Seattle takes scalpel to police budget amid city’s crime wave

police car lights at night in city with selective focus and bokeh
police car lights at night in city with selective focus and bokeh. (z1b/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Seattle takes scalpel to police budget amid city’s crime wave

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Facing budget shortfalls and pressure from liberal activists, Seattle City Council members voted to slash dozens of positions from the city’s police force even as violence in Seattle grows.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell signed a budget last week that cut proposed levels of funding for the Seattle Police Department over objections from more conservative members of the City Council.

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At a budget hearing last month, Councilman Alex Pedersen said: “I cannot in good conscience endorse a final budget that I believe fails to learn from recent policy mistakes on public safety and falls short on public safety for a third year in a row.”

Another dissenter, Councilwoman Sara Nelson, warned that cutting vacant jobs at the department would send the wrong message to existing and prospective officers that could dissuade people from joining the force.

“We need to change the narrative that contributed to their staffing shortage,” Nelson said in a statement explaining her vote against the budget.

The Seattle Police Department is already understaffed, having lost more than 400 officers since 2020. Over the summer, the force hit its lowest staffing levels in three decades.

But the 2023-2024 city budget will cut 80 open positions from the force and give Seattle police room to hire far fewer officers than it is attempting to recruit.

Some members of the community expressed frustration with the move and questioned why the city felt other initiatives deserved funding more than police.

Supporters of the budget noted the department will technically get more money this year than last, with Seattle police getting $370 million under the new budget versus the $355 million in 2022.

And proponents of cutting the vacant jobs say the force has filled openings at such a slow pace in recent months that the department has little realistic chance of exceeding the new hires approved in the new budget.

Several other cities cut police funding in the wake of civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in 2020.

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But in the years since, many police departments have received more funding and resources for staff amid rising crime and a backlash to liberal criminal justice reform.

In Seattle, homicides continued to rise this year. The city has experienced 46 murders so far this year, compared to 42 murders in 2021. In 2020, Seattle’s murder rate spiked when it experienced 53 homicides. That was a major jump from 2019, when it had just 36 homicides.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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