SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council approved the city’s 2021 budget on Monday by slashing the police budget, though not as much as activists wanted.
The council voted to shrink the budget of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) by about 18%, which includes cuts to overtime and training.
Dozens of vacant jobs will not be filled and 911 dispatchers and parking enforcement will be moved out of SPD jurisdiction.
Millions of dollars will instead go to community programs.
“I applaud the City Council for taking a more deliberate and measured approach to the 2021 Seattle Police Department budget than occurred this summer which led to the resignation of former SPD Chief Carmen Best,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement following the council’s vote.
“We’ve crafted a 2021 Budget that invests in what we need most — affordable housing, public health measures, community safety, the environment, and economic recovery,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, chair of the Budget Committee.
Activists, who've been marching for months calling for the council to defund SPD by 50%, consider Monday’s vote a win, but say their work is not finished.
“These are all really exciting things that have been won after many, many years of mobilizing and partnering together. They've been won because of the uprising and defense of Black lives, and the many people who put their feet to the ground, who have made calls, sent emails, and organized their communities,” said Nikkita Oliver, an organizer who spoke during a virtual meeting of activists and community groups to discuss the outcome of the vote.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) called the city council "naïve" and said it could take longer now for officers to respond to 911 calls.
“You’re going to see crime rise, we're already seeing increased homicide rates that we haven't seen in decades,” said Mike Solan, SPOG president.
This budget cycle is especially challenging because of a steep drop in revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Even so, the spending plan includes dollars for COVID-19 testing, food assistance and small business grants.
Durkan said the budget makes the largest single-year investment in homeless services in the city's history and creates hundreds of new shelter spaces to help get people off the streets.
She said she plans to sign the budget into law next week.