Gaps in SPD’s Disciplinary System
WA State Legislature News
This year’s WA state legislative session continues at the breakneck pace of a short session.
This Thursday 1/27, the House’s Public Safety committee will be meeting with several bills up for executive session. People Power Washington – Police Accountability encourages you to write to the members of the committee urging them to PASS HB 1507 (the independent prosecutor bill) and to NOT PASS HB 1788 (lowering the threshold of when officers can engage in high-speed vehicular chases). Click here for more information, scripts and email addresses.
Meanwhile it looks like HB 1202 (qualified immunity) is dead in the water for this session.
As expected, a lawsuit was filed last week saying the new legislative maps of Washington violate the federal Voting Rights Act because of the way they split Latino voters in Yakima Valley and Pasco into multiple districts.
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. CM Mosqueda is not present.
There were two agenda items of note on this morning’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting: a consent decree update from Court Monitor Oftelie and the OIG report on their audit of SPD’s disciplinary system.
During the consent decree update, Court Monitor Oftelie touted the remaining two community engagement meetings on stops & detentions and use of force. He confirmed his office uses SPD’s own data in their assessments and implied that collecting any data independently would be too big a drain on resources.
CM Herbold asked about data from 2020 and 2021 not being a good measure because of differing conditions such as the pandemic. Monitor Oftelie was vague on whether running data from the last couple of years would be necessary to determine consent decree compliance, saying his office would be looking to the City Council for guidance. Perhaps most noteworthy was CM Herbold’s remark that there was a use of force “anomaly” in 2020.
The OIG’s audit of SPD’s disciplinary system found that collectively there was a need for improvement. Some interesting highlights:
- When there’s a range of disciplinary options presented to the Chief, there’s been a preference for the minimum of the range.
- The OPA director can recommend the Chief meets with complainants but hasn’t actually ever done so.
- While no recommendations were made about officers with a repeated history of complaints, Lisa Judge said there have been additional questions raised about this.
- There are more “not sustained” training referrals (with proof that something has in fact been done incorrectly) than there are sustained findings. They researched several other police departments and found all of them would have classified these same findings as sustained. It turns out this was changed in the last few years as a result of SPOG filing a series of grievances regarding this rung of the disciplinary ladder until SPD decided to stop using it. This is important both because sustained findings are recorded differently than not sustained findings, with not sustained training referrals not included in performance appraisals, and because it shows the level of SPOG influence on SPD policy.
- While SPD employees aren’t allowed to work overtime on days when they are suspended, they can take overtime shifts every other day of the pay period, allowing them to offset suspension days with overtime. SPD believes fixing this would be an issue for collective bargaining.
- While there haven’t been sufficient arbitration cases to see this in practice, the system as it stands does seem vulnerable to a certain kind of “gaming,” in which one could select an arbitrator for one case with an eye to which arbitrator would then be able to hear the next case.
- There was a question about the difference between an OIG recommendation versus matters for consideration. Matters for consideration are not currently tracked nor followed up on by the OIG. Two of the main reasons cited for flagging a matter for consideration instead of making a recommendation were if the matter would require collective bargaining or the decision of a policy maker. CM Herbold pushed back on this way of doing things since it decreases accountability.
- CM Pedersen announced he is now a member of the newly constituted LRPC (Labor Relations Policy Committee).
Meanwhile, at the CPC meeting last week, one of the SPD officers who serves on the CPC was apparently confused as to why there was anything objectionable about the Proud Boys ruse the SPD used in the summer of 2020:
Finally, if you’re curious about continuing havoc wrecked by Omicron, Publicola reported on its impact on SPD this month:
On January 12, SPD reported that 124 officers were isolating after testing positive for the virus: more than at any other point during the COVID-19 pandemic, easily surpassing the previous record of 80 officers in quarantine in November 2020. As of last Friday, the number of officers in quarantine had fallen to 85. Nearly 200 SPD employees have tested positive for the virus since the beginning of January, doubling the department’s total number of infections since the start of the pandemic.