April 2021

Unexpected Support for Removing Police Disciplinary Issues from Bargaining

Seattle News

 

First up, the Seattle Times ran a piece from their editorial board yesterday resoundingly in favor of removing police disciplinary issues from collective bargaining, as would have been achieved by SB5134 this session had it been able to move forward. This piece of reform is one of the key measures needed in order to negotiate a more favorable contract with SPOG that could, among other things, finally implement Seattle’s 2017 accountability legislation. The importance of this editorial running in Seattle’s official paper of record cannot be overstated; at best, it could represent a shift in thinking as people become more educated about these issues.

Meanwhile, CM Sawant was able to stall her recall by another three weeks, but the campaign to recall her is now able to start collecting signatures towards that effort. The article reports the recall campaign backers don’t want the recall to appear on the November ballot, so if they have their way, there may be a special election sometime after that date.
Some excellent reporting by Paul Kiefer shows the difficulties inherent with having most of the OPA’s investigative force (9 out of 11) be sworn officers. One of those investigators had complaints lodged against him after he’d transferred into OPA from his time in SPD before the transfer, showcasing the difficulty of truly knowing a sworn officer’s record when allowing them to hold an OPA position. Luckily in this case the officer voluntarily transferred out of the OPA, but there is also an open question of what would happen should an officer shown to have past misconduct refused to do so.
Another article in Publicola brings up another weakness in the proposed city charter amendment about homelessness: namely, that it focuses solely on housing for homeless individuals instead of focusing on the larger problem, a dearth of affordable housing in the Seattle area.
In their meeting minutes from April 16, the Equitable Communities Initiative anticipates the earliest date they could present the task force’s recommendations on the expenditure of their allocated $30m to the City Council would be May 21, with anticipated City Council action in mid to late June.

Other News of Note

The Washington state legislative session ends on Sunday, April 25. Work is still being done on a bill to address the Blake decision, and it looks like it will go right down to the wire.
This week Time Magazine ran an article comparing the effort to defund the police with the previous movement towards psychiatric deinstitutionalization in the 1960s. If you want a dash of hope that large change is possible, this is a great read to take you into the weekend.
I’ll be on vacation next week, so we’ll catch up on all the news at the beginning of May. In addition to finding out what happens with the Blake decision bills, the Seattle Public Safety committee meeting on April 27 has a busy agenda, including a briefing and discussion from the Interdepartmental Team on Policing and Community Safety, the SPD quarterly finance and staffing report, and an update from HSD on Safe and Thriving Communities and the Victim Advocate Transfer. Hopefully we’ll also have a rescheduled Seattle Community Economic Development committee meeting with a presentation on participatory budgeting in the near future.

Other News of Note

 

Jim Brunner
BREAKING: @GovInslee directs @AGOWA Bob Ferguson to conduct criminal investigation of Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer. Background: https://t.co/onBaGfb4OZ
King County Pitches Plan To Move $16 Million From Jail Budget | Renton, WA Patch

WA still holds teens in solitary confinement — and worse, suit says | Crosscut

Unexpected Support for Removing Police Disciplinary Issues from Bargaining Read More »

Police Trust Varies Widely by Neighborhood: Capitol Hill scores 48 while Madison Park scores 72.1

While we all draw a breath of relief over the verdict in the Chauvin trial this afternoon, we must recognize this is only one case among so many and continue to demand more. I am grateful for all of you who are engaged in this work. Together we have the hope of achieving much more change than we could do alone.

State Legislature News

At this week’s Seattle Council Briefing, we received the last state legislative update from OIR. As of yesterday morning, bill 5051 on decertification and bill 5066 on duty to intervene were both waiting for concurrence. The House has refused to concur on Bill 1054 on tactics and bill 1310 on use of force, so those two bills have been sent to conference, where those involved hope to reach a resolution before the end of the legislative session on Sunday.

