Seattle to cut funding to police dept by 18%, invest $100 million in communities of color
SEATTLE, Washington - At least one American city is responding to public outcries to take drastic measures to reduce episodes of police brutality by cutting funding to its police department.
According to CNN, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan plans to sign a new city budget that includes an 18% cut to the city's police department funding. Mayor Durkan's decision is detailed in a statement issued by her office Tuesday.
The Seattle City Council approved the budget Monday in a vote of 8-1, with Councilmember Kshama Sawant opting against it. Sawant's opposition to the vote followed her earlier push for the full 50% cut to the police budget that protesters had demanded over the summer following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The new budget was approved after months of clashes between police and demonstrators, which included the takeover of a precinct in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Since then, many officers have resigned, and the former chief of the department retired amid proposals to defund the Seattle Police Department.
"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," Durkan said in a written statement issued by her office.
In June, as demonstrations took place across the city, disturbing incidents occurred repeatedly, including the deadly shooting of a man, and a female protester being run over.
After two weeks of episodes such as this, police successfully dispersed the crowds.
Carmen Best, Seattle's police chief at the time, denied claims that her department told officers not to respond to 911 calls in the area.
Best made the decision to retire after becoming the target of nationwide criticism for the department's handling of the unrest, which was followed by a proposal to defund SPD by 50%.
Best retired in August and by September, a total of thirty-nine officers followed in her footsteps by quitting or retiring from the department, CNN affiliate KIRO reported. Reports indicate that since the start of 2020, more than 100 Seattle Police Department workers left the force.
More than half of the approved budget cuts to the police department involve moving some divisions out of the department and putting them under civilian control. These divisions include victims' advocates, parking enforcement and the 911 system.
Money is set aside for recruiting new officers to replace those who are retiring and leaving the department, but the overall size of the force will not increase.
The mayor said the latest budget was the result of her consultation with former Chief Best and Interim Chief Adrian Diaz regarding the policing needs of the city.
"I proposed thoughtful reductions to the Seattle Police Department that coincide with increased and continued investments in alternatives to sworn officer responses including expanding Health One and continuing to invest in mental health professionals and Community Service Officers," the mayor explained in her statement.
"I have outlined my vision and plan to make budget decisions based on informed assessments of what services we need from the Seattle Police Department and how we can scale up alternatives to policing," Durkan said. "As the City Council now recognizes, this required a thoughtful and deliberate approach and could not be done by simply cutting to any particular number or percentage."
This follows through on a previous executive order the Mayor signed that vowed to "create an accountable and transparent timeline to evaluate Seattle Police Department (SPD) functions" and identify areas that could be transitioned from SPD response to civilian and community-based responses.
In addition to the changes to police funding, the city is pledging $100 million for projects to benefit communities of color, CNN reports.
"I believe we are laying the groundwork to make systemic and lasting changes to policing," Durkan said. "We have rightly put forward a plan that seeks to ensure SPD has enough officers to meet 911 response and investigative needs throughout the city, while acknowledging and addressing the disproportionate impacts policing has had on communities of color, particularly Black communities."
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