Defunding Seattle Police Would Lead to Job Losses, Chief Says

July 11, 2020 Updated: July 12, 2020

About 1,100 Seattle Police personnel will lose their jobs or face transfers if efforts to defund the department are successful, Police Chief Carmen Best said.

A majority of the Seattle City Council supports a plan that would slash the department’s budget by 50 percent.

Best said the scenarios that council members are considering to achieve the cuts “are political gestures” not “realistic or rational solutions.”

Because money has already been spent through the first half of the year, the cuts represent a 100 percent cut for the fourth quarter, Best said. The only way that could be achieved is to terminate or transfer some 1,100 employees.

“This would leave us with about 630 deployable sworn members in the department,” she said.

The cuts would force police officials to shutter the Southwest Precinct, transferring the 100 employees there, and the remaining staff members citywide would have to focus exclusively on responding to 911 calls.

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Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best addresses the press as city crews dismantle the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) area after multiple shootings, in Seattle on July 1, 2020. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

The entire Criminal Investigations Bureau, including detectives who gather evidence in cases involving missing persons, child pornography, and other crimes, could be eliminated, and a number of functions elsewhere would be cut completely or diminished.

Best was speaking in a letter to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat.

In a separate message to police officers on July 1 that was also released July 10, Best said the past few months have been “unprecedented for the city, the country, and the world.” No matter which path is chosen by city officials, she said, there will be further cuts to the police department, and it’s possible jobs will be lost.

“I will fiercely advocate that we focus on realistic, rational, and responsible solutions, not political gestures, or pandering, or political posturing. I do not believe we should ask the people of Seattle to test out a theory that crime goes away if police go away. That is completely reckless,” she said.

The plan to defund the Seattle Police Department comes from two new coalitions calling themselves Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now. A major part of the proposal is replacing the current 911 dispatch system with one controlled by civilians.

The proposed defunding could come from cutting the department’s public relations budget, its training budget, and its recruitment budget, activists said in a recent presentation to the City Council.

Other ideas include ending overtime pay for police officers, reducing patrol staffing, and a hiring freeze.

Epoch Times Photo
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks as demonstrators hold a rally outside of the Seattle Police Department’s abandoned East Precinct, in Seattle, on June 8, 2020. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, a socialist who supports the defunding efforts, said in a statement late July 10, “The political establishment is lining up to defend what will be brutal cuts to public services, as the capitalist class gets ready to thrust the recession’s costs on the working class and the poor.”

Councilwoman Tammy Morales, a Democrat who also supports the efforts, said July 9 that her office is guided by three principles, including repairing the harm done by the city for decades to communities of color.

“Shifting significant resources from SPD back to our communities is fundamental to achieving these goals. That’s how we build community wealth, health, and safety,” she said.

The Seattle Police Officers Guild didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment, nor did Durkan’s office.

In an interview last month, guild President Mike Solan told The Epoch Times, “You can’t have defunding the police and then asking for better public safety service in the same sentence.”

The first thing that would be cut is training, he said.

Deputy Mayor Mike Fong told councilmembers in a July 8 letter that the Police Department has already spent half of its annual budget, so a 50 percent cut would leave no budget for the rest of the year “and require the City to abolish the department.”

A 25 percent cut would mean immediate layoffs of up to 1,000 personnel and leave the department unable to conduct basic functions, he said.

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