The Seattle budget process is nearing the finish line.
Today the Seattle City Council completed its budget deliberations on Form Cs, which were proposed amendments to the budget. You can take a look at all the Form Cs under discussion here. There were no major changes to the SPD portions of the budget from what we’d discussed earlier. Depending on your source, in 2021 the SPD budget will be cut 17-20%. CM Sawant kindly did the math for us to let us know if you remove the transfers of units outside of SPD from these numbers, the cut to the SPD budget is 7.7%.
The Form C about the SPD that got the most discussion was CM Sawant’s proposal to maintain the SPD hiring freeze through 2021. When it became apparent that wasn’t going to fly, CM Morales proposed a 50% hiring freeze through 2021, which was also backed by CM Mosqueda. Nevertheless, neither of these proposals had enough support to move forward.
This echoed what CM Herbold said at a town hall last week. We’ve talked a lot about how police union contract negotiations and the consent decree are barriers to resizing the police force, but another barrier is the CMs themselves, who are reluctant to cut the force any further until community alternatives are stood up, scaled up, and ready to respond. Those alternatives are less ready than we hoped due to the rigamarole earlier this year with the Mayor’s veto, which delayed the promised investments from being dispersed. Several CMs have stated that they remain committed to the process of shrinking the SPD, but they wish to do so in a methodical and data-driven way.
In addition, Interim Chief Diaz has repeatedly stated his primary commitment is to maintain 911 response times; he will continue to transfer officers from specialty units to patrol in order to achieve this. This means that modest cuts to the number of police officers on the force (which is what either hiring freeze would achieve) won’t impact the size of patrol in any meaningful way, while pulling resources from specialty units that CMs believe are important, such as units investigating human trafficking and domestic violence. The CMs have discussed at length how to measure public safety, what public safety actually is, and how to best determine the proper SPD staffing plan, and I think we can expect those discussions to continue.
The last budget meeting of the season is on Monday, November 23 at 10am or as soon as the Council finishes their regular briefing. This meeting is primarily to tie up loose ends and make technical fixes to the budget as it currently stands. The final vote on the 2021 budget will be on the afternoon of Monday, November 23 at 2pm. There will be an opportunity for public comment beginning at 2pm, with signups opening at noon. This will be your last chance to weigh in on the version of the 2021 budget upon which the CMs will be voting.
In the meantime, the Black Brilliance Project released their own public safety agenda this week, and you can read more about that here.
In other news, now that the election is over, our State Senators and Representatives are gearing up for the next Washington State legislative session, which begins on January 11. Police reform is one of the legislature’s top priorities during this session, and there are a large number of bills on the topic being introduced. Now is a great time to email, call, or meet remotely with your state senator and representatives and let them know that police reform is a priority for you. If you don’t remember your district, you can look it up here.
This legislative session is particularly important because the issues around police reform have been gathering momentum for the past six months, meaning there’s more of a chance for useful legislation to be passed. This legislation would have impact throughout the state, including King County and Seattle specifically. I’ll be writing more about specifics on state-wide legislation in upcoming months.
Until Monday, and have a lovely weekend!