September 2021

Seattle’s Proposed Budget: More Cops, JumpStart power play

Seattle’s Proposed 2022 Budget

The Solidarity Budget held their kickoff of their budget recommendations over the weekend. From their website:
The 2022 Seattle Solidarity Budget is a collective call toward a city budget that centers the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable Seattle residents, responds with funding that is commensurate with the crises we are facing, and prioritizes collective care and liberation.
They go onto say, “Divesting from police systems and investing in Black communities goes hand in hand with climate justice work and housing justice work and Indigenous sovereignty.” Here is a good summary of many of their proposals. Full disclosure, I’m on the steering committee of one of the organizations that has endorsed the Solidarity Budget.
The Solidarity Budget launch was strategically timed, as the Mayor transmitted her 2022 proposed budget to the City Council yesterday.
First, some good news. The Mayor is honoring her commitment to continue investment in BIPOC communities, calling for an additional $30m for participatory budgeting (increasing the overall pot to $57m since the bulk of the 2021 investment remains unspent), $30m to the Equitable Communities Initiative (aka the Mayor’s task force), and $30m to the Strategic Investment Fund for acquisition of property located in high risk of displacement neighborhoods. She is also continuing the $10m investment in HSD for community safety capacity building. However, the Solidarity Budget asks for a $60m investment in participatory budgeting.
In terms of SPD, the Mayor proposes increasing their budget by around $2.5m. The total proposed SPD budget for 2022 is about 23% of the estimated available General Fund. She makes several other proposals:
  • the addition of 35 net sworn officers, which means hiring a total of 125 officers in 2022, for a total force of 1230 (in contrast, the Solidarity Budget suggests a total force of 750 officers)
  • $1.1m for bonuses for hiring new recruits and lateral transfers (another attempt after CM Pedersen’s similar amendments failed last week)
  • the addition of another team of CSOs (five officers and one supervisor); the CSOs (community service officers) want to remain within SPD instead of moving the CSCC, meaning expanding this program continues to grow SPD
  • SDOT and the Parks & Rec Department will both get more money to continue removing encampments
The Mayor has provided $2m funding for Triage One, to be housed in the fire department to perform wellness check calls. At this amount of funding, Triage One could only respond to a small fraction of the calls that even SPD agrees don’t need a sworn officer response (14%). And don’t forget the recent NICJR report that found 49% of 911 calls in Seattle don’t require a sworn officer response. However, there is no mention of funding any kind of alternate community emergency response program like CAHOOTS or STAR in the budget, in spite of the proven track record of such programs.
The budget committee presentation on Community Safety & Community Led Investments and SPD will be on Thursday, September 30 at 2pm. You can give public comment Thursday morning at 9:30am; sign-ups begin at 7:30am.

Jumpstart Funds and the Proposed Budget

As Erica Barnett reports in Publicola, another interesting facet of the Mayor’s proposed budget is the fact that she takes $148m from the new JumpStart tax fund to spend on her own priorities. This is in spite of the fact that:
The council adopted the payroll tax specifically to fund programs addressing housing, homelessness, and equity, and created a separate fund for JumpStart revenues with the intention that they couldn’t be used for other purposes—which is precisely what Durkan is proposing to do.
In 2022 Mayor Durkan is planning to use one-time federal relief funds to pay for the stated JumpStart tax purposes, but this plan will leave the new Mayor and Council in a pretty pickle with the 2023 budget, when they will either have to cut the programs funded by the reallocated money in 2022 or abandon their original JumpStart spending plan.
In addition, one in a volley of parting shots, she is proposing legislation that will allow future Mayors to use the JumpStart funds for almost any purpose.

