The Seattle City Council overrode a mayoral veto and pushed through reductions to police funding that will cut dozens of officer positions from the force.
The council decided during a special session on Tuesday to override Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan, who originally vetoed the legislation shortly after it was passed in early August. The initial cuts will amount to about $3 million, less than 1% of the police department’s roughly $400 million annual budget, according to The Seattle Times.
Council members described the cuts as a “down payment” on future action to defund police and reinvest the money in social programs. In July, seven of the council’s nine members came out in support of cutting the Seattle Police Department’s funding in half, a move that would likely defund an estimated 1,000 positions at the department.
The $3 million cut, which will take effect as soon as possible, will cut up to 100 officer positions from the police force, including 32 patrol officers. The Seattle Police Department’s navigation team, made up of police and social workers who monitor and aid the city’s homeless, will be disbanded. The legislation will also cap officers’ pay, except for the chief’s, at $150,000, according to My Northwest.
“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,” Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González said, suggesting that police are a significant threat to black people. “We need public safety that’s centered on harm reduction, not the status quo.”
“When I look back in this moment of time, I want to be able to tell my daughter, who I’m currently holding in my arms, that I did the right thing and that I voted on the right side of history,” she added.
Council members began pursuing significant reductions to law enforcement in the city in the wake of unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man, in May. Floyd died in police custody after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s autopsy revealed that he had injested a potentially lethal mixture of fentanyl and methamphetamines.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best resigned days after the council initially passed the cuts to the police force in August. Best had campaigned against cuts to police funding and felt personally targeted by a “punitive” measure to cut her salary by about 40%.
Earlier this week, the Department of Justice declared Seattle an “anarchist jurisdiction” for insufficiently cracking down on violent riots and crimes within the city.
The council has worked with a local activist group, Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, on reforms to policing. The group hailed the council’s decision on Tuesday to override Durkan’s veto while pushing for much steeper cuts to law enforcement in the future.
“Today, we are encouraged to see the City Council, emboldened by the support of tens of thousands of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) community members, resist Mayor Durkan’s bullying tactics and anti-Black obstructionism,” the group said in a statement, according to The Seattle Times. “As we head into the 2021 budget cycle, we expect council members to maintain their conviction, elevate Black lives, and uphold their public commitments to divest from policing and reinvest in Black communities.”
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