The Seattle City Council voted to move forward with the city’s 2020 budget and decided to reduce the size and scope of the Police Department, as well as promising to make significant changes to public safety services next year.
The plan includes slashing funding from the department’s $400 million budget by about $3 million and cutting 100 officers off from the 1,400 strong force through layoffs and attrition this year.
The move means dismantling a team that removes some homeless encampments and cutting the wages of Police Department command staff between September and December.
The move prompted the Police Chief Carmen Best, who is the city’s first black female police chief to announce her resignation on social media hours after the city council’s approval.
“This was a difficult decision for me but when it’s time, it’s time,” she wrote, stressing that she is “confident the department will make it through these difficult times.”
“You truly are the best police department in the country, and please trust me when I say, the vast majority of people in Seattle support you and appreciate you,” she added.
Mayor Jenny Durkan and Best opposed the council’s move, rather proposing to hold off on changes that they believe would be hard to carry out quickly.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild had rallied on Sunday, and had campaigned against layoffs while collecting petition signatures from people across the country.
However, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda defended Monday’s amendments and called it as first steps toward achieving the demands by many Black Lives Matter protesters to defund the Police Department and focus investments in community programs.
“It will take time to get there but we are acting with urgency today,” said Mosqueda, “What’s important about today is that we haven’t just said, ‘No.’ … We are walking with community.”
Meanwhile, Councilmember Kshama Sawant voted against the move, calling it an “austerity package” and stressing that the police reductions were too modest and that the budget was balanced partly by cutting nonpolice projects and services.