After massive public pressure from individuals and organizations, the Seattle City Council overruled a series of vetoes from Mayor Jenny Durkan, and will proceed with passing bills to defund the Seattle police department. The bills will reduce the police force by 100 officers, cut wages of police commanders, and redirect millions of dollars to other public programs.
“Countless videos of Black and brown lives lost here in Seattle and across the country shows us that not everyone feels safe in our community, and not everyone is safe,” Council President M. Lorena González said. “We need public safety that’s centered on harm reduction, not the status quo.”
Durkan first vetoed the city’s revised 2020 budget at the end of August claiming it provided no solutions or plans for how to make up for the loss of a significant number of police officers and offered skepticism over the million-dollar loan that she’s “not sure we can repay.”
“While the council may not be concerned about the details, I am. And they actually do matter,” Durkan said after vetoing the proposal.
Using their two-thirds majority ability to overrule Durkan, however, the City Council passed the series of bills, defending them as a “reasonable” way to transform public safety in Seattle.
Former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, the first black police chief in Seattle, announced her resignation in August due to the City Council’s proposed cuts claiming that they were unreasonable and impractical for furthering police reform.
“I believe 100% that they were putting me in a position destined to fail. Cutting a police department that already had low staffing numbers, that was already struggling to keep up with the demand,” Best told NPR. “How are we going to provide for adequate public safety in that environment?”
According to local news reports, a “substitute” proposal was introduced which would have prevented police layoffs as well as addressed the budget concerns of the mayor, but City Council members ultimately “thought the substitute proposal conceded too much” and said “they hoped to work better with the mayor on next year’s budget.”
Durkan expressed similar sentiments about continuing reform by working together, even agreeing with the Council that “the city’s 911 call center and its parking enforcement unit should be moved outside the Police Department.”
“One of our shared responsibilities is to find common ground,” said Durkan. “Even when we disagree, I have always believed we could work together on actual solutions that can be done and make the change we want to see.”
While the Council originally promised to cut the police budget in half the new budget, the newest proposals actively seek to “reduce the police force” and shift the focus to community and public-based initiatives. The Council described the initial cut as a “down payment” on future budget trims.
One of the most recent community and public-based initiatives was the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone created by protestors, rioters, and anarchists as a way to provide a police-free zone. Members of the zone became violent with “multiple instances of assaults, rape, robbery, shootings,” and prevented emergency responders from entering the area to provide aid to the teenage victims of shootings.
Seattle was one of the three cities named on the Department of Justice’s “Jurisdictions Permitting Violence And Destruction Of Property” list, citing the city’s mishandling of violence that ensued from CHOP, as well as the Seattle City Council, Mayor Durkan, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s refusal to accept federal law enforcement assistance to mitigate that violence.