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caption: Seattle police officers dressed in riot gear, left, stand in a line across 11th Street, opposite thousands of people protesting police brutality and the unjust deaths of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement on the fifth day of protests following the violent police killing of George Floyd on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.
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Seattle police officers dressed in riot gear, left, stand in a line across 11th Street, opposite thousands of people protesting police brutality and the unjust deaths of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement on the fifth day of protests following the violent police killing of George Floyd on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Mayor Durkan's new budget proposal would 'defund' Seattle police — but only by 5%

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Tuesday proposed a budget that would reduce the city's police spending by $20 million through the end of the year.

That's roughly a 5% reduction from the $409 million originally allocated to the Seattle Police Department for 2020.

The funding cut is part of a larger effort to balance the city's budget that has suffered under the pandemic. But further cuts could be considered as city officials look ahead to the 2021 budget.

Seattle is facing a more than $300 million budget shortfall for 2020. These dollars were used to buy face masks, and to cover Covid-19 testing for emergency responders, among other pandemic-related costs.

On Tuesday, Ben Noble, director of the City of Seattle Budget Office, walked reporters through the city’s plan to fill the financial hole caused by its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Seattle Police Department will face the largest budget cut, losing approximately 5% of its funding to the tune of $20 million. The department's budget accounts for just over a quarter of Seattle's general fund budget.

Meanwhile, activists are demanding that the city slash the Seattle Police Department's funding in half, and reallocate that money toward health and human services. Similar demands have been made by community organizers across the nation, amid widespread calls for police departments be dismantled or rebuilt.

Noble said that city officials had already earmarked a $16 million cut to the police department prior to ongoing local protests.

Looking ahead, the mayor and Police Chief Carmen Best asked that city staff and Seattle police work together to develop 2021 budget scenarios for cuts of 20%, 30%, and 50% to the Seattle Police Department by the end of July, according to a June 18 city memo.

"The most critical aspect of this review will be identifying where behavioral health professionals, social workers, case managers, community based organizations, or civilians can better serve our community," Durkan wrote in the memo.

The mayor has also committed to invest $100 million in BIPOC communities, but the specifics of this investment have not yet been released.

Seattle City Council member Teresa Mosqueda, called for a radical dismantling of the Seattle Police Department earlier this month. She announced an inquest into the Seattle Police Department’s budget.

"We are not going to pass the mayor’s 2020 revised budget until we as a council have a chance to have a full, thorough, and transparent deep dive into the Seattle Police Department’s funding," Mosqueda said on June 8.

The City of Seattle has also proposed a hiring freeze on sworn officers in 2021, until “a new staffing model and plan is developed reflecting community priorities for public safety,” according to a city presentation on the budget.

Also impacted by budget cuts are the city's human services, transportation, and parks departments.