Seattle City Council OKs budget with nearly 20% police cut

SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle City Council approved the city’s 2021 budget with reductions to the police budget, though not as much as activists sought amid mass demonstrations against police brutality over the summer.

The council voted Monday to shrink the budget of the Seattle Police Department by about 18%, which includes cuts to overtime and training, KING-TV reported.

Dozens of vacant jobs will not be filled and 911 dispatchers and parking enforcement will be moved out of police jurisdiction. Millions of dollars will instead go to community programs.

“We’ve crafted a 2021 budget that invests in what we need most — affordable housing, public health measures, community safety, the environment, and economic recovery,” said council member Teresa Mosqueda, chair of the Budget Committee.

Council members opted to approve the hiring of more than 100 police officers while continuing to reduce the budget.

Mayor Jenny Durkan said she plans to sign the budget into law next week. She applauded the council for taking a more deliberate and measured approach to the police budget than she said happened over the summer, when proposed cuts to the 2020 budget led then-police Chief Carmen Best to resign.

Activists, who’ve been marching for months calling for the council to redirect 50% of the police budget, considered Monday’s vote a win but said their work is not finished, The Seattle Times reported.

A “major concerted effort” by advocates and those in the streets should be credited for the initial results, said Nikkita Oliver, an organizer with King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle who leads an arts program for youth involved in the court system.

Mass demonstrations happened in Seattle almost nightly for months in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Seattle Police Officers Guild president Mike Solan called the City Council “naïve” and said it could take longer for officers to respond to 911 calls.

This budget was more challenging because of a steep decline in revenue caused by the pandemic. Even so, the spending plan includes dollars for COVID-19 testing, food assistance and small business grants.

Durkan said the budget makes the largest single-year investment in homeless services in the city’s history and creates hundreds of new shelter spaces.