Seattle mayor proposes $20 million cut to police budget

Seattle mayor proposes $20 million cut to police budget
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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) will propose cutting $20 million from the Seattle Police Department’s budget in the second half of 2020 as the city works to dig itself out of a $400 million hole fueled largely by costs surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes as protesters call for funds to the department to be slashed in the wake of widespread demonstrations over systemic racism and police brutality. Protestors have called for the department to face a 50 percent cut, though the mayor is seeking a decrease that would amount to a 5 percent drop this year.

Durkan will make the suggestion in a presentation to the Seattle City Council on Wednesday, a copy of which was obtained and released by The Seattle Times. The mayor has also asked the police department to map out what cuts of up to 20 percent, 30 percent and 50 percent could look like. 

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“We have to rethink and reimagine policing, including our culture and budget,” Durkan said Monday. “We are asking police officers more and more to deal with all the problems society has created.”

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best wrote in a “letter to the community” on Tuesday that her department is studying which of its “responsibilities can acceptably be passed to other agencies, or completely turned over to the community.” 

The proposed cuts come amid heightened scrutiny over the police department and its expected efforts to retake some control over the city’s “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” an area from which the police retreated during protests that demonstrators later took over.

The cuts are part of a broader effort to restructure the city’s finances, which have taken a significant hit from the coronavirus. The city intends to spend $233 million this year battling the pandemic, and the mayor’s office predicts it needs to come up with $378 million to balance this year’s budget.