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After a summer of protests, Seattle cuts police department budget by nearly 17%

Mayor Jenny Durkan said these "thoughtful reductions" will help "scale up alternatives to policing."
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The Seattle City Council on Monday cut its police department budget by nearly 17 percent in a shift that grew out of this past summer's national protests against systemic racism.

The panel's 2021 spending plan called for $340 million to be allocated to the Seattle Police Department, down from $409 million this year, representatives of the council and mayor said Tuesday.

While some Seattle activists had demanded a 50-percent police budget deduction, Mayor Jenny Durkan said she backs these lesser cuts, calling them "thoughtful and deliberate" and saying the city will prioritize "what services we need from the Seattle Police Department and how we can scale up alternatives to policing."

“I believe we are laying the groundwork to make systemic and lasting changes to policing," Durkan said in a statement. "We have rightly put forward a plan that seeks to ensure SPD has enough officers to meet 911 response and investigative needs throughout the city, while acknowledging and addressing the disproportionate impacts policing has had on communities of color, particularly Black communities."

Durkan is expected to formally sign the 2021 budget into law next week, a City Hall spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Image: Protesters Take To The Streets On Election Day In Seattle
Police follow protesters during a protest on Nov. 3, 2020, in Seattle.David Ryder / Getty Images

Council member Teresa Mosqueda, who heads the the budget committee, said it was a top priority to "downsize the SPD’s budget" and move money to other social programs that will "invest in community alternatives that produce healthy outcomes for" minority communities.

She cited the police slayings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville as key moments that moved Seattle residents.

"We have much more work to do, and we must get to work on those next steps now," Mosqueda said.

The union representing Seattle officers decried the budget cutbacks and claimed that law enforcement services across the board would be hampered.

"You're going to see longer, if not hardly any follow-up investigations relative to secondary piece of a 911 call for help," Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Sloan said.

The tense, ongoing talks to slash the department budget led to the resignation of Carmen Best, who had been Seattle's first Black police chief.

Under the new spending plan, dozens of department vacancies will not be filled, overtime will be slashed and 911 dispatching and parking enforcement will be moved away from SPD control.