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Durkan, Best counter with 2021 #defundSPD proposal — UPDATE

Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best say they have a plan to “transfer current law enforcement functions out of the Seattle Police Department” and make “preliminary reductions to the 2021 budget” as most members of the Seattle City Council have now said they will support #defundSPD initiatives as they set cuts to the city’s spending plan in the face of the COVDI-19 economic crisis.

Durkan and Best said they would unveil the plan at a Monday morning news conference.

UPDATE 10:25 AM: In the session with media, Durkan said she 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 will 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.

Calling the demand for a 50% cut “arbitrary,” Durkan said she does not intend to meet the calls for a massive cut to SPD starting immediately.

Durkan announced Monday she has allocated $500,000 in the 2020 rebalanced budget for community engagement on the SPD budget and citywide work “to reimagine community safety.”

“The programs take time,” Durkan said.

If the council votes to approve a major, immediate slash of SPD’s budget, Durkan said she will fight it.

“I will veto it,” the mayor said. “We want to work with council for a responsible process to do this.”

As part of a potential reorganization of SPD’s budget, Mayor Durkan and Chief Best are proposing an initial set of SPD civilian functions that will be transferred out of the department. These transfers result in a $55.7 million reduction to the SPD budget in 2021, however, they do not reduce the City’s overall General Fund budget and some elements will be subject to collective bargaining.

  • Management of the Seattle Police Department 911 Call Center, which is already staffed primarily by civilians, will be transferred out of the department. The Call Center currently takes 911 calls for both SPD and the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) and is composed of 140 civilian employees and 12 sworn officers. All 140 civilian employees will be transferred out of the department, and this will result in $34.2 million transferred out of the SPD budget.
  • The civilian parking enforcement division will be transferred out of SPD and moved into the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). The parking enforcement division is composed of 120 civilian employees, and this will result in $13.7 million transferred out of the SPD budget.
  • The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) – which prepares for, responds to, and staffs the City’s Emergency Operations Center when a major event occurs – will be transferred out of the police department. This includes 11 civilian employees and $3.3 million transferred out of the SPD budget. The Mayor and SPD will assess if OEM and the 911 call center should remain as standalone departments, be located in other departments, or be combined with a future organization focused on public health and harm reduction responses.
  • The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) will be transferred out of SPD. The OPA was already an independent office, but its budget was housed in SPD. This will result in $4.5 million transferred out of the SPD budget.

The Durkan administration has previously identified around $20.5 million in potential cuts:

  • SPD will not pursue its plan to expand the police force in 2021, and this should result in at least $13.7 million in savings. The Chief will ensure appropriate staff levels to ensure a 24/7 response across all precincts and shifts. Following further analysis of specialty units between now and September, SPD projects another $10 million in budget savings is possible through a reduction of sworn personnel or transfers to civilian service delivery outside of SPD. Immediate transfer of work currently performed by sworn officers would be subject to collective bargaining and cuts to current personnel would lead to layoffs of newer and more diverse recruits and patrol officers with recent emergency response experience.    
  • SPD will not fill 40 open civilian staff vacancies, which will result in $4.1 million in savings.
  • As SPD further analyzes overtime and reimbursable staffing for special events and sporting events (i.e. Homeland Security), SPD will reduce special events overtime by at least 30,000 hours, which will result in at least $2.7 million in savings.

The mayor’s plans falls far short of #defundSPD calls that would be at the scale of more than $200 million and would radically reshape the police force.

In addition to pushing one front in the battle over Seattle Police spending ahead to next year’s budget, the 2021 move is also a salvo against possible cuts to the department’s 2020 funding after weeks of controversy over the Durkan administration and Best’s department’s handling of Black Lives Matter protests in the city following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

The focus on 2021 also comes as Durkan has been heavily criticized for her proposed $20 million cut the city’s remaining police 2020 budget — a 5% reduction.

The mayor says the proposals she and Best are presenting stem from talks she began in June after meeting with protesters, activists, and community groups to explore race and social justice reform in policing and equity programs in Seattle.

“With this work in progress and community engagement ongoing, Mayor Durkan and Chief Best will discuss their opposition to City Council’s efforts to defund SPD by 50 percent this year without an alternative plan,” the announcement reads.

