Seattle Public Safety Committee narrowly agrees to move forward with substitute bill cutting less from the SPD budget

Happy Spring! Let’s get right to it.

If you want to catch up with this week’s Council Briefing, you can take a look at the Twitter thread.

This morning the Public Safety and Human Resources Department met to discuss the possible cut of $5.4m to SPD’s 2021 budget.

CM Herbold proposed a substitute bill. The actual salary savings from SPD they are discussing has increased from $5.4m to $7.7m, and the new substitute would keep $4.85m of these funds within the SPD and redirect $2.83m to other departments. The SPD says they want to spend their part of this money on separation pay, technology improvements, a few public disclosure positions, and several civilian positions including four CSOs. Of the amount transferred outside SPD, $2m would be allocated to participatory budgeting and the rest would be used for better evidence storage, another public disclosure position in IT, and five additional mental health responders for the SPD crisis unit hired through HSD.

The substitute bill does not put a proviso on how the SPD is required to use the $4.85m, which Greg Doss of Central Staff says will allow them flexibility to deal with arising issues. Instead it places a new proviso that would release this money in monthly increments dependent on the SPD giving the Council a monthly staffing report. CM Herbold signaled her intent here is to increase SPD budget accountability in spite of not taking away the $5.4m to reckon with their overspend of last year.

The Monitor for the consent decree sent a list of questions to the SPD regarding these funds and this bill, and CM Herbold doesn’t want to pass the bill out of committee before that oversight takes place. Instead she suggested the committee vote on replacing the original bill with the substitute to signal their intent. The committee voted to adopt the substitute with a narrow margin, 3-2. CM Herbold, CM Lewis, and CP González were in favor, and CM Morales and CM Sawant were opposed.

This new bill will still need to be voted out of committee to be voted upon by the full Council, and the committee vote will need to be held after the Court has been advised on these changes by the Monitor. The next Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting isn’t until Tuesday, April 13.

During his remarks CM Lewis also signaled an interest in the Council identifying separate funding to stand up a low acuity crisis response system like CAHOOTS in Eugene, OR and STAR in Denver, CO. He mentioned how cost effective systems like this have proven to be compared to hiring more police officers. He wants the Council to spend more time emphasizing there are great alternatives out there for public health and public safety challenges.

And that’s what I have for you so far this week!