Most of Seattle council pledges to support police defunding

SEATTLE (AP) — A majority of Seattle City Council members say they agree with a proposal by advocates to defund the police department by 50% and reallocate the dollars to other community needs.

Council members Lisa Herbold, Dan Strauss and Andrew Lewis added support Thursday to a road map set out by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, The Seattle Times reported.

They joined colleagues Tammy Morales, Kshama Sawant, Teresa Mosqueda and M. Lorena González, who previously backed the idea and promised quick action.

That means seven of nine council members support the idea, though they have yet to say how they intend to make the cuts.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has asked the council to slow down and has not backed a 50% decrease.

Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now are new coalitions that emerged during recent Black Lives Matter protests and that count a number of community organizations led by Black people as endorsers.

In a presentation to the council’s budget committee this week, they said the Police Department’s 2021 budget should be reduced by 50% from the status quo. Its budget is $409 million this year. They also said the department’s remaining 2020 budget should be cut by 50% this summer.

Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now said defunding could include removing Seattle’s 911 dispatchers from police control, scaling up community-based solutions to public safety, funding a community-led process to “imagine life beyond policing," and investing in affordable housing.

The aim is “defunding the Seattle Police Department and building a world where we trust and believe in community to provide the safety that we need,” Decriminalize Seattle’s Jackie Vaughn said Thursday.

The council is currently considering changes to the city’s 2020 budget, which has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Durkan has proposed about $20 million in Police Department cuts as part of a broader plan to close a $378 million budget hole. Most of those cuts were identified in response to the pandemic, before the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked protests across the country.

The council has the power to alter Durkan’s 2020 rebalancing package but must do so in the coming weeks. This fall, the mayor and council will hash out 2021’s budget.

In an email about the proposal by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, Durkan spokeswoman Kelsey Nyland said, “Our office doesn’t object to any of these ideas – they are all undeniably critical to building a more just and equitable city. But each … is much more nuanced than it initially might seem, and if we don’t factor that into our discussions … then we’ll never be able to build actionable and lasting solutions.”