 

Meanwhile there is still a lot of confusion over legislation to address the Blake decision, as legislators only have until Sunday to pass a vehicle. If they don’t achieve this in time, local jurisdictions will have to deal with the decision in an inconsistent and patchwork way, although a special session of the legislature may be convened in part to deal with this open question. But if 5476 passes as currently phrased, it could initiate other problems, such as a question of jurisdiction of the City of Seattle vs King County. As David Kroman eloquently states,
First, for the city to start prosecuting people for gross misdemeanor drug possession, the Seattle City Council would have to add the offense to its municipal code. Lewis is confident there are not five votes to do that because the council is not interested in “how we are going to rearrange the deck chairs on the war on drugs.
Seattle News
Meanwhile there is still a lot of confusion over legislation to address the Blake decision, as legislators only have until Sunday to pass a vehicle. If they don’t achieve this in time, local jurisdictions will have to deal with the decision in an inconsistent and patchwork way, although a special session of the legislature may be convened in part to deal with this open question. But if 5476 passes as currently phrased, it could initiate other problems, such as a question of jurisdiction of the City of Seattle vs King County. As David Kroman eloquently states,
First, for the city to start prosecuting people for gross misdemeanor drug possession, the Seattle City Council would have to add the offense to its municipal code. Lewis is confident there are not five votes to do that because the council is not interested in “how we are going to rearrange the deck chairs on the war on drugs.
We were not aware of SPD’s press release. However, if they are interested in better protecting our community by instituting changes to their crowd management policies – we remain ready to work with them to immediately implement the CPC’s recommendations.
The 2020 Seattle Public Safety Survey results have been released. Administered by Seattle University in partnership with SPD, the survey was answered by over 11,000 Seattle residents. The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog commented on the striking disparity of police legitimacy based on neighborhood:
Similarly, the average score citywide on the police legitimacy scale was 58.4, down slightly from 59.3 the year before. But if you look at the East Precinct, that number drops to 50.4; in 2019, it was 55.5. Going even further, Capitol Hill’s score was 48 and the Central Area’s 47.1 in 2020, signaling less trust of police in these communities.
Meanwhile, a more prosperous neighborhood like Madison Park scored 72.1 on the police legitimacy scale, indicating that residents there feel police to be more fair and trustworthy.
As we continue to move further into election season, it’s important to remember one of the deciding factors of the Seattle primaries will be who and how many turn out to vote on August 3.
Nathalie Graham wrote an insightful piece about Nikkita Oliver, one of the candidates for City Council Seat 9. About policing in Seattle, Oliver says, “”I think we have spent a lot of years talking about changing the culture of policing…. There is no reforming policing as we know it. There is dismantling and building the public health and public safety system.” They go onto discuss how their platform about housing, transportation, health care, and child care creates their vision of what public safety can be.
If you’re interested in hearing Nikkita Oliver speak, they have a Town Hall conversation coming up with Danielle Sered, who wrote the book Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to RepairThe event will be livestreamed on Sunday, May 2 at 2pm and costs $5 to attend.
Thank you for reading!

Police Trust Varies Widely by Neighborhood: Capitol Hill scores 48 while Madison Park scores 72.1 Read More »

40% of SPD sworn officers received at least one complaint in 2020

Seattle News

First up, Compassionate Seattle has changed the language in their charter amendment, adding a sunset clause so the amendment won’t remain in the charter in perpetuity and changing their language about sweeps. The new language is as follows:
It is the City’s policy to make available emergency and permanent housing to those living unsheltered so that the City may take actions to ensure that public spaces remain open and clear of unauthorized encampments. The City shall develop policies and procedures to address those individuals who remain in public spaces, balancing the City’s strong interest in keeping public spaces clear of encampments and the possible harm to individuals caused by closing encampments. While there is no right to camp in any particular public space, it is City policy to avoid, as much as possible, dispersing people, except to safe and secure housing unless remaining in place poses particular problems related to public health or safety or interferes with the use of the public spaces by others.
This appears to soften the amendment’s stance on sweeps, giving the serving Mayor discretion as to what kind of sweeps policy to pursue. However, given the downtown business donations to this charter amendment, it is apparent whose interests appear to be served by it.
Meanwhile, some disagreement has arisen as to where parking enforcement officers in Seattle shall be housed: the new Community Safety and Communications Center or SDOT. The workers themselves prefer the former option, and the Council followed their lead last year, but Mayor Durkan and SDOT prefer the latter. The parking enforcement officers were keen to be part of the new department in the hopes that they will eventually be allowed to take on additional duties that are currently performed by armed officers. This change of duties is, no surprise, subject to bargaining. While the Council has the power to decide where these workers will be housed, the Mayor’s office could make another obstructionist decision and slow down the development of the new department to show its displeasure.
The OPA released its annual report yesterday, and you can read a salient summary here. This graphic from the OPA’s report is worth a thousand words:
Seattle Office of Police Accountability
Seattle Office of Police Accountability
And if you’re interested in some election news, mayoral candidate Colleen Echohawk is still ahead in the mayoral fundraising race, with Nikkita Oliver leading the pack in the District 9 race.

