They’re cutting cops: Seattle Council overrides mayor’s veto on cut of police department funding

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SEATTLE, WA – The City Council of the City of Seattle vowed to significantly reduce the city’s budget and passed a bill that would do just that.  However, the Democratic Mayor, Jenny Durkan, vetoed the proposal. 

Now, the council has accumulated enough votes that they were able to override the veto.

The council’s budget proposal was to cut roughly 100 Seattle Police Department jobs which would be done by layoffs or attrition.  In addition, reducing the amount of money command staff officers are making and to eliminate the Navigation Team. 

The Navigation Team works with homeless people and connects them to much needed resources.

Despite the Mayor’s concerns that the new budget would decrease public safety, City Council members listened to the community that came in and voiced their opinions.  Of the several people that showed up, the majority of those that spoke begged the council to override Durkan’s veto.

The community members asked that the council hold to their promise to defund the agency and reinvest the money into the community. 

City Council President Lorena Gonzalez said:

“When I look back in this moment in time, I want to be able to tell my daughter, who I am currently holding in my arms, that I did the right thing, that I voted on the right side of history.”

Councilmember Tammy Morales, who read off the name of those killed by Seattle Police over the last ten years, of course, with no context as to what led up to the killing or noting whether they were justified or not, said:

“Today is important, colleagues…it’s  not just about breaking the cycle of police violence, it’s not just about fixing the budget, it’s about creating a new system of community safety that centers mental wellness, prosperity and safety for all of our community members.

“The budget that we’re discussing today should be a living, moral document, that allows the most vulnerable communities not merely to live in Seattle, but to thrive.”

The Council had been discussing defunding the agency since George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May of this year.  Their decision to defund the agency came after weeks after protests and riots in the area that were supposed to be against police brutality and racial justice.

These protesters called for the Council to defund the agency by at least 50%.  A move in which former Police Chief Carmen Best and Durkan feared would lead to less security in the city. 

In addition, Best noted that laying off had to be done by seniority, thus, the majority of those that would be laid off would mainly be minority officers, not white.

After the council moved forward with plans to reduce the agency’s budget by 50%, and moved to ban officers from using chemical agents to stop riots, Best chose to retire. 

Best, in making her decision public said her retirement was due to “overarching lack of respect for officers.”  Best continued:

“We worked so hard, we had a big campaign, the council gave us $1.6 million to make sure that we hired the best and the brightest and the most diverse, and brought them on and less than a year later, we’re going to just turn them all away…it feels very duplicitous and honestly I have my convictions.  I cannot do that.”

Durkan, who announced her veto in August, said that she was committed to reimagining public safety with the Council, however, there were no clear plans on how the city planned on addressing shortfalls. 

Durkan said:

“The bills I’m vetoing today were passed without the level of collaboration that I think we need and more importantly that the city expects of us.  We agree that we need to reimagine policing and provide true community safety…I do not believe the2020 budget in its current form moves us closer to those shared goals.”

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Texas governor sends a clear message about his support for funding his police departments: ‘cities that choose to defund their police will have property taxes frozen’

FORT WORTH, TX– On Tuesday, August 18th, Governor Greg Abbott along with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price held a press conference addressing the the recent defunding of police departments in cities across the great state of Texas.

During this conference, Abbott announced that he and Texas’ top leaders would push for legislation next year that would freeze property tax revenues for cities that have chosen to cut police budgets.

Abbott said:

“Any city in the state of Texas that defunds law enforcement will have their property tax revenue frozen as of that time. This will be an effective tool that effectively will prevent cities from being able to reduce funding support for law enforcement agencies.”

His move is in response to Austin City Council’s recent decision to cut police funding by one-third, and reinvest that money into social services.

He said:

“To maintain the safety that our communities deserve today we are announcing a legislative proposal that will discourage defunding law enforcement in Texas. Any city that defunds police departments will have its property tax revenue frozen at the current level. The will never be able to increase property tax revenue if again if they defund the police.”

He added:

“Cities that endanger residents by reducing law enforcement should not then be able to turn around and go back and get more property tax dollars from those same residents whose lives the city just endangered.”

Lt. Governor Patrick said:

“When I think about what Austin has done, had any other mayor of any other city in Texas been as irresponsible as they have been they would have chaos and their citizens would be in danger.”

He added:

“It is only because of our DPS force of state troopers, hundreds that came to the aid and rescue of APD, that Austin didn’t turn into a potential Seattle or Portland.”

According to reports, the city of Austin voted to move around $21 million to fund local social services and community resources, including response to the coronavirus, mental health aid programs, violence prevention, victim services and food, housing, and abortion access.

In addition, another $80 million is set to be redistributed to similar city services, and $49 million will be spent on the “Austin Reimagine Safety Fund,” which aims to provide alternative forms of public safety and community support besides policing.

During the press conference, mayor Price said in a statement:

“We support the enhanced funding for public safety, for training. We do understand the concerns in the community of relationships with our police department. Chief Kraus and his team, as well as council are working on those community relations, but we will not defund our police to solve those issues. We will find sources to help with that.”

Last week, Forth Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said that they would not be defunding their police, but that they would shift a few of their priorities. Kraus proposed a budget plan that would shift some money into a special crime control fund. Under the proposal, the department would spend an additional $4.5 million of the funds on prevention efforts next year.

According to reports, Texas’ four largest cities Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio each spent more than a third of their general funds on their police departments in the 2020 fiscal year.

Houston City Council approved a minor funding increase to its police department in June, and an amendment that tried to redistribute some of that money to other areas, like a police oversight board, was rejected.

San Antonio’s proposed budget for 2021 increases in overall police funding by $8 million, but cuts overtime to fund health and violence prevention programs.

Dallas’ proposed 2021 budget includes a minor increase in police funding and a $3.2 million for safety net resources. 

In Fort Worth, voters supported renewing the half-cent sales tax that funds at least 24 percent of the city’s police budget. 

Police unions explain that law enforcement is expensive and involves a wide range of responsibilities, which include everything from responding to potentially dangerous emergency 9-1-1 calls, to attending monthly neighborhood meetings.

Jennifer Szimanski, the public affairs coordinator for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas said:

“Just because of the sheer volume of tasks that we are responsible for dealing with, public safety is going to be the most expensive part of a city budget across the board. That’s really just demand.”

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