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A #defundSPD reset, Seattle mayor vetoes police department cuts — UPDATE

Mayor Durkan addressing a crowd of protesters in June as thousands were marching in the city’s streets

Activists and protesters who have continued to march for Black Lives Matter causes even after the City Council’s vote last week that members said would be a first step in defunding the Seattle Police Department are apparently on the right path.

The effort to defund SPD took a step backward Friday afternoon as Mayor Jenny Durkan announced she would veto the council’s 2020 budget rebalancing package to address a $300 million shortfall that called for around $4 million in cuts to SPD including about 100 officer jobs and the city’s Navigation Team charged with sweeping away homeless encampments. The vetoed plan also included about $14 million in new spending for community programs including community-led public safety organizations, youth-focused safety programs, and new participatory budgeting for public safety.

“We can and must find common ground on the vision for SPD that has been laid out by Chief Best and I,” Durkan said Friday. “We all agree that we need to make significant new investments in the Black community. We all agree that we need to reimagine policing and provide true community safety.”

Calling the plan proposed earlier this summer by her and now outgoing Chief Carmen Best, one of the “most significant plans in the nation,” Durkan Friday touted her proposal for a 20% reduction in police department spending focused on a plan to move the 911 call center out of SPD as well as shifts including moving parking enforcement to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

What a compromise plan with the council will look like is unclear. But, if Durkan’s vision for the changes to SPD wins out, the department won’t be getting any smaller.

“I don’t project that,” the mayor said about a reduced SPD, pointing to examples where reform actually grew police departments, with duties “optimized” and a stronger focus on “community resource” investment.

The council now has 30 days to either override the veto with a two-thirds majority vote as it did with the recent COVID-19 economic relief package. But even in that maneuvering, there was compromise. Crosscut reports that Council President Lorena González seems headed toward a deal with the mayor. C is for Crank was first to report the veto and also says a compromise on cuts is likely.

The mayor is also apparently in the mood for compromise. Friday, she announced a new agreement with council leaders on a re-working of the COVID-19 economic relief package that will leave more money available in the city’s emergency funds.

“I think we’ll have the same kind of discussions going forward,” Durkan said of how she sees the negotiations over compromise legislation playing out.

Durkan also said she expects changes to SPD to take longer and stretch well beyond 2020, saying the process “has to go into next year” to achieve “meaningful outreach and to go into communities to discuss possible changes and cutbacks.

The council’s plan was shaped in large part from proposals from the King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle community groups.

Thursday night, activists and protesters part of the Everyday March effort crossed Capitol Hill to rally outside the East Precinct.

Before the veto, the groups said they were focused on establishing a “2021 participatory budgetary process” with city leaders this fall and have called on Durkan to commit to her pledge to make $100 million in funding available to the programs, a dollar amount the mayor claimed was being put toward Black Lives Matter goals in her own budget plans.

Friday, Durkan said there will be community discussion but snapped back at the $100 million mark and participatory budget process called for by the groups.

“It’s none of those things,” the mayor said. “I announced many months ago that I was committing to $100 million of new community investments and we would have a process so those investments would be guided by community and the voice of community. King County Equity Now wants to be the deciders in that? We will have those voices at the table but we will have a broader process.”

UPDATE: The coalition has released a statement on Durkan’s decision to veto the legislation. “We are deeply disappointed and concerned with Mayor Durkan’s rash and ill-considered veto of Black lives and against necessary investments towards true community health and safety for all Seattle residents,” it begins:

We are deeply disappointed and concerned with Mayor Durkan’s rash and ill-considered veto of Black lives and against necessary investments towards true community health and safety for all Seattle residents.

With their votes on the 2020 budget rebalancing, City Council put forth modest changes to the police budget in response to the uprising in defense of Black lives and the economic shortfall created by COVID-19. While publicly touting support and care for Black people, the Mayor vetoed and blocked a Black-led community response plan to gun violence—while providing no immediate alternative or justification.  

