Mayor Harrell announced his choice for the next SPD police chief on Tuesday: interim Chief Adrian Diaz. Publicola analyzed this choice succinctly:
This approach, like the choice of Diaz itself, represents a commitment to the status quo: Reform, not a radical rethinking of the relationship between police and the communities they serve. Aggressive hiring, rather than redistributing some duties to non-police responders. More and better officer training, rather than example-setting discipline for cops who abuse their power. Even Diaz’s characterization of the 2020 protests outside the East Precinct, which he repeatedly referred to as “riots” both yesterday and during his Seattle Channel interview, represents a pre-2020 perspective in which police are the only bulwark against everything from violent crime to people protesting against police violence.
At the press conference, Mayor Harrell promised that in his proposed budget being delivered next Tuesday, we will see investments in his strategy of a whole “third way of policing”, although he wasn’t immediately familiar with the term sheet and related work the Public Safety committee discussed last week. He also mentioned that he sees employees such as park rangers and MID-funded ambassadors downtown as alternative public safety responses.
There has been recent controversy around the idea of hiring more park rangers (potentially expanding their numbers from 2 to 26), who some activists think are police officers by another name. While park rangers do not carry guns, they are able to give citations and exclusion orders, which are traditionally duties associated with police officers, and community members have complained about the two existing park rangers treating homeless people poorly during sweeps.
The Seattle Parks funding plan will receive a final vote right after the 2pm Full Council meeting on Tuesday, September 27th. The current proposal funds the new park rangers but includes a spending restriction stating that no park district funds will be used for park rangers to participate in clearing encampments, and that park rangers will continue to issue trespass warrants as per a specific park rule.
The Full Council voted to confirm the appointment of Gino Betts as the new Director of the OPA yesterday 8-1, with CM Sawant casting the sole “nay” vote, stating that her vote is more a statement about the broken state of the current accountability system in Seattle and not about the qualifications of the candidate. She called for an elected community oversight board.
Current Seattle Municipal Court Judge Adam Eisenberg, who is currently running for re-election against Pooja Vaddadi, published a book in 2009 entitled “A Different Shade of Blue” about women police officers. It received favorable (although not many total) reviews on Amazon, but James Barker, deputy general counsel for Bungie and Pooja Vaddadi’s husband, took to Twitter to share some literary criticism:
Cops Back in Seattle Schools?
During an August 17 meeting between Mayor Harrell and the CPC (Community Police Commission), CPC Commissioner and Officer Mark Mullens said during our “defunding,” we removed resource officers from our schools and that this was an overreach of what defunding is. Mayor Harrell responded that they needed to earn the trust and the right to go back into the schools and that he is working with Superintendent Dr. Jones and Chairman Brandon Hersey to build those relationships to get officers back in schools. He suggested the CPC could be an invaluable asset in this space. No mention was made of how this would reestablish the school to prison pipeline or be detrimental to students’ health and safety.
At the same meeting, Mayor Harrell also suggested the CPC help him recruit new officers for SPD. The idea that the CPC, which states as part of its mission that it “listens to, amplifies, and builds common ground among communities affected by policing in Seattle,” is now being encouraged to take on the dual role of SPD PR and SPD HR is disturbing, to say the least.
Police Union Contracts
People Power Washington sent a letter to Seattle city leaders today outlining their recommendations for the SPOG contract currently being negotiated. Full disclosure, I signed this letter myself, along with my co-chair Camille Baldwin-Bonney. We recently heard contract negotiations could be wrapping up as soon as the end of the year, and we believe it is incumbent upon us to let city leaders know what we would like to see while the contract is still in the process of being negotiated, instead of treating the contract as a fait accompli once it is presented to the public. We also hope this letter helps educate community members on how police union contracts can act as impediments to accountability and equitable public safety.
The Seattle Times reported that the president of the King County Police Officers Guild said he’s hopeful they would agree to a new contract in coming weeks. This police union contract pertains to officers at the King County Sheriff’s Office.
King County Budget
On Monday Executive Dow Constantine announced a list of public safety proposals he wants to fund in King County’s 2023 budget. Publicola has provided a handy list:
$2.4 million for Vital, a program that targets “high utilizers” of the criminal justice system by providing case management and wraparound services;
$7.3 million for Restorative Community Pathways, a pre-filing diversion program for youth who commit certain first-time felonies;
$5 million for body-worn cameras, which every deputy would be required to wear by the end of 2025;
$21 million to hire 140 new security officers for King County Metro buses, transit centers, and stops.
The amount of money spent on body cameras seems disappointing, given that the program won’t be fully deployed until the end of 2025 and that the evidence of the efficacy of body camera programs is mixed at best, while they do expand police surveillance powers. You can read more about concerns about body camera programs, including discussion of a few key studies, over at the ACLU Washington’s blog.
Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall said the Sheriff’s Office has hired 50 new deputies so far this year, and they hope to hire 70 more over the next two years.