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Seattle council rejects budget amendments aimed at improving police officer hiring, retention

The Seattle City Council met for a mid-year discussion of the city's budget on Monday, spurring a conversation about policing amid a surge in gun violence.

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council met for a mid-year discussion of the city's budget Monday, spurring a conversation about how much money to put toward recruiting and retaining officers while also funding community crime-prevention programs.

The council discussed how to spend savings accrued through the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

“We are in the middle of an SPD staffing crisis now,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who introduced amendments committing funds toward hiring and retaining officers. He said more than 300 officers and detectives have left the SPD in the past year and a half.

“We can take this swifter action this week to reduce the amount of time Seattle residents wait for an officer after calling 911,” Pedersen said during the meeting.

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The amendments failed after fierce opposition from several community members who want steep cuts to policing.

The funding package the council passed essentially allows the SPD to keep spending within its previously approved budget. The SPD will have money for community service officers and crime prevention coordinators, as well as staff to help speed up hiring.

Non-police funding includes money for community organizations working to reduce crime.

In a statement, the SPD thanked the council for its decision “to allow the department to retain its previously approved budget.”

“This retention of funding will allow SPD to attempt to mitigate some of these staffing losses, implement new technologies and projects to continue to meet the goals of the consent decree, and to attract and retain the best officers in the nation to serve the people of Seattle,” the department said in a statement.

Discussions about next year's budget ramp up at the end of the month.