SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Monday announced an initial $76 million in reductions to the 2021 Seattle Police Department budget.
Durkan said the reductions are part of a series of early actions designed to transform the department.
Durkan said $56 million will be transferred out of the department’s 2021 budget by moving the following functions to civilian oversight:
- The 911 call center to be removed from the Seattle Police Department.
- The parking enforcement division to be removed from the Seattle Police Department and into the Seattle Department of Transportation.
- The Office of Emergency Management and office of police accountability to be removed from the Seattle Police Department.
Durkan said an additional $20 million in cuts to the SPD budget have been identified by not expanding the force in 2021 and by making reductions to overtime
“Our assessment of what needs to be done has to be based on facts and data so that we can continue to serve the people of Seattle,” Durkan said.
Durkan said the assessments must be made urgently but said the city cannot simply cut functions from SPD or quit responding to 911 calls.
“If we want to be able to send the right help, which sometimes will not be a police officer, we have to build that capability with the right people, the right resources and the right training,” Durkan said.
Durkan said SPD and the budget office are currently evaluating what 911 calls could be best handled by someone other than a sworn officer.
Officials are doing a major “deep dive” into 911 calls, arrests and bookings to determine if citations would be more appropriate, Durkan said.
“All of these areas of transformation are deeply complex,” Durkan said. “And we must approach each problem with a level of intelligence and planning to ensure we actually make lasting change.”
Durkan said she and Police Chief Carmen Best don’t have all of the answers on the transformations they want to make and pledged to continue to listen to communities and evaluate data and facts from around the country and around the world.
The Mayor then shifted the focus of her speech to that of the city council and said council members have done “almost no analysis” of SPD’s budget, 911 calls or staffing models “needed for 24/7 response to every part of the city.”
Durkan said the city council members who are backing defunding SPD by 50% this year and 50% next year haven’t spoken to Best about her views and experience while serving Seattle. The mayor said the council members made their decision “without a plan.”
“You can’t govern by Twitter or bumper sticker,” Durkan said of the council. “Community safety is too important.”
The mayor said she thinks residents of Seattle expect more out of their government and expects officials to work together to solve the challenges in front of them.
Durkan finished by thanking Best for her partnership and commitment to the city.
“(Best) really is a national leader in community-based and need-based policing.” Durkan said. “We are very lucky to have her in Seattle.
Watch a full replay of the news conference below: