Over the past few weeks, at least seven members of the Seattle City Council have revealed a commitment to cut police funding by 50% in the wake of anti-police violence and anti-racism protests in the US, calling to defund police departments across the country.
The Seattle City Council on Monday passed a spending plan that would reduce funding for the city police department as part of a revised 2020 budget.
The plan, approved by a 7-1 vote, included a 14-percent cut in police funding or about $3 million of the department’s earlier approved budget of $400 million, which is far below the amount vowed by council members, according to KOMO News.
The police reform plan also included slashing the department’s 1,400 police personnel by 100 officers through layoffs and attrition. The plan also suggest a $285,000 cut in the annual salary of Police Chief Carmen Best along with other top department officials.
The City Council’s proposal also suggested removing SDP officers from the Navigation Team, a team that dismantles homeless camps.
“Reducing the budget of the Seattle Police Department is a response to cut in Department Chief’s Annual Salary, the calls for advocating for racial justice and investments in BIPOC communities”, Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez said in a statement on Monday. “Funding interventions and casework centered in harm reduction will mean public safety rooted in community and addressing the root causes of why many people utilise 911, rather than funding arrests and incarceration”.
NEWS RELEASE: @CMLGonzalez issued a statement after the City Council, through its summer budget rebalancing process, voted to make initial reductions to SPD’s remaining 2020 budget, including $17m to scaling up community-led public safety interventions https://t.co/FsslUzOUvX
— Seattle City Council (@SeattleCouncil) August 11, 2020
Kshama Sawant, the only council member who voted against the police defunding plan, slammed the strategy as a “failed budget”, saying it didn’t “address the systemic racism of policing”, failed to “meet basic social needs”, and continues to “throw money at a racist, violent institution”.
She also accused the council of failing to meet the demands of the Justice for George Floyd movement, as they promised earlier to cut police funding by 50 percent.
“This budget fails to address the systemic racism of policing, trimming only $3 million from the bloated department’s remaining 2020 budget of $170 million just weeks after 6 of the 8 other council members publicly declared they would support defunding SPD by 50 percent, as our Peoples Budget and the Justice for George Floyd movement have demanded”, Sawant said in a statement. “It continues to hand more money over to the bloated police department than to eldercare, homeless services, and other human services, affordable housing, neighbourhoods, and arts and culture combined”.
Member Debora Juarez even abstained from voting on the proposal.
In the meantime, member Teresa Mosqueda, chair of the City Council’s Finance & Housing Committee, has said that passing the defunding plan would pave the way for “tremendous work” in the future.
“While we can’t do everything in this summer rebalancing package, we have set the path forward for tremendous work in front of us as a council and as a city”, Mosqueda said, as quoted by Fox News.
On 25 May, an African American resident of Minneapolis was killed at the hands of a white police officer, triggering a massive wave of anti-police violence and anti-racism protests all over the United States and some major cities around the world.
The calls to defund, reform, or dismantle the US police force started emerging in the wake of the nationwide demonstrations, with some Democrats supporting such a move.