They would also continue efforts like expanding the Community Service Officer program and Health One, Seattle Fire’s new team for homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues.

Last week, CHS reported on seven of the nine council members stepping forward to say they would support the long-term goal of a 50% cut to the SPD budget —  one of the main planks of the protest groups, activistis, and community groups who have aligned around CHOP and a series of demonstrations across the city.

Also last week, the council’s budget committee heard proposals from coalition groups King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle outlining major changes to SPD including moving 911 dispatching to civilian control.

The summer’s rebalancing process due to a predicted rapid deterioration in city revenue due to the COVID-19 crisis now seems ready to stretch into August.

Monday morning, District 3 representative Kshama Sawant who has been calling for the most aggressive SPD cuts on the council, said she is prepared to call for the full 50% cut to SPD’s remaining 2020 budget — $85 million — when the council votes on the rebalancing in August.

“In the autumn budget vote, Seattle City Council will vote on the budget for next year,” Sawant writes. “People’s Budget will then bring the legislation to defund all of next year’s police budget by at least half, around $200 million, going by their budget for this year.”

Sawant currently stands alone. Others on the council including budget chair Teresa Mosqueda have said they support the #defundSPD movement’s goals but have not yet publicly backed specific plans.

Despite the uncertainty, heading into the weekend, Chief Best posted a video message expressing her concerns about the “possibilities” of a 50% cut.

“I do not believe we should ask the people of Seattle to test out a theory that crime goes away if police go away,” Best said.

Advocates for the cuts have been clear the goal isn’t to leave a void of social services in the city.

“We’re talking about dramatically changing what it means to create a public safety network,” budget chair Mosqueda said last week. “We know that this world we are currently working within is not actually creating the health and safety that’s been promised.”

Monday morning, Durkan and Best attacked the council’s process saying the council has done “almost no analysis on SPD’s budget” and “haven’t even talked to the chief of police.”

The mayor said her talks since June have included several members of the Seattle faith-based communities including “Black ministers,” groups like Not This Time and Africatown, and “established, Black-led organizations” as well as “protesters who showed up at the door” but the mayor did not identify any specific groups endorsing her 2021 proposals.

UPDATE 3:45 PM: The mayor’s office has released a schedule and roster of community discussions related to Durkan’s 2021 SPD reduction plan. While the record includes many sessions in June, it shows only one July meeting — that session was with Ollie Garrett, a commissioner on the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board

She said the “coming weeks” will bring further discussion:

In the coming weeks, the Mayor and Chief will begin to engage the community on its priorities for SPD and what changes community envisions for policing. Ahead of engagement, the Seattle Police Department is currently analyzing and evaluating:

  • Functions of current work at SPD shifted to a public health or harm reduction models;
  • All specialized functions of the department to determine what should be civilianized, transferred out of SPD, maintained, right-sized, or eliminated;
  • 800,000 calls from the community to 911 and dispatches to 400,000 unique events to determine if new emergency responses are necessary;
  • Appropriate staffing models to provide sufficient services across the city, 24/7;
  • Booking and arrests data to determine if citations are more appropriate response;
  • Transitioning low priority calls to online reporting;
  • Expected 2021 retirements and attrition to better determine staffing models;
  • SPD’s response to other agencies, including King County Metro and Seattle Public Schools, unless there is a scene of violence, a serious assault, or a substantial theft or property destruction;
  • Optimization of SPD’s fleet, facilities, and information technology projects to be consistent with the new approach to public safety;
  • Current overtime practices, including necessary staffing throughout the year required to maintain public safety and the presence of SPD at reimbursable special events and sporting events; and
  • Expansion of current City programs, like SPD’s Community Service Officers, Health One, mental health workers embedded with SPD, and a dedicated nurse 911 line for shelters, or new resources like additional counselors or behavioral health specialists.

Durkan and Best’s response to the protests has received strong criticism from Black Lives Matter activists and community groups as well as supporters of police and so-called public safety spending who called for the CHOP occupied protest camp to be cleared and for Seattle City Hall to allow police to use more aggressive crowd control tactics on demonstrators. Friday, a King County Superior Court judge certified a recall petition against the mayor. Anti-Durkan organizers now have 180 day to gather around 56,000 signatures to force a special vote on recall. If removed, Durkan would be replaced by council president Lorena Gonzalez until a special election can be held to select a new mayor.


