Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan vetoes budget that would have cut 100 police officers

The battle between Seattle’s mayor and its city council over funding for the police department continued today. Mayor Jenny Durkan announced she would be vetoing a new budget passed by the city council which would cut 100 officers from the department.

“There’s no plan for how the city will bridge potential gaps in the police response caused if we lose 100 police officers,” Durkan said. She continued, “There’s no plan for how we could even accomplish an out-of-order layoff or the alternative, cut one of the most diverse groups of recruits that we’ve had. And there’s no plan that I can support to cut 40 percent of the salaries who are in the ranks and leadership of the Seattle police department who have valid agreements with our city and who have been working to provide community safety to every part of our city.

“For all of these reasons I respectfully have vetoed the Council’s 2020 budget proposal…I believe each of these bills seek to spend money we simply do not have.”

This battle between the city council and the Mayor and her police chief has been going on for weeks. In early July the city council announced it was ready to cut the police budget by as much as 50 percent for the remainder of the year. Chief Best argued that was irresponsible and would result in a significant decrease in the diversity of the force because the most recently hired officers were the most diverse and would be the first to be fired if the budget was cut.

In response, council member Lisa Herbold suggested the department could avoid that by laying people off out-of-order. In other words, firing people by race. Chief Best responded to this suggestion by saying that firing people by race was illegal (which it is).

In early August, Chief Best and Mayor Durkan continued to criticize the city council plan to cut the police budget. The council responded a day later by cutting the pay of 13 top officials in the department including Chief Best. Best hired an attorney who called the move “retaliation.” But a few days later on August 11, Chief Best announced she was resigning.

This battle is still far from over. Mayor Durkan used the word “collaboration” about ten times during her speech today, but her veto just sends the bill back to the council where it passed with an overwhelming majority (7-1) days ago. The only vote against the bill was socialist council member Sawant who was holding out for a 50 percent cut to the police. So it’s very possible the council could simply overrule this veto. Council President Lorena González said she was disappointed in Durkan’s decision:

González told The Seattle Times she was “disappointed” by the mayor’s veto decision, but she would work with her on a path forward.

“I have to believe that we agree on more than we disagree, and I will strive to bridge the gap on our few but critical differences of opinion,” González said. “I hope that the public knows that their elected leaders are committed to working together on achieving a long-overdue transformation of our law enforcement and criminal justice systems that have for far too long perpetuated trauma and harm on our black, brown and indigenous neighbors.”

One of the main targets of the city council plan was to cut all of the officers on the city’s navigation team. In essence, this is one more step to ensure there is little to nothing residents can expect the city to do about the ubiquitous homeless camps that pop up in parks and on sidewalks. These cuts won’t do anything to address the problem but will only make it more visible to residents over time.

It really seems as if ideology has overruled common sense in Seattle. The mayor, who is fairly progressive herself, is fighting a losing battle to prevent a disaster the city is bringing on itself.

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