Beyond the defund debate: Will new SPD budget deliver on promise of reform?

Nov 23, 2021, 12:40 PM
east precinct, seattle police reform...
Demonstrators fill an intersection near the Seattle Police East Precinct during protests on July 26, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Seattle City Council members approved the city’s 2022 budget on Monday, in turn opting to fully fund the city police department’s staffing plan. But did that do enough to address calls for reform dating back to the summer of 2020?

After months of fraught negotiation, Seattle council fully funds SPD’s staffing plan

In the end, city council approved the Seattle Police Department for 125 new officers in 2022 and $26.4 million in officer overtime. Further approval was granted for 26 positions with the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC), as well as millions of dollars in funding for various triage and community based violence prevention programs.

This comes nearly a year and a half after seven of nine councilmembers had initially expressed their interest in cutting SPD’s budget by 50% during protests brought on by the death of George Floyd. For Gee & Ursula Show co-host Gee Scott, the issue now is less about funding and more about concerns over the department’s culture.

“I’ve been against defunding the police — I don’t have a problem with the police and paying for officers and keeping the budget,” he said on Tuesday’s edition of the show. “I have a problem with six Seattle police officers being out there in [Washington] D.C., on January 6, the most out of any police department in the country. I have a problem with two of those police officers being fired, and we still don’t even know their names.”

“I have a problem with the lack of transparency that consistently happens,” he continued. “And my ultimate problem is this: All of the things that I want fixed, I don’t see that happening.”

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

As co-host Ursula Reutin pointed out, SPD also touted itself as a model for reform prior to 2020, having made positive strides under a federal consent decree beginning in 2012.

“These were things that were being addressed through this process under the oversight of the Justice Department, and there were changes that were made,” she noted.

Even so, doubts remain over how the department might continue on that path moving forward.

“We are going to see what happens when the new mayor gets in place,” Gee said. “I am hoping for the best because … I want better for Seattle — I want better for the police department.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Beyond the defund debate: Will new SPD budget deliver on promise of reform?