Mayor unveils more cuts to SPD, activists decry her criticism as fear-mongering

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced even more cuts to the Seattle Police Department after weeks of sustained protests that demanded change to a criminal justice system activists insist harbors systemic racism and impacts marginalized communities.

Durkan suggested $20 million in cuts earlier this month and on Monday suggested an additional $50 million more would be considered.

In all, Durkan’s plan slashes $76 million from SPD’ budget next year, but it doesn’t come close to what a majority of Seattle City Council is looking to accomplish.

The mayor’s announcement comes days after a majority of council said they support slashing SPD’s budget in half. Durkan and SPD Chief Carmen Best called the plan irresponsible.

“We have an historic opportunity and obligation to reimagine how policing can done in Seattle,” Durkan said.

Durkan suggested $20 million in cuts earlier this month and on Monday suggested an additional $50 million more would be considered. In all, her plan slashes $76 million from SPD’ budget next year, but it doesn’t come close to what a majority of Seattle City Council is looking to accomplish.

“We need to invest in community-based solutions that address the underlying root issues leading to these challenges,” she added.

On the surface, mayor Durkan echoes some sentiments by those who believe armed officers shouldn’t be the only first responders for Seattle citizens calling for help, but Durkan believes council’s plan goes too far.  

“They have made the arbitrary decision to defund Seattle by 50% this year and next year,” she said.

Durkan’s plan for SPD’s 202 budget moves the 911 call center, emergency management, police accountability and parking enforcement out of the department’s control. It mirrors a few concepts being considered by council but certainly not all of them.

Council is considering taking millions from the police budget and investing it in community-oriented solutions including housing and increasing the number of social service workers responding to calls for help.

“It is reckless to advocate for this type of cuts proposed by city council,” said SPD Chief Carmen Best.

Best added that cutting the department’s budget in half could have severe impacts like closing precincts and layoffs including 1100 fewer officers on the beat and could impact response times.

It took police sixty seconds to arrive on scene after a mass shooting downtown back in January where one was killed seven were injured, Best said. She added job cuts could impact similar incidents.

“There’s going to be very limited police response,” she said. “We simply won’t have the personnel to get there.”

Two groups working with council, King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle, said Durkan’s press conference ‘relied on fear mongering and outdated talking points to distract from the plan” to defund and reinvest from SPD.

The Downtown Seattle Association criticized council’s plan to cut SPD funding in half as a “recipe for chaos.”

Durkan told Q13 News she planned to veto legislation sent to her by council that included a 50% cut to police. If council can hold on to its majority it could override Durkan’s veto.