Seattle homicides highest in over a decade as council cuts police budget

Seattle homicides highest in over a decade as council cuts police budget

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan plans to sign a new city budget that will reduce the police budget by 18% despite homicides reaching record highs not seen in a decade.

Council members overwhelmingly voted last week to cut funds for police training, overtime and to eliminate dozens of vacant positions within the Seattle Police Department after months of contentious talks. The reductions fall short of the 50% local activists demanded amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

The council also decided to transfer parking enforcement officers, mental-health workers and 911 dispatchers out of the police department.

“I believe we are laying the groundwork to make systemic and lasting changes to policing,” Durkan said in a statement last week. “We have rightly put forward a plan that seeks to ensure SPD has enough officers to meet 911 response and investigative needs throughout the city, while acknowledging and addressing the disproportionate impacts policing has had on communities of color, particularly Black communities.

“I applaud the City Council for taking a more deliberate and measured approach to the 2021 Seattle Police Department budget than occurred this summer which led to the resignation of former SPD Chief Carmen Best,” Durkan said in a written statement issued by her office.”

The budget also directs the city to invest up to $100 million for projects in communities of color and the hiring of 100 police recruits next year.

Durkan’s office did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.

The new budget comes as the city marked its fifty-fifth murder of the year Monday with the fatal shooting of a man in the North Beacon Hill neighborhood. Another man was also shot in the same incident but survived.

Like other big cities, Seattle is seeing a sharp rise in violent crime. The city recorded 28 homicide victims last year and 32 in 2018, according to police figures. Going back to 2008, the last year of data available, murders never topped 30 prior to 2018.

Burglaries are also up. This year, the police department has reported 8,418 burglary incidents, compared to 7,634 in 2019.

Calls to cut police funding intensified in June after the killing of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. That same month, demonstrators occupied several blocks in the city’s Capital Hill neighborhood, dubbing it the Capitol Hill Organized Protest Area or CHOP.

Incidents inside the zone included a fatal shooting, vandalism and other forms of violence that angered nearby residents and business owners.

Police Chief Carmen Best stepped down in August after disagreements with city leaders over the potential slashing of police budgets and proposals to cut around 100 officers.

“I believe 100% that they were putting me in a position destined to fail. Cutting a police department that already had low staffing numbers, that was already struggling to keep up with the demand,” Best told NPR after she stepped down. “How are we going to provide for adequate public safety in that environment?”