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Seattle considering defunding police, forming ‘community-led’ initiative

Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (Alex Glidewell/Wikipedia)
July 31, 2020

The Seattle City Council is considering defunding the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and gradually transferring 911 services to a new civilian-led department.

The city council discussed the draft resolution on Friday, which outlines a plan to defund police, fund policing alternatives, transfer police functions to other existing offices, and eventually move 911 calls involving violence over to the new community safety & violence prevention department by the end of 2021.

The resolution specifically describes “the Council’s intent to create a civilian led department of community safety & violence prevention” as well as “the Council’s intent to fund community-led activities to accompany defunding of the Police department” and “requests reports from the Mayor and Police Chief in order to inform efforts to defund the Police.”

If enacted, the resolution would implement gradual changes until the SPD is eventually dismantled entirely. At the outset, the Office of Emergency Management and Harbor Patrol would be transferred from the SPD to the Seattle Fire Department. Parking enforcement would also transfer from the police.

911 communications would also be transferred from under the auspices of the SPD to a “temporary new department or temporarily place those functions in an existing civilian-led department.” During the interim period, SPD will still be called upon to answer 911 calls involving reports of firearms, sexual violence and abuse and other calls where a slow response could result in loss of life or serious injury.

During the transition period, the resolution also calls for the SPD chief and City Budget Office to provide reports to the city regarding expenditures and provide guidance on how to prioritize lay-offs for SPD personnel.

The resolution also describes moving the reallocated police funding “community-led activities.”

The Seattle City Council resolution comes amid ongoing civil unrest throughout the country, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Protests spread to cities across the country, including Seattle, where activists established an “autonomous protest zone” known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or CHAZ.

Calls to defund police have circulated throughout major cities across the country. The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota passed a similar plan in June to shift policing to a community alternative.  New York City, New York also prepared a budget that includes cutting $1 billion from the city’s police budget in 2021.

On Friday morning, Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant tweeted her support for defunding the SPD by at least $85 million and said support seven of the nine Seattle City Council members also supported such defunding.

“Pressure from the George Floyd uprising has won 7 out of 9 Councilmember promises to Defund police by 50%. A welcome step, but no concrete proposal,” Sawant tweeted. “Yesterday, I unveiled the People’s Budget proposal for 2020 SPD defund by at least $85M. I’ll introduce it today in committee.”