Meaningful, racially equitable change is under way despite Mayor Durkan’s attempt to stall it. In collaboration with many stakeholders, City Council passed a series of budget bills that include—among other things—allocating resources to scale up long-standing, community-led violence intervention programs that prevent harm, not merely respond to it.

Accountable, Black-led organizations like Community Passageways, Creative Justice, Choose 180, and others currently carry the tremendous burden of serving Seattle-King County’s BIPOC communities. Despite inadequate funding to meet our communities’ substantial needs, such organizations enjoy incredibly successful prevention rates.

Our community has recently lost nearly thirty people to police and gun violence. Against this harrowing and unacceptable backdrop, City Council’s budget votes were a starting point towards generating true public safety. The bills passed reflect the first steps toward changes necessary to help save, honor, and protect Black lives. 

The City’s failure to adequately fund community-led and community-driven public safety programs is literally a life or death issue for Black people and communities. Faced with this sobering reality, Mayor Durkan highlighted the “recent increase in gun violence” while vetoing the exact investment needed to prevent it—all in the same breath. In fact, $4 million that the Mayor vetoed would go directly to Black-led organizations leading effective community responses to gun violence—i.e., the very same organizations that the Mayor frequently touts as valuable partners.

The Mayor also vetoed $3 million approved by Council towards a community-led research program to conduct a rigorous analysis of what creates true public safety for all of Seattle’s residents. More specifically, this investment would fund an equity-centered research program to source ideas, data, and policies directly from the communities most affected by police brutality, policing harms, and gun violence. In vetoing this program without explanation, the Mayor contradicted her calls for diligence and thoughtful measures to inform future policy decisions.  

We are gravely concerned with Mayor Durkan’s decision to halt this prudent and necessary research program designed to create and implement new public safety solutions. 

Notably, despite public calls for “collaboration” and meaningful “engagement,” Mayor Durkan has shown nothing of the sort. Seattle’s BIPOC communities have offered Mayor Durkan ample opportunities to learn, discuss, engage, and lead the City towards a new normal rooted in equity. However, she’s actively avoided meeting with both of our coalitions—though over 420 Seattle organizations and over 45,000 people have signed on formally in support of our solutions. Today,  Mayor Durkan not only ignored these overwhelmingly-supported budget changes but outright blocked them. 

Without as much as a phone call or an email to try and understand these safety proposals or fill in the gaps in her woefully inadequate racial equity lens, Mayor Durkan chose to veto critical budget items without any real consideration for Black lives. 

Equitable progress is under way. We’ve experienced far too many decades of failed promises and policies that perpetuate racist outcomes. We encourage the Mayor to join other City leaders in supporting the ongoing overwhelmingly-supported process to divest from policing and invest in true community safety.

Durkan, meanwhile, said she also has not talked with the police union leadership about the veto and effort to compromise on a plan with the city council. The mayor said she hopes many of the elements of any plans for overhauling SPD “don’t have to be bargained.”

“They’re more about how to approach this in a collaborative fashion and something based on facts and a plan.”

In Friday’s session announcing her veto and taking questions from the press, Durkan and soon to be interim Chief Adrian Diaz said the city has seen a major increase in shots fired incidents since June 1st, a trend also seen in other major U.S. cities, and discussed recent Seattle homicide investigations. Diaz called the gun violence increase “unacceptable.”

Best who announced she was resigning her post in the wake of the City Council’s vote, didn’t sound like the veto will sway her to change her mind. “I’m here for what will likely be my last press conference for the City of Seattle,” Best said at the start of her remarks to the press in which she spoke about the strong leadership qualities of Diaz.

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24 thoughts on “A #defundSPD reset, Seattle mayor vetoes police department cuts — UPDATE

  1. Yes we need to fund schools and social programs more fully. Yes, police need to not cause death in making arrests. Taking from the police budget is not going to help Seattle’s residents. They are already too understaffed to deal with property crimes or traffic.

    I, for one, am glad they will be discussing other approaches.

