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Seattle council committee OKs SPD layoffs, cuts to Navigation Team, more

Police push demonstrators back atop a Black Lives Matter street mural in the area formerly known as CHOP during protests in Seattle on July 25, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Wednesday marked a big day in the conversation over defunding Seattle’s police department, with councilmembers voting in committee on a series of amendments to SPD’s budget. A full council vote to approve the final proposal is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 10.

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

Councilmembers did not advance a proposed 50% cut to SPD’s remaining 2020 budget, but did approve a sizable package of amendments, which would include cuts to mounted patrol officers, school resource officers, community outreach, the public affairs unit, Harbor Patrol, SWAT, and more. Budget committee chair Teresa Mosqueda estimates that cuts to SPD approved by the council would total 41% if enacted on a yearly basis.

An amendment removing 14 police officers from the Navigation Team was unanimously approved, as well a large reduction to the team’s budget, and subsequently the city’s infrastructure for sweeping homeless encampments.

A measure committing to a reduction to the police personnel also garnered unanimous approval, which would cut 32 SPD officers beginning on Nov. 1, and save the city roughly $500,000 in 2020. Chief Carmen Best has expressed concerns that such a measure would see newer, more diverse officers cut from the force, given the department’s policy to do layoffs in order of seniority. Councilmembers expressed confidence that layoffs could ultimately be done on an individual basis based on sustained misconduct complaints filed against officers.

Combined across layoffs, program cuts, and expected attrition, the council estimates SPD will see a reduction of roughly 100 employees.

Additionally, councilmembers agreed to cap pay for SPD command staff to the lower end of their pay range. That would affect the department’s 13 highest-ranking employees, including Chief Best. The council estimates that this would save the city another $500,000 through the end of the year.

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Community groups that have been demanding cuts of 50% to SPD starting in 2020 were not happy with the proposals on the table at this morning’s budget committee vote. Despite making cuts to the department, the proposals fall short what some groups felt seven of nine councilmembers had originally committed to.

The group marched from the youth jail on 12th and Alder to City Hall in a day-long event that started at noon to call on the council to “do the right thing,” and defund the SPD by half in 2020. But, as many on the council acknowledged late last week and again Monday, it’s just not possible because of legal and bargaining issues this year.

KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott contributed to this report.

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