July 2021

2021 Policing and Public Safety Voter Guide Is Out!

Policing Voter Guide is Out!

People Power Washington is pleased to present the 2021 Policing and Public Safety Voter Guide for Seattle, King County, and Burien to help you know where local candidates stand as you make voting decisions in the August 3rd primaries. (This week is the time to fill out your ballot if you haven’t already!) Key races will determine who sets the course in areas that impact all of us including choosing heads of our law enforcement departments, setting budget priorities, and negotiating collective bargaining agreements with police guilds.
Many local candidates responded to our questionnaires about public safety and the criminal legal system; you can read their on-the-record answers at the website and work to hold them accountable if they are elected. The website also includes explainers to provide context to the critical issues at stake this year. If your own jurisdiction is not covered by the current guide, you can contact People Power Washington at wapeoplepower@gmail.com if you’d like to help them add it for the general election in November.
I’m on the steering committee of People Power Washington and worked directly on some of the questionnaires and issue explainers. I hope you find them helpful!

A New Director for King County’s OLEO

Today the King County Council selected a new Director for OLEO (Office of Law Enforcement Oversight): Tamer Abouzeid, an attorney, mediator, community organizer and policy professional. He is replacing previous Director Deborah Jacobs. He is starting on September 20.

Seattle City Council Meetings

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing!

On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted to pass a clerk file to make sure facial recognition technology is included as part of the City’s surveillance technology ordinance. CM Herbold reported that last week the Mayor’s Office announced committing $2m in next year’s budget to a regional response to gun violence, the Regional Peacekeepers, and CM Herbold would like to try to get some of that money out the door this year instead of next year.

Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting.
At today’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, we heard about OIG’s phase one sentinel review report on the protests last year, as well as Summary Findings on the Executive Order on Re-imagining Policing and Community Safety from the executive branch (Central staff presentation here/Executive branch presentation here). The live tweet of this meeting is of more than usual interest given the topics covered.
This first phase of the OIG’s sentinel review report only covers the first few days of the protests last summer, focusing on five primary events during those days. The report offers 54 recommendations that they hope are actionable for SPD. (As a side note, one of the most interesting things about the sentinel review report process is the use of a peacemaking circle within the selected panel to try to facilitate trust building and peace, as well as listening and reconciliation. I do question whether trust can be built between community and an organization with such deep systemic issues, but am interested in other applications for this process.)
One of the OIG report’s main critiques comes from Decriminalize Seattle, who tweeted that while the focus of the report is on fixing the system, the brutal police response of last summer IS the system, and the recommendations made in the report are “almost laughably pro-cop.”
Decriminalize Seattle Coalition (Official)
The only problem:
Last summer’s brutal police response to protest IS the system
As for the summary findings for re-imagining public safety, the IDT involved in this work says they learned three things from community engagement: that community is not a monolith, that public safety extends beyond policing, and that people want more visible patrol presence, especially in the International District, Belltown, and Pioneer Square.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the report was that the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) was contracted to do an analysis of Seattle’s 911 call data, and they found 174 call types they thought could be answered by alternative responses instead of sworn officers, which Chris Fisher from SPD said would equal about 49% of calls. However, SPD did their own analysis and decided only 12% of those calls (28-30 call types) could actually be answered by alternate responses, including person down and welfare check calls. They said part of this was due to labor and legal issues (aka the police contract and local laws).
CM Herbold brought up the point that 12% of 911 calls is 48,000 calls a year, but the Mayor’s Triage One proposal (the new emergency response pilot) is only designed to answer 7,000 calls per year. She asked about the additional 40k calls in that 12% and why they weren’t included in the Mayor’s proposal. Julie Kline from the Mayor’s office said that Triage One is just a first step, what they see as “low-hanging fruit.” It is noteworthy seeing just how small a first step it is.

