Seattle City Council Unveils Controversial Proposal To Reduce Scope Of Police Department
The proposal calls for nearly $3 million of the police department's budget to be cut.
June 12, 2020 at 3:06 pm
Update (August 4, 2020): Seattle City Council members Lisa Herbold, Tammy Morales, Teresa Mosqueda and M. Lorena González unveiled a package of proposals on Friday that seeks to address calls to defund the police.
According to the Seattle Times, local organizers are requesting the city’s police department lose half of its funding and for that money to be spent on other programs.
The measures seek to remove nearly 100 officers from the police force, particularly from the harbor patrol, SWAT team, homeless encampment removal team and mounted unit.
The proposal also includes demands for police to be removed from schools and for the department to eliminate its public affairs officers and reduce community outreach efforts as well as special events.
The main obstacle to larger cuts to the department is the Seattle Police Officers Guild, which plans to fight the layoffs through its collective bargaining agreement.
In total, the cuts amount to about $3 million of the police department’s $409 million budget, but council members told the Times that there are bigger plans slated for next year and the potential for more than $100 million to be cut.
“Today’s proposed amendments are really a down payment on reducing the size and scope of what the police department responds to. There are some real roadblocks this year,” González, the council's president, told the Times in an interview.
Some council members criticized their colleagues for promising too much to protesters knowing that most of it could not be accomplished this fiscal year while others said the cuts were not enough.
Police Chief Carmen Best noted that in order for the cuts to be made the police department will have to abide by city rules that state the newest employees will be laid off first. Best told the newspaper that an inordinate amount of the city’s minority officers could be fired first.
The plans also include a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, which will be led by civilians, and other efforts to move certain services, like 911 dispatch and emergency management, outside of the police department's purview.
On Monday, multiple city council members spoke to local news outlet KOMO, saying that people had to readjust their expectations for what could realistically be accomplished this year considering the city’s labor laws.
Councilman Andrew Lewis spoke candidly about how rushed efforts to defund the police could backfire and lead the local police union to sue the city and potentially win, which would make the city responsible for paying onerous fines and back pay.
“If we were not successful [in court], we’d have to rehire all those folks, we’d have to give all of them back pay, we’d expose the City to an unfair labor practice,” Lewis said.
“You know I think there’s going to be a lot of people out there who are disappointed, but I think part of our strategy of our Council has to be is … if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Like join us in this effort, and we will make sustained progress together,” Lewis added.
Original (June 12, 2020): People in Seattle demonstrating against police brutality and racism have made their presence felt by creating the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, also known as CHAZ. For more than a week, there were tense, sometimes violent, standoffs with police in the area. But eventually the entire East Precinct was abandoned, infuriating conservative critics and the president, according to local news outlet KIRO 7.
Found the community garden that is being set up in a park nearby “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” Occupiers have also set up tents in the park. pic.twitter.com/ihFNynNOq0
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) June 11, 2020