Seattle, WA – A majority of the Seattle City Council has voiced support for a plan to slash the city’s police force budget by 50 percent.
Six votes are required to pass budget-related legislation and to override a potential veto by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who has not expressed support for the massive defunding effort, The Seattle Times reported.
On Thursday, seven of the nine Seattle City Council members indicated they are in support of the plan, although they provided no clear-cut method regarding what aspects of the police force would be axed under the proposal.
The 50 percent budget-reduction plan was presented by King County Equity Now and Black Lives Matter-inspired Decriminalize Seattle during a Seattle City Council budget committee meeting on Wednesday, The Seattle Times reported.
The goal of the four-pronged proposal is “defunding the Seattle Police Department and building a world where we trust and believe in community to provide the safety that we need,” Decriminalize Seattle spokesperson Jackie Vaughn said during a press conference on Thursday.
The groups pushed to defund the Seattle Police Department (SPD) by over $200 million for 2021, and further argued that the city should take back half of the department’s remaining 2020 budget.
Under the plan, Seattle’s 911 police dispatchers would be removed from SPD management.
Today we share our plan to defund SPD by 50%.
Our 4-point proposal for reinvestment:
1- replace current 911 operations w/ a civilian-controlled system
2- scale up community-led solutions
3- fund a community created roadmap to life without policing
4- invest in housing for all pic.twitter.com/SJfqfwgZKH
— Decriminalize Seattle Coalition (Official) (@DecrimSeattle) July 8, 2020
King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle said SPD funds should be reallocated towards investing in affordable housing, increasing “community-based solutions” to public safety, and funding a roadmap to “imagine life beyond policing,” The Seattle Times reported.
“I look forward to implementing the proposals outlined by you all,” City Council Budget Committee Chair Teresa Mosqueda told said during a press conference, KIRO reported.
“When millions of people took to the streets to protest excessive use of force and police violence, they were met with excessive use of force and police violence in Seattle and around the country, proving that it’s not just about a few bad actors,” Mosqueda declared. “It is the institution of policing itself that must be dismantled.”
“The status quo is no longer acceptable,” added City Council President Lorena Gonzalez. “We have to take away the things that no longer and should have never belonged to law enforcement in the first place.”
Durkan’s spokesperson, Kelsey Nyland, said that the mayor “doesn’t object” to the ideas contained in the proposal, but that she believes the entire process is moving along too hastily.
“Our office doesn’t object to any of these ideas – they are all undeniably critical to building a more just and equitable city,” Nyland told The Seattle Times. “But each…is much more nuanced than it initially might seem, and if we don’t factor that into our discussions…then we’ll never be able to build actionable and lasting solutions.”
Nyland further argued that the proposed SPD budget cuts “wouldn’t make a significant dent” in the city’s “housing crisis,” The Seattle Times reported.
Seattle Senior Deputy Mayor Mike Fong warned that a 50 percent budget cut would likely result in a huge number of SPD layoffs, coupled with community safety consequences that he believes the city is not prepared to handle.
“It would be irresponsible to make immediate cuts without any conceivable mechanism to stand up alternative models to achieve community safety,” Fong added, according to The Seattle Times.
The city has estimated that as many as 1,000 SPD employees would be out of a job if the budget cut is approved, KIRO reported.
“Some of our younger and most diverse officers could be the first cut, defeating the hard work done to recruit officers that reflect and serve their communities,” Fong said, according to The Seattle Times.
He further noted that the city has already created and implemented a team of unarmed, civilian Community Service Officers.
“I think it’s rash and irrational to make that decision without having a thoughtful conversation with community members,” SPD Chief Carmen Best said of the defunding proposal. “I’m hoping that the City Council will rethink the plan to do that — without having a plan for how we’re going to re-envision policing and how it will work.”