Washington State News

 

SB 5476, the bill in response to the Blake decision decriminalizing drug possession, passed the State Senate this week, although its sponsor Senator Dhingra opted to vote against it. The new amendment that Senator Dhingra objected to made possession a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Now the bill moves onto the House, which has indicated more willingness to leave drug possession decriminalized. If they do, then the two chambers will be forced to hash out a compromise. Meanwhile, a lawsuit has been filed to force Washington State and its counties to repay financial penalties for drug charges it has imposed in the past.
And with that, I will leave you to enjoy the gorgeous weather this weekend!

Other Articles of Interest

 

986 people have been shot and killed by police in the past year

Legislature moves to resentence up to 114 people serving life without parole under Washington’s three-strikes law | The Seattle Times

Audit of King County jails finds racial disparities in discipline, says ‘double-bunking’ leads to violence | The Seattle Times

40% of SPD sworn officers received at least one complaint in 2020 Read More »

Lots of bills moving forward, and an important Seattle PBP meeting next week

Today’s Seattle Council Briefing

Amy Sundberg
Happy Monday! Let’s see what’s happening at Seattle Council Briefing today, shall we?
CM González introduced a new amendment (Amendment 2) to the legislation regarding AAPI hate crimes, moving the $150k for funding a public safety coordinator for the ID from the SPD to the Department of Neighborhoods, where this position would be housed. The amended legislation passed this afternoon.
Tomorrow there will be a short Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, as a few agenda items had to be postponed. It doesn’t look like anything earth-shaking is scheduled so I won’t be live-tweeting. CM Herbold mentioned the Seattle Times article on the problems with SPD officers and their off-duty work, but she didn’t have any new information to share. It’s important to remember the current SPOG contract limits changes to the off duty work policy for officers, so this is yet another issue that would need to be bargained. A key quote from the article:

Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, surveyed 162 police departments and found that 130 allowed some form of off-duty work. Of these, only 11.5% said they were required to do so by union contracts, according to a 2017 paper he authored.

Seattle’s city auditor, in its own survey, found that SPD “has very little control over off-duty police work compared to the other agencies we reviewed.”
Next week, on Tuesday, April 20th at 2pm, the Community Economic Development committee will hear from the Mayor’s office about their recent memo giving two different implementation options for Seattle’s participatory budgeting process. A few other cities will also be presenting on their experiences with participatory budgeting. If you’re at all interested in the PBP here in Seattle, this is a do-not-miss.

State Legislature News

We only have about two weeks left in this session! Several bills passed out of their current chamber: 1089 concerning compliance audits, 1267 and 1310 dealing with use of force, and 5066 regarding an officer’s duty to intervene. 5226, concerning driving with a suspended license, passed with an unfortunate amendment still attached. It will now go back to the Senate for concurrence (the two chambers have to reach agreement on the bill since it’s been changed significantly).
5476, Senator Dhingra’s bill precipitated by the Blake decision, was moved out of committee without recommendation to keep the process on track. This bill is deeply controversial, and the expectation is lawmakers will be working on this issue right up until the end of session.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the beautiful weather!

Other Articles of Interest

Washington State Patrol sexual misconduct case tests oversight law as police reforms near passage | The Seattle Times

Minneapolis’ Little Earth neighborhood creates their own patrols after police retreat - The Washington Post

Maryland repeals police bill of rights, enacts historic accountability measures - The Washington Post

Lots of bills moving forward, and an important Seattle PBP meeting next week Read More »

A grab bag of news (and a couple actions) to lead us into the weekend!

Lots of news to report on this week! But first, a little housekeeping….

