The defunding Seattle Police debate continues ahead of city council's budget vote

Mayor Jenny Durkan on Monday said city councilmembers have "admitted they were wrong" when they committed to defunding the Seattle Police Department by 50 percent this year. 

So what happens to police reform efforts? The fiery debate will continue until the full council votes on the city's budget next week. The city council's budget committee is meeting Wednesday. 

 Durkan said she hopes that as the debate moves forward, Police Chief Carmen Best will have a seat at the table.  

"I'm disappointed and a bit surprised that to date council has never reached out to sit down with Chief Best to hear her thoughts on how this department could be made better," Durkan said. 

The majority of council members initially said they supported defunding the department by roughly $85 million, a move that would have forced the department to lay off up to 100 officers and drastically cut patrol staff, the recruitment and retention budget, the training budget and overtime pay, among others.

The defund proposal stems from a four-point plan put forth by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now. 

Now, the far-reaching cuts aren't as certain, but Chief Best is still trying to find common ground before the vote. 

"Overall, there are some good approaches in the proposal. Some of the ideas SPD already had and has raised before," she said.  "What is problematic is these are approaches without any clarity on how they'll become a reality. What is the plan? The push from council and some of our community is to do these large-scale changes in 2020 with practically no plan for public safety, and I believe wholeheartedly this is reckless." 

Local law enforcement have been questioning how the city would and could operate safely with huge cuts, especially 50%.

Many wonder what will happen in times of emergency and times of violence if there aren't officers to respond to 911 calls. Now, King County's top public safety official is also weighing in.

"I don’t know any organism you can cut in half and expect it's going to live," says King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. "We need patrol officers to show up at crime scenes, we need detectives to investigate and prosecutors to prosecute. My fear is that both the defund movement and the terrible budget problems that are hitting local governments, that we’re going to lose our ability to respond to the increasing violence." 

While Satterberg thinks defunding the police could result in a public safety nightmare, like Chief Best, he did acknowledge he agrees with some of the movement's message.

"I do think it’s good for us to think have we over-relied on the police to solve every little problem," he said. 

He and Chief Best agree that some crises could be better-solved with social service workers responding, but many calls for help still need police.

"We’re always going to need police officers to respond to situations of violence and detectives to investigate those situations, and we can’t cut so deep that we harm their ability," Satterberg said. 

Meanwhile, the fight to defund SPD is still going strong, with a rally set for Wednesday at noon starting at the Seattle Youth Jail. King County Equity Now sent us this statement in response to Chief Best and Mayor Durkan's press conference:

"The King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle coalitions are formally supported by over 420 organizations—including many of the most prominent local philanthropic, grassroots, and direct service entities in Seattle.

Organizations including: ACLU WA, Asian Bar Association of WA, Economic Opportunity Institute, El Centro de la Raza, Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, King County Department of Public Defense, Loren Miller Bar Association, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, National Lawyers Guild Seattle, Seattle Human Rights Commission, and the Social Justice Fund Northwest to name a few. More than 45,000 Seattle residents pledged their support for our well-researched 4-point plan to maximize public safety by reallocating 50% of the large police budget into pro-community public safety initiatives. We encourage viewers to familiarize themselves with our 13-page 2020 Blueprint for Divestment, Youtube podcast, and key takeaways.

Should Mayor Durkan and Chief Best truly care about our region's public safety for everyone, we encourage them to no longer serve as a roadblock and endorse the overwhelmingly supported community process that’s currently underway. Our Blueprint calls for investment in data-based public safety solutions that we know work to prevent harm—not merely respond to it. Door is always open for genuine engagement.”