication of not doing the work that should be done before making these sorts of wide-ranging recommendations,” Best wrote.

The letter goes on, in depth, to address and counter recommendations made by Decriminalize Seattle/King County Equity Now, which include a freeze on hiring, eliminating funds for recruitment and retention, removing the Navigation Team, and eliminating SWAT Team funding, among a long list of other items. Read the full letter here. 

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