Seattle city leaders throw support behind defunding SPD by 50%

SEATTLE — The majority of Seattle City Council is now backing proposals to defund Seattle’s police department by 50%, despite concerns from the mayor’s office and Seattle’s police chief that council members are moving too quickly and without enough widespread community engagement.

A coalition called Decriminalize Seattle presented a plan to the budget committee to redirect millions from the city budget to community organizations.

“The status quo is no longer acceptable,” Council President Lorena Gonzalez said Thursday, adding that while she previously believed in police reform, she now believes in rebuilding. “We have to take away the things that no longer and should have never belonged to law enforcement in the first place,” she said.

It was a sentiment echoed by other council members, including budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda.

“I look forward to implementing the proposals outlined by you all,” Mosqueda said during a news conference with the Decriminalize Seattle coalition and supporters.

According to the coalition, its plan to reallocate more than $200 million from the Seattle Police Department’s budget would replace current 911 operations with a civilian-controlled system; scaled up community-led solutions; an investment in housing; and a fund for a “community-created roadmap to life without policing.”

“Ensure that young people and our families have access to the sorts of resources, housing, economic and employment opportunity, health care, education, which actually prevent young people and their families from ever entering the school -to -prison pipeline or the prison industrial complex,” Nikkita Oliver of Creative Justice said.

“You want us as visionaries in thinking through community solutions to policing,” Jaelynn Scott with the Black Trans Taskforce said.

“How many victims would not have to be victims?” K. Wyking Garrett, CEO of Africatown Community Land Trust, said. “Because when the police show up, there’s already a victim, and there’s already a suspect, who’s also a victim in certain ways.”

“When millions of people took to the streets to protest excessive use of force and police violence, they were met with excessive use of force and police violence in Seattle and around the country, proving that it’s not just about a few bad actors,” Mosqueda said. “It is the institution of policing itself that must be dismantled.”

KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon asked Seattle police Chief Carmen Best about those words.

“I respect Councilmember Mosqueda. I think she is very passionate about what she’s doing, but she also needs to think about the fact that public safety and the budget are intertwined,” Best said, “And we need to make sure we’re doing what’s in the best interests of everybody. It’s really interesting — if anybody recognizes issues of system racism and institutional racism, it’s me.”

The city has cautioned that removing 50% of the SPD’s funding would mean losing 1,000 personnel.

“I think it’s rash and irrational to make that decision without having a thoughtful conversation with community members,” Best said, “And I’m hoping that the City Council will rethink the plan to do that — without having a plan for how we’re going to re-envision policing and how it will work.”

Deputy Mayor Mike Fong sent an email to the City Council, detailing the steps the mayor’s office plans to take to determine possible budget cuts, including community engagement this summer.