The Seattle City Council is making headway on defunding the Seattle Police Department. Today, they passed amendments on the 2020 budget rebalancing package that will cut the remainder of the 2020 SPD budget by around $3 million. Council members will pursue plans to cut around 41% of the 2021 SPD budget in conversations this fall.
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While the council did not reach the 50% defunding goal asked for by protesters, the council nixed the SPD Navigation Team that sweeps homeless encampments, reduced SPD's force by around 100 officers through layoffs and attrition, capped SPD executives' salaries, and more. A final vote to get the budget proposal passed out of committee will happen Monday morning with a final vote by the full council Monday afternoon.
The council has sat through over a month of budget meetings full of inquests into SPD's budget at the behest of the public. In the process, they have dealt with a misinformation campaign leveled against them by Seattle's own Mayor Jenny Durkan and SPD Chief Carmen Best.
Before voting on many of the amendments today, the council laid bare how Durkan has wrongly categorized or intentionally left out information to "intentionally try to confuse the public," about the council's plans to reduce SPD's budget, Councilmember and Budget Committee Chair Teresa Mosqueda said.
This is because, according to Council President Lorena Gonzalez, Durkan "has a strong ideological opposition to our plan."
Gonzalez continued: "The mayor does not agree with the city council and the people of Seattle... As a result, she is spreading misinformation and fear about what the council intends to do in order to undermine our genuine efforts to transform community safety in our city."
The Mayor does not agree with the City Council and a majority of the people of Seattle who believe we need to substantially reduce the size and scope of the police department. The simple fact is that the Mayor does not like our plan and has a strong ideological opposition to it. pic.twitter.com/3v3SJLqZE3
— Council President M. Lorena González (Seattle) (@CMLGonzalez) August 5, 2020
Gonzalez went on to say that she believes the mayor's "strategy" is "to delegitimize, delay, and distract... in the hopes that the political whims will change."
For the council, Gonzalez said, "Defund SPD is more than a hashtag, it’s more than a talking point, it’s more than a bumper sticker."
One claim that Durkan and Best discussed in a clusterfuck of a press conference yesterday was the cuts to implicit bias training. Durkan and Best insinuated that all of the trainings were getting cut. That's simply not true, Gonzalez clarified.
"Contrary to the assertion made by the executive yesterday that we're cutting implicit bias training because we don’t believe in implicit bias training," Gonzalez said. "That's simply not true."
The amendment that passed today regarding implicit bias would only cut $36,000 of the remaining $72,000 allocated for those trainings this year. The reason? COVID-19. Those trainings are now being hosted online.
In discussions around cutting the Navigation Team, Councilmember Lisa Herbold said senior executives called her this morning ahead of the vote to try to sway her to keep working on improving the team instead of culling it.
"I'm sorry," Herbold said. "I think that is another use of a fear tactic."
One of the more contentious items involved personnel layoffs. The issue according to Durkan, Best, and the office of Labor Relations (LR) is that SPD would have to do layoffs based on seniority, and the newest recruits are some of the most diverse. However, council members have said that Best can request out-of-order layoffs. Those would take a lot of time, LR, Durkan, and Best have said. They would also take a lot of effort. The LR advised against it.
Gonzalez, chair of the select labor committee, said she was "disappointed" that LR, a division inside the city's executive department, "appears to be being utilized in a politically motivated fashion to advance the goal of never seeing layoffs of badge and gun jobs at the Seattle Police Department."
"Just because [requesting out-of-order layoffs] is a process that has to be undertaken and just because the process may be cumbersome is not a reason to forgo it," Gonzalez said.
The council has never intended layoffs to happen immediately. At the earliest, layoffs would begin in November. Additionally, the spending saved in the proviso "does not depend on these layoffs happening in 2020," Herbold said.
Unanimously, today the council agreed to go forward with these staff reductions. Alex Pedersen, one of the two council members who got a lot of grief for not committing to defund SPD by 50%, even praised this move as a matter of "fiscal responsibility," saying it "was a historic moment and we can't go back."
Among these victories is the elimination of the cops on horses unit (otherwise known as the mounted unit which is less fun), reductions to the harbor patrol, SWAT, and more.
And here are the limits on SPD executive salaries, from Councilmember Kshama Sawant:
What this means: An SPD exec making $220,000/year will have gross pay for rest of 2020 reduced to around $180,000.
Because just these 13 execs are paid so much, this'll save nearly half a million dollars this year to invest in Black & Brown working classhttps://t.co/Wywy81zunk
— Kshama Sawant (@cmkshama) August 5, 2020