Recent Headlines

Mental Health Response Teams Yield Better Outcomes Than Police In NYC, Data Shows

Report: Seattle police stop Black people, Native Americans at far higher rate than white people | The Seattle Times

2021 Policing and Public Safety Voter Guide Is Out! Read More »

New Seattle 911 response pilot program and the OIG criticizes SPD’s protest response

This Week’s Council Briefing

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to this week’s Seattle Council Briefing!
CM Herbold announced she has a bill coming before Full Council next week (on July 26) designating facial recognition software as a surveillance technology for the purposes of the existing ordinance that allows the Council to review such technology. Chief Diaz has said the SPD has no intention of beginning to use Clearview AI at the department, as one officer did recently without permission. She also reminded us that the less lethal weapons bill won’t come before the Full Council for a vote before August 16 at the earliest, as she wants to wait for Judge Robart’s consent decree status conference on August 10.
On the agenda of the public safety and human resources committee meeting this coming Tuesday, July 27, is a briefing and discussion about the Office of Inspector General (OIG) Sentinel Event Phase 1 Report, regarding how the SPD handled the protests last summer, as well as briefing and discussion on “Summary Findings on the Executive Order on Re-imagining Policing and Community Safety.” You can read the OIG report here, which includes recommendations on how SPD can improve their protest response. This report only includes the first three days of last year’s protests. Among other things, the report suggests shifting away from the police as crowd control and more towards protest facilitation, and tactical changes like police not leaving weapons unattended in vehicles, being allowed to express solidarity with protesters, minimizing unnecessary arrests at protests, and replacing police radio communication with encrypted messaging system (like WhatsApp) for protests. The report offers 54 recommendations in total.

Seattle News

Today Mayor Durkan announced a new plan for Seattle’s response to 911 calls that don’t require armed officers, tentatively called “Triage One,” the funding for which she will be including in her proposed 2022 budget this fall. It will begin as a pilot program with limited capacity. As The Seattle Times reports:
The idea is for Triage One to be housed in the Fire Department and be staffed by civilian city employees, possibly partnered with officers or firefighters, Durkan said. The responders will know de-escalation techniques and how to navigate people to social services, she said.
The new Triage One team would respond to lower acuity calls than those responded to currently by Health One, and would have the ability to contact police or Health One if necessary.
After many delays and much foot dragging from Mayor Durkan, this week the City of Seattle also announced the recipients of the $10.4m in grants for community safety capacity building. 33 organizations are receiving these one-time grants; you can read the list of which organizations have received them here.
Chief Diaz wrote a blog post this week detailing what changes the SPD will be making in response to changes in state law this year. He says the new laws will cause changes in how officers handle “Terry stops,” stops made without probable cause for arrest. The department will also do away with its high-caliber rifles and shotguns, but they will not turn in their high-caliber rubber bullet launchers unless they hear otherwise from State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Recent Headlines

KUOW - This is who Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan texted with last year: Mike Pence’s body man, and Amazon CEO Andy Jassy

Former public defender, arbitrator challenge 3-term incumbent Pete Holmes in Seattle city attorney race | The Seattle Times

New Seattle 911 response pilot program and the OIG criticizes SPD’s protest response Read More »

Seattle News Salad

I was on vacation last week, and quite a lot happened! Get ready because this newsletter is a bit on the long side.

East Precinct Abandonment Last Summer

Yes, we finally found out what happened on June 8, 2020 when the SPD abandoned the East Precinct on Capitol Hill, thanks to KUOW’s investigative report. It turns out Assistant Chief Tom Mahaffey, the incident commander, was the one who made the call, without the knowledge of Chief Best or the Mayor’s office. The OPA’s report on this incident is expected shortly.

