SEATTLE - Dozens rallied at Seattle City Hall to share their support for the Seattle Police Department while the City Council works to slash its budget in half.
If approved, SPD Chief Carmen Best says the city will be forced to shutter an entire precinct and cut 700 from the force.
But proponents of the plan said marginalized communities have been repeatedly brutalized by the criminal justice system while affordable housing and social services have been neglected.
King County health officials declared racism a public health crisis. Those supporting slashing SPD’s budget in half says reinvesting that money in communities could be among the first steps to address meaningful change.
“Not all cops are bad, I’m married to a great one,” said Emily who attended Wednesday rally in support of the department. She declined to share her last name, worried it could leave her vulnerable, and worried significant cuts could also leave others behind.
“If you’re not thinking about our most vulnerable, they’re going to be left without emergency services,” she said.
A majority of Seattle City Council members pledged to cut SPD’s budget by 50% and reinvest those dollars into community health, housing programs and more.
“We want people to understand that if they cut by 50%, their public safety services will suffer,” said Best.
Chief Best warned drastic cuts proposed by council could have severe risk for public safety while also changing the make-up of those who serve. As of today, more people of color fill the ranks. Best said legal and contractual requirements mean cuts could set that trend backwards.
“The very people who are crying for Black Lives Matter and more diversity, what they’re doing is the absolute opposite of that,” she said.
“It would be a major set-back,” Seattle Police Officer Sergio Garcia said.
For more than a decade Garcia has worked in law enforcement, and for the past three years here in Seattle at SPD. Not only does he worry what a 50% cut could do for public safety, but also for his future at the department.
He told Q13 News a negative experience with a police officer years ago was the reason he chose a carrer in law enforcement.
“I got pulled over by a white police officer 6 times in 4 days,” he said, describing why he chose a career in law enforcement. “I went back home and spoke to my parents and said I’ll be a cop for a could years, help you guys out and set a better example from what that guy did to me. Now 17 years later I’m talking about losing my job.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has a counter proposal that she said sheds more than $70 million from SPD’s budget.
But no matter which plans are approved, cuts are coming due to the pandemic and its impact on economy.