January 2021

What’s going on with the summer investments in public safety? HSD is dragging its feet.

Lots going on during this last week of January!

First up, there will be a hearing for HB1202, a bill about ending qualified immunity at the state level, tomorrow, January 26, at 10am. You can learn more about it here. If you need help with a script, you can respond to this email and I’ll send you what I have.

There will be a hearing for HB1310, a bill mandating de-escalation by police, on Friday, January 29 at 10am. There should be scripts added to this website before Friday.

We had a long Council Briefing this morning, with presentations by both the national and state-level lobbying teams, about which there are many details in the following Twitter thread.

Robin from the state lobbying team said there are now over twenty bills regarding police reform making their way through the Senate or House. There is a bill on independent investigations that has a hearing tomorrow, as well as a bill about community oversight boards that they are watching with a bit of concern as it might impact our current OPA/OIG/CPC system in Seattle. There is no news yet about SB5055 vs SB5134 (regarding arbitration etc) as to whether these two bills might be reconciled or have amendments added to them.

Tomorrow morning at 9:30am there is a packed Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. Among other things, they will continue to discuss the bill about less lethal weapon use; hear presentations about some of the money allocated last summer for violence prevention programs and scaling up community organizations; hear updated numbers of SPD attrition for 2020; and go over the promised action of decreasing the SPD’s 2021 budget to compensate for the SPD going over their authorized budget in 2020. I will be attending and will try to write up a report about what is discussed at this meeting in the next few days.

In election news, Colleen Echohawk, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, has announced her candidacy for Seattle Mayor. She also served on the CPC in the past. You can read a comprehensive interview with her at the South Seattle Emerald. About policing in Seattle, she says:

We need a Seattle Police Department that protects and cares for the people in our city. So, there are a few changes that I would want to make changes in right away. I know this is already happening, but there would be no more sweeps of homeless camps by police officers. Yes, we need outreach and support, and we can take care of the garbage, but the sweeps are not effective. I want to be effective in our work. We also need to move some of the jobs like traffic control and mental health crisis support out of SPD and into the community.

We have to realize it’s going to take time. We’re not going to be able to wave a wand and make all this happen.

She speaks at further length about policing during the interview, as well as issues such as homelessness, public transit, and COVID recovery. My sense from the interview is that while she isn’t an opponent of current reform efforts, she’s walking carefully and mostly following in Mayor Durkan’s and the Council’s lead. I imagine we’ll get a better sense of where she stands on this and related issues as the campaign progresses.

Finally, you can read Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County’s most recent newsletter, which addresses both the recent tragic action in Tacoma with a police officer driving through a crowd and the demand that any officers participating in the insurrection in Washington DC on January 6 be immediately fired (as far as I know, we’re now up to five SPD officers who were in DC at the time of the insurrection, although their actions there are still being investigated).

Best wishes to those of you participating in ACLU Lobby Week, and thank you for your advocacy. I’ll be checking back in sometime later in the week to fill you in on what happens at the Public Safety meeting tomorrow.

What’s going on with the summer investments in public safety? HSD is dragging its feet. Read More »

CPC meetings this week and a review of various state bills

Let’s take a look at what’s been happening in Washington and Seattle, shall we?

In CPC news, the CPC will be having a town hall on SPD policy changes tonight at 6pm. This community-led conversation will be about changes the Seattle Police Department is proposing regarding how officers are allowed to use force and police protests and will be live-streamed by Converge Media, which can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

The CPC will also be having their regular meeting tomorrow at 9am. I know there’s a certain significant event taking place at that same time, but if you’re interested in attending, you can use this Zoom link and you can also look at the agenda. From 10:20-10:40am, they will be “addressing current events with OPA & OIG (Plans and processes for investigating recent misconduct connected to the violence in Washington DC)” with OPA Director Andrew Myerberg. Will they be able to get many straight answers from him? Wellll, perhaps not. But it’s still worth supporting the only police accountability agency in Seattle that is fighting the good fight.

I don’t have a Twitter thread on today’s Council Briefing, but we heard from the City’s state legislature lobbying team. They spoke about the hearing I testified at last week about SB5055 and SB 5134. The presenter echoed my own feelings that overall the hearing had gone well, but that 5055 has a much better chance of moving forward than 5134, mostly because labor strongly opposes the elimination of arbitration when dealing with serious misconduct by law enforcement.

