Seattle City Council approves cuts to police positions, budget

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council on Monday passed its amended 2020 budget that included historic reductions to the Seattle Police Department, such as cutting as many as 100 officers through layoffs and attrition.

“Today, council colleagues, we are beginning to put ourselves on the path to righting those historic wrongs,” Council member Teresa Mosqueda said.

The action was supported by demonstrators who have marched in the city following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis but was strongly opposed by Mayor Jenny Durkan and police Chief Carmen Best. But it's far less than the 50% the council initially promised, which Black Lives Matter supporters demanded be reinvested elsewhere in the community.

Instead, the approved budget will cut about $3 million of the department's $400 million annual budget this year.

Council members approved the cuts with a vote of 7-1. Debora Juarez was not present while Kshama Sawant was the lone “no” vote.

“It completely fails to defund t he police by 50%, as six of the eight council members had promised to support and carries out a major austerity program on behalf of big business,” Sawant said.

The council also walked back severe cuts to Best's salary.

Though the mayor and Best had urged the council to slow down, Council member Lisa Herbold said the time is now.

“We always have to think beyond what is normally considered realistic and possible,” Herbold said.

Council member Alex Pederson acknowledged the bill isn’t perfect. He also said there are measures he doesn’t support, such as eliminating the navigation team. But he said a yes vote today shows he’s looking at the bigger picture.

“Just like all appropriation bills at all levels of government, there are items that each of us might not prefer. But the big picture is we must row together, both the executive and legislative branches,” Pederson explained.

It’s important to note, ultimately, it’s up to Best to decide how to slash her department. But the council is making clear where it wants those cuts to happen.

Best said the layoffs would result in the newest and most diverse officers being let go. The council suggested those layoffs could happen “out of order” and target officers with the most complaints. But Best said it would be extremely difficult and even illegal.

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