More on the 6 SPD Officers at “Stop the Steal”

There have been a flurry of articles about the findings of the OPA’s investigation of the six SPD officers who were in Washington DC for the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6. A key point of contention being discussed is whether simply attending the rally constitutes protected speech for police officers (meaning speech protected by the first amendment), which would determine whether the four officers not found to have behaved illegally should also be disciplined.
CM Lisa Herbold had this to say:
Whether they were “directly involved” in the insurrection, or if they attended with the intent to passively support the unlawful insurrection and violent assault of our nation’s Capitol, neither act is an example of protected free speech nor should our support of free speech shield accountability for these acts.
If public employees knowingly travelled to a location in support of people whom they knew were intending to attempt an insurrection, even if their participation was as a passive observer, that is a ‘clear connection between conduct and duties or…responsibilities’ and is an offense that merits termination. I will review the OPA investigation with an eye towards whether questions were asked of the four officers without sustained findings, and whether evidence was sought, to determine the advance knowledge they had of the planned violent events at the Capitol insurrection of January 6.
CP González has said the remaining four officers should be disciplined. You can also find out what other current candidates think about the case.
Another interesting aspect of this case is the way it highlights the limitations placed on the OPA by not having the ability to subpoena SPD officers, especially since SPOG has filed a grievance against the OPA for instead ordering the officers to give them personal documents related to their activities in DC. OPA Director Myerberg said:
In practice, we’re very limited in how we can obtain information and documents from officers…but we’ve been told repeatedly that we don’t need subpoena power because we can just order officers to turn over records. And obviously, given the union’s objections to the order we issued, that’s not really the case.
Next up, there will be a due process hearing on August 5 for the two officers with sustained complains against them, after which Chief Diaz will decide whether to terminate their employment. They will then have the opportunity to appeal his decision through arbitration. There is an open OPA case about one of the other officers who refused to provide his personal records when ordered to do so; there may also be another OPA case addressing the fact that the two officers with sustained findings against them appear to have lied during the original OPA investigation.

OPA and OIG News

The South Seattle Emerald has obtained several additional OIG partial certifications on OPA investigations, after reporting on the one for the protest at SPOG HQ last September. Of six completed investigations that received only a partial certification, all six were certified “not thorough” and one was also certified “not objective.” Four of these cases were protest-related. The “thoroughness” issues tend to involve insufficient questioning, overlooked witnesses, and ignoring certain parts of cases.
Meanwhile, the OPA investigation of Officer Ron Willis, the officer who made $414,543.06 in 2019 while working several 90-hour weeks and more than one greater than 24-hour day, has been completed. He was suspended for one day without pay. Meanwhile, SPD’s system of tracking overtime has still yet to be overhauled, and the new promised automated timekeeping system has yet to go live, five years after an audit that called attention to these problems.

Election News

How do the endorsements of The Stranger and The Seattle Times stack up?
Seattle Mayor: M. Lorena González vs. Bruce Harrell
King County Executive: Joe Nguyen vs. Dow Constantine
SCC Position 8: Teresa Mosqueda vs No Endorsement
SCC Position 9: Nikkita Oliver vs. Sara Nelson
Seattle City Attorney: Nicole Thomas-Kennedy vs. Ann Davison
King County Council #3: Sarah Perry vs. Kathy Lambert
King County Council #7: Saudia J. Abdullah vs. Pete von Reichbauer
King County Council #9: Chris Franco vs. Reagan Dunn
We also have some new polls! In the race for Seattle City Attorney, Pete Holmes is coming in at 16% and his opponents Nicole Thomas Kennedy and Ann Davison are both coming in at 14%, with 53% undecided. For an incumbent who won by a large margin last time, this is a surprisingly weak showing for Holmes. And in the Seattle mayor’s race, Bruce Harrell is coming in with 20%, M. Lorena González with 12%, and Colleen Echohawk with 10%, with 32% undecided.
Meanwhile, this poll (it’s important to note the polling size is only 524) asked respondents who they would vote for in different head-to-head Seattle mayor’s races:
Echohawk 51% vs Harrell 49%
Harrell 65% vs González 35%
Echohawk 69% vs González 31 %
Washington Research Group, who conducted the poll, had this to say about the upcoming race:
WaResrchGrp
There are two major factors driving this election:
1) Extreme voter anger – targeted at the Seattle City Council.
2) ONE ISSUE (next tweet).
I’ve been fielding and reading polls for 30 years and I’ve never seen people this pissed. 1994 wasn’t this bad. https://t.co/Xz7sZjite4

The one issue referenced above? Homelessness.