Changes to this newsletter

It’s hard to believe that I started this newsletter over nine months ago now. I’m pleased to say this is the 55th issue! This is also the first issue at Notes from an Emerald City‘s new home at Revue. While it was not an easy task to weigh the ethical problems with Twitter against the ethical problems with Substack, I have ultimately come to the conclusion that for now I am more comfortable working on the Revue platform. Hopefully this change won’t affect you, the reader, at all; I’ve already ported my email subscription list over to this new platform. You will receive one last notification email from the old Substack newsletter, and then we will carry on here at Revue.
At the suggestion of a few readers, I have also added a paid subscription option to this newsletter. I think it’s important the news and information I discuss here be free and available to all, so I won’t be locking any posts for only paid subscribers. Instead this is a chance for you support the work I’m doing if you find it valuable and can afford to do so. You can give via a monthly subscription here.

WA State legislature news

In the Washington State legislature, both HB 1054, which deals with use of force, and SB 5051, which deals with the decertification process, have passed both Houses. HB 1310, which deals with de-escalation, is still in the Senate Rules committee. You can email the Chair of the committee, Karen Keiser, to ask her to pass this bill out of committee.
In other state legislature news, Governor Inslee signed the bill restoring voting rights to those who have committed felonies upon their release from prison. He also just signed SB 5055 today, which reforms arbitration but is fairly weak.

In Seattle

On Monday at their full council meeting, the Seattle City Council will be voting on whether to appropriate additional money for the SPD to fund civilian Bias Crime Prevention Coordinators. The Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP), a grassroots group providing outreach support for Asian immigrant massage workers in Chinatown-ID, has condemned this action, saying, “Despite the Executive’s insistence that this position will be undertaken by a non-uniformed, civilian position within SPD, we fully reject any attempts to conflate the police department with any attempts to address community safety and issues related to anti-Asian violence.” You can email your CMs to urge them to vote against this additional expenditure, or you can sign up for public comment at the meeting on Monday, April 12 at 2pm (sign-ups begin at 12pm).
The critique on the proposed charter amendment on homelessness continues. Main arguments against the amendment are its lack of naming a funding source or providing additional funding to achieve its goals and the ambiguous language that could mean a return to a city policy of more aggressive sweeps. Dr. LaMont Green of the Lived Experience Coalition said, “”You know this is all setting the stage for aggressive encampment sweeping.”
It’s clear that a great deal of power over how to enact such an amendment would rest with the Mayor. Accordingly The Stranger‘s Nathalie Graham asked mayoral candidates what they thought of the amendment. Andrew Grant Houston came out against the amendment, while Bruce Harrell supports it. Colleen Echohawk says she is hopeful about it, and Lorena González says it’s a good start while criticizing its lack of funding. Jessyn Farrell says what I’m thinking, which is, “This policy is really only going to be as good as the next mayor.” But the charter amendment would exist in perpetuity, which means it will also only be as good as the mayor after that, and the mayor after that.
Meanwhile, the appeals court upheld the termination of Officer Shepherd from the SPD for excessive use of force, although SPOG will be appealing this decision to the state Supreme Court. This case is interesting because, as Kevin Schofield reminds us, “It does remind us that arbitration, a right guaranteed to police officers under state law, is a far from perfect process that is still overdue for reform.”

Other WA State News

Meanwhile, across the lake in Bellevue, an outside consultant has completed their use of force policy review for the Bellevue Police Department and will be presenting their recommendations at the Belleuve City Council meeting on Monday, April 12 at 6pm. You can take a look at the report here, which ends with a whopping 47 recommendations for changes to the policy. The Bellevue Police Chief is scheduled to brief the Council on this report at a future meeting.
In King County, the calls for the King County Sheriff to resign are continuing. If Sheriff Johanknect were to resign, the timing would matter; before a certain date and there would have to be a special election for a new Sheriff for only a short period of time before the office becomes an appointed one, whereas if she resigns after May 15 she’d be replaced by an interim sheriff.
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely weekend!

Other Articles of Interest

DAJD Could Do More to Prevent Deaths in Jails, Disciplines With Racial Bias, Report Finds | South Seattle Emerald

Nearly 200 cops with credibility issues still working in Washington state | Crosscut

Decriminalizing Drugs Is Popular in Washington - Slog - The Stranger

A grab bag of news (and a couple actions) to lead us into the weekend! Read More »

Disagreement abounds on whether the new proposed charter amendment on homelessness would reinstitute the sweeps

Time for some early April news!

