SPD intends to keep department ‘whole’ after council votes to cut budget, officers

Seattle Police Department is vowing to keep its department “as whole as possible” after city council voted to cut its budget for the rest of the year, suggesting 100 officer layoffs. 

The defund police movement took over Seattle streets this summer with calls to cut the department’s $409 million budget by 50 percent. 

For people behind the defund movement, the roughly 1 percent cut achieved by city council on Tuesday is more symbolic than substantial, seen as a down payment on defund efforts to come, while others come to grasps with what it could mean for police response. 

“Losing 100 positions at a time when we’re already below minimum safe-staffing levels department wide, it’s only going to increase 911 response times when community calls for help expecting a law enforcement officer to show up,” Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan said back in August. 

The council’s legislative proposal is already at odds with reality in some ways, like cutting funds for training that’s required by federal oversight. 

“I acknowledge that some of these bills may need some revisions and I’m committed to pursuing those changes legislatively and committed to working with my colleagues here at the council, folks in the executive departments and folks in the mayor’s office to accomplish those revisions,” said Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who was the deciding vote to override the mayor’s budget veto.

The police department was not really consulted in previous cuts aimed at reimagining public safety. Less than a week ago, SPD Interim Chief Adrian Diaz told Q13 News in an interview that he thought layoffs were off the table this year, even with budget cuts. 

“I’m already making sure I have a very tight fiscal budget right now, making sure we’re being really tight with overtime equipment purchases, I think right now we will find ourselves not having to make any layoffs,” he said. “There’s obviously no guarantees but I think right now we have a plan in place to make sure we honor our budget for 2020.”

Still, the council’s stated goal is to reduce SPD’s force, in this year’s budget cuts and cuts for next year. Still scrambling for this year’s solutions, the debate over next year’s budget starts next week when Mayor Jenny Durkan introduces her proposed 2021 budget to council.