Seattle City Council members have unveiled a plan to shrink the Police Department, starting with a spate of budget proposals that could reduce the force by as many as 100 officers through layoffs and attrition this year.
Most of the proposals, including cuts aimed at the department’s SWAT team, encampment-removal team and mounted unit, appear to have enough support to pass. Those moves and an accompanying resolution, stating the council’s intent to make more dramatic changes in next year’s budget and to create a new Department of Community Safety, could pave the way for sweeping changes in response to protests that have surged throughout the city.
Yet the package unveiled Friday by council members Lisa Herbold, Tammy Morales, Teresa Mosqueda and M. Lorena González won’t immediately accomplish what many protesters have been calling for, and what police Chief Carmen Best has issued warnings about: Reducing the Police Department’s spending by at least 50% and redirecting that money to other solutions.
The council members behind the new plan were among seven who, in early July, said they would support a “defunding” road map laid out by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now. The coalitions have called for the nine-member council to cut 50% of the department’s remaining 2020 budget and then 50% of the department’s entire 2021 budget.
Now the council members say they can’t achieve that outcome right away, mostly because layoffs will be delayed by collective bargaining with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). They expect their proposed 2020 layoffs, transfers and cuts to reduce the department’s $409 million budget by about $3 million this year, assuming the layoffs won’t be carried out until November. Mayor Jenny Durkan previously identified $20 million in Police Department savings, the Seattle Times reports.
There is a dispute over how layoffs would occur. A city rule mandates layoffs in the Police Department by reverse seniority, with new cops let go first, which Best has warned could result in more officers of color losing their jobs. Under Friday’s plan, the council would ask Best to seek a waiver allowing layoffs to be based on other criteria, such as misconduct complaints.