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Seattle council discusses proposals, possible timeline for cuts to police budget

A protester stands in front of Seattle police officers on Capitol Hill. (Getty Images)

Seattle Councilmembers are introducing a series of amendments to the city’s budget during a committee meeting on Friday, aiming to set a timeline over the next year-plus for cutting funding for the police department and redirecting it to social services.

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

A large portion of the proposed amendments are co-sponsored by Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez, Lisa Herbold, Tammy Morales, and Teresa Mosqueda. A collection of others are sponsored solely by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who laid out her own proposal for cutting 50% of SPD’s remaining 2020 budget on Thursday.

The amendments from Gonzalez, Herbold, Morales, and Mosqueda call for reductions to several SPD programs, including: The mounted unit, community outreach, school resource officers, public affairs, homeland security, harbor patrol, SWAT, the Navigation Team, recruitment and retention, and travel.

Another proposed amendment lays out a “policy intent to reduce the overall size of the City’s sworn police force,” asking SPD to immediately issue layoff notices for 32 recruits or sworn full-time officers. That amendment also asks the city’s Public Safety Civil Service Commision to “authorize out-of-order-layoffs,” in a bid to prioritize laying off officers with histories of “sustained complaints.” SPD Chief Carmen Best has previously estimated that a 50% reduction to SPD’s budget would force it to cut 681 of its 755 patrol officers.

Additionally, councilmembers hope to move control over the Office of Emergency Management and Harbor Patrol from SPD to the Seattle Fire Department, and place parking enforcement under the Department of Transportation.

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By November 2020, city council also intends to vote on legislation to remove 911 services from SPD’s purview, temporarily place it under an existing civilian-led department, and then eventually stand up a standalone civilian-led 911 service.

Longer-term, councilmembers are looking to create “a new civilian-led department that will take a holistic approach to public safety” by the end of 2021. The goal is to have that department provide social services which have typically been entrusted to police officers.

“The Council recognizes that over many years, more social service functions have fallen to police officers because of the defunding of social safety nets, among which are mental health, public housing, health care, and education,” a draft resolution from the council reads.

The full timeline proposed in the draft resolution goes as follows:

Seattle council defund police timeline draft

Aside from Sawant’s proposal, the measures introduced by other councilmembers don’t explicitly cut 50% from SPD’s budget in 2020 or 2021. Pointing that out was King County Equity Now, an advocacy group whose defunding proposal has been described by one councilmember as a “north star” for the council’s commitment to cutting police funding.

“(City Council’s) proposed amendments today are undoubtedly a step forward. But they fall well short of the Community’s demand to maximize public safety by reallocating 50% of SPD’s budget into pro-BIPOC community initiatives,” the group said on Twitter on Friday.

The council’s budget committee will discuss these amendments on Friday, and will bring them to a vote during a 10 a.m. session on Monday, August 3.

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