Seattle City Council approves 18% police budget decrease, reportedly one of biggest cuts nationwide

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Seattle City Council voted to cut the police department budget by roughly 18% – less than half of the 50% reduction that activists had called for – and instead re-allocate “millions” of dollars to “fund community alternatives,” according to officials and recent reports.

Council members voted Monday to slash funds meant for SPD training and overtime, reassign certain roles to other city agencies and eliminate unfilled jobs, according to officials and local news station KING 5. previously described it as one of the largest budgets cuts this year at big-city police departments. 

The council also approved the hiring of 100 new police recruits in 2021, which Mayor Jenny Durkan and other officials argued was needed.

Monday’s reported 8-to-1 vote capped months of heated talks. Seattle leaders ultimately voted to transfer 911 call-takers, parking enforcement officers and mental-health workers out of the police department.

A protester holds a sign that reads "defund the police" after Seattle Police vacated the department’s East Precinct and people continue to rally against racial inequality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Seattle, Washington, U.S. June 8, 2020. (REUTERS/Jason Redmond) 

They’re also going to cut funding for vacant officer positions and try to lay off officers with misconduct records, while allocating tens of millions of dollars to community solutions. According to the Seattle Times, the police budget will drop by over $30 million after growing steadily for years.

“The 2021 Proposed Budget for the Seattle Police Department outlines a solid first step in reinventing policing and reimagining community safety,” the budget proposal states. “The budget reduces the size of SPD’s sworn force, transfers functions from SPD that are better performed in a more civilianized practice and makes short-term reductions to SPD’s budget in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“As community-led alternative responses are developed, the size of the force and appropriate response will be continually examined,” it notes.

In a post to Twitter on Monday, González calling making changes to the Washington city’s police department – “right-sizing our law enforcement” – a “budget priority.”

In July, during the nationwide protests where many called for cities to “defund” the police, most council members agreed the police department should have its funding reduced by 50%, with the money shifted to other needs.

The push led to then-Police Chief Carmen Best, the city’s first Black police chief, to announce her retirement.

Best’s announcement came just hours after the city council voted to cut her annual $285,000 salary by $10,000, as well as the salaries of her command staff, and to trim as many as 100 officers from a force of 1,400 through layoffs and attrition.

She said at the time that she was OK with her pay cut, but not with having to lay off young officers, many of them minorities hired in part to improve the department’s diversity. “That, for me — I’m done. Can’t do it,” she said at a news conference.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, right, speaks, during a news conference at City Hall in Seattle. Former Police Chief Carmen Best stands behind her. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

“It really is about the overarching lack of respect for the officers.”

On Monday, Durkan said she will sign the 2021 budget into law in the coming days.


“I applaud the City Council for taking a more deliberate and measured approach to the 2021 Seattle Police Department budget than occurred this summer which led to the resignation of former SPD Chief Carmen Best,” she said in a Monday statement. “As we approach the end of an undeniably long and  difficult year, I believe we’ve turned a corner and can make collaborative, data-driven decisions that advance our shared policy goals.”

Fox News's Evie Fordham and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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