SPD budget cuts: Council responds to consent decree warning

SEATTLE — In mid-June, a unanimous city council passed the Crowd Control Weapons Ordinance. It prohibits the use of blast balls and tear gas, but members didn't go through the process outlined by the 8-year-old consent decree.

That decree is overseen by Seattle Federal Judge James Robart.

At the request of Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, Judge Robart issued a restraining order putting the council ban on those crowd control weapons on hold.

And his ruling comes with a warning that could also apply to the council's move to defund police.

"The court advises the City of Seattle to remain mindful that the Consent Decree remains in full force and effect," Judge Robart wrote.

That warning language was highlighted by Seattle City Council Insight -- run by online journalist Kevin Schofield.

“He said if you go about this, there is a right way to do it. And you have to do it the right way, he’s reminding them they have to do it the right way.”

For example, council members have to be careful about assuming they can cut programs that are promised in the consent decree.

“There’s a dozen different areas of training under the consent decree and one of them is it requires implicit bias training. Well guess what the city council just cut. The implicit bias training.”

But the council is frustrated.

“The culture change, we are pushing for and have been pushing for since the consent decree has failed to materialize,” said Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez

Budget Chair Theresa Mosqueda posted a new amendment to the SPD budget cuts late Friday.

It acknowledges that the, “consent decree remains in full force” and that “the council will endeavor to rebalance the 2020 budget consistent with Consent Decree requirements.

“Maybe we’ll look at all this and we’ll think it’s all great. But you can’t just do it unilaterally,” Schofield said.

A final vote on the budget is scheduled for Monday.