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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan shot down a plan that would have slashed funding to the city’s police department and meant the loss of 100 officers.
The Democrat mayor announced Friday that she will veto the budget approved recently by a supermajority of the Seattle City Council, citing the lack of a plan to address issues that would arise with the reduced funding. The plan would have cut the Seattle Police Department budget by 14 percent for the remainder of 2020 and eliminate the city’s homeless outreach team.
“I continue to have concerns about council decisions to make cuts before they have a plan,” Durkan said during a news conference on Friday.
“This veto was because the bills, as passed, did not have the type of collaboration that I think we will have going forward, and that I’m hopeful we will have going forward,” she said. “There’s some flaws in each of these that I hope the council can correct, or with discussions, we can find a path forward together.”
The revised spending plan, approved by the nine-member council earlier this month, included a 40 percent salary cut for the SPD leaders with as many as 100 police officers being lost through layoffs and attrition in the department’s cuts as well as taking off officers from a team that removes homeless camps.
“There’s no plans, for example, on how the city will address encampments and RVs that pose public health and safety risk without the Human Services staff who coordinate and lead these outreach efforts that were cut by this budget,” Durkan said.
(Source: KOMO News)
Though the mayor and former police Chief Carmen Best strongly opposed the funding cuts, the council’s vote was celebrated by demonstrators in Seattle who have been protesting since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
The only council member who voted against the budget package was Kshama Sawant and her reason was because she did not think the cuts to the police budget were enough. The city currently has about 1,400 police officers and many Black Lives Matter activists were demanding a 50 percent cut to the department, according to The Washington Times.
In addition to cutting the city’s Navigation Team, the Harbor Patrol, SWAT, Public Affairs and Horse Unit were also on the chopping block.
“I continue to have concerns about council decisions to make cuts before they have a plan,” Durkan said. “I do not believe the 2020 budget in its current form moves us closer to those shared goals. I truly believe we can, and must, find common ground for the vision of SPD.”
According to KOMO:
Durkan had proposed cuts worth $20 million to the police budget, and the council went along with that plan while adding in an additional $2.9 million in spending reductions.
As of Friday, the mayor and council’s cuts total $23 million, which would be a 13 percent reduction to the department’s remaining $127 million budget, according to the mayor’s office.
Without the power to do a line-item veto, Durkan must veto the entire 2020 proposed plan and send it back to the council which is in the middle of a three-week recess. With a supermajority, the council can override the veto.
Council President Lorena Gonzalez reacted to the mayor’s decision, saying she was “disappointed” by the mayor’s decision.
“I have to believe that we agree on more than we disagree, and I will strive to bridge the gap on our few but critical differences of opinion,” González said in a statement. “I hope that the public knows that their elected leaders are committed to working together on achieving a long-overdue transformation of our law enforcement and criminal justice systems that have for far too long perpetuated trauma and harm on our black, brown and indigenous neighbors.”
(Source: KING 5)
Durkan has reportedly been talking with González since the announcement and is hopeful an agreement can be reached.
“I want to stress that the council president and I have agreed that we will continue to collaborate to make changes,” she said.
The mayor also addressed gun violence during the press conference and took a moment to send off Best with some flowers and words of thanks for her service as police chief while welcoming Deputy Chief Diaz who will be taking over.
Best issued her resignation due to the council vote, saying she would accept the salary cut they proposed for her but would not tolerate the “lack of respect” toward her officers.
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