More OPA Problems

Carolyn Bick is back with more excellent reporting on the OPA at the South Seattle Emerald, this time about more discrepancies in a OPA report about the 2020 Labor Day protest outside SPOG HQ. It gets pretty convoluted, so here are some main takeaways:
  • Director Myerberg told the Emerald back in June that he was planning to finalize the Director’s Certification Memo (DCM) for the case in early July, but the DCM had actually been finalized back in April.
  • The DCM appears to craft a narrative of the protest not supported by the evidence that involves conflating three different individuals in easily distinguishable dress and has many discrepancies with various video sources.
  • The narrative tells a story of the protest being broken up in order to arrest a specific person with Molotov cocktails rather than the protest being stopped for no legal reason.
  • You may remember that a different OPA report about this same protest received a partial certification from the OIG because “OIG finds that the deficiencies of the investigation with respect to thoroughness and objectivity cannot be remedied.”
  • You might also remember the resignation of an OIG employee who made an ethics complaint against top staff within the OIG; Bick reports: “The apparent inaccuracies identified in the aforementioned OIG memo included in the ethics complaint start almost at the very beginning of the 35-page DCM.”
Perhaps most damning is this quote from Carolyn Bick’s article:
This throws into question the claim that SPD’s aim was not to disperse the crowd but only to target one person allegedly carrying a dangerous weapon for arrest.
However, the OPA appears to ignore this and, further, appears to convey a specific reason for doing so: The OPA writes in the DCM that it “declines” to reach a conclusion that, under the Federal Consent Decree, would legally bar SPD from policing demonstrations, because the OPA claims that these protest situations could become dangerous without police. For that reason, the OPA writes, it will not sustain this allegation.
It is unclear how this conclusion aligns with the Consent Decree, as OPA’s purpose is to hold SPD and its officers to account.
The above quotation clearly suggests the OPA is failing in its duty to hold SPD and its officers accountable. Further, it suggests that had the OPA followed the actual evidence of the case, SPD would be prevented from policing demonstrations in future because of their failure to comply with proper policing standards. Therefore, the OPA is protecting SPD and its officers not only from discipline for misconduct but also from consequences from the consent decree. It is difficult to see how the OPA can maintain community trust in the face of such actions.

Recent Headlines and News of Note

Amy Sundberg
Good morning! It’s Monday and time for this week’s Seattle Council Briefing. CM Juarez isn’t feeling well enough to be here this morning.
Seattle Budget Headlines
Seattle mayor proposes increasing police staffing in 2022 budget | Crosscut

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2022 budget plan would add police, allocate federal aid to housing | The Seattle Times

Seattle City Council wrapping up business ahead of budget season

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing! One week till the official start of budget season.
This morning’s Seattle Council Briefing was all over the place in terms of protocol and order of speakers, as the Council races to get as much done as possible before Budget Season begins next week. There is also a special meeting of the Public Safety and Human Services committee this Friday morning at 9:30am, where they will hear a presentation about the LEAD scale study report and the Office of Civil Rights Community Task Force report on the realignment of the criminal legal system. CM Herbold says she hopes the City can take the original strategic plan as well as this community task force report and use them to create a resolution to endorse a path forward to realignment. However, we probably won’t see such a resolution until December at the earliest because of budget work.
Certain CMs (notably CM Lewis and CP González) received a letter recently from a coalition of behavioral health providers requesting an emergency summit with local government leaders to discuss implementation of HB1310, the state bill about permissible uses of force by law enforcement that passed earlier this year. Specifically, the letter asks for:
  • a legal analysis of the bill and how it pertains to law enforcement helping with behavioral crisis events
  • clarification about what instructions have been provided to law enforcement officers regarding this law
  • identification and immediate implementation of alternate non-law enforcement interventions that can be deployed for behavioral crises, including scaling up existing resources and establishing new ones as needed
Expect more news about this after the summit has been convened.
This afternoon the Council voted on CM Sawant’s bill to ban SPD from training with countries that have a track record of human rights abuses, and the debate became VERY heated. In the end, the bill failed, with CM Sawant, Herbold, Morales, and Mosqueda voting in favor and CM Strauss, Juarez, Lewis, Pedersen, and CP González voting against.
Finally, in Seattle election news, there has been a flurry of polls, particularly for the mayoral election. I’m not going to dedicate much space to them, as most of them don’t seem to be overly reliable and more engaged with testing various messaging possibilities for the next month and a half of campaigning. One message being tested? Bruce Harrell’s failure to call for Ed Murray’s resignation as Seattle Mayor after the latter was accused of sexual abuse in 2017, which is apparently a fairly effective message when it comes to fostering support of CP González.

Upcoming Events in Seattle

This year’s Solidarity Budget is hosting their virtual kick-off summit this Saturday, September 25 from noon to 2pm. You can sign up for this event here, or it will be live streaming on Facebook from the Decriminalize Seattle and Black Action Coalition pages.
The Seattle Times is hosting virtual candidate debates on homelessness; the mayoral debate is on Wednesday, September 29 from 7-8pm and debates for Seattle City Attorney, Seattle City Council Position 9, and King County Council District 3 are on Thursday, September 30 from 5:30-7pm.

