Last week Ed wrote about the push to cut Seattle’s police budget by 50 percent. In response to that, Police Chief Carmen Best released a video to her department warning that some budget cuts were probably coming. “I will fiercly advocate that we focus on realistic, responsible solutions not political gestures or pandering or political posturing,” Best said. She continued, “I do not believe we should ask the people of Seattle to test out a theory that crime goes away if police go away. That is completely reckless.” That phrase made news and was even tweeted out by the White House:
"I do not believe we should ask the people of Seattle to test out a theory that crime goes away if police go away. That is completely reckless," said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.
City Council has advocated her department’s budget be cut 50 percent. https://t.co/RNfTyFWYBw
— The White House 45 Archived (@WhiteHouse45) July 13, 2020
In addition to the video, Chief Best sent a letter to Mayor Durkan warning that dramatic cuts would require the layoff of hundreds of officers. The letter details some of the ways those cuts would impact the department: “We would have to significantly cut or eliminate Bike Units, Foot Beats, Community Policing Teams, and Anti-Crime Teams.” In addition there would be significant cuts to investigators of violent crime, sexual assault burglary, domestic abuse, fraud, etc.
The public affairs department also pointed out that cutting staff would result in a less diverse work force. It produced a graph based upon standard last-hired, first-fired practice of the department which pointed out how many officers from each minority group would probably wind up being fired if the cuts go through:
Cuts this deep mean we would lose more than 50% of our (BIPOC) officers. These officers’ life experiences make us a better department and community. 4/4 https://t.co/r0JgDaTEu1 pic.twitter.com/4UbecEXPpM
— Seattle Police Dept. (@SeattlePD) July 10, 2020
Monday, apparently in response to this graphic and the possibility that a lot of diversity would be lost, City Council member Lisa Herbold, who supports the 50% cut, suggested that perhaps the police could lay off officers by race:
This means Chief doesn’t have to fire the newest hired first. Chief says firing BIPOC members of the SPD would be harmful & I agree. I know she can argue just as convincingly that maintaining the employment of BIPOC officers is in the interest of efficient operations of the SPD.
— Lisa Herbold (@Lisa_Herbold) July 13, 2020
In short, Herbold thinks Chief Best can and should argue for firing more senior white officers in order to maintain the more recently hired “BIPOC officers.” Wouldn’t firing people based on skin color violate federal anti-discrimination law, specifically Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Herbold obviously believes it would not but Chief Best says her lawyers are telling her differently.
“It is illegal to make layoffs based on race and so I’m not sure where she is getting her legal advice from but the persons who are advising us are making sure we understand that it’s illegal to do that,” Best said in an interview with a local news station. Here’s the report featuring Chief Best, who remains a lone voice of sanity among officials in the city of Seattle. Below that is Chief Best’s statement to her department about the coming cuts.