A veto-proof majority of Seattle’s city council has backing a blueprint from activists at Decriminalize Seattle to cut the city’s $400 million police budget by 50 percent, and redirect much of that funding into community-led public safety initiatives and affordable housing. The Seattle Times reports that seven of nine city councilors have come out in support of the cuts; six are required to overcome opposition from Seattle’s mayor, who is urging caution.
Today we share our plan to defund SPD by 50%.
Our 4-point proposal for reinvestment:
1- replace current 911 operations w/ a civilian-controlled system
2- scale up community-led solutions
3- fund a community created roadmap to life without policing
4- invest in housing for all pic.twitter.com/SJfqfwgZKH
— Decriminalize Seattle Coalition (Official) (@DecrimSeattle) July 8, 2020
The details of the proposal are yet quite loose, and not all of the changes anticipated by the council would create savings. The city’s 911 dispatchers, for example, would be removed from the police bureau, but continue largely intact. It’s not clear how soon the changes could be implemented. The city’s 2021 budget will set in the fall, but there is an opportunity to re-balance the city’s current budget later this summer.
In a statement, the mayor’s office raised concerns about this agenda being rushed through: “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.”
Seattle has been a hotbed of the anti-police-violence movement. In June, activists occupied several square blocks in the center of the city, first known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. The cop-free zone thrived for a time, with a carnival like atmosphere. The anarchic experiment in self governance was plagued, in its final days, by gun violence, including two fatal shootings, prompting the Seattle PD to clear the area at the beginning of July.
— Converge Media (@WWConverge) July 1, 2020
Seattle’s expected cuts would be among the most dramatic reforms pursued by American cities in the wake of the uprising over George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police. The city government in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, has put in motion a plan to dismantle its police department and start anew. New York City has voted to shift $1 billion from its $6 billion annual police department.