Explaining Seattle council’s proposed police budget, plans to address staffing

Nov 18, 2021, 5:37 PM | Updated: Nov 19, 2021, 7:57 am
city budget, Jenny Durkan, missing texts...
Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images, File)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images, File)

Against the backdrop of a pending new mayoral administration, an electoral backlash against defunding the police, a nationally advertised recall campaign against a sitting councilmember, a nearly decade old consent decree that has put the council at odds with the Department of Justice, and the social and economic detritus of a pandemic, Seattle’s city government is working to pass its 2022 budget, and with it fund the police.

There are a number of line items therein that affect the Seattle Police Department.

Allocating funds for the police is complicated by the fact that the department is plagued with staff attrition, and proposed amendments to the 2022 budget which “cut” funding for SPD attempt to accurately account for those separations.

The budget as proposed by Mayor Jenny Durkan supports salary allocations for 1,357 sworn officers. The council, referencing SPD’s own staffing plan, predicts needing funds for only 1,223. That difference in funding accounts for $19 million in “unneeded” salary funding, and councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, the amendment’s primary sponsor, has proposed putting those dollars towards 911 alternatives rather than police overtime or hiring bonuses, for example.

Mayor Durkan, city council could be primed for another showdown over SPD hiring

Mayor Durkan and the SPD estimate a more modest number of separations in 2022, one point of contention in adopting the budget.

Ultimately, the amendment as proposed would eliminate funding for 101 currently unfilled sworn officer positions from SPD, a number which attempts to accommodate for a more accurate, predicted number of separations over the next year.

Another flashpoint in the budget will be how to approach Mayor Durkan’s recent order to increase hiring bonuses by as much as $25,000 per hire. Councilmember Lisa Herbold has proposed an amendment which would curtail the total funds allocated to a more modest $500,000 in total, as well as to “end the authority to offer hiring incentives by Dec. 31, 2021.”

Councilmember Pedersen has proposed a bevy of amendments which would further boost SPD’s budget, effectively countering the potential elimination of the 101 unfilled officer positions.

That amendment would ultimately restore $10 million in cuts made under the council’s rebalancing package. His action would restore the number of separations as predicted under the 2022 budget by the mayor.

With that is an alternative amendment that essentially splits the difference between the budget as proposed and that which is “rebalanced.” If adopted, it would restore $5.32 million to SPD’s general fund. It accounts for 106 separations.

The council is set to vote the budget out of committee Monday, Nov. 22.

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Explaining Seattle council’s proposed police budget, plans to address staffing