The OPA is Back in the News
The South Seattle Emerald is currently conducting a survey asking for readers’ priorities for the new OPA Director, and I highly encourage you to fill it out and be active in this process.
Yesterday morning at the CPC meeting we learned that Director of Public Safety (and former OPA Director) Andrew Myerberg will be shepherding the process of finding the new OPA Director. As Bick also helpfully reminds us in the below thread, Myerberg is currently under investigation by an outside organization hired by the City. It is safe to say that many, including some CPC commissioners, are very unhappy at the large role Myerberg is slated to play in selecting his successor.
Interesting new tidbit from this morning’s @SeaCPC meeting: according to Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell (@RuleSeven) former @SeattleOPA dir. Andrew Myerberg — now dir. of public safety — will be “shepherding” important aspects of the OPA dir. search.
Speaking of Myerberg, Carolyn Bick has released two more articles in their series shining a light on problems with the OPA’s investigation of the 2020 Labor Day protest at SPOG HQ:
Part 1: SPOG Officers ‘Were Ready to Entertain Ourselves’: 2020 Labor Day Protest
Part 2: OPA Interviews Suggest Former OPA Dir. Retroactively Ok’d Out-of-Policy Force Tactic
The Cased Closed Summary (CCS) of this case was finally released back in February of this year. Interestingly, the date on the CCS is April 8, 2021, which begs the question of why it took ten months to make this document public. And as Bick writes at the beginning of Part 1: “Though some of the narrative has been corrected — thus confirming several of the concerns that the whistleblower noted and what the Emerald wrote — this two-part article will help readers understand the many flaws that remain and why the OPA’s claims in the CCS regarding the auditor’s partial certification do not appear to accurately represent the totality of the evidence available that the OPA investigator in charge of this investigation appears to have ignored.”
They continue by highlighting several omissions, weaknesses, and discrepancies in how this case was handled. Following are a few additional key quotations from Part 2. Hendry was the lead OPA investigator on the case.
“In reviewing the interviews Hendry did conduct, not only do all of the officers give false information — false information that the OPA’s DCM appears to try to support, as discussed in the Emerald’s first story on this matter — but it appears that Hendry asked these officers leading questions. The OPA itself admits to these leading questions. When these officers did not give the answers that Hendry appears to have wanted, he allowed the SPOG representatives who were present to effectively give interviews in place of the officers, sometimes at great length.”
“…based on statements from several officers within these OPA interviews, it appears that former OPA Dir. Andrew Myerberg retroactively OK’d the untrained tactic of using the front tires of bicycles as a means to move people and for crowd control directly in response to the events of the 2020 Labor Day protest and the fact that officers used their bikes to repeatedly shove and strike protesters during that event.”
Bick’s reporting continues to highlight the broken nature of Seattle’s current accountability system.
At this week’s Council Briefing, council members discussed the timing for the legislation related to hiring bonuses for SPD officers. This legislation is currently on the agenda for the April 26th Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting (not the 4/12 meeting, as Sarah Nelson will not be present then), and CM Nelson said she expected a committee vote on the issue at the subsequent Public Safety committee meeting on May 10. That would mean a possible Full Council vote on Tuesday, May 17 at the earliest. So mark your calendars now! This legislation would lift the proviso on SPD salary savings and allow SPD to spend this money on hiring bonuses that may not work as designed. Meanwhile, the City still hasn’t budgeted sufficient funds for any significant alternate 911 response program.
At yesterday morning’s CPC meeting, we also learned that the SPMA (Seattle Police Management Association) bargaining process is in its final stages, so it will be interesting to see that contract and how it may have changed from previous contracts.
We also have an interesting analysis from Paul Kiefer–police accountability reporter extraordinaire slated to soon leave Seattle and begin reporting in Delaware–of OPA’s just-released 2021 annual report. Nearly 1,500 misconduct allegations were brought against SPD officers last year, of which almost 20% were regarding unprofessional behavior. Concerns about SPD professionalism tend to avoid drawing much attention from the oversight bodies, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. The next most common complaint type was regarding bias. Complaints about use of force fell by more than half from 2020, most likely because of the lack of large-scale protests in 2021. A total four SPD officers were fired in 2021.
Meanwhile, in Denver, Colorado, the STAR program that dispatches mental health teams to answer 911 calls has gone so well, the city is massively expanding it. Similar programs are beginning in other Colorado cities as well. While people can call a non-emergency number and specifically request STAR, the 911 dispatchers in Denver are trained to triage STAR calls and dispatch as appropriate. It is noteworthy that since the program began in June 2020, STAR has never called for police backup due to a safety issue, which suggests it’s quite possible to develop a dispatching protocol that works well.
One of the criticisms levied against considering the CAHOOTS model for Seattle is that Eugene, Oregon is a much smaller city. Denver, however, is of a very similar size to Seattle, which makes its success with this program that much more compelling for local advocates of alternate emergency response. That being said, Seattle currently still has no concrete plans for instituting its own STAR-like mental health response program that is independent from the police.
A preview for next week: not only do we have the regular Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting on Tuesday morning 4/12, but on Tuesday evening from 6-8pm is the last CPC community engagement session with Court Monitor Oftelie, during which he will present his assessment on SPD use of force and crowd control. If you would like to weigh in on your opinion about SPD use of force and crowd control tactics, you can sign up to attend this virtual meeting here.
King County News
Today Dow Constantine announced the three finalists for King County Sheriff: King County interim Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall; Charles Kimble, Killeen, Texas chief of police; and Reginald Moorman, an Atlanta Police Department major. There will be two virtual forums to give the public a chance to meet these candidates; the first is on Monday, April 18 at 6pm and the second is on Thursday, April 21 at 9am. The final decision on the Sheriff is slated to be made by early May.
The City of Redmond is discussing a public safety levy that is being considered for the November ballot. The bulk of this proposed property tax will fund the hiring of more police officers and fire fighters in Redmond, as well as pay for body-worn cameras, with a slight nod towards Mobile Integrated Health and hiring one additional mental health professional co-responder.
Community members of Redmond are being encouraged to take a questionnaire by April 15 to weigh in on their opinions about this levy. There are also two remaining virtual Community Sounding Board meetings you can attend, one later in April and one in May.