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Seattle City Council rejects effort to block police hiring

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 20, 2020

A Seattle police officer yells out orders June 3 at Seattle City Hall as protesters march toward them, in Seattle, following protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis.  (Associated Press)
A Seattle police officer yells out orders June 3 at Seattle City Hall as protesters march toward them, in Seattle, following protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. (Associated Press)
Associated Press

Associated Press

SEATTLE – The Seattle City Council has rejected a proposal intended to block more than 100 police officers from being hired in 2021, siding with Mayor Jenny Durkan and others who say new recruits are needed.

The measure was promoted by a coalition of local organizations, including the King County Equity Now group that emerged as a leader during Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the Seattle Times reported. In July, during the nationwide protests where many called for cities to “defund” the police, most council members agreed the Police Department should have its funding reduced by 50%, with the money shifted to other needs.

But council President M. Lorena González and council member Lisa Herbold objected to a hiring freeze Thursday, arguing it would shrink the force too fast when combined with accelerating attrition. They said other transfers and cuts that will reduce the police budget by up to 17% are significant and sensible.

“To be successful in the long term … shifting to community safety and away from traditional policing, we have to move methodically,” Herbold said.

The proposal failed, 7-2. Council members Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales voted to remove the department’s $9 million recruitment allotment, request the hiring freeze and redirect the funds to “community-led” alternatives.

A $151 million cut that Sawant said would meet the 50% defunding demand also died.

The action came during a committee meeting as council members moved forward with changes to a 2021 budget plan. Final votes on the changes are set for a full council meeting Monday, capping months of heated talks.

Even without a hiring freeze, Seattle leaders are poised to make significant changes to public safety operations. They’re going to transfer 911 call-takers, parking enforcement officers and mental-health workers out of the Police Department.

They’re also going to cut funding for vacant officer positions and try to lay off officers with misconduct records, while allocating tens of millions of dollars to community solutions. The police budget will drop after growing steadily for years.

“I believe this budget is offering a new paradigm,” council member Teresa Mosqueda said Thursday.

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