Seattle mayor Durkan vetoes council’s 2020 budget revision that would have cut police jobs

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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Friday vetoed a City Council budget plan to slash funding to the police department and eliminate the city’s homeless outreach team, among other programs.

The nine-member council approved the rebalanced budget that would have reduced police funding by 14% for the remainder of 2020. The move also would have resulted in the loss of 100 police officers through layoffs and attrition.

The cuts would have totaled around $23 million of the remaining $127 million in the budget, KOMO News reported.

“This veto was because the bills, as passed, did not have the type of collaboration that I think we will have going forward, and that I’m hopeful we will have going forward,” Durkan said during a news conference. “There’s some flaws in each of these (bills) that I hope the council can correct, or with discussions, we can find a path forward together.

“I continue to have concerns about council decisions to make cuts before they have a plan,” she added. “I do not believe the 2020 budget in its current form moves us closer to those shared goals. I truly believe we can, and must, find common ground for the vision of SPD.”

Durkan, a Democrat, cited the lack of a plan for how to address public safety if the policies came to fruition, saying programs needed to first be in place before making substantial cuts to the police department.

Council President Lorena Gonzalez said she was “disappointed” to hear Durkan vetoed the proposals, “which were overwhelmingly supported by the City Council.”

“I have to believe that we agree on more than we disagree, and I will strive to bridge the gap on our few but critical differences of opinion,” González said.

“I hope that the public knows that their elected leaders are committed to working together on achieving a long-overdue transformation of our law enforcement and criminal justice systems that have for far too long perpetuated trauma and harm on our black, brown and indigenous neighbors.”

Durkan said Friday she has spoken to González, and is optimistic that the council and her office can work out a compromise.

The sweeping proposals prompted Police Chief Carmen Best to issue her resignation days after the council vote. The plan also would have slashed her salary and that of several officers in her command. Best said she was leaving because of the “lack of respect” toward her officers, not the proposed pay cuts.

One of the programs on the chopping block was the city’s Navigation Team, which consisted of police officers and homeless outreach workers. Some council members considered the officers on the team nothing more than “homeless camp sweepers.”

Other units — including the Harbor Patrol, SWAT, Public Affairs and Horse Unit — also were slated to be dismantled.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best speaks during a news conference on Aug. 11. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best speaks during a news conference on Aug. 11. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)


The council is in the middle of a three-week recess. It can choose to override the veto when it reconvenes in September with a supermajority vote.

Durkan also announced she and the council agreed to provide $45 million in COVID-19 relief funds for 2020 and 2021.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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