I was on vacation last week, and quite a lot happened! Get ready because this newsletter is a bit on the long side.
East Precinct Abandonment Last Summer
Yes, we finally found out what happened on June 8, 2020 when the SPD abandoned the East Precinct on Capitol Hill, thanks to KUOW’s investigative report. It turns out Assistant Chief Tom Mahaffey, the incident commander, was the one who made the call, without the knowledge of Chief Best or the Mayor’s office. The OPA’s report on this incident is expected shortly.
More on the 6 SPD Officers at “Stop the Steal”
There have been a flurry of articles about the findings of the OPA’s investigation of the six SPD officers who were in Washington DC for the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6. A key point of contention being discussed is whether simply attending the rally constitutes protected speech for police officers (meaning speech protected by the first amendment), which would determine whether the four officers not found to have behaved illegally should also be disciplined.
CM Lisa Herbold had this to say:
Whether they were “directly involved” in the insurrection, or if they attended with the intent to passively support the unlawful insurrection and violent assault of our nation’s Capitol, neither act is an example of protected free speech nor should our support of free speech shield accountability for these acts.If public employees knowingly travelled to a location in support of people whom they knew were intending to attempt an insurrection, even if their participation was as a passive observer, that is a ‘clear connection between conduct and duties or…responsibilities’ and is an offense that merits termination. I will review the OPA investigation with an eye towards whether questions were asked of the four officers without sustained findings, and whether evidence was sought, to determine the advance knowledge they had of the planned violent events at the Capitol insurrection of January 6.
CP González has said the remaining four officers should be disciplined. You can also find out what other current candidates think about the case.
Another interesting aspect of this case is the way it highlights the limitations placed on the OPA by not having the ability to subpoena SPD officers, especially since SPOG has filed a grievance against the OPA for instead ordering the officers to give them personal documents related to their activities in DC. OPA Director Myerberg said:
In practice, we’re very limited in how we can obtain information and documents from officers…but we’ve been told repeatedly that we don’t need subpoena power because we can just order officers to turn over records. And obviously, given the union’s objections to the order we issued, that’s not really the case.
Next up, there will be a due process hearing on August 5 for the two officers with sustained complains against them, after which Chief Diaz will decide whether to terminate their employment. They will then have the opportunity to appeal his decision through arbitration. There is an open OPA case about one of the other officers who refused to provide his personal records when ordered to do so; there may also be another OPA case addressing the fact that the two officers with sustained findings against them appear to have lied during the original OPA investigation.
OPA and OIG News
The South Seattle Emerald has obtained several additional OIG partial certifications on OPA investigations, after reporting on the one for the protest at SPOG HQ last September. Of six completed investigations that received only a partial certification, all six were certified “not thorough” and one was also certified “not objective.” Four of these cases were protest-related. The “thoroughness” issues tend to involve insufficient questioning, overlooked witnesses, and ignoring certain parts of cases.
Meanwhile, the OPA investigation of Officer Ron Willis, the officer who made $414,543.06 in 2019 while working several 90-hour weeks and more than one greater than 24-hour day, has been completed. He was suspended for one day without pay. Meanwhile, SPD’s system of tracking overtime has still yet to be overhauled, and the new promised automated timekeeping system has yet to go live, five years after an audit that called attention to these problems.
How do the endorsements of The Stranger and The Seattle Times stack up?
Seattle Mayor: M. Lorena González vs. Bruce Harrell
King County Executive: Joe Nguyen vs. Dow Constantine
SCC Position 8: Teresa Mosqueda vs No Endorsement
SCC Position 9: Nikkita Oliver vs. Sara Nelson
Seattle City Attorney: Nicole Thomas-Kennedy vs. Ann Davison
King County Council #3: Sarah Perry vs. Kathy Lambert
King County Council #7: Saudia J. Abdullah vs. Pete von Reichbauer
King County Council #9: Chris Franco vs. Reagan Dunn
We also have some new polls! In the race for Seattle City Attorney, Pete Holmes is coming in at 16% and his opponents Nicole Thomas Kennedy and Ann Davison are both coming in at 14%, with 53% undecided. For an incumbent who won by a large margin last time, this is a surprisingly weak showing for Holmes. And in the Seattle mayor’s race, Bruce Harrell is coming in with 20%, M. Lorena González with 12%, and Colleen Echohawk with 10%, with 32% undecided.
Meanwhile, this poll (it’s important to note the polling size is only 524) asked respondents who they would vote for in different head-to-head Seattle mayor’s races:
Echohawk 51% vs Harrell 49%
Harrell 65% vs González 35%
Echohawk 69% vs González 31 %
Washington Research Group, who conducted the poll, had this to say about the upcoming race:
There are two major factors driving this election:
1) Extreme voter anger – targeted at the Seattle City Council.
2) ONE ISSUE (next tweet).
I’ve been fielding and reading polls for 30 years and I’ve never seen people this pissed. 1994 wasn’t this bad. https://t.co/Xz7sZjite4
The one issue referenced above? Homelessness.
The Seattle City Council finally passed their new less lethal weapons bill out of committee. However, it won’t be voted on by the Full Council until after a consent decree status conference with Judge Robart on August 10.
Seattle City Council’s Central Staff wrote a memo analyzing how much the Compassion Seattle proposed charter amendment might cost. As Kevin Schofield writes, “…The answer is complicated, because there are varied interpretations of vague language in the bill. At the low end: $30 million up-front capital costs, and $40 million annually in ongoing operational costs. At the high end: $839 million in capital costs and $97 million annually for operations.” This is a huge spread, of course, which shows how widely the amendment can be interpreted.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of the families of people killed by police officers, restoring reforms to the inquest process in King County that have been on hold for the last few years.
King County is looking at two finalists to become the new Director of OLEO (Office of Law Enforcement Oversight): Eddie Aubrey and Tamer Abouzaid. Both are similar in their outlook for the organization, although only Abouzaid said he’d support a state law prohibiting police unions from negotiating on issues of oversight.
The City of Seattle has filed a countersuit against The Seattle Times. If you’ll remember, the Times filed a suit against the City because of mishandled public record requests, including Mayor Durkan’s missing text messages. It’s also worth noting the City’s legal strategy for this matter is decided by City Attorney Pete Holmes, who is up for re-election.
Remember Mayor Durkan’s pot of $30m in this year’s budget for the Equitable Communities Initiative? Well, she has asked the Seattle City Council to lift the proviso on those funds, unveiling her spending plan proposal based on recommendations from the task force. Most of the funds will be dispersed through the RFP process. This legislation will be discussed at the Finance and Housing committee meeting on July 20.
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