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17 thoughts on “Durkan, Best counter with 2021 #defundSPD proposal — UPDATE” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. TLDR Durkan: “I fully support a fascist police department that attacks voters with chemical weapons and engages in retribution arrests w/ massive shows of force to set an example, but I will make meaningless mouth-noises to give you the impression that that is not the case. Fuck you all.”

    • Durian had acplan: do nothing and let this all blow over, then, poof! Business as usual.

      At least now she and Best are being forced to make cuts…since, as a prosecutor, we’ve known all along where her sympathies lie.

      What is happening with the recall? She really needs to go, and the movement to defund police nationally could benefit from a high profile mayor’s head on a platter…

      People at least should pledge to vote her out. I know I would never vote for her again, regardless of her opponent. In fact, I’d basically crawl over broken glass to vote against her…

  2. I feel sorry for the protesters and activists who are so blinded by history of bad behavior (by oppressors) and the need for change. They’re demanding changes with no apparent knowledge of the current budgets and how those changes could negatively affect the lives of thousands of Seattle citizens. They don’t seem to care, only focused on trying to force the world into giving more value to Black lives (though, it seems other groups are trying to include other minority lives too -which in that, seems appropriate enough). This frustrates and confuses me to no end. Yes, change needs to happen, but you can’t honestly expect immediate and severe change. Society doesn’t work that way. I just simply doesn’t, no matter how much you may want it.

    I agree the Mayor needs to be replaced with someone who has better tools and understanding of how to work with people. But the city Council also needs replacement with people who are less reactionary, and more savvy about civil management.

    I actually have no problems with the changes suggested so far. If administrative changes keep happening, who knows – maybe we’ll hit that 50% but damn people, give it time! What I’m literally afraid of, is that the police force itself is reduced to the point of where the kind of lawlessness we saw in CHOP becomes city-wide. Don’t say it wouldn’t happen because we saw some pretty depraved behavior and death occur in a 6-block radius, just because they thought the police was absent. If anyone thinks we’re advanced enough as a society to live without a police force (or severely reduced one) or a civilian military, then you’re insane. We saw the evidence last month.

    • If this somehow passes in its current not-very-well-thought-out form, there will almost certainly be some kind of referendum put on the ballot (I guess in 2021, since it’s probably too late for 2020) to restore funding.

      It would behoove activists to produce some kind of plan the majority of citizens can get behind.

    • ” What I’m literally afraid of, is that the police force itself is reduced to the point of where the kind of lawlessness we saw in CHOP becomes city-wide.”

      That lawlessness ALREADY happens in the city. It just happens in South Seattle where you expect it to and you don’t care. All the sudden it is in YOUR part of town and it’s pearl clutching and Woe is me. SPD doesn’t care about black people, they don’t care about gay people, they care about escorting white nationalist through Capitol hill and stroking their egos. Look at who they voted for SPOG president.

      SPD either doesn’t show up, show’s up days too late, or worse, exacerbates and makes a situation worse in almost every case. There is no need for a police department that has such contempt, and fear of their own civilians that they need to barricade themselves in their own fucking building.

      Cutting SPD by 50% isn’t far enough. The entire department needs to be abolished. 95% of public safety can be handled by people without guns. And the remaining 5% won’t be made safer or with less loss of life with a fucking swat team in place either.

    • Your statement is incorrect, protesters are paying attention to the budgets and there is plenty of research and data to back of the changes being requested. The City Council is working very hard to find the best way to move this money around. If you watch their meetings you can hear for yourself that the proposals are being made by clear-headed activists who have put a lot of work and thought in to it.

      What do you mean by lawless? The CHOP wasn’t out of control at all from my experience. There were white supremacists coming in to the city to attack people, but that’s not CHOPs fault. Pretty much everything else was not out of line with normal neighborhood crime.

      • That is revisionist crazy talk by someone who has so obviously consumed the kool aid. You guys are almost better at denyng reality than Republicans. Really, kind of scary.