News Tidbits

The Seattle City Council finally passed their new less lethal weapons bill out of committee. However, it won’t be voted on by the Full Council until after a consent decree status conference with Judge Robart on August 10.
Seattle City Council’s Central Staff wrote a memo analyzing how much the Compassion Seattle proposed charter amendment might cost. As Kevin Schofield writes, “…The answer is complicated, because there are varied interpretations of vague language in the bill. At the low end: $30 million up-front capital costs, and $40 million annually in ongoing operational costs. At the high end: $839 million in capital costs and $97 million annually for operations.” This is a huge spread, of course, which shows how widely the amendment can be interpreted.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of the families of people killed by police officers, restoring reforms to the inquest process in King County that have been on hold for the last few years.
King County is looking at two finalists to become the new Director of OLEO (Office of Law Enforcement Oversight): Eddie Aubrey and Tamer Abouzaid. Both are similar in their outlook for the organization, although only Abouzaid said he’d support a state law prohibiting police unions from negotiating on issues of oversight.
The City of Seattle has filed a countersuit against The Seattle Times. If you’ll remember, the Times filed a suit against the City because of mishandled public record requests, including Mayor Durkan’s missing text messages. It’s also worth noting the City’s legal strategy for this matter is decided by City Attorney Pete Holmes, who is up for re-election.
Remember Mayor Durkan’s pot of $30m in this year’s budget for the Equitable Communities Initiative? Well, she has asked the Seattle City Council to lift the proviso on those funds, unveiling her spending plan proposal based on recommendations from the task force. Most of the funds will be dispersed through the RFP process. This legislation will be discussed at the Finance and Housing committee meeting on July 20.

Recent Headlines and Tweets

Paul Faruq Kiefer
Some stats from this report: Native people are nine times more likely to be stopped by SPD than white people (and Black people are five times more likely), but white people were more likely to be carrying a weapon when they were stopped. https://t.co/LnHZTDL8Nm

Seattle News Salad Read More »

2 SPD Officers Participated in January 6th DC Insurrection

2 SPD Officers Participated in Jan 6 Insurrection

Today the OPA released their findings for their investigation into the actions of 6 SPD officers who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington DC on January 6. They found that two of the six officers, Alexander Everett and Caitlin Rochell, participated in the illegal storming of the Capitol. These officers also lied about their actions during the investigation. The charges against the three officers were not sustained, and the investigation into the fourth officer’s actions was inconclusive. In addition, one officer refused to cooperate with the investigation by providing records and is now facing a new case within the OPA for insubordination.
Interim Chief Diaz said in the past that he would fire any officers who were found to have participated in the illegal insurrection. The OPA also recommended the two officers they found had participated be fired.
Meanwhile, SPOG has been pushing back against the OPA’s investigation of these officers, filing a grievance against the city and asking the OPA to destroy personal records collected as part of the investigation. Director Myerberg has said he expects the grievance to go to arbitration.

Other Seattle News

The Recall Sawant campaign has announced they’ve collected over 9,000 signatures to get the recall on the ballot. Their goal is to reach 10,739 signatures by August 1, and to have the recall on the November ballot.
The SPD police officer who used unapproved facial recognition software as part of his investigations was given a one-day suspension after the OPA ruled he had violated SPD’s professionalism policies. In the past, the same officer used a personal drone to take pictures of a suspect’s house.
Crosscut published a revealing story about the five Black campus police officers who are suing UW for $8m for the unbearable racism they’ve suffered on the job:
They report being called racial epithets, referred to as “monkeys” and having bananas left in their lockers, being told, “I thought all you guys like watermelon and Popeyes chicken.” They say they overheard white officers say that George Floyd got what he deserved, and even being hit with a stick by a white officer, who then said, “You people should be used to being hit with these.”
And The South Seattle Emerald published an op-ed by Marcus Harrison Green about healing justice that I highly recommend reading.

