February 2022

The WA Redistricting Commission Gets Slap on the Wrist

WA State Legislature News

Senator Peterson has gone on the record saying he intends to pursue legislation similar to this year’s solitary confinement bill next year. The bill was bogged down partly because the Department of Corrections gave it a >$115m price tag, even though advocates for the bill think that number is overly high.
Meanwhile, the two policing bills that would roll back reforms made last session, HB 2037 and SB 5919, had an executive session today so are continuing to move along.
The WA Redistricting Commission settled in the two lawsuits against them pertaining to violation of the Open Public Meetings Act.
Jim Brunner
NEW: WA Redistricting Commission @RedistrictingWA settles open-meetings lawsuits. Each commissioner will pay fines of $500, and commission will pay more than $120k for @WashingtonCOG legal fees and costs. Read settlement: https://t.co/xNPgg3MxaB

The $500 fine per commissioner amounts to a slap on the wrist, with no real accountability forthcoming beyond a formal admission of violating the Open Public Meetings Act. The commission won’t reconvene until 2031, so it’s unclear what, if anything, will have changed or improved at that time.

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. This morning we will hear from SPD on their 2021 year end staffing report and crime report, and we will hear about their retail theft program.
This week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting in Seattle covered the following topics:
If you remember the controversy about SPD staffing projections in 2022, with SPD estimating 94 separations and the Council’s Central Staff estimating 125 separations, conveniently in line with their hiring estimate for the year (also 125), we now have a slightly clearer picture. After January, which had a higher attrition estimate due to the vaccine mandate, it looks like Central Staff’s estimate is right on target thus far.
It looks like staffing isn’t a problem unique to SPD, but that police departments both regionally and nationally are also having trouble recruiting new officers. Right now there is a $1.24m estimated salary savings in SPD for 2022, and a new proviso prohibits SPD from spending any of these dollars elsewhere without Council permission.
In terms of the crime report, which relies on SPD data, shootings and shots fired increased by 40% from 2020, and violent crime increased by 20% (mostly from aggravated assault and robbery). The rate of property crime climbed slightly and larceny-theft was also up, probably driven by catalytic converter thefts. It is also worth noting that crime was up nationally in 2021, in both red and blue areas and regardless of whether any police funding had been cut.
CM Lewis mentioned his concern that big homeless encampments can become focus points for gun violence, and also noted there haven’t been any shootings at the tiny house villages or Just Care shelters.
Meanwhile, a bill currently working itself through the state legislative session could potentially incentivize officers to take earlier retirements, increasing SPD attrition. CM Herbold is holding the line, waiting for a report from the Mayor’s Office making recommendations about hiring incentive programs for all city departments before deciding what to do about SPD-specific hiring bonuses. The report is due at the beginning of March.
CM Herbold and CM Lewis also announced a new project of the City Auditor’s office to audit organized retail crime (ORC).

Recent Headlines

Former Minneapolis officers found guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights - The Washington Post

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Inside a police training conference - The Washington Post

The WA Redistricting Commission Gets Slap on the Wrist Read More »

More Bills and More Accountability Shenanigans

WA State Legislature News

Another week, another chance to sign in CON to oppose HB 2037 (now in the Senate) and SB 5919 (now in the House). Both bills roll back changes made to policing last session from HB 1310 and HB 1054.
Click here to sign in CON for SB 5919.
Click here to sign in CON for HB 2037. You can also read an Action Alert with more information here. While we’ve heard some version of this bill is likely to pass, the hope is to add language suggested by the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability and ACLU Washington that will alleviate some of the harm caused by it, so it’s important to put pressure onto lawmakers to work on this issue.
You can also click here to sign in PRO to HB 1169, a bill about sentencing enhancements. You can read more about the bill here.

