Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) will propose cutting $ 20 million from the Seattle Police Department budget in the second half of 2020 as the city works to emerge from a $ 400 million hole largely fueled by costs surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The move comes as protesters call for funds for the department to shrink in the wake of widespread protests about systemic racism and police brutality. Protesters have called for the department to face a 50 percent cut, though the mayor is seeking a decrease that would equate to a 5 percent drop this year.
Durkan will make the suggestion in a presentation to Seattle City Hall on Wednesday, a copy of which was obtained and published by The Seattle Times. The mayor has also asked the police department to plan cuts of up to 20 percent, 30 percent, and 50 percent.
“We have to rethink and reimagine surveillance, including our culture and budget,” Durkan said Monday. “We are increasingly asking the police to deal with all the problems that society has created.”
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best wrote in a “letter to the community” on Tuesday that her department is considering which of its “responsibilities may be acceptably passed on to other agencies, or fully surrendered to the community.”
The proposed cuts come amid increased scrutiny of the police department and its expected efforts to regain some control over the city’s “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone”, an area from which police withdrew during protests that then they took the protesters.
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 fighting the pandemic, and the mayor’s office predicts it needs to reach $ 378 million to balance this year’s budget.