The Seattle City Council on Monday approved proposals to cut up to 100 officers from the police department through layoffs and attrition. The council also voted to cut the salary of Seattle police chief Carmen Best, who announced her resignation a few hours later.
Cutting the police department’s budget has been the stated goal of Black Lives Matter protesters, who have marched and rioted in Seattle following the death in May of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan opposed the proposal.
Amendments unanimously passed by the council would cut less than $4 million of the department’s $400 million annual budget this year. Only one council member, Kshama Sawant, voted against the plan, saying it did not go far enough, Breitbart reports.
Seattle has about 1,400 police officers and the reductions fall far short of the 50 percent cut to the department that many Black Lives Matter protesters wanted. Several council members on Monday said the changes were a starting point in a long process to reimagine policing and public safety.
Other programs affected by the council’s vote include mounted patrol, school resource officers, harbor patrol, and the navigation team, which works with the homeless.
“While we can’t do everything in this summer rebalancing package, we have set the path forward for tremendous work in front of us as a council and as a city,” Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda said.
Previously Mayor Durkan and Best had urged the council to slow down its discussions about police budgets, saying the issue could be taken up with the 2021 city budget. They also argued any layoffs would disproportionately target newer officers, often hired from minority communities, and would inevitably lead to lawsuits.
Durkan has already proposed about $20 million in “savings” from the police budget this year, largely due to reduced city tax revenues amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, the mayor sketched out a plan to reduce the police budget by about $75 million next year by transferring parking enforcement officers, the 911 call center, and other areas out of the department.
According to Breitbart, as U.S. attorney in Seattle, Durkan pushed a Justice Department investigation that found officers too quick to use force, leading to a 2012 consent decree with the federal government. An independent review found that the resulting reforms led to a decline in the police use of force. But critics have said the department’s use of tear gas other less-than-lethal weapons during recent anti-police demonstrations show not enough progress has been made.