A majority of Seattle City Council members now support a proposal to slash funding for the Seattle Police Department (SPD) by 50 percent.
Council members Dan Strauss and Andrew Lewis came out in support of the plan on Thursday.
Lewis said in a statement that he is “100% in favor of” demands by local groups, “including the goal of a 50% cut of SPD’s budget.”
“I am committed to reinvesting that money in BIPOC led organizations,” he said. BIPOC stands for black, indigenous, and people of color.
Strauss added: “If I wasn’t clear yesterday – I am in 100% agreement” with Decriminalize Seattle, one of the groups pushing for defunding the police.
Strauss said the work that needs to be done now includes creating a plan for the proposed changes to be successful and define how the budget cuts occur.
Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez and members Tammy Morales, Kshama Sawant, and Teresa Mosqueda expressed support for the plan last month.
“The current public safety model does not produce safety for black, Indigenous, and brown people,” Gonzalez said in a video statement.
The other three members of the council didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat, or the Seattle Police Department.
All City Council members in Seattle are Democrats except for Sawant, who is a member of the Socialist Alternative party.
Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, groups that recently formed, are pushing to replace current 911 operations with a civilian-controlled system and defund the police department by 50 percent. The department’s budget is $409 million this year.
Cuts would come from freezing new hires, reducing patrol staffing, cutting the department’s public relations budget, and slashing the department’s spending on homeland security, among other places, according to a presentation (pdf) given to councilmembers this week.
The groups say they want to “scale up community-led solutions,” “fund a community-created roadmap to life without policing,” and “invest in housing for all.”
Nikkita Oliver, an attorney involved with the defunding efforts, said the money going to the police would be diverted to community groups.
“This is going to require an immense scaling up of services. It will require a building of new infrastructure to be able to respond to the calls and requests of community members, and it’s going to require that we’ll be able to train more of our community members to be able to provide these direct services,” she said at a Thursday virtual news conference that included multiple City Council members.
Members of the council’s Select Budget Committee heard Wednesday from dozens of people who said they support defunding the police.
Durkan recently proposed a $20 million cut in Seattle Police Department spending, or five percent of the budget.
Deputy Mayor Mike Fong said in a letter to council members on Wednesday that the department has already spent half of its annual budget, so a 50 percent cut would leave police with 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 added.
“I think it’s rash and irrational to make that decision without having a thoughtful conversation with community members,” Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best told KIRO7. “And I’m hoping that the City Council will rethink the plan to do that—without having a plan for how we’re going to re-envision policing and how it will work.”