Durkan fires back at council plans to cut SPD budget in half

SEATTLE — Calls in the streets for an anti-racist public safety system are being embraced by the Seattle City Council.

Seven of nine members support cutting the Seattle Police Department budget in half.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Monday took aim at the council’s approach.

>> Related: SPD chief lays out what 50% budget cut would mean for police force

“"This is simply not responsible," she said. "You can't govern by Twitter or bumper sticker. Community safety is too important to not have a thoughtful approach."

Durkan called a 50% budget cut "arbitrary."

"To date, the city council has done almost no analysis on SPD's budget," she said. "They haven't even talked to the chief of police."

SPD Chief Carmen Best said any mandate to cut officers could mean the last hired would be first to go, including recently-recruited people of color.

>> Related: Seattle city leaders throw support behind defunding SPD by 50%

"I will not sacrifice officers of color for political points," Best said.

Durkan said she and Best are committed to re-imagining policing, but that they need time to talk with the community.

On Monday, the mayor proposed reducing SPD's 2021 baseline budget by $76 million, or 18%. That would shift $56 million to civilian departments, such as the 911 call center, emergency operations, police accountability and parking enforcement.

The mayor would cut another $20 million by not expanding the force next year and reducing overtime.

"We know we must act urgently but we cannot simply cut functions from SPD or quit responding to 911 calls," Durkan said.

Council members are holding firm on deeper cuts.

"Defunding police does not mean decreasing public safety," said council member Dan Strauss. "In fact, it means increasing public safety for so many members of our community."

"The council is not looking at blunt cuts as has been described by the executive," said M. Lorena Gonzalez, council president. "We are looking at scalpel-like approaches."

The SPD budget discussion is just beginning, but with seven members supporting the 50% cut, it is likely to pass. The council only needs six members to prevent a mayoral veto.

Watch a full replay of the news conference with Durkan and Best below:

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