Seattle News

First things first, one thing I forgot to mention in Mayor Harrell’s State of the City speech earlier this week: the Mayor promised his administration would end the federal consent decree. Because the consent decree requires first that the city meet compliance and then that it pass through a two year sustainment period, things would need to move rapidly. Realistically the city would need to be found in compliance by sometime in the first half of 2023, the earlier the better, in order to hit all the required deadlines and exit the decree before the end of Mayor Harrell’s term.
In other news related to the consent decree, lawyer Sarah Lippek sent information to Court Monitor Oftelie about the alleged sexual abuse of vulnerable people by SPD officers, asking him to give that information to the Department of Justice or the federal court. Instead, without consulting her or the community, Oftelie gave the information to the FBI, which is not involved in the consent decree process. The data had been collected in 2013 by a team under the umbrella of the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance (PHRA) and passed onto the City, where it disappeared from view.
Lippek also used to work for the OIG, where she reviewed over a thousand OPA complaints:
And in those complaints, she said, she “found serious, credible allegations of sexual assault and harassment buried in the OPA ‘contact logs’ and ignored, or kept in perpetual suspension while investigative procedures were ‘paused’ and unresumed for years at a time, allowing officers to retire with full pensions and without any disciplinary mark.”
Thus once again we see evidence of Seattle’s three-body accountability system not being up to the job. You can read Carolyn Bick’s entire story here.
There continue to be calls for an independent investigation into the missing text messages of former Mayor Durkan, former Chief Best, and seven other city officials. The recent forensic analysis only dealt with Mayor Durkan and Chief Best’s missing texts. The OPA says they cannot begin investigating the matter themselves until after litigation pertaining to the texts is complete, if they then receive a referral.
The first draft maps for new Seattle districts are out, and you can look at them and give feedback.
In participatory budgeting news, the Participatory Budgeting Project is the only non-profit who has applied to run Seattle’s program, and their proposal calls for the actual voting process to take place in January of 2023, meaning the program will have taken two and a half years from initial discussion to get off the ground. The Office of Civil Rights won’t announce its nonprofit partner officially until sometime in March. This lag could also mean participatory budgeting might once again be left out of the budget in terms of getting any new dollars allocated for 2023 beyond the original $30m.
The Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meets next Tuesday, February 22, when they will discuss SPD’s 2021 Year End Staffing Report & Year End Crime Report and the SPD Retail Theft Program. More about that next week.

Recent Headlines

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More Bills and More Accountability Shenanigans Read More »

More Police, and Let’s Allow Them to Use More Force Too

WA State Legislature News

 

SB 5919 and HB 2037 both passed out of their respective chambers late last week. As those following along know, both of these bills roll back some of the accomplishments passed in the last legislative session through HB 1054 and HB 1310. You can read more about all of these bills in Rich Smith’s excellent overview.
This is a real setback for police accountability and reducing police violence in Washington State. In addition, the impacted families who have been advocating for these issues, often reliving their trauma repeatedly in order to do so, are feeling betrayed by their elected representatives. The fear-mongering around crime has once again resulted in government turning away from the very real harm that police violence causes, especially amongst more vulnerable populations.
What happens next? These two bills must now move through the opposite chamber in the legislature, where there will be another opportunity to add amendments that might limit the harm caused by these changes. But whether our lawmakers, many of whom are up for re-election this November, have the will to do so seems in doubt.
HB 1756 on solitary confinement needed to be called for a floor vote today in order to remain viable, and I’ve heard no reports that this happened. That probably means the bill is dead for this session.
HB 1630 passed out of the House yesterday and will now move to the Senate. This bill would prohibit firearms and other weapons from places like election-related offices and school board meetings, as well as forbid open carry at government buildings used for public meetings.

Seattle News

Mayor Harrell delivered his State of the City address this afternoon. He said he believes in going back to the basics and once again talked about his hot-spots policing strategy. He promised more details soon about his public safety plan, which will require more police officers and involves rolling out a new campaign to recruit the next generation of Seattle police. He mentioned his interest in a third kind of public system department staffed by “masters of de-escalation” and said he’s intrigued by the creation of the CSCC. He will share further steps when they get into the budget process (which doesn’t ramp up for several months).
Speaking of the budget, he also said there is a $150m predicted budget gap for 2023 and mentioned using the higher-than-expected Jumpstart revenue ($31m higher) to alleviate that gap. Sound familiar, anyone?
For more information about the speech, you can check out The Seattle Times’ coverage.
The report on the forensic analysis regarding those pesky missing text messages in Seattle was released late last week. The report determined that the setting on former Mayor Durkan’s phone would have defaulted to retaining her text messages forever and therefore must have been changed by someone to retain for only 30 days. Former Chief Best periodically deleted her texts in spite of originally saying she didn’t know how her texts had disappeared.
As the article states: “Under state law, anyone who willfully destroys a public record that’s supposed to be kept is guilty of a felony.” It seems that former Chief Best did just that, a fact that will hopefully quell the continuing talk of her being rehired as Police Chief in Seattle. The article continued by sharing Mayor Harrell’s response:
Spokesperson Jamie Housen added Harrell “believes any potential investigation should involve a neutral third-party investigator,” rather than Seattle police, “to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Also last week, Seattle’s Economic Development committee met, chaired by CM Nelson, and hosted a roundtable of business representatives to discuss crime and homelessness in the city. It is worth noting that Seattle already has both a Public Safety committee and a Public Assets and Homelessness committee. No legislation was discussed. CP Juarez also took the opportunity to share how she feels unsafe in Pike Place Market except in broad daylight on a Saturday, which was confusing since the market closes at 6pm and is still reportedly well frequented by people, a condition that generally makes locations safer.
SPOG announced they are launching a new Seattle Public Safety Index, accompanied by the hashtag #RefundSPD. I was unable to locate the actual index on the internet thus far, but perhaps it is coming soon. Opponents of SPOG could perhaps be forgiven for suspecting such an index of being yet another way of fear mongering about crime in Seattle.

