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Hundreds of Seattle residents blasted the city council’s plans to slash police funding by as much as 50 percent during a phone-in virtual meeting Wednesday, saying the initiative will only worsen violence and crime.
A ‘defund the police’ initiative proposed by the council has been building in strength for months, Q13 Fox reported, but calls against the plan, which would see hundreds of police officers fired, are beginning to grow as well.
Just a day after the Seattle Police Officers Guild launched a “Stop Defunding” petition, the organization announced it had collected more than 20,000 signatures.
Callers to the council meeting were so numerous that it took nearly three hours to hear from all of them, the Fox affiliate noted. Nearly 300 people signed up to be heard ahead of a fateful decision that could alter the city’s future in as-yet unmeasured ways.
“Defunding SPD is a radical experiment that will hurt the vulnerable,” said one caller.
Those seeking to defund the SPD want an immediate cut of $85 million for the remainder of the year. But SPOG President Mike Solan said that if those cuts are approved, it will mean the immediate loss of 100 officers.
And there were definitely some supporters who phoned in.
“He’s right, let’s fire the officers who think it’s okay to tear gas citizens of their own city and instead give money to communities who have been suffering at the hands of police for decades,” one caller said in response to Solan’s statement.
Q13 Fox added:
Most calling to defund Seattle Police Department by 50 percent support a 4-point proposal by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now coalition. That proposal calls for spending the $85 million on a civilian-controlled 911 system, community-based responses to crises, a research process to figure out life beyond policing and immediate investments in housing.
The group proposed cuts could come from dramatic reductions in patrol staff, cutting the recruitment and retention budget, cutting the training budget and ending overtime pay, among others.
But other residents clearly believe that cutting the department at all is foolhardy and a sure way to worsen crime, especially for populations in the city who are most vulnerable.
“SPD is already understaffed and with the city growing rapidly, calls for service are increasing,” one caller said. “I do not want less officers, I want more officers who are able to respond to priority calls in seven minutes or less. We don’t live in Utopia.”
“Seattle City Council, you are irresponsibly not fully representing your constituents by making the reckless decision of defunding our police department by 50 percent,” another caller added.
However, there is already a veto-proof majority of council members who support the cuts, despite recent polling showing that resident backing for the defunding effort is mixed at best, Q13 Fox noted.
Still, the council is also feeling pressured by residents who have pledged to vote them out of office if they don’t implement the cuts.
Others have also threatened new unrest.
“If the budget is not cut by $85 million, if you think what you’ve seen is bad, it’ll only get worse,” one caller said.
The council’s vote on the issue is less than two weeks away and comes amid rising tides of violence across the city that began with rioting and looting following the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis.
Last weekend, the violence worsened as scores of officers were assaulted and injured by rioters as they attempted to protect private property and businesses.
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