The City Council overrode 2020 budget vetoes by Mayor Jenny Durkan last week. The action sets in motion the layoffs of some 100 police officers favored by a majority on the nine-member council.
The action also disbands a police Navigation Team that has been charged with breaking up some homeless camps around the city. Washington Retail is monitoring council budget action because a police force staff reduction could increase response times to retailers in need of assistance.
Among Durkan’s stated concerns were slower response times and less ability to address homeless encampments that have been discouraging retail business in the city from long before the arrival of the coronavirus in March.
Regardless, by a 7 to 2 vote, the council decided to shift police spending to social services while responding to pressure from activists to reduce the police budget by 50%. The council’s action so far reduces about $3 million from the department $400-plus million annual budget, far less than the defunding demanded by some social justice advocates.
Durkan has since introduced her 2021 city budget proposal in a video presentation. Watch it here. The council is expected to adopt a final city budget for next year in November.
Durkan has come under fire for police use of tear gas, blast balls and other crowd-control tactics during demonstrations in protest of the death of George Floyd earlier this year. The spending cut proposals persuaded former Police Chief Carmen Best to retire.