Time Sensitive: The state legislature is in session and it’s time to make our voices heard.
There’s a lot of news this time, so thank you in advance for bearing with me. If you’ve been looking for a chance to get more involved, this is the email to read!
First of all, the Washington state legislative session has officially begun and will run through mid-March. You can find out a lot more information about police accountability and criminal justice reform bills being discussed at the People Power Washington website. This website helps you look up your legislators, informs you about the various issues, and will have a daily action you can take to make your voice heard in Olympia during this crucial legislative session. I expect to be referencing it here frequently, and you might want to go ahead and bookmark it for your own reference.
Because this is the state legislative session, you can be a resident of anywhere in the state of Washington to take these actions. You do not need to reside in Seattle specifically, and in fact, it’s important that the legislature hear from voices outside Seattle as well.
This Thursday morning, January 14 at 8am, there will be Committee Hearing where you can support SB5134, a bill that, among other things, removes police accountability for serious misconduct from the collective bargaining process. You can read more about it here. This bill could have a huge positive impact on our ability here in Seattle to obtain an actual functioning police accountability system, as well as provide better accountability throughout the state, so its importance cannot be overstated. I strongly encourage you to consider supporting this bill.
If you would like to lobby on behalf of SB5134, you have three options. (You have these three options for each bill being discussed this session.) If you can, it is best to sign-in to note your position AND submit written testimony or testify live. If you’re short on time, signing in to note your position is incredibly quick.
Sign-in to note position (this is the quickest and easiest option, simply requiring you to register and say you support this bill)
Submit Written Testimony (in addition to expressing your support, you can also provide a written statement about why you support this bill)
Testify Live During Hearing (you can sign up to give live testimony over Zoom about why this bill is important to you)
A script to help you draft written or live testimony will be available on the People Power Washington website as the Daily Action on Wednesday. You’ll need to complete these actions (including signing up for live testimony) by 7am on Thursday.
You might also consider supporting SB5055, also being discussed on Thursday, which is specifically concerned with arbitration reform.
ACLU is having their Lobby Week on January 25-29; you can sign up for it here. The ACLU will be organizing meetings with your lawmakers to discuss your legislative priorities, and you can participate from the comfort of your own home instead of making the trek to Olympia.
In Seattle news, during yesterday’s Council Briefing many of the CMs spoke out condemning the violence in DC last week and calling for Mike Solan, President of SPOG, to resign after he falsely accused BLM of being involved in the insurrection in DC last week. In fact, Mayor Durkan and all CMs except for CM Juarez have called for this. As President of SPOG, Mike Solan would play a large role in negotiating the new police union contract this year, so his removal could potentially have real impact on the outcomes of those negotiations. However, so far he has remained adamant that he will not resign.
CP González also said the office of intergovernmental relations will begin attending council briefings next week to report on the state lobbying agenda so we can expect regular reports on the state legislature session from that source. Because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Council Briefing and full Council meeting will meet on Tuesday next week.
Meanwhile, the CPC released an official statement about both the potential involvement of SPD officers in last week’s violent insurrection in the nation’s capitol and Mike Solan’s comments on those events:
As you can see, the CPC is taking action in regard to these matters to the full extent of its abilities. I strongly encourage you to attend the next CPC meeting at 9am on Wednesday, January 20 to show your support for their actions, your condemnation of the attempted coup last week, and your commitment to holding those involved, including any SPD officers, accountable. I will do my best to provide the Zoom link next week for any of you who wish to attend. It will also broadcast live on the CPC’s Facebook page.
The latest Public Safety & Human Services Committee meeting was held this morning.
They spent the bulk of the meeting discussing their legislation regarding SPD’s use of less lethal weapons. The original bill, passed over the summer, has never gone into effect as Judge Robart (who oversees the consent decree) passed a restraining order on it. He said that he wanted recommendations from the three oversight bodies in Seattle (OPA, OIG, and CPC) about use of these less-lethal weapons. The discussion this morning started with a draft bill that contained all the consensus items between these three bodies and then began conversation about decision making for those weapons and circumstances about which there is not consensus. In general (and not surprisingly) the CPC’s recommendations are stricter and more protective than the OPA and OIG’s.
The CMs are in a tricky situation here. Judge Robart seems to believe the original ordinance as passed is too broad, so the CMs need to try to find a compromise that results in legislation about these weapons that is still strong while allowing enough leeway that Judge Robart won’t block it. If Judge Robart doesn’t approve the new legislation, the Council cannot simply overrule his verdict so they are heavily incentivized to try to find a compromise they think he will approve. At the same time, they are obviously torn about weakening the original legislation.
CM Lewis signaled one possible compromise: that the Council very carefully tightens decision points and narrowly tailors exceptions to the weapons ban, walking a fine line to make the legislation less broad so Judge Robart approves it while still strongly regulating and minimizing any use of such weapons. One of the big sticking points is the use of tear gas, which some CMS want banned completely while others are looking for these narrow points of compromise. They will continue to discuss this legislation, and specifically how far to go with the tear gas ban, at the next Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday, January 26 at 9:30am, with the hope of voting a bill out of committee to send to Judge Robart for review. You will be able to give public comment at the beginning of this meeting.
To wrap up a few last bits of news:
- The decision in CM Sawant’s recall case has been delayed. I don’t know when we expect a decision: maybe February?
- There haven’t been any further announcements about Seattle 2021 mayoral and council candidates, probably because nobody wants to compete with the current news cycle. Given the report that more violence related to the Inauguration is anticipated in the coming week, announcements of candidacy will probably be delayed until after next week.
- BLM Seattle-King County has alleged that federal law enforcement was involved in inappropriate actions regarding the Seattle protests this past summer. Specifically they allege that FBI agents might have provided inaccurate information about “outside actors” in order to incite violence during the protests.
They are asking that a special independent Counsel be appointed to investigate this matter more fully. Their full letter and press release is shown in the above Twitter thread.
Thanks for your patience in catching up on all the news with me! I do hope you will consider supporting some of the many police accountability bills up before the state legislature this session and/or joining me in attending the CPC’s meeting next week.