SEATTLE — The Capitol Hill Organized Protest, known as CHOP, may be gone but one of the demands protesters called for – defunding the police department – continues to be a point of contention for the mayor, police chief and city council.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best agree that change is necessary. What they disagree on is what that change will look like.
“I don’t want the people of Seattle to test out a theory that crime goes away if police goes away,” said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.
Best released a public letter and video Friday calling demands for a 50% cut to her budget neither realistic or rational. The call to cut the budget started on Capitol Hill after protesters successfully took over six city blocks managing to keep police out for weeks. Protesters want the funds reallocated to other social services.
Should these cuts happen, Best warned of massive layoffs and delayed 911 response times.
“You would have an increase in response times and some calls would just go unanswered,” said Bob Scales, a law enforcement consultant.
Scales said a 50% cut would increase 911 times but the former city of Seattle deputy prosecutor says massive cuts wouldn’t necessarily be catastrophic.
Simply put, he says the police budget is and has always been massive. Seattle police’s budget is currently about $400 million.
Scales said he could see cuts for rarely used units like harbor patrol and mounted police.
“These specialized units provide highly technical services that are good to have but are rarely used,” Scales continued.
A deep roster of highly paid top brass could also be considered.
“It’s a significant expenditure and it’s certainly something that you could cut without cutting any core policing services,” Scales said.
Durkan from day one has been sympathetic to protesters but will not agree to a number when it comes to cutting police funding.
“Target numbers themselves are irresponsible if you’re not looking at the functions. What the police should be doing versus perhaps what other people can and should be doing,” Durkan said.
The mayor and chief continue to speak out on this issue, but the decision will be made by the council. Seven of the nine council members say they will support chopping the police budget in half.