Seattle council to consider community safety department for some services

SEATTLE — The push to defund the Seattle Police Department could lead to what's called the "Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention."

City Council members introduced the idea of a new civilian-led department in a resolution on Friday as a place to house services that are moved outside SPD, such as the 911 call center.

Council staff members said the resolution would not abolish SPD, which would remain its own, smaller department.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant proposes cutting half of SPD’s remaining money for 2020.

Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda is focused on the 2021 budget, which will be considered in six weeks.

On Friday, she outlined up to $169 million in potential cuts to SPD’s $409 million budget.

That includes cutting at least 136 sworn officers.

“What we have put in front of us is a pathway towards getting to a significant reduction, including ramping up to 50%,” Mosqueda said.

The council is considering nearly 40 SPD budget amendments, including asking the police chief to do what are called “out of order” layoffs so that recently hired officers, who are more diverse, are not fired first.

Councilmember Debora Juarez warned that directive could be illegal.

She also cautioned against strong language in a resolution to create a new civilian-led safety department.

“To me, it’s divisive. It’s not bringing us together as a city. I want to see how we actually defund the police department with a plan, not a pledge,” Juarez said.

Public comment on defunding SPD continues Monday, with a vote next Wednesday.