Seattle’s City Council voted Monday (August 10) to slash nearly $4 million from the police department’s 2019-2020 budget, CNN reports. Hours after that decision, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best abruptly announced her retirement, effective September 2, the news outlet reports.
The reduction to the police department budget will equate to $11 million over the course of a year, an amount that is far less than a 50% budget cut that had earlier been discussed.
The city council rebalanced the budget in light of the economic crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and calls to redistribute funds from policing to community programs in the wake of the protests following the death of George Floyd, Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González said in a statement.
"Reducing the budget of the Seattle Police Department is a response to the calls for advocating for racial justice and investments in BIPOC communities," González said in a statement obtained by CNN. The plan is to remove 32 officers from patrol, “reducing specialized units and administrative costs, cutting training and travel expenses, transferring victim advocates to the human services department and removing two sworn officers from the 911 emergency call center,” according to CNN.
"What we can do is allow our police to focus on what they are trained to do and fund service providers addressing the more complex issues of housing, substance use disorder, youth violence prevention, affordable healthcare, and more," González said in her statement.
The approved mid-year budget cut still has to be sent to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who can either “sign it into law, not sign and allow it to become law or veto it,” according to Kelsey Nyland, a spokesperson for the mayor.
According to CNN:
In June, Durkan asked the council to cut about $20 million from the budget of the police department to deal with a city shortfall of $378 million stemming from lower tax revenue and increased demand on services during the Covid-19 pandemic. The proposed cut to the police department was the largest reduction in the mayor’s budget proposal.
At the time, Durkan asked the police department to come up with plans to cut up to 50% of its spending in next year’s budget.
Police Chief Best, after announcing her retirement, expressed gratitude to members of the police force in a letter that was obtained by CNN. "I want to thank Mayor Durkan for her continuous support through good times and tough times," Best said. "I am confident the department will make it through these difficult times."
Durkan responded by saying Best’s leadership has been “unmatched,” CNN reports. "Her grit, grace and integrity have inspired me and made our city better," Durkan said in a statement received by CNN. "These last months, I knew Chief Best was the person to lead our city through this challenging time, to reimagine policing and community safety."