  2. No, they need to keep fighting. We are saddled with a broken and corrupt police department populated with officers who don’t live anywhere near the city and view the actual citizens and minorities who do with disrespect and contempt and feel free to abuse and brutalize them because there is zero accountability in place for them.

    The department needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up, not just “re-imagined” with new and improved authoritarianism and copaganda.

    • Just a thought, but when your roof is leaking, even badly, you don’t tear down the house. You fix it. And yes, we’ve been working at that “fix” a long time, but that just means we need to address the fix more seriously. Get more people and different groups involved. If we tear it down, we have no place to live. And I heard two interviews with African American activists yesterday on NPR. Both of them were opposed to “defunding the police” as there is insufficient law enforcement coverage now. More serious reform and accountability and taking some of the responsibilities off the plate of the police, yes. Firing 100 officers, most likely the youngest most diverse group, is not a good thing to make the force look more like our community. This is why the City Council and the Mayor need to work together, and hear all voices—not just the loudest ones. My two cents.

      • Sometimes when your roof is leaking very badly, you do however have to tear down the whole roof and rebuild it. Some damage can’t just be covered up with more of the same and called good as new. No one is trying to tear down the whole house here. To continue your metaphor, this is about wanting to remove the rot and get rid of the dangerous parts. It’s about making improvements and reinforcing the parts that will keep everyone equally safe and dry under the same roof.

      • Hello, Moesby. You say that “no one is trying to tear down the whole house.” I disagree. I think there are a lot of folks who when they say, “defund the police,” they mean defund, as in all their funds. I just read a post on Facebook that said, “Eliminate the police.” Unfortunately, that bumpersticker slogan of “Defund the Police” means different things to different people. We are now getting to see the various City Council members do a dance with what it means. Those that are even considering a plan involving the mayor are being called out by the Zealots. And of course Ms. Sawant is literally wanting 50% of the funding removed. Now. Without any plan. Scary. You may not think they are asking for tearing it down to the foundation and then digging that up, but some are.

    • That is a ridiculous exaggeration. These officers care about protecting people and are sworn to do that. They show up to all kinds of situations but sometimes people resist arrest, shoot at them, run away, act dangerous, etc. They have to make the call to protect themselves and others or just wait it out and see if Mr. Crazypants is going to try to kill them or others. They can’t afford to let someone hurt them or bystanders. If I were arrested and if I didn’t want things to go sideways I would do as the officer asks. It works for the vast majority of arrests. Nobody gets hurt. I am not referring to mistaken identity or those rare officers who take things too far without provocation such as the case of George Floyd.

  3. I love this grotesque Durkan strategy of appearing to care–and clearly her PR people have gone out of there way to make sure she never appears to be combative–while at the same time being 100% on the side of the SPD and working as hard as she can to fend of any and all changes.

    But above all, her PR people are saying, never, ever appear combative in public. Express concern they say, show the voters you “care,” while in the background you’re free to pursue your real strategy of preventing any changes at all.

    It’s a great strategy, esp. considering she is far enough away from reelection that voters will likely forget about it by the time ppl get to cast another vote for her.

    Maybe, just maybe, Seattle, is was a…bad idea to elect a former federal prosecutor? Why on earth do these federal attorneys all run for municipal office? More: why do we voters and the Democratic Party nominate them?

    What a bad idea.

    Durkan should resign. I’m glad Best is gone (oh, and did anyone see the propaganda of Seattle “throwing out” its “first Black, female police chief”? Nice touch there…Best may have been both female and Black, but she was awful).

    I really hope the recall campaign works re: Durkan, but I won’t hold my breath.

  4. I call bulsihit on the major statement that crime is going up. “Overall crime is down 5.3 percent in 25 large American cities relative to the same period in 2019, with violent crime down 2 percent.” (from the NYT 6/7/2020)

  5. It’s about time there was an wake up WE NEED TO REFORM THE POLICE NOT.GET RID OF THEM.start by first breaking the police Union

    • Yes I’m sure you are right and know exactly what is best for all of Seattle since you are clearly a mature “adult”…

      Or instead of merely making claims you could try providing evidence to support your point of view. Otherwise the rest of us will never be convinced by anything you say (even if you did happen to be right!) So instead of name calling why don’t you try growing up?

