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Mayor Jenny Durkan
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Mayor Durkan, Chief Best decry council proposal to begin SPD layoffs in November

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. (Seattle Channel)

Mayor Jenny Durkan and Chief Carmen Best delivered a press conference Tuesday, expressing their opposition to a council proposal to lay off 100 SPD employees, as part of a larger discussion over cuts to the department’s funding.

Seattle council divided over proposals to defund police department

Durkan claimed that it would “impossible” to lay off those employees on the council’s proposed timeline, a sentiment echoed by Chief Best.

“That is reckless — council has directed me to lay off 100 officers basically overnight,” Best said.

The council’s plan would call for reductions to a variety of SPD roles beginning on Nov. 1, 2020, including mounted patrol officers, school resource officers, the public affairs unit, Harbor Patrol, SWAT, and the entire Navigation Team. Councilmembers estimate that roughly 30% of those cuts will come from officers voluntarily transferring to other departments. One recent report from KTTH’s Jason Rantz found that nearly 70 SPD officers have applied to work for either the King County Sheriff’s Office or the Everett Police Department over the last several weeks.

Durkan and Best also spoke out against a council proposal to lay officers off out of order, rather than by seniority, prioritizing officers with prominent histories of complaints.

“Regardless of how anyone supposes a layoff process would work, I know we cannot do that level of layoffs out of order,” Best said. “It would be illegal and inappropriate to do so.”

In early July, seven of nine councilmembers voiced their support for defunding SPD by as much as 50%, a number all but one — Kshama Sawant — have since backed off on, at least in the short term. On Monday, some noted that cutting the department’s budget in half by the end of 2020 was likely not feasible, and are now directing their focus toward more significant cuts in 2021. Mayor Durkan acknowledged that in Tuesday’s press conference, while asking the council to work with her and Chief Best in the days ahead.

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“I would urge council again: Take some time to get this right. I think it’s a step forward for you to admit that you were wrong,” she said. “But next year, let’s work together to see how we can reimagine policing, and let’s tap into Chief Best. She is best positioned to help us transform this department.”

Seattle councilmembers are scheduled to meet Wednesday to vote a series of amendments to SPD’s budget out of committee, with a full council vote scheduled for Monday, August 10.

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