      • Emily,

        Much of what occurred at CHOP was out of the ordinary. The shooting incidents while not unheard of for the area were much more frequent, and of course, deadly. Likewise, the general prevalence of property crime was off the charts. Many people did not feel safe in that area as time went on. To blame everything that went wrong on white supremacists is an uninspired attempt at deflection. CHOP had a point to make…at first. But it devolved into frequent chaos, filth, substance abuse, and violence. And the participants and supporters should recognize these failings and take some responsibility for them rather than blaming it all on mythical white supremacists.

    • So activists have been working on this for years, show up with detailed plans in hand (see CHS previous article) along with quite the talent on board, not to mention the organizations they represent…but you state they don’t know the budget or have any concern how changes might affect others? I’m going to bet they know the budget better than you know the workings of where you work, or used to work, 10 times over. You seem to neglect to understand what is important to people as far as caring as well since you went on:

      They are “focused on trying to force the world into giving more value to Black lives.”

      Do you mean MORE value than it currently has? Then damn straight and what a GREAT idea; way overdue.

      You aren’t sorry for activists and protestors, you try to portray them as dim-witted along with getting rid of our “reactionary” and not “savvy about civil engagement” City Council (which is more than half female, 5 of them being nonwhite.)

      As for depraved behavior in that 6 block area , the worst was watching this police force’s violent and often petty actions, all the while knowing a motion had been filed to release SPD early from the Federal Consent Decree that is still in place after they were cited with “patterns of using excessive force” and “racist/biased policing.” (2012)

      That motion was repealed the first weeks of the protest.

  3. that’s an unfair comparison. what we didn’t see at chop was any re-allocating of funds for housing and healthcare, beyond what volunteers were able to provide. moreover, that responsibility was thrust upon volunteers BY the city when SPD bailed and encouraged houseless folk to take up camp there. CHOP was also specifically avoided by police, where no defundSPD call has been made to obliterate the department completely.

    • What data do you have that reallocating funds to housing and healthcare will have an immediate impact on crime and decrease the current need for the police force in Seattle? I’m not saying those things aren’t worthy of more investment and couldn’t reduce crime rates in the very long term, but people seem to think there’s this linear and (more importantly) immediate correlation so you can make this direct swap with no negative results.

      Furthermore, what CHOP did prove is what happens in a power vacuum. What we ended up with were people who put themselves in positions of authority with guns and even less accountability than police, and two dead black teenagers in 9 days.

      Changes need to be well thought out, rolled out appropriately, and based in data. I get that doesn’t fit well on a carboard sign, though. This is why there’s a difference between people who make good policy and activists.

  4. If the experiment fails and Seattle descends into Gotham style chaos the real losers will be the suburbs. Crime – particularly organized crime – doesn’t respect municipal borders and an LE void in Seattle will be a black hole that will suck the rest of the region – cities and towns whose police aren’t big enough to have anticrime squads or major crimes units – in. The legislature may be forced to disincorporate Seattle so that King County can expand its taxing base to fund the assumption of policing in the former Seattle by the KC Sheriff.

    Alternatively, the experiment could succeed

    • “Alternatively, the experiment could succeed”

      or not….. the “defunded” police department of Camden, NJ is actually *bigger* than it was before…. what they really did there was bust the union so that they could pay less with less bennies. They city turned the running of the police over to the county. During the restructuring period when they had on a skeleton crew on duty they experienced a record number of homicides……. They now have nearly double the number of officers than they did previously…. It *has* helped them to have the time to spend in the neighborhoods getting to know the people and forge better relationships. They haven’t stopped cracking down on crime there – if anything they’ve come down harder on the serious stuff.

      • The Camden Metro PD (aka, County-run PD) was indeed larger. The County turned around and hired ex-City cops and added them to the rolls – and because of lower pay – could add many more! And as you said, it was worse before it got better. And the only way it got better was community involvement. Of course – it’s still not great (because Camden), but it’s better than it was.

  5. I think this is a reasonable proposal by Mayor Durkan and Chief Best. It provides for some significant cuts in the SPD budget without reducing the number of officers. The far-left activists will not be satisfied, because they think that reducing the force will magically mean less crime and incidents of police brutality. It will not! What it will do is increase crime and increase the response time to emergency 911 calls.

    At an intense and emotional time like this, we must be careful not to over-react by pandering to the small minority of activists. Changes must happen, but they should be well thought-out and based on reality, not political posturing.

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