Aug 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Seattle police chief to retire after council votes for department cuts

Protestors carry a "Free Them All" banner during a "Defund the Police" march from King County Youth Jail to City Hall in Seattle, Washington on August 5

A "Defund the Police" march in Seattle, Washington, on Aug. 5. Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best announced her retirement Tuesday, effective Sept 2., a day after the city's council voted to cut the police budget.

Why it matters: Best is Seattle's first Black police chief, AP notes. The council voted to reduce the $409 million annual police budget by $3.5 million for the rest of the year, cut about 100 officers' jobs from the 1,400-strong department and invest $17 million in "community public safety programs," Reuters reports. The one council member to vote against the changes said the action "does not do enough to defund the police," per AP.

  • Per a statement from Council President M. Lorena González, reducing the Seattle Police Department's budget was "in response to the calls for advocating for racial justice and investments in BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of Color] communities.'
  • The action is "supported by demonstrators who have marched in the city following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis but strongly opposed by the mayor and police chief," AP notes.

What they're saying: González said in a statement a council inquiry into the police budget revealed 3% of 911 calls resulted in arrest and that 56% of calls involve non-criminal activity.

  • "As a City, we cannot look at this data and assume this is a best practice and cost-efficient," González said. "What we can do is allow our police to focus on what they are trained to do and fund service providers addressing the more complex issues of housing, substance use disorder, youth violence prevention, affordable healthcare, and more."
Funding interventions and casework centered in harm reduction will mean public safety rooted in community and addressing the root causes of why many people utilize 911, rather than funding arrests and incarceration.
— Excerpt from the statement by González

The other side: Per AP, Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement after the vote: "It is unfortunate Council has refused to engage in a collaborative process to work with the mayor, Chief Best, and community members to develop a budget and policies that respond to community needs while accounting for — not just acknowledging — the significant labor and legal implications involved in transforming the Seattle Police Department."

What's next: The council voted for more reductions next year, and talks on the next budget are slated to start next month.

Go deeper: Black Lives Matter co-founder explains "Defund the police" slogan

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