Recent Headlines

Bonney Lake council member broke law in his job as a cop, probe finds | Crosscut

King County moves toward repealing bicycle helmet law | Crosscut

No, SPD Officers Won’t Be Receiving Retention Bonuses This Year

Budget Season

Budget season is almost upon us! In Seattle, budget season begins on Monday, September 27 when the Mayor delivers her proposed 2022 budget. I will be writing a great deal about budget season over the course of the next few months, and I’d like to invite you to join me at People Power Washington – Police Accountability’s general meeting this Sunday, September 19 at 11am, where I will be giving a presentation on the basics of local budgets and how to get involved. You can register for the meeting here.

Seattle City Council News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to the Seattle Council Briefing! Hope you haven’t missed me too much over the past four weeks. 😉
Yesterday the Seattle City Council took their final vote on the mid-year supplemental budget, which included their plan for how to spend the $15m the SPD expects to save this year from increased attrition rates. You can remind yourself of what is involved in this bill relating to SPD-related spending here.
Further complicating matters were several last-minute amendments, including two from CM Pedersen that would either remove $3m from community-led public safety efforts in order to fund SPD hiring and retention bonuses (almost $2.8m of this was to be for retention purposes) or that would allocate $1.1m to SPD hiring and retention bonuses. The first of these amendments was defeated handily. The second was defeated by a single vote: CMs Morales, Sawant, Mosqueda, Herbold and CP González voted against and CMs Pedersen, Juarez, Lewis, and Strauss voted in favor. CM Sawant proffered an amendment that would have transferred more of the SPD salary savings to community safety capacity building, but this was also defeated, with only CMs Sawant and Morales voting in favor.
At the Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting this morning, council members also discussed a bill that would prohibit SPD from training with countries that have verifiable incidents of human rights violations. The bill passed out of committee, with CMs Herbold, Sawant, and Morales in favor and CM Lewis and CP González abstaining. CP González said she abstained because there are many moving pieces, and there is going to be more information available before the final vote on September 20. CM Lewis added that he needs to know what the training definition will be. The Full Council will consider this legislation at their meeting on Monday, September 20. The Public Safety and Human Resources committee will have a special meeting on Friday, September 24.

Other News Tidbits

It looks like signature gathering for the campaign to recall Sawant is completed, although the signatures weren’t submitted in time for the recall to be on the November ballot, meaning a special election sometime this winter.
There’s been a recent shake-up at the CPC (Community Police Commision). Co-Chairs La Rond Baker and Erin Goodman resigned from their positions, and new Co-Chairs will be finishing the term. The CPC is also opening some community engagement meetings to the public in upcoming months. The first meeting is tonight from 6-8pm, and there will be other meetings on October 12, November 9, and December 14.
After recent reports about Bellevue School Board candidate Faye Yang, who until recently believed race was linked to IQ scores, there has been news about another Bellevue School Board candidate. Gregg Smith has said “Critical race theory is inherently racist in itself and is out of control in the schools as well as society in general” and “It’s both hypocritical and senseless to make racist attacks against white people in an attempt to supposedly end systemic racism against blacks.” Unfortunately, these remarks demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of white supremacy and how systemic racism operates in our society. Watching the school board races in Bellevue right now is a case study in understanding why getting involved in local politics matters.

Recent Headlines

Abolitionist Candidates Are Running for Office Across the Country | Teen Vogue

Seattle police intervening in fewer mental health calls, data show | Crosscut

Compassion Seattle is No More

It’s hard to believe it’s already September. Let’s catch up on the happenings of the last few weeks, shall we?

