Seattle City Council Votes to Lay Off 100 Police Officers

Rioting in Seattle in June 2020 (Getty Images)
August 6, 2020

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday in support of police budget proposals that would lay off 100 police officers, despite objections from the city's mayor and police chief.

The city council began to reexamine the police department's budget earlier this summer in response to anti-police protests. Mayor Jenny Durkan (D.) and police chief Carmen Best criticized the most recent set of proposals, which would also end the removal of homeless people from the city's streets and cut salaries for police leadership.

Durkan said the cuts would hit the "most diverse class" of officers the city has ever had, as police union rules mandate that layoffs are determined by seniority.

"We don't want to lay off our newest recruits and newer officers…. They are our most diverse class ever, and they are so committed to reform and community policing," Durkan said. "The youngest officers would be the first to go. Those 100 cuts the council wants to do this year would gut this new class and those new recruits."

Best said cutting dozens of officers is a "reckless" move that would make the city less safe.

"The push from council and some of our community is to do these large scale changes in 2020 with no practical plan for community safety, and I believe wholeheartedly that that is completely reckless," Best said. "That is something that will invariably happen—there will be a gap in services."

Though seven of the nine councilmembers previously supported an amendment that would have cut the police department budget by 50 percent, that proposal did not pass on Wednesday.

The final vote on all budget amendments will take place Monday.

Anti-police protests in Seattle turned violent last month as rioters burned police cars, looted businesses, and tried to set a juvenile-detention center on fire with Molotov cocktails. In June, protesters created a police-free autonomous zone, which the mayor disbanded after multiple people were shot and some were allegedly sexually assaulted in the area.