  6. Yes, to of those deaths occurred in CHOP because there was a lack of police presence. We have shown that we cannot govern or make rational choices in protecting ourselves. Reducing the quantity of police isn’t the answer. Replacing problem officers will go much further.

    • There are frequently instances of gun violence and deaths, often gang-related, in that area around Cal Anderson (as well as in the neighborhoods both east and south of Capitol Hill). It happens a good deal more than you may think, despite an active police presence.

      Unfortunately, it’s not in the news very often, because no one wants to hear about violence enacted on brown bodies. There’s no way to politicize those everyday acts of violence involving people of color and no narrative that needs feeding. The deaths and violence at CHOP were not new or rare for that area; they were only noteworthy for the time and manner in which they took place.

      • Yes, gun violence is rare in Cal Anderson. Yes, it’s always on the news when it happens. Yes, you need to stop with your nonsense.

      • How many deaths occured in that six block area of CHOP in a couple of weeks? Two.

        How many homicides are there typically in *all* of Capitol Hill in a year? One or two.

        Stop saying the violence in CHOP is “not new or rare for that area”. That’s such an absurd statement.

      • Don’t spout BS….. the Capitol Hill area has very few homicides… there was an average of 1/year over the last 10 years – 2019 being an outlier with 3, but many years had none at all….. there were 2 over the several weeks of CHOP, with what at least 3 more attempted???? Over weeks…. The actual facts and numbers do not support your narrative that it’s always happening – because it doesn’t – it *is* rare – and it’s completely false that we don’t hear about it – every death in the area has been well known and well publicized.

        We haven’t even finished out the year yet and there’s been nearly as many violent crimes, as in entire recent years and already more than there were less than 10 years ago….

      • That is the narrative that the protesters support. They said how, “CHOP area was already dangerous before the occupation,” and yet more deaths occurred during CHOP than any other period of equal span. You can look up the stats to see that it is quite false to say that it was just business as usual.

        Furthermore, Capitol Hill Seattle is quite good at reporting things that, “people don’t want to hear about,” like shootings. I agree the deaths were noteworthy for the way they took place — a lawless occupation. It’s not a stretch to assume that a power vacuum will degrade into the wild wild west, with guns, criminals, and tampering with evidence.

      • I am a Capitol Hill resident living across from Cal Anderson for the last 4.5+ years (and ~15 years on Capitol Hill). We are pretty aware of the violence when it occurs in the area. During this time we never encountered such levels and frequency confined into a 6 week period. That is the difference.

        Living a less than 100 yards away from one of the murders, I will tell you definitely the murder was directly related to participants of the CHOP. The activity that would never have been allowed to develop, directly fed into the eventual shooting. Yes, it’s gang related, and yes, gang members were regularly in the area in increased numbers during the CHOP. When initially the CHAZ, I actually searched for any leadership among the groups in the park (after getting no response from city resources and my elected city council member) to point out the activity. I brought the same information to the so-called security people. They chose to disregard/ignore.

        My point: to say this is just normal for the area removes any context to the violence. Particularly when most of the participants would not be in the area if it were not for the CHOP.

      • Disagree. The frequency and deadliness of the shootings and violence was excessive, even for that part of Capitol Hill. And previous shootings and violence are always reported (on this blog, for example) so please drop the narrative thst people in this city don’t care to hear about violence perpetrated on people of color..

  7. Durkan is stalling until the pressure is off. People want a change. Durkan is an obstacle. Until she comes forward with a plan for real reform her moves to mollify show insincerity and phoniness.
    I appose police thuggery. I also appose thuggery by the ne’er-do-wells who have used the cover of a valid protest to execute their bad behavior. With our police they have clearly shown they don’t know the difference between the good guys and the bad guys, Maybe they just don’t care and they see protest as an opportunity to act out the bully behavior that is their true character.

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