First off, you can read my live-tweeting of this morning’s Council Briefing here.

CM Herbold mentioned that she had a meeting last week with the DoJ and the Monitor about the draft bill on less lethal weapons, and that they will have additional questions for the SPD and the City’s Central Staff, so that is continuing to move forward. The next public safety committee meeting isn’t until next week, and we don’t yet have word on the agenda.


Meanwhile, Seattle is busy discussing the new proposed charter amendment from Compassionate Seattle, led by former CM Tim Burgess, that would create a new Article in Seattle’s city charter called “Provision of Homeless Services.” This proposal is unprecedented in that it attempts to use the city charter to dictate specific policy and budget priorities, while charter amendments in the past have stuck to causing governance changes. The purpose of this amendment appears to be to cause the City to stand up 1,000 new units of “emergency or permanent housing with services” in 2022, stating the City must allocate 12% of its general fund annually to a separate Human Services fund.

More controversially, the proposed amendment also contains the following language: “As emergency and permanent housing are available, the City shall ensure that City parks, playgrounds, sports fields, public spaces and sidewalks and streets (“public spaces”) remain open and clear of encampments. The City also may require individuals to shift their belongings and any structures to ensure accessibility and to accommodate use of public spaces.” Given the initiative’s major financial backer is the Downtown Seattle Association, this section shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

There are several different interpretations of what that language might mean, and it is disturbing that a major initiative on which the public may be expected to vote is so ambiguous:

  • Kevin Schofield of SCC Insight says: “This does not appear to be bringing back “sweeps.” The text of the proposed amendment makes clear that parks and public spaces should be cleaned up and restored “as emergency and permanent housing are available.”
  • Marcus Harrison Greene of the South Seattle Emerald says in an interview on Hacks & Wonks: “Other than, as you were saying, people essentially just don’t want to see any type of blight on their fair city or what have you. And are trying to essentially make it more and more of a hardship on people who are unhoused to be in areas that are “public spaces” or public amenities. And so for me, I mean, this just seems like an extremely – just extremely callous potential initiative that is couched in this language of compassion and love.” Crystal Fincher then responds, “I think the question is – the mandate in here to ensure that parks and public spaces are open and clear of encampments, is a clear direction and clear indication to return to aggressive sweeps. And to return to just default, I see someone in public – call the police, get them out.”
  • Erica C. Barnett of Publicola reports: “Supporters of the amendment say the mandate to ensure that parks and public spaces are “open and clear” of encampments does not mean a return to aggressive encampment sweeps, although that provision will be open to interpretation if the amendment passes.”

In one further wrinkle, one of the members of the coalition supporting this amendment is Chief Seattle Club, the executive director of which is Colleen Echohawk. In her statement on this initiative, she says it “prohibits sweeps unless there is a place for people to go.” However, a prohibition doesn’t seem clear from the actual language of the amendment. How her support of this amendment might affect her chances in the mayoral election is anyone’s guess, but it does seem to pull her into a more center position and align her clearly with the interests of Seattle’s business community. Of course, this could also easily weaken her prospects with more progressive voters concerned about the possibility of renewed sweeps.

In order for this city charter amendment to appear on the ballot in November, it will need to collect 33,000 signatures from Seattle voters, to be filed by early August.


The other big piece of news in Seattle is the Court’s ruling that the recall of CM Sawant can proceed. The recall campaign will now begin collecting signatures; they need 10,000 signatures from District 3 voters and have 180 days to collect them. Depending on when these signatures are turned in, this recall might be voted on during the November election or there might need to be a special election at a later date. So far CM Sawant has out-fundraised the recall campaign.


Finally, you can attend free virtual bystander intervention trainings to stop anti-Asian/American and xenophobic harassment. Hosted by Hollaback! and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, you can sign up for a training here. There is still one available training in April and several in May, and if you finish this first training, there is also a conflict de-escalation training workshop available.

Thanks for reading!

Disagreement abounds on whether the new proposed charter amendment on homelessness would reinstitute the sweeps Read More »