Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is criticizing the City Council’s plan to cut the police department’s budget by 50% and instead proposed transferring a list of police budget functions
MARTHA BELLISLE Associated Press
July 13, 2020 at 11:43 pm
4 min reading
SEATTLE – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Monday criticized the city’s plan to cut the police department’s budget by 50% and instead proposed transferring a list of functions like the 911 call center and enforcement parking of the agency’s budget.
“We need to invest in community-based solutions that address underlying underlying issues,” Durkan told a news conference. “The community has made it clear that they want us to transform the Seattle Police Department and reinvest in programs that provide this type of community security.”
Monday’s announcement came after weeks of street protests sparked by the police’s assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Seattle police requests for reimbursement increased after protesters were hit with pepper spray and flash bombs during the demonstrations.
The Police Accountability Office has received more than 17,000 complaints against police officers related to protests. Most focus on 17 incidents ranging from excessive force, injuries from flash strikes and aggressive crowd manipulation tactics.
Council member Kshama Sawant said on Twitter that in July and August the council will vote on the police budget for the rest of 2020 and plans to cut about 50%, or about $ 85 million.
On Monday, Sawant said: “In the fall budget vote, the Seattle City Council will vote on the budget for next year. The People’s Budget will bring legislation to finance the entire next year’s police budget by at least half, about $ 200 million, going through this year’s budget. “
Seven of the nine board members support this plan, said Durkan, but have failed to speak to the boss or carry out any thorough research to understand the impacts of this type of drastic cut. Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said eliminating half the department would jeopardize public safety.
“Our budget is almost entirely personal,” said Best. “I will not sacrifice color officials for political reasons.”
Durkan, instead, wants to cut the budget for 2021 by about $ 76 million, transferring various unofficial functions outside the department. The department’s budget for the current year is over $ 400 million. Included in the reorganization would be the 911 call center, the parking inspection, the Emergency Management Office and the Police Accountability Office.
An officer is not always the best person to answer all calls, said Durkan. Some emergencies must be handled by a social worker, nurse, fireman or family counselor.
About $ 20 million will be cut for not expanding strength and reducing overtime, Durkan said.
The move to the 911 call center will cut the police budget by $ 34.2 million, she said. The transfer of the parking enforcement division will save $ 13.7 million and the change in the emergency management department will reduce $ 3.3 million.
Durkan was severely criticized for the way he handled the protests and the police response. A campaign to oust Durkan secured a boost last week, when a judge approved a petition for an election to call the mayor.
Durkan said repeatedly that he sought community help while making decisions about police reform, but members of the Community Police Commission said they were not consulted. The group was formed as part of the consent decree agreement with the federal court.
“A staff member from the mayor’s office sent us an email at 9:22 am, telling us that the mayor would be announcing his plan,” said commission spokesman Jesse Franz on Monday.
Others supported the transfer of funds to help people in crisis.
Council member Andrew Lewis proposed legislation to use part of the policing budget for a new mental health and substance abuse program. Unarmed medical personnel and crisis workers would respond to a mental health crisis instead of an officer.
“By the most conservative estimates, one in four people shot to death by a police officer has a mental illness,” Lewis said on Twitter. “It has to stop.”