SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council made a controversial decision on Monday, voting no on a plan to devote more money to keep police officers on the payroll while hiring new ones.
The decision comes as the city struggles with crime and redefining the role of armed police.
The council rejected two plans proposing at least $1 million go to officers, one by a close vote.
Taking resignations and new hires into account, the Seattle Police Department has lost 200 officers in the last 18 months.
Councilmember Alex Pedersen on Monday proposed using $1 million to $3 million of the $15 million in salary savings on bonuses to recruit and retain officers to fight rising crime.
“To demonstrate and recognize this staffing crisis caused by the tidal wave of attrition, and that we want our remaining officers and detectives to stay in Seattle,” Pedersen said.
Protests to defund Seattle police last summer put pressure on the council to shrink the size of the police force and put money into social service solutions.
“The majority of this council pledged to defund SPD, a promise that still remains unfulfilled,” citizen Katherine Dawson said during public comment.
But in a statement before the city council meeting, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan urged support for the hiring and retention plan.
“It’s a false choice to invest in alternatives or hire and retain officers to meet our current 911 response — we have shown we can invest tens of millions in new alternatives,” said Durkan.
Councilmember Andrew Lewis had concerns about the proposal.
“When I disagree with this — (it’s) the reprioritization of the money component of this amendment. The money earmarked for critical crime prevention programs in the human services department,” said Lewis.
A few minutes later, Lewis did vote yes for a separate, less expensive plan to recruit and retain officers. A majority of council members rejected that plan by a 5-4 vote in the belief that the money should be devoted to alternatives to policing.
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