The Seattle City Council voted on Tuesday to cut a number of police positions and some funding for the city’s law enforcement, overriding a veto on the proposal from Mayor Jenny Durkan.
Calls to defund the police department entirely arose following the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed during his arrest by officers in Minneapolis. Demonstrators in Seattle set up an “autonomous zone” without police in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood for several weeks in June, but the zone was disbanded after four shootings occurred in or near the area.
The City Council will cut up to 100 officers from the police, eliminate the force’s “navigation team” that clears homeless encampments, and use $3 million in emergency reserves to fund a safety-research project. Seattle police currently operate with a budget of $400 million and 1,433 uniformed officers. Former police chief Carmen Best, Seattle’s first black head of the force, resigned last month after the City Council announced the intended reforms and cut Best’s salary to well below that of her white predecessor.
“Countless videos of Black and brown lives lost here in Seattle and across the country shows us that not everyone feels safe in our community, and not everyone is safe,” Council President M. Lorena González said during the veto-override session, in comments recorded by the Seattle Times.
Public comments during an hour-long session preceding the vote were mostly in favor of the Council’s cuts, with some commenters urging councilmembers to “hold the line” in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement.
However, group of small business owners is currently suing the city over its decision to cede the Capitol Hill neighborhood to protesters.