WA State Legislature News
Senator Peterson has gone on the record saying he intends to pursue legislation similar to this year’s solitary confinement bill next year. The bill was bogged down partly because the Department of Corrections gave it a >$115m price tag, even though advocates for the bill think that number is overly high.
Meanwhile, the two policing bills that would roll back reforms made last session, HB 2037 and SB 5919, had an executive session today so are continuing to move along.
The WA Redistricting Commission settled in the two lawsuits against them pertaining to violation of the Open Public Meetings Act.
NEW: WA Redistricting Commission @RedistrictingWA settles open-meetings lawsuits. Each commissioner will pay fines of $500, and commission will pay more than $120k for @WashingtonCOG legal fees and costs. Read settlement: https://t.co/xNPgg3MxaB
The $500 fine per commissioner amounts to a slap on the wrist, with no real accountability forthcoming beyond a formal admission of violating the Open Public Meetings Act. The commission won’t reconvene until 2031, so it’s unclear what, if anything, will have changed or improved at that time.
This week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting in Seattle covered the following topics:
If you remember the controversy about SPD staffing projections in 2022, with SPD estimating 94 separations and the Council’s Central Staff estimating 125 separations, conveniently in line with their hiring estimate for the year (also 125), we now have a slightly clearer picture. After January, which had a higher attrition estimate due to the vaccine mandate, it looks like Central Staff’s estimate is right on target thus far.
It looks like staffing isn’t a problem unique to SPD, but that police departments both regionally and nationally are also having trouble recruiting new officers. Right now there is a $1.24m estimated salary savings in SPD for 2022, and a new proviso prohibits SPD from spending any of these dollars elsewhere without Council permission.
In terms of the crime report, which relies on SPD data, shootings and shots fired increased by 40% from 2020, and violent crime increased by 20% (mostly from aggravated assault and robbery). The rate of property crime climbed slightly and larceny-theft was also up, probably driven by catalytic converter thefts. It is also worth noting that crime was up nationally in 2021, in both red and blue areas and regardless of whether any police funding had been cut.
CM Lewis mentioned his concern that big homeless encampments can become focus points for gun violence, and also noted there haven’t been any shootings at the tiny house villages or Just Care shelters.
Meanwhile, a bill currently working itself through the state legislative session could potentially incentivize officers to take earlier retirements, increasing SPD attrition. CM Herbold is holding the line, waiting for a report from the Mayor’s Office making recommendations about hiring incentive programs for all city departments before deciding what to do about SPD-specific hiring bonuses. The report is due at the beginning of March.
CM Herbold and CM Lewis also announced a new project of the City Auditor’s office to audit organized retail crime (ORC).