It is worth noting that the ACLU Washington supports 5134 and opposes 5055. My understanding of 5055 is that it embraces incrementalism instead of making true structural change, hence my own preference for 5134. CM Herbold asked if it might be possible to get support from stakeholders, especially labor, for certain provisions in 5134 if its elimination of arbitration was abandoned. The City’s lobbying team is also pushing for the inclusion of amendments to 5055 that would place further guardrails around the arbitration process. So we’ll see how things develop with these two bills.

Other bills of interest in the police reform/criminal justice space:

  • HB 1078, introduced last week, would make felons automatically eligible to vote once they are released from incarceration. It is important, particularly with our current broken and deeply racist criminal justice system, that we not disenfranchise citizens who are re-entering society after serving their time.
  • SB 5127, a bill prohibiting assault weapons. There are apparently some other bills limiting open carry that are also being discussed.
  • HB 1267, regarding police use of force and establishing a state-wide office to address use of deadly force, will probably have a hearing sometime next week.
  • HB 1054 addresses police tactics. This bill was first heard last year, and insiders expect amendments to be introduced that might help it get through.
  • HB 1082 and SB 5051 are companion bills addressing decertification of police officers, which would basically create a licensure system for police officers and seek, among other things, to prevent discharged officers from being able to go get a job at a different department. There were hearings for these two bills in the last few days.

A big story from the weekend was an SPD officer who refused to wear a mask while inside a local hospital ER. CM Herbold is checking with Interim Chief Diaz as to whether there’s another approach that doesn’t rely on the OPA to resolve the issue and cause corrective action, possibly involving chain-of-command becoming involved for cases of mask non-compliance.

At the next Public Safety and Human Services meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, January 26 at 9:30am, the CMs will be learning about the investment of the $3m provided by them in the summer rebalancing for community organizations with expertise in crime prevention. The additional $12m in funding from the summer rebalancing, to be focused on community capacity public safety investments, is still pending. With the veto etc. this money has still not been allocated, but they hope to be able to fund agencies by the end of the second quarter, aka by summer. This would represent a ten-month process to actually get that money out the door, which is not great given the urgent need to ramp up community organizations’ capacities.

Finally, Nikkita Oliver is teaching a course at Seattle University on policing and prison abolition this semester, and they are providing the syllabus and related materials to the community if you want to learn along with their class.

CPC meetings this week and a review of various state bills Read More »

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.

Time Sensitive: The state legislature is in session and it’s time to make our voices heard. Read More »

Lining up the pieces on the chess board of local and state politics

Happy 2021!

First up, the first Council Briefing of the year was this past Monday.

This week the Seattle City Council passed their legislation granting the OPA and OIG subpoena powers. It’s worth noting these subpoena powers have to be bargained with the police unions before they’d come into effect, making this legislation another move in the City of Seattle’s attempt to come to the bargaining table in a stronger position (similar to their move late last year allowing for more representation for the various oversight authorities and the Council at the closed bargaining meetings).

The SPOG contract has officially expired now that we’re in the New Year, and it sounds like the city is probably going to delay the bargaining until spring in the hopes that legislation might be passed in the upcoming state legislative session that will assist in bargaining efforts. Both sides are currently maneuvering to be in the best possible position.

CM Morales mentioned the Black Brilliance Project’s preliminary report was delivered to her office before the Winter Recess, and she’ll be passing it along to the other CMs sometime this week. She did not say when the report might be made public.

This morning CM Mosqueda announced that this year she’ll be running for her City Council seat and NOT running for Mayor. This leaves the field open for a potential run by CP González, and we can expect more candidacies to be announced in upcoming days. The filing window for mayoral candidates is in mid-May in preparation for the primaries in early August.

The Court is also expected to be discussing the CM Sawant recall case later this week.

Meanwhile, all eyes are turning towards Olympia, with the state legislative session scheduled to begin this Monday, January 11. Many bills pertaining to police reform are on the docket, and Publicola published a good overview about the upcoming session. As the session gets going, there will be opportunities to write/speak to your representatives and give public testimony (remotely) to support some of this important legislation.

Here is a chart of some of the important events happening in 2021. The SPOG contract negotiations is an estimate and could easily start later and/or take longer than five months, but this gives us an idea of what the year might look like.

I hope your 2021 has gotten off to a good start, and thank you for reading!

Lining up the pieces on the chess board of local and state politics Read More »