Seven of Seattle’s nine City Council members have pledged their support for the demands to #defundSPD part of the city’s weeks of Black Lives Matter protests community rallies.
But none have presented a specific plan for cutting SPD’s current 2020 budget while moving the funding to other departments and to fund social and community programs — until now.
Kshama Sawant, the District 3 council member representing Capitol Hill and the Central District at CIty Hall, will go it alone and unveil her unilateral proposal Thursday morning for a 50% cut to SPD.
Sawant’s office says the representative, chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, will formally introduce new amendments at Friday’s council budget committee meeting that would cut tens of millions from SPD’s remaining 2020 budget.
“The amendments incorporate the Black Lives Matter movement’s demands that the remaining 2020 Seattle Police budget be cut by 50%, with those funds invested in Black and Brown working-class communities,” the announcement reads.
Sawant previewed her plan earlier this week at a rally on Capitol Hill:
At the rally on Tuesday, Councilmember Sawant provided fliers detailing a proposed $85 million budget cut to SPD for the remainder of 2020, of which $20 million would go toward affordable housing, $3 million toward community-based organizations, $700,000 toward renter organizing and eviction defence, $80,000 toward restored funding of the Green New Deal Oversight board, and a transfer of 911 call center funds out of the SPD.
UPDATE: Sawant has posted an overview of her proposal with high level details of where the cuts would come from. The cuts she will propose would come from “across-the-board reductions on patrols and other operations” and “entirely” eliminating the SPD Navigation Team responsible for clearing homeless encampments:
Sawant’s presentation does not specify what impact the reduced patrols and eliminated NAV Team would have on SPD employees and any possible layoffs.
In her press conference, Sawant said as a socialist, she is opposed to layoffs in the city. But she repeated her point that the city is already readying job cuts across its departments and that the city’s police force should not be separate from those sacrifices.
Sawant also presented a table of programs that would receive portions of the SPD cost savings.
Sawant’s $85 million target is based on estimates of remaining funding left in SPD’s 2020 budget after weeks of debate and examination of the ways in which the departments spends its cash as City Hall looks to streamline its budget for expected shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Some large line items that have emerged so far in the council’s process included reducing overtime expenses for officers by $8.6 million with fewer special events and emphasis patrols to staff. The city also can save $4 million by putting the department’s North Precinct project on hold, $3.1 million by reducing the expected wage increase for officers, and over $4 million in reduced equipment and personnel expenses.
More significant changes to SPD spending will likely take much longer. The Decriminalize Seattle group and the King County Equity Now Coalition unveiled a four-point plan that activists says would best reallocate money currently spent on patrol officers for community needs including major changes to how Seattle’s 911 system works and social initiatives including housing — changes that could lead to #defundSPD’s greater goals in the long run but not in 2020.
Sawant’s proposals would put her on yet another collision course with Mayor Jenny Durkan who has said a full 50% cut to SPD starting this year would be dangerous for the city and impossible under the current contract with the police union.
In late June, Sawant marched with hundreds and held a #defundSPD rally in front of Durkan’s Northeast Seattle home —
“We demand action now,” Sawant said. “Because the delaying tactic that is often used by big business type political establishment is far too common under capitalism. They tell the movement, we will get what we want later. Let’s have more studies, stakeholder groups, presentations by experts. Let’s do it right. Let’s not be hasty like those impetuous socialists.”
Durkan is focusing on a plan for $76 million in cuts to SPD in 2021 — about a third of the #defundSPD 50% goal. Durkan said the plan would call for $56 million of that cut coming from moving the 911 call center out of SPD as well as moving parking enforcement to the Seattle Department of Transportation. The city’s Office of Emergency Management and the Office of Police Accountability, the department’s oversight body, would also be moved to civilian control as part of the $56 million transfer.
If the council votes to approve a major, immediate slash of SPD’s budget, Durkan said two weeks ago, she will fight. “I will veto it,” the mayor said. “We want to work with council for a responsible process to do this.”
Sawant’s office has said the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild is not a barrier. “Many City Councilmembers claim that the City Council cannot legally cut the SPD budget without getting agreement from the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG), that it needs to be bargained with SPOG, and that will take time,” an update to Sawant’s Facebook page reads —
First of all, this is simply not true! More importantly, we have seen in every recession, the political establishment has thrust the burden of capitalism’s crisis on public sector unionized workers who provide vital services to our most marginalized, making brutal cuts and forcing workers to accept mandatory furloughs and layoffs. They are getting ready to do that in this recession as well – brutal cuts are coming. What politicians will cut and won’t is all about political will. When they cut vital services by laying workers off, they don’t say “it will take time,” they say “it needs to be done right now.” Defunding SPD is not a budget cut to put a recession’s burden on workers. It is about addressing gross injustices. Our movement says cut the police budget by 50% now. But as always, whether or not we win depends on how strong our movement is compared to the political establishment.
It’s not yet known what if any support Sawant has for her proposals from her colleagues on the council. No other council members are scheduled to be part of Thursday’s announcement. In her press release, Sawant called on her fellow council members who have expressed #defundSPD support to join her in pushing for the 50% cut and “follow through on their public commitments by supporting and voting for her budget amendments.”
The King County Equity Now Coalition is calling for public support for the overall #defundSPD effort but has not specifically endorsed a plan.
The council’s budget committee is scheduled to review SPD budget amendments to the 2020 budget on Friday and vote on the amendments next Wednesday, August 5th. The full City Council is scheduled to vote on the revised budget on Monday, August 10th.
UPDATE 8/3/2020 9:30 AM: The budget committee is meeting Monday morning for a session focused on proposed amendments related to SPD in the rebalancing package. Here is the full, 79-page roster of proposals including the items being brought to the council for a full 50% reduction by Sawant:
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