Seattle City Council rejects budget amendment proposal to cut police department positions

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The Seattle City Council voted against a budget amendment that would eliminate over 100 unfilled positions with the city’s police department. The amendment was sponsored by exiting Council President Lorena Gonzalez. She based her amendment using Mayor Jenny Durkan’s budget proposal plan, which funds the vacant positions. That plan was one that was submitted to the mayor by the Seattle Police Department. Durkan then submitted the plan to the city council.

Seattle’s mayor is not running for reelection. Apparently, that fact frees her up to act in a somewhat sane manner on her way out the door. Remember it was Durkan who first referred to the summer of 2020 as the Summer of Love. She allowed the protesters in her city to create a police-free Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). She sat back and allowed the protesters occupying the CHAZ to take over a police precinct without consequences. Nonetheless, as the violence grew and then spiraled out of control in Seattle, Durkan appeared on CNN to declare that there was an almost festival-like atmosphere in CHAZ and it was like a Summer of Love. Visions of 1969 were dancing in her head. Needless to say, that labeling of the summer of violence, property destruction, and anarchy at the hands of unhinged mobs didn’t age well. Thus, bye-bye Jenny.

Durkan and mayor-elect Bruce Harrell were not pleased with the cut to the police staffing budget. Both of them released statements before the vote.

“City’s Council’s previous promise to defund SPD by 50%, their treatment of Chief Best and their previous layoff budget led to an exodus of 325 officers from SPD in the last two years. Multiple plans to address hiring and retention proposed by Chief Diaz and I have been repeatedly rejected by a majority of Council. And just yesterday, another Councilmember proposed blocking my emergency hiring proposal that has already generated a tenfold increase in applications to 911 dispatch positions in Seattle. Continued cuts to SPD and underfunding the 911 center are not a plan for true public safety,” Durkan said in a statement last week.

“The City Council needs to listen to voters’ desire for immediate investments in public safety and reverse the proposed $10 million cut to the SPD budget. Proposing further cuts deprives the City of resources needed to achieve national best practice staffing levels, decrease response times, and hire and train desperately needed officers – and is in direct conflict with what Seattle voters demanded just last week. It also delays our ability to develop and deploy a new kind of community-based, unarmed officer who will not carry a badge and gun. Overall, we need more, not fewer, public safety resources,” Harrell said in a statement.

The City Council voted 5-4 against the proposal. That is not exactly a strong vote in favor of the police. Despite the fact that Seattle voters rejected some progressive candidates after months of BLM protests and Defund the Police protests, the City Council’s budget includes $11 million in cuts to Seattle Police funding. The budget cuts include hiring incentives, technology projects funding, and community service officers. This rejection of the proposal should lead to full funding for Durkan’s proposed 1,357 positions. Her proposal (SPD’s budget predictions) allowed for an estimated 94 separations in 2022 and a need to hire 125 new officers. City Council President Gonzalez thinks the police department will be receiving funds for positions it won’t be able to fill within the upcoming year. The amendment read, “If these assumptions hold true, then at no point will SPD need more than 1,256 sworn (full time officers).” In other words, instead of filling the 101 positions already vacant, the money would go to “alternative 911 responses” like its Triage One system.

The City Council, at least half of its members, looks to be out of step with Seattle residents who are traumatized after so much violence and looting experienced after months of protests, which were not mostly peaceful. Businesses were destroyed, retailers were looted, and the city burned. More social workers are not the primary solution to that level of chaos. You can’t reason with anarchists.

Interim SPD Chief Adrian Diaz released a statement before the vote, too.

“The Council President’s amendment would permanently eliminate another 101 officers,” Diaz claimed. “This would greatly jeopardize the safety of our communities and have long term impacts on investigating violent crimes and caring for our most vulnerable.”

Let’s hope for the sake of the residents of Seattle that interim Chief Diaz gets the support he needs. Good riddance to Mayor Durkan and City Council President Gonzalez. The Summer of Love was a lot more like Altamont, not Woodstock.