Seattle City Councilwoman Lorena Gonzalez is revisiting an idea previously put forth for cutting the budget of the Seattle Police Department: layoff police officers based on race.
The City Council wants to defund the city’s police department by about 50%, which would require huge layoffs. But several members of the City Council have suggested that layoffs be implemented not by seniority but by race.
The idea is not a new one. It was suggested by City Council member Lisa Herbold back in July.
The idea has resurfaced after a first round of budget cuts of 20% and a loss of 200 officers.
According to Jason Rantz of KTTH, the current SPOG (Seattle Police Officers Guild) police union contract requires layoffs to be based on seniority.
For that reason, layoffs are more likely to effect newer officers, who are younger and more diverse, as opposed to those with more experience and seniority, who tend to be white.
Gonzalez told Vice News about any future union negotiation: “It’s going to be a massive fight and one of the things that is going to be a huge fight is how to do out-of-order layoffs so that it is not last-hired, first fired, which is where all of our diverse police officers sit in that category. We’re going to have to negotiate some of those issues likely with the union.”
Back in July, City Council member Lisa Herbold also argued that layoffs shouldn’t be determined by seniority, but by race.
She stated that the Police “Chief can request the Public Safety Civil Service Commission Executive Director to lay off out of order” when doing so is in “the interest of efficient operations of his or her department.”
Gonzales agreed at the time.
Speaking of the proposed goal of 50% budget cuts, Gonzalez said:
“Now is the time to divest from the Police Department. Now is the time to zero out these budgets, and to reimagine, rebuild, build something from a community-led and community-driven perspective that will actually build community safety for the people who have been harmed the most by over-policing and criminalization.”
Former Seattle Police Chief Best, who resigned in August, was opposed to the idea in July.
“We cannot do layoffs based on race. I would love for Council member Herbold to work with us and not against us, making sure we have a viable number of officers.”
Former Chief Best added, “It is illegal to make layoffs based on race. I am not sure where (Herbold is) getting her legal advice from, but the persons who are advising us are making sure we understand it’s illegal to do that.”
Moves to defund police departments began all over the nation last summer in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Seattle and other west coast cities were some of the hardest hit by unrest and violence.
Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, several blocks that are some of the quirkiest of Seattle, was commandeered by demonstrators for months during the summer of 2020 and was renamed “CHAZ” or “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”
It was billed as a sort of Woodstock-y for-the-people free space. However, due to a total breakdown of support of law enforcement, demonstrators blocked off this section of the city, including the East Precinct building of the SPD.
The building was taken over by demonstrators and dubbed a community center and location for organizing “beyond protest” and other “community action.”
But CHAZ was not the utopian “block party” and “summer of love” that Mayor Jenny Durkan claimed.
On June 23, a 19-year old was shot and killed. A second man was wounded. First responders could not reach the victims due to what they described as “unsafe conditions.” 48 hours later, a 17-year old was shot.
Former Police Chief Carmen Best said, “You know, leaving the the Precinct was not my decision.”
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