(EVENING UPDATE: Archived video of briefing now viewable above)
2:06 PM: Just under way (and viewable above via Seattle Channel), Mayor Jenny Durkan, Police Chief Carmen Best, and Deputy Chief Adrian Diaz are holding a media briefing announced as “to discuss the Mayor’s decision regarding the 2020 rebalanced budget and the recent increase in gun violence incidents in Seattle.” The “rebalanced budget” is what the City Council finalized last week, including cuts to SPD and other city departments. We’ll add notes as this goes.
The mayor says the city expects leaders to work together and notes that she and council leaders have struck a deal on added emergency spending. She notes that the overall budget hole is $326 million but the city’s managed to launch new programs for pandemic-related relief anyway.
But she says she is vetoing the overall budget bill, amid disagreements with the council on the police and human-services budgets. (She also vetoed other spending bills including the $3 million that was to go to community organizations for researching community-safety plans.) She says that with SPD leaders, they’re examining the budget closely – what the council passed would “mire the city” in problems, maybe even lawsuits. “Alternative programs” need to be in place – not just under discussion – before current ones are cut, she says. She also expresses hope for collaboration with council leadership. (The council could override the veto. However, its 2-week end of summer break is about to begin.)
GUN VIOLENCE: Shots-fired incidents are up dramatically in the city, she says – 116 since June 1st, a 55 percent increase. (The Southwest Precinct commander has noted an increase in our area too, though smaller, as we reported earlier this week.) She talks about community programs’ role in prevention, and turns the mic over to Interim Chief-to-be Diaz.
2:20 PM: He begins with an update on 3 murder cases – including the suitcase-bodies double murder whose victims were found at Duwamish Head, mentioning what was announced yesterday – the arrest of a Burien man. (The other two cases in which arrests have just been made were not in West Seattle.) He says SPD’s homicide clearance rate since 2012 has averaged 71 percent – while the national rate is in the 60s.
Then Diaz goes into stats, saying shots-fired incidents are up nationwide as well as locally. “We have to stop the shootings, the injuries, the dying right now,” he says. “We need the entire city to come together and end gun violence.” He makes way for Chief Best, who says this is probably her last media briefing “for the city of Seattle.” She asks everyone in the city to “please support Chief Adrian Diaz” in his new role. “Support him, support each other, let’s make sure we have good community safety going forward.” The mayor gives the chief a bouquet of flowers, then it’s on to Q&A.
First: The mayor’s asked how she’ll try to work out a deal on the police budget with the council. She says the main sticking points are the elimination of the Navigation Team, the leadership salary cuts, and the proposed 100-officer reduction, but she has hope for collaboration. On followup, she says that “they’ve agreed to sit down and talk about those things.” Regarding next year’s budget – she’ll be sending a plan to the council in just a month – she says the discussions will have to continue into next year. She also promises “the community” – not just advocacy groups – will have a significant say.
In response to another question, she says she hasn’t been talking to the police union. Then: Does she see a smaller police department in the future? Maybe, maybe not – it could be a smaller department with more patrol officers, for example, after some functions move to other departments. On the final question, she reiterated that she’s hopeful there’s a “path forward” to work out something with the council. She says the council’s impending break shouldn’t complicate matters as they have a month or so to deal with a veto.
2:58 PM: The briefing concludes. We’ll substitute the archived video above when it’s available.
EVENING UPDATE: The video is added.