Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best fears for the worst if the City Council follows through on its stated intention of cutting the police budget in half.
Seven of the city’s nine council members have said they support a 50 percent cut, according to the Seattle Times.
Mayor Jenny Durkan has said she supports a reduction in the police budget, but not at the 50 percent level.
During her appearance Monday on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” the police chief was asked if the 50 percent cut would make the city less safe.
“The easy answer is yes. We will be much less safe if they take 50 percent of the cops off the streets,” Best said.
“They don’t have a plan that I’ve heard to do anything to maintain public safety in the meantime,” she said.
Best said council members are not looking out for the public by cutting police spending.
“I find this decision by seven members of our City Council to be incredibly reckless and not taking into account the public safety of the other 750,000 people who live here in Seattle. It truly is a tragic decision,” she said.
Noting that “all decisions have consequences,” Best said, “If they decide to defund the Police Department by 50 percent, I think that will have negative consequences, particularly if there’s no plan.”
The call to slash the police budget was presented by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, two community coalitions. The groups said the police budget for 2021 should be cut in half from its current figure and the police budget for the remainder of 2020 should also take a 50 percent hit.
The department’s budget is currently $409 million.
A 50 percent cut could require layoffs for 755 sworn officers and 281 civilians who work for the Police Department, according to figures provided by the mayor’s office.
Best said she will adapt to whatever the politicians do.
“I am committed to this organization. I have been here almost 30 years. I am committed to this city, and I have a long history of working with the people in this city and certainly the officers who are under my care,” she said.
Best said she still holds out hope that reason will prevail.
“I’m hoping that the council will reconsider this very rash and reckless decision and allow us to do the work that we’re supposed to do for the city of Seattle,” the police chief said.
Best said the cuts that would take place if the budget is slashed would eliminate more than 50 percent of the department’s racial diversity.
“We’re not opposed to change, but not a change at the risk of public safety for everyone,” Best said. Budget decisions for her department “need to be practical so that we can maintain our public order and so I’m committed to that.”
Activists are demanding that the city remove 911 dispatchers from police control, develop community-based solutions to public safety and fund a process to “imagine life beyond policing.”
They also want money poured into creating affordable housing.
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