Seattle budget chair defends latest police funding cuts
Seattle City Council budget committee chair Teresa Mosqueda says critics are spreading "misinformation" about her proposal to cut $10.8 million from the Seattle Police Department next year.
Mosqueda said the cuts of proposed hiring bonuses for police and other initiatives are necessary because Seattle recently reduced its revenue projections for 2022 by $15 million.
Still, Mosqueda said her "balancing package," revealed on Tuesday, would fully fund Mayor Jenny Durkan’s plan to hire 125 police officers (while assuming at least that many officers will leave SPD next year). Mosqueda's plan would also increase SPD’s overtime budget by more than $4 million.
“Absolutely every single position that the mayor has planned to hire [is] currently included in this budget," Mosqueda said at a budget committee meeting Wednesday. "There is still an increase in overtime. There are still investments in information technology systems that the court monitor has specifically said are prudent.”
The court monitor oversees SPD’s compliance with a federal consent decree.
But Mayor Durkan and Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell called Mosqueda’s cuts the opposite of what voters are seeking.
In a statement Durkan said: "Continued cuts to SPD and underfunding the 911 center are not a plan for true public safety ... After last week’s election results delivered a clear rejection of the City Council’s plans to defund SPD, I was hopeful the Council would listen to voters and address our public safety needs with a real plan. Instead, it’s déjà vu all over again with Council proposing one of the largest cuts to public safety to date.”
Harrell echoed Durkan, saying in a statement that the Council should reverse the proposed $10 million reduction to the police budget.
"Proposing further cuts deprives the City of resources needed to achieve national best practice staffing levels, decrease response times, and hire and train desperately needed officers – and is in direct conflict with what Seattle voters demanded just last week. It also delays our ability to develop and deploy a new kind of community-based, unarmed officer who will not carry a badge and gun. Overall, we need more, not fewer, public safety resources,” he said.
Mosqueda said she looked for spending that could at least be delayed in order to create a balanced budget. Councilmember Debora Juarez, who has opposed proposals to defund SPD, said “I’m not inclined to support cutting the hiring incentive” bonuses, budgeted at $1.1 million, but said Wednesday that Mosqueda’s other proposed cuts “make sense to me.”
Mosqueda also cut $1.3 million intended for an expansion of the Community Service Officer program, but emphasized she supports the program and is pausing the expansion to decide which department the officers will be based in. She noted the Council already voted to add another unit of community service officers in September and that will go forward.
“The work of the CSOs is not in question, the ongoing question is the placement and location of CSOs in the future” within or outside of the police department, she said.
Mosqueda’s proposal also assumes $2.7 million in salary savings from officers leaving SPD, which they have done in such record numbers this year that Council staff said accurate projections have become nearly impossible. Staff estimated that perhaps a dozen SPD officers will leave over the Covid vaccine mandate. They said as of Nov. 5, SPD had 80 officers who were unvaccinated and undeployable, with accommodation requests under review by the city.
Mosqueda’s proposal would increase SPD’s overtime budget from $21.8 million in 2021 to $26.4 million in 2022, “and we’re also making sure to preserve and invest in parking enforcement officers” who can work public events, she said. Mosqueda said she wanted to preserve funding for alternatives to law enforcement including the diversion program LEAD ($3.5 million), as well as $2.5 million to expand mobile mental and behavioral health crisis services and $4 million for a community safety initiative to address gun violence.
- This year’s adopted budget for SPD totaled $362.9 million.
- Durkan’s proposed 2022 budget would increase SPD funding by $3 million to $365.4 million.
- Under Mosqueda’s counter-proposal that includes the $10.8 million reduction, SPD would receive $354.6 million, a funding cut of $8 million compared to current levels.