On Tuesday of this week, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best and Mayor Jenny Durkan criticized a plan by Seattle’s city council to slash the police budget in half for the remainder of the year:
“Blunt cuts of 100 officers between now and the end of the year is really not the way to proceed,” Durkan said…
Chief Best said if she is forced to lay off any officers, the cuts will disproportionately fall on the new hires and minority officers because of department policy.
One of the other areas of criticism is the fact that the council trying to cut the police budget in half has yet to sit down with the police chief:
When asked about their collaboration, [City Council member] Mosqueda said, “I think it’s important for folks to know we have taken into consideration much of what Chief Best has sent us, in terms of questions and issues she’s identified.”
Best shrugged off Mosqueda’s remarks.
“I feel like you’re very fortunate to have had that conversation with the council because they certainly haven’t been talking with me,” she said.
Those remarks apparently didn’t go unnoticed. The next day, the city council rejected two proposal submitted by socialist council member Kshama Sawant which would have cut the city’s police budget by 50%, but the did slash the salary of Chief Best and the rest of the department’s top leadership as well.
The council’s Budget Committee was considering specific amendments to the police department’s budget when it took several votes, chief among them were two measures by Councilwoman Kshama Sawant: one of the amendments would have immediately chopped 50 percent of the department’s budget while a second measure would have slashed funding to the agency starting in November…
After rejecting the pair of Sawant ordinances to slash the police budget by 50 percent, the council did approve measures to trip the pay of 13 high-ranking police officers, a measure that Sawant said would save about $500,000 this year.
Chief Best’s lawyer called the vote retaliation:
“She and Jenny Durkan gave a press conference where they were critical of the council. In my view, this was retaliation because as soon as they did that, the council — in a vote that was not publicized, that was not on the agenda publicly — voted to reduce her salary. This is the first black female police chief in the country. Her salary was reduced to $100,000 less than a white woman chief’s salary, namely Kathleen O’Toole.”
What’s most incredible about this is that it’s happening as Seattle is experiencing a wave of violent crime. As it stands now, Seattle already has more homicides than the average of the past several years. And there are still five more months to go. Kiro 7 pointed out this map showing places where shots were fired in King County.
Here’s a report on the crime wave. This really is a very strange moment to decide what the city needs is fewer police and, possibly, to push the police chief into quitting.