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Seattle council divided over proposals to defund police department

Protesters and Seattle police have clashed frequently in recent weeks. (Getty Images)

As a series of key votes approaches, Seattle councilmembers are divided over various proposals to cut funding to the city’s police department.

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

On one side, Councilmember Kshama Sawant is proposing an immediate 50% cut to the Seattle Police Department’s remaining 2020 budget. Her amendments to the city’s budget would cut $85 million, totaling 50% from SPD’s remaining $170 million budget in 2020. That would include the original $16 million in cuts Mayor Jenny Durkan proposed in late June, which would encompass a freeze on the hiring of new officers, and limits on new equipment and training.

Others on the dais, though, have expressed a desire to be more cautious and deliberate, laying out a proposed roadmap that would focus more on cuts to SPD beginning in 2021.

“There’s going to be a lot of people out there who are disappointed, but I think part of our strategy of our council has to be … if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” Councilmember Andrew Lewis said Monday during the budget committee’s debate over cuts to SPD. “Join us in this effort, and we will make sustained progress together.”

“This is the beginning of a process we are committed to continuing in September,” said Councilmember Tammy Morales, referring to when discussions over the 2021 budget will begin.

Similarly, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who had initially led the charge on the movement within city council to cut 50% of SPD’s funding, noted that large, sweeping cuts don’t appear to be possible in such a small amount of time.

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

Sawant has spoken out numerous times in recent days against that slower approach.

“Seattle’s Democratic establishment presented their Defund police proposal today, and … its NOT a Defund proposal at all,” she said last Friday. “We heard some grand promises for weeks. But predictably, when it comes time for the action, these politicians do nothing even close to defunding police.”

Councilmembers will meet Wednesday to vote on a series of amendments to SPD’s budget out of committee, with little support for many of Sawant’s more sweeping cuts. Several other amendments, including one that would gradually eliminate roughly 100 positions from SPD, appear to have broader approval from a coalition led by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Lorena Gonzalez, Morales, and Mosqueda.

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