10:36 PM: Last Friday night, we reported on Police Chief Carmen Best‘s letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan, saying that closing the Southwest Precinct would be a likely effect if the SPD budget were halved. The letter followed news of a majority of City Councilmembers voicing support for cutting this year’s SPD budget, though no specific legislation is out yet.
(Added: Seattle Channel video)
This morning, the mayor and chief have just wrapped up a media briefing with their counterproposals: They say they can cut $76 million from the department’s $400 mlllion budget – next year. The mayor decried the council’s voiced support for an immediate 50 percent cut as “irresponsible.” She also criticized councilmembers for taking the stand without talking to the chief or to constituents. Durkan said next year’s cuts could be accomplished via moving the 911 call center out of SPD, moving parking enforcement from SPD to SDOT, and moving the Office of Emergency Management and Office of Professional Accountability out of SPD. Those, she said, would save $56 million, while another $20 million could be cut via a hiring freeze and overtime reductions. In followup Q&A, the mayor said her intention for OPA would be to make it a standalone independent agency. The mayor also voiced hope that some councilmembers will relent.
Meantime, the Southwest Precinct’s new commander, Capt. Kevin Grossman, posted an introductory message to social media today, including this:
I also want to address the initiative making its way through City Council to defund the Seattle Police Department by 50%. Last week, Chief Best communicated to the Council–and to the public–the reality of what those cuts would look like, including the elimination of half of our workforce and the Southwest Precinct itself. When I started with SPD, my training included rotations through three different precincts, including the South Precinct. At that time, officers from that facility had to commute across the Duwamish to respond to calls for service in West Seattle. Just the drive alone resulted in long response times–sometimes exacerbated by boat or train traffic. I can only imagine what response times would be today from the Rainier Valley with the West Seattle Bridge closed. Further, in my humble opinion, it is simply unconscionable for a city of over 700,000 people to be staffed by a police department with only 630 employees.
There was no further discussion in this morning’s mayor/chief briefing, by the way, of the chief’s suggestions such as possibly closing the precinct. And again, from the council’s side, there’s no formal proposal yet, but the council meets again on Wednesday as the Select Budget Committee (the basic agenda has just appeared online) and that’s one place a proposal might emerge. We have had a request for comment out since Friday to District 1 City Councilmember Lisa Herbold; as of now, still no reply.
3:51 PM: Just watched the Seattle Channel recording of the council’s “morning briefing” meeting, which overlapped with the mayor/chief briefing. Most councilmembers repeated their support for dramatic change in the SPD, including Herbold, whose turn comes at 1 hour, 17 minutes in, with her turning to the SPD topic after four minutes.
She noted that action is not imminent, saying the council is “in the beginning stages of developing proposals.” She also took issue with a couple points of what the chief’s letter to the mayor said would likely be necessary if a 50 percent cut were to be implemented immediately. For one, she contended that the chief would have an option other than to lay off newer officers first, via the “out of order” process (though the chief said earlier that it’s “complicated”). Regarding the chief’s suggestion that the Southwest Precinct could be closed, Herbold noted only that the city charter requires “adequate police protection for all areas.”