Recent Headlines

Records officers who blew whistle about Seattle mayor’s missing texts file $5 million claims against city | The Seattle Times

Officer played Taylor Swift song to keep video off YouTube. It went viral. - The Washington Post

2 SPD Officers Participated in January 6th DC Insurrection Read More »

Will anything be done about a biased and incomplete OPA investigation?

Between the excruciating heat and no SCC committee meetings this week (due to it being a rare week 5 in the month), this has been a relatively slow news week. You can catch up on this week’s Seattle City Council Briefing here:
Amy Sundberg
Good morning. May this Seattle Council Briefing divert you from the miserable heat.

OIG finds deficiencies in OPA investigation

Once again, Carolyn Bick has published an excellent piece of investigative journalism, this time about a partial certification memo from the OIG about the OPA investigation of a protest outside SPOG headquarters last September. The OIG memo states: “OIG cannot certify the investigation as thorough or objective, but OIG does certify the investigation as timely. Per 3.29.260 F, no further investigation is being directed at this time because OIG finds that the deficiencies of the investigation with respect to thoroughness and objectivity cannot be remedied.” You can read the full OIG memo here.
It is worth reading the article in full to get all the details of the investigation’s flaws, but perhaps the most damning quotation is as follows:
In other words, the OIG memo is saying that the OPA’s investigative report appears to be specifically designed to support the officers’ actions and their narrative, rather than approach the situation as a neutral body.
When we see a partial certification like this, where no further investigation is being directed even though the original OPA investigation was not found to be either thorough or objective, we see clear evidence of how the accountability system is failing the residents of Seattle.
The OPA has not released the CCS for this case but says they intend to do so soon, at which point Director Andrew Myerberg will be able to comment.

Election News

If you’re interested in this year’s elections in South King County, the South Seattle Emerald has you covered:

Today the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission voted unanimously to release mayoral candidate Andrew Grant Houston from the democracy voucher program’s $400K primary-election spending cap, due to Bruce Harrell’s campaign hitting the cap.

The commission has agreed (6-0 vote) to release Houston from the $400,000 cap. https://t.co/NBq37k6OjV

Also today, Compassion Seattle announced they have collected enough signatures to get their measure on the ballot, and it looks like they’ll hit the deadline to be on the November ballot, which is what they wanted from a strategy perspective (November will have a much higher turn-out of voters).

Erica C. Barnett
Compassion Seattle just sent out an email saying they’ve collected more than 64,000 signatures to get their initiative, which would require the city to fund shelter by diverting funds from other purposes in order to “clear” encampments. That’s about twice what they need.
Meanwhile, The Stranger published a story about mayoral candidate Colleen Echohawk’s change of heart over Compassion Seattle. She began by supporting it, but no longer does so.

Seattle Police Officers’ Guild News

Illustrating the continued erosion of public mores, SPOG tweeted this week, taunting the community with news of a fatal shooting, implying the small amount cut from SPD recently caused this outcome. To be clear, there have still yet to be ANY police officer layoffs from SPD and their staffing plan was fully funded in the 2021 budget.

Seattle Police Officers Guild
It’s also worth noting that after a long pause, there is a new batch of appeals from SPD officers over disciplinary decisions being processed by the City Attorney’s office. To put this into context, Paul Kiefer writes:
But the latest group of appeals reached the city attorney’s office as the next election for SPOG’s presidency looms on the horizon, as does the beginning of the next round of contract negotiations between the union and the city.
And that’s all for now. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Recent Headlines

Will anything be done about a biased and incomplete OPA investigation? Read More »