More Police, and Let’s Allow Them to Use More Force Too
WA State Legislature News
SB 5919 and HB 2037 both passed out of their respective chambers late last week. As those following along know, both of these bills roll back some of the accomplishments passed in the last legislative session through HB 1054 and HB 1310. You can read more about all of these bills in Rich Smith’s excellent overview.
This is a real setback for police accountability and reducing police violence in Washington State. In addition, the impacted families who have been advocating for these issues, often reliving their trauma repeatedly in order to do so, are feeling betrayed by their elected representatives. The fear-mongering around crime has once again resulted in government turning away from the very real harm that police violence causes, especially amongst more vulnerable populations.
What happens next? These two bills must now move through the opposite chamber in the legislature, where there will be another opportunity to add amendments that might limit the harm caused by these changes. But whether our lawmakers, many of whom are up for re-election this November, have the will to do so seems in doubt.
HB 1756 on solitary confinement needed to be called for a floor vote today in order to remain viable, and I’ve heard no reports that this happened. That probably means the bill is dead for this session.
HB 1630 passed out of the House yesterday and will now move to the Senate. This bill would prohibit firearms and other weapons from places like election-related offices and school board meetings, as well as forbid open carry at government buildings used for public meetings.
Mayor Harrell delivered his State of the City address this afternoon. He said he believes in going back to the basics and once again talked about his hot-spots policing strategy. He promised more details soon about his public safety plan, which will require more police officers and involves rolling out a new campaign to recruit the next generation of Seattle police. He mentioned his interest in a third kind of public system department staffed by “masters of de-escalation” and said he’s intrigued by the creation of the CSCC. He will share further steps when they get into the budget process (which doesn’t ramp up for several months).
Speaking of the budget, he also said there is a $150m predicted budget gap for 2023 and mentioned using the higher-than-expected Jumpstart revenue ($31m higher) to alleviate that gap. Sound familiar, anyone?
For more information about the speech, you can check out The Seattle Times’ coverage.
The report on the forensic analysis regarding those pesky missing text messages in Seattle was released late last week. The report determined that the setting on former Mayor Durkan’s phone would have defaulted to retaining her text messages forever and therefore must have been changed by someone to retain for only 30 days. Former Chief Best periodically deleted her texts in spite of originally saying she didn’t know how her texts had disappeared.
As the article states: “Under state law, anyone who willfully destroys a public record that’s supposed to be kept is guilty of a felony.” It seems that former Chief Best did just that, a fact that will hopefully quell the continuing talk of her being rehired as Police Chief in Seattle. The article continued by sharing Mayor Harrell’s response:
Spokesperson Jamie Housen added Harrell “believes any potential investigation should involve a neutral third-party investigator,” rather than Seattle police, “to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Also last week, Seattle’s Economic Development committee met, chaired by CM Nelson, and hosted a roundtable of business representatives to discuss crime and homelessness in the city. It is worth noting that Seattle already has both a Public Safety committee and a Public Assets and Homelessness committee. No legislation was discussed. CP Juarez also took the opportunity to share how she feels unsafe in Pike Place Market except in broad daylight on a Saturday, which was confusing since the market closes at 6pm and is still reportedly well frequented by people, a condition that generally makes locations safer.
SPOG announced they are launching a new Seattle Public Safety Index, accompanied by the hashtag #RefundSPD. I was unable to locate the actual index on the internet thus far, but perhaps it is coming soon. Opponents of SPOG could perhaps be forgiven for suspecting such an index of being yet another way of fear mongering about crime in Seattle.