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City council cuts $10 million from Seattle Police Department in new budget proposal

Seattle's mayor and mayor-elect were outraged by the cuts, especially after they say recent election results demonstrated a rebuke by the public of defunding police.

SEATTLE — The revised 2022 budget for the city of Seattle is under scrutiny as some leaders voice outrage over millions of dollars in additional cuts to the police department.

Teresa Mosqueda, Seattle City Council member and budget committee chair, released the city’s revised budget proposal Tuesday, which saw about $10 million in cuts to the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

The revised budget is an amended version to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposal, which was introduced at the end of September.

“Over the last seven weeks, we have diligently been working to try to address many of the items that community members, that council members have been flagging to make sure that we address the needs that are compounding throughout our city and invest in a more just and equitable Seattle,” Mosqueda said Tuesday during her revised budget overview.

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While the budget does add millions of dollars to alternative crime prevention measures, law enforcement studies and community-based organizations, the proposal does cut $1.3 million from SPD’s Community Service Officers program as well as $1.24 million from SPD’s technology projects.

Roughly $4.5 million in cuts alone comes from expected savings from reduced staffing at SPD and “service efficiencies” the council expects will reduce the demand on officers for things like overtime, travel and training.

For instance, due to the higher than normal attrition at the department, SPD expects to save millions in empty positions. Also, the council is expecting SPD to implement new tactics to reduce overtime for officers, including overtime reductions on events and demonstrations.

Another $2.7 million is being cut due to additional officer separations. In fact, the council is projecting that SPD will lose 31 more officers in 2022 than was projected in SPD’s staffing plan, which expected 125 hires and 94 separations.

The council said it is making these predictions because its analysis of recent trends in attrition show separations will be higher, and 12 more separations are expected by Jan. 1 due to the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Another nearly $2 million is coming out hiring incentives.

Durkan and Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell each released statements shortly after the proposal was released, both harkening to recent election results and the large number of separations SPD’s seen over the last two years.

“Seattle voters have made clear they expect Council to fund public safety and invest in community. I hope City Council make significant changes to their proposed budget in the coming weeks to protect public safety and community investments,” Durkan statement reads in part. 

The mayor recently issued an emergency order to allow hiring incentives for SPD and the Community Safety and Communications Center. Councilmember Kshama Sawant is challenging the order through a resolution that looks to cut the hiring incentives for SPD.

Harrell responded to the revision saying the city council “needs to listen to voters’ desires” and condemned the cuts to “public safety.”

“We must deliver true community safety, ensure unbiased policing, and decrease the length of response times by improving training, hiring more and better officers, creating unarmed and alternative responses, and changing the culture within SPD,” his statement read in part. “That vision and those goals for improvement and reform cannot be achieved with this proposed $10 million cut."

That sentiment is backed up by a KING 5 News poll that recently found more than half of adults in the Seattle metro area say police departments need more funding. Just 16% of respondents said departments should have less funding.

In a statement released with the budget proposal, Mosqueda said the amendments proposed “focused on increasing homelessness services, ensuring economic recovery, building affordable housing, addressing equitable community safety and investing in a resilient Seattle.”