Seattle City Council votes to cut police budget, officers

Seattle Police Department
Courtesy Q13 News

SEATTLE (KCPQ) — The Seattle City Council voted to approve proposals Monday that would begin defunding Seattle police — an action supported by demonstrators who have marched in the city following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis but strongly opposed by the mayor and police chief.

Measures that would cut about $3 million of the department’s $400 million annual budget this year passed out of committee last week.

Seattle currently has about 1,400 police officers and the reductions up for a final vote fall far short of the 50% cut to the department that many Black Lives Matter protesters are seeking.

The City Council also voted to cut Police Chief Carmen Best’s roughly $285,000 annual salary as well as the pay of other top police leaders. The council plan would also remove officers from the Navigation Team which officers social services and removes homeless camps.

Some council members have said the initial cuts are a first step to more sweeping reductions and a rethinking of law enforcement in Seattle.

“It’s important to show community members that we hear them, that we’re working towards the same goal,” Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda said last week.

Mayor Jenny Durkan and Best have urged the council to slow down its discussions about police budgets, saying the issue can be taken up in earnest when the 2021 city budget is considered. They also say any layoffs would disproportionately target newer officers, often hired from minority communities, and would inevitably lead to lawsuits.

Durkan has already targeted about $20 million in savings from the police budget this year, largely because of spending pressure due to reduced revenues because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, the mayor sketched out a plan to reduce the police budget by about $75 million next year by transferring parking enforcement officers, the 911 call center and other areas out of the department.

As U.S. attorney in Seattle, Durkan previously pushed a Justice Department investigation that found officers too quick to use force, leading to a 2012 consent decree with the federal government. Reviews by an independent monitor have determined that the changes under the consent decree have led to a drop in how often police use force. But critics have said the department’s actions during recent protests show not enough progress has been made.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.