Councilmember on SPD budget cuts: ‘This will make people less safe’

Dec 8, 2022, 4:22 PM
Seattle police officers confer after taking part in a public roll call at Hing Hay Park in Seattle's Chinatown-International District on March 18, 2021. (Ted S. Warren/AP file photo)
(Ted S. Warren/AP file photo)

Last week, the Seattle City Council approved a budget proposal that eliminates 80 actively-vacant police officer positions within the Seattle Police Department (SPD) in a move to save approximately $11.4 million to address the ongoing budget deficit.

Three council members — Kshama Sawant, Alex Pederson, and Sara Nelson — voted against this budget decision.

“Since 2020, SPD has lost over 400 officers and is now down to about 30% of its deployable force,” Nelson said on The Gee and Ursula Show. “We do have a public safety crisis on our hands because fatal shootings are up 35% in those two years, and crime is skyrocketing. Response times, when you call 911, are really, really long.”

SPD is down to 900 positions within the department, according to Nelson, with Mayor Bruce Harrell’s goal to add an additional 500 jobs in the near future.

Seattle city budget now more than $200 million in the hole

“Eliminating these permanent positions is a cut. And it’s unnecessary because the salaries to support those positions have already been spent. I’m fine with that, but eliminating those positions is the wrong direction, it is extremely difficult to recreate a vacant position from scratch,” Nelson said. “We’re not doing this to any other department. There are vacancies across the city, we’ve got a tight labor market. And we’re not eliminating, making permanent cuts to any other department.”

However, the budget does allocate funds to hire for 160 Seattle open police positions, instead of the 240 Nelson wanted.

Seattle is facing an additional $82.3 million revenue shortage in its 2023-2024 budget, according to the city’s Revenue and Forecast Council’s November Report, which has been added to the original $141 million general-fund deficit the city was preparing for. Infrastructure projects and programs are rumored to take the biggest hit in terms of budget cuts.

Nevertheless, Nelson does believe the relationship between Seattle’s city council and its police department has improved since 2020.

“We’re not calling for a 50% cut to SPD as the majority of council members did two years ago, so that’s an improvement,” Nelson said. “And I put forward a resolution calling for hiring bonuses to be able to recruit new officers in that past six to three, so that, I think, could be said about moving in the right direction.”

But Nelson is concerned about SPD’s morale, citing multiple rank-and-file officers who interpreted this move as another “defund the police” stunt.

“This looks like a lack of priority for public safety in their eyes,” Nelson said.

The debate over the budgetary decision is whether or not the choice actively harms Seattle’s safety, further damaging SPD’s morale, or if it made the most financial sense after the Revenue and Forecast Council’s November Report.

“Despite a grim budget forecast, the Chair stayed true to our values and invested in public safety with a racial equity and justice lens — despite the rhetoric this budget decreases community safety investments,” Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda’s team wrote in a statement, acquired by KIRO 7.

FBI investigating after power grid lines attacked in WA

Which spurred Ursula Reutin, co-host of The Gee and Ursula Show, to ask the question on every Seattleites’ mind: Am I less safe now because these 80 positions have been cut?

“Or would you say it, operation-wise, is going to have a negligible impact because we can’t hire enough officers in the city right now?” Ursula asked.

“We won’t be able to hire enough officers if we continue down this road. Quite simply, this is an unnecessary bookkeeping cut,” Nelson responded. “It was designed to sort of remove the clutter of unfilled positions. Again, we’re not doing that in any other department. I do believe that this will make people less safe, because I think we stand to lose more of our existing officers that are already trained, that already know the community.”

Last month, Nelson created an additional proposal for the city budget to install a new pilot program that helps cover the costs of treatment for substance use disorders for those who can’t afford it.

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

Gee and Ursula Show

Gee and Ursula

amazon hiring...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Ursula: Amazon targeting ‘younger and less expensive’ coders

Amidst mass layoffs, Amazon might also be changing their hiring policy for entry-level programmers to restrict positions to recent grads.
2 days ago
right on red...
Bill Kaczaraba

Gee & Ursula: Right turns on red may become a thing of the past

Under new legislation proposed in the state Senate, right turns on red at many intersections may become a thing of the past in the state.
6 days ago
african-american studies...
Bill Kaczaraba

Gee & Ursula: FL downsizing Black studies ‘doesn’t erase history’

The College Board has released a stripped-down version of its new Advanced Placement course on Black studies.
7 days ago
Frank Sumrall

KIRO’s Darren Dedo recovering after battle with bilateral pneumonia

Through ECMO and amazing medical care, more than a month later, Dedo was able to join The Gee and Ursula Show remotely from his hospital bed.
8 days ago
Seattle Police...
Bill Kaczaraba

Gee & Ursula: Naming officer in pedestrian death was appropriate

Gee & Ursula believe that releasing the name of the police officer involved in the deadly pedestrian crash in Seattle was appropriate.
8 days ago
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Scenarios: I’m not ok with my stepdaughter spending my husband’s money

On the Gee and Ursula Show, hosts Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin give advice to help other people in a segment called … Scenarios.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Councilmember on SPD budget cuts: ‘This will make people less safe’