Election News

Perhaps the biggest news of the past few weeks involves Seattle’s charter amendment Compassion Seattle. First a judge said the charter amendment couldn’t be on the November ballot, saying it went beyond the scope of the initiative process. Then the amendment’s backers said they wouldn’t appeal this decision. Then they changed their minds and did appeal after all. And finally, the appeals court denied that motion as well. That’s all, folks. The Compassion Seattle charter amendment will officially NOT be on the ballot in November.
Also not on November’s ballot: the Sawant recall decision. The deadline for the campaign to turn in their signatures to make that ballot has passed. This most likely means a special, low turn-out election in the winter, which the proponents of the recall doubtless hope will help the recall pass.
In Seattle mayoral election news, the CPC canceled their planned mayoral candidate debate on public safety because Bruce Harrell declined to participate. This decision fails to build confidence in his ability to take police accountability seriously. Bruce Harrell also held a press conference at Green Lake last week, during which he said he’d implement many key parts of the Compassion Seattle plan if he is elected Mayor, including spending 12% of the city’s General Fund on homelessness (at only 1% more than current spending, this is certainly not enough), building 2000 shelter beds within one year, and keeping parks, sidewalks, etc clear of encampments, aka implementing sweeps:
“I just think that there has to be consequences for that kind of action,” Harrell said, referring to people who don’t accept the services or shelter they’re offered, “because many people—and I’m very close to the world of people struggling with drug and alcohol treatment, people that have challenges—many of them are in denial. Many of them do not know what they need. They just do not.”
But wait, there’s more! It came out that Bellevue school board candidate Faye Yang believes that race is linked to IQ scores, touting the debunked racist pseudoscience preached in The Bell Curveby Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. Since this information was revealed, Faye Yang has said she no longer believes this to be true, but the fact that she’s just had this realization about these racist ideas doesn’t fill one with confidence.
Washington state is also undergoing its redistricting process, which could have large ramifications on elections going forward. The commissioners expect to have their suggested maps completed by the end of September, and there will be two public meetings (Oct 5 and Oct 9) where the public will have a chance to give feedback on the proposal.

Seattle News

The scandal involving the Mayor Durkan’s texts being deleted from her phone continues, with The Seattle Times reporting that when the Mayor’s office attributed the loss of the texts to “an unknown technology issue,” they’d actually known for months why the texts were gone. Durkan’s chief of staff also appears to be involved in keeping the public in the dark about these missing texts. City Attorney Pete Holmes has said, “Someone changed the mayor’s settings from retain to delete — that is a deliberate act.”
The city employees who blew the whistle on the missing texts sued Seattle on Friday, The two employees left their jobs earlier this year. Between this lawsuit and the one filed by the Seattle Times, the new City Attorney will be kept busy cleaning up Mayor Durkan’s mess–all on the taxpayers’ dime, of course.
Mayor Durkan has instituted a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all city employees by October 18, which has set off a brouhaha with unions, including SPOG. Any city employees who do not comply could face termination, and SPOG is saying this mandate could drive a further exodus of SPD officers. At the same time, SPD has been experiencing a spike in COVID-19 infections of officers, with 29 officers testing positive during the first three weeks of August. It is unknown what percentage of SPD officers are already vaccinated at this time.
In OPA news, the officer who shot Terry Carver last year is serving a 20-day detention for failing to properly follow de-escalation practices but is not being held accountable for killing Carver. Paul Kiefer’s article on the case documents a track record of bad decision-making for the police officer in question. In addition, Director Myerberg highlighted an ongoing pattern with SPD officers killing people carrying knives; however no SPD policy changes in this area have been implemented, even though Terry Carver was killed more than a year ago, in May 2020. For more analysis of the OPA’s decision on this case, you can read the following Twitter thread:
Phil
So why is SPD investigating itself? Because SPD got the state legislature to exempt SPD from that provision so long as they are under the consent decree. The decree was supposed to be a sword to reform SPD but has been turned into a shield to protect SPD.
Finally, no Seattle City Council meeting this week, although a few committees are meeting. We’ll be back to the normal schedule starting next week, with budget season kicking off on Monday, September 27.

King County News

King County’s OLEO (the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight) concluded their investigation of the 2019 shooting of Anthony Chilchott, during which two officers shot Mr. Chilchott; one was subsequently fired, but the other one is still serving as a deputy in the department. The report criticized the Sheriff’s office for failing to learn from several past similar shootings, such as that of 17-year-old Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens in 2017, and provided a long list of policy and training recommendations.
An editorial in the South Seattle Emerald by Angélica Cházaro and Anita Khandelwal recommends that both King County and the City of Seattle adopt two new pieces of legislation to address racial disparities in law enforcement’s treatment of Black and Indigenous people. One piece of potential legislation would de-prioritize any traffic stops where the driver does not pose an imminent danger of physical harm to others, and the other would ban consent searches. Many people don’t know their rights around consent searches, ie that they’re allowed to say no, and BIPOC people in particular may feel further pressure to comply in order to keep themselves safe. You can write to your King County council member and your Seattle council members to support the introduction of this legislation.

Recent Headlines

King County’s rise in gun violence doesn’t have an easy explanation | Crosscut

This City Went From ‘Defund’ to Planning a Massive New Police Fantasyland