Oakland’s police department budget increases in spite of misleading reporting
Seattle Election Strategy
This week Seattle mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell published an op-ed in The Stranger, in which she takes shots at both Bruce Harrell and Lorena González for having voted for the current SPOG contract in 2018 that failed to enforce the Accountability Ordinance of 2017. This is more interesting as positioning strategy than anything else, as it was Farrell’s campaign that released an early poll a few weeks ago showing Harrell and González as the two frontrunners, with Farrell in a tie for third place. By attacking both of them in the same op-ed, she is attempting to show her viability as a candidate.
Farrell’s campaign is also interesting in that in many respects she is positioning herself as a progressive, urbanist candidate while at the same time supporting the Compassion Seattle initiative. Some observers believe that support for Compassion Seattle acts as a dogwhistle showing which candidates are positioning themselves into the right track of the race…which would also usually be the candidate endorsed by The Seattle Times. It appears Jessyn Farrell might be trying to position herself in the middle, running both sides, so it will be interesting to see if this is a strategy that has any legs in Seattle in the current political climate.
In other election news, The Urbanist has run a questionnaire for Seattle City Council Pos. 9 candidates with a few heavy-hitting questions about SPD’s budget and police accountability measures: you can read answers from Nikkita Oliver and Brianna Thomas.
Meanwhile, in Oakland….
The city of Oakland, California has been going through their own reckoning with their police budget, and their City Council made an important vote this week. The local TV news reported on this with the headline “Oakland City Council votes to divert millions from police funding.” In fascinating fashion, you can read the entire article without learning the basics of what happened: that the Oakland Police Department’s budget will still be larger in 2022 than it was in 2021, growing by $9m. Why the fuss then? Oakland’s mayor had proposed an even larger increase of $27m, and the Oakland City Council decided to make a smaller increase and use the difference to fund policing alternatives.
Similar to Seattle, in 2020 the Oakland City Council agreed on a policy goal of cutting the police budget by 50%. And similar to Seattle, this goal has since been cut back significantly, while a task force to “reimagine” policing has been formed.
Over the past year, as the reimagining task force did its work and the council considered policing alternatives, many people made the point that it’s probably impossible to fund non-police alternatives at the scale necessary to have any positive impact without reducing police spending, which is the single largest departmental outlay for Oakland.
The lazy reporting on display in the TV news report above is yet another example of why it’s important to support quality local journalism. The South Seattle Emerald is one excellent Seattle-area example.
SPD K-9 Problems
Publicola reports that a woman attacked by a police dog during a training exercise in 2020 has filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle. The article reviews several missteps by SPD’s K-9 units in recent years; the OPA has investigated 10 allegations of excessive force involving dog bites since 2015:
While SPD later adjusted its K-9 policies, a 2020 audit by Seattle’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that the department’s policy revisions included notable flaws, including ambiguity about whether officers can use police dogs at protests.
Drug Decriminalization in Oregon
Last fall Oregon voters passed Measure 110, the drug decriminalization bill, which says if you possess a small amount of the drugs it covers, you will be punished by a civil citation and a $100 fine. You can have the fine waived if you get a health screening from a recovery hotline. Washington State is looking into a similar decriminalization effort, the urgency of which has been increased by the Washington Supreme Court’s recent Blake decision.
The concern in Oregon right now is that there isn’t a robust and comprehensive enough health care/treatment system in place to help people seeking treatment, especially as that number increases. While Portugal saw large successes after decriminalizing drug use in 2001, with dramatic drops in problematic drug use, drug overdoses, and drug-related crime, they paired decriminalization with access to treatment and harm reduction services, as well as encouraging a cultural shift in how society viewed drugs and drug use. Washington State will face a similar issue of needing to scale up drug treatment services in the next few years in order to support the effort to decriminalize drug use.