Seattle Moves to Reduce Police Personnel, Eliminate Homeless Encampment Navigation Team

Seattle police officers carry boxes with warning stickers and a slip of paper that reads "blast balls" as police clash with protesters following a "Youth Day of Action and Solidarity with Portland" demonstration in Seattle, Washington on July 25, 2020. - Police in Seattle used flashbang grenades and pepper spray …
JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images

The Seattle City Council is making good on its promise to dismantle the Seattle Police Department (SPD), moving to reduce personnel and to completely eliminate the Navigation Team, which deals with homeless encampments across the city.

While some members of the Seattle City Council have doubted that they will be able to slash the police department’s budget by half this year, they are still working to gradually dismantle the SPD. The council passed several amendments on Wednesday, one of which reduces the number of sworn personnel in the department, opening the door for layoffs.

The council is also moving to nix the Homeless Encampment Navigation Team, which deals with homeless encampments around the city. Instead, they seek to “cut a total of $739,000 from FAS and redirect $1.4 million in HSD to defund the Navigation Team to expand and maintain homelessness outreach and engagement.”

As King 5 reported:

Additionally, there were votes to add $4 million to the Human Services Department for investments in efforts such as the Seattle Community Safety Initiative, add $10 million for HSD to invest in community-led organizations, cut $36,000 from SPD for implicit bias training, cut $50,000 from SPD for travel costs, and cut $800,000 from SPD’s recruitment and retention.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant of the Socialist Alternative (SA) party, who has pitched cutting $85 million from the police department, reportedly “called a 6-3 vote on her proposal to reduce the pay of 13 police executives, including Chief Carmen Best, a victory,” according to the outlet.

She also celebrated the council’s move to defund sweeps of homeless encampments, referring to it as a “victory” as well.

“Our movement’s won a victory today. City Council voted to DEFUND the SWEEPS of homeless encampments,” she said on social media, congratulating “homeless activists & advocates, People’s Budget, [and] socialists!”:

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, who recently wrote a letter to the council requesting them to condemn the actions of “aggressive” protesters who flocked to her neighborhood in Snohomish County last week, has warned against the council’s desire to halve the police department budget.

“And the real tragedy of doing that is that we will lose 1,100 employees. That’s 50 percent of our total workforce,” she said during last month’s appearance on KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show, explaining that the bulk of SPD’s budget is comprised of personnel costs.

“I think that it’s the height of recklessness for them to decimate public safety for the city of Seattle without being thoughtful and encouraging public engagement on this issue,” she added.

Notably, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D), who accused federal officers of escalating violence in cities like Portland “night after night after night,” has also soured at the prospect of slashing police department funding in half this year, contending that it remains unrealistic and would result in the loss of the newest, diverse recruits.

“If the council really wants to reduce the force of officers by 100, let’s acknowledge that it means that you’re going to lay off the most diverse recruits and new officers,” she said. “That’s the reality of it.”

“The chief and I do not believe that that is worth the trade-off of $1.6 million, and it takes policing in our city in the wrong direction,” Durkan added.

The Seattle Police Officers Guild, which said that the “potential defunding of the police department will impact all of us in our community beyond measure,” is reportedly holding a protest at City Hall this weekend.

“There will be another discussion on the topic on Monday, August 10, and a full council vote is expected to happen sometime next week,” King 5 added.

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