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More Police, and Let’s Allow Them to Use More Force Too Read More »

WA Legislature Discusses Rollbacks to Last Year’s Public Safety Progress

WA State Legislature News

With the exception of HB 1756 regarding solitary confinement, most of the potentially helpful public safety bills are dead at this point in the session. Instead, advocates for more equitable public safety are having to fight against serious rollbacks to policy improvements won during last year’s session.
Perhaps most concerning of these is HB 2037, which would broaden the circumstances and lower the standards for when police can use force when someone flees the scene of a Terry stop. Among other things, this would likely increase police violence and racial profiling by police officers in Washington State. As the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability’s (WCPA) one-pager on this bill states:
Even under the standard that existed before HB 1310, there was too much police violence. Police got  away with harming people, and have killed people when they were not even committing a crime – when  they were in crisis, or when officers assumed criminality without evidence. HB 2037 would be a step  backwards from the prior standard. Thousands of people throughout Washington marched in the streets  to demand accountability in policing, not to give officers more leeway to harm people.
People Power Washington – Police Accountability is joining with WCPA to urge you to contact your representatives as soon as possible to urge them to reject HB 2037 unless it includes amendments approved by the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability (WCPA) that would protect vulnerable residents from police violence. You can find more details, scripts, and contact information for this action here.
Other bills currently still being discussed that would roll back hard-won progress in public safety are HB 1788 and SB 5919.

Seattle News

Journalist Erica C. Barnett shared another glaring breach of transparency during the Durkan administration yesterday. During a PDR request, she became aware of a “secret” seattle.gov email address former Mayor Durkan was using to conduct government-related business. Why this email address was never disclosed in the large amount of previous PDRs requested is an open and troubling question, and once again shows how deep a problem Seattle city government has with transparency to the public.
Last Friday Mayor Harrell held a press conference about public safety. He discussed the city’s “hot spot” strategy for reducing crime–nothing new for Seattle–and increasing the number of police officers in SPD. Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell spoke again about alternate safety responses, and it sounds like the new administration is in the middle of making plans for how these alternatives are going to be set up. Mayor Harrell also cited a specific book his public safety policy is influenced by: When Brute Force Fails, by Mark A.R. Kleiman. You can read more about the press conference here.
Also discussed was the increase of violence in Seattle last year, and especially of gun violence. This increase has been seen throughout the country over the past two years, in both blue and red areas and regardless of amount of police funding. This underscores the need for consistent and sufficient funding for community-based violence prevention programs in Seattle and King County; to learn more about what these programs can look like, you can read more in these recent articles here and here.
The CPC is continuing its community engagement meetings with consent decree Monitor Oftelie. The next one is tonight, 2/8, from 6-8pm. The subject is traffic stops, and you can find the full agenda and Zoom link here. While SPD has moved away from certain routine traffic stops such as stops for cracked windshields and expired tags, there is more progress that can be made in this area. You can find some suggestions for additional policy improvements in SB 5485, including halting stops for driving with a suspended license in the third degree, failure to dim lights, and failure to keep to the right.
In February of 2021, two officers fatally shot 44-year-old Derek Hayden, who was carrying a knife and threatening to kill himself. This continues a pattern of confrontations between SPD officers and people in crisis with knives that end in the death of the person in crisis. (You may remember, for example, the killing of Terry Caver by an SPD officer in 2020.) The two involved officers have been suspended for failing to de-escalate, but only for three days and one day respectively, even though, according to Paul Kiefer’s article in Publicola:
Both the officers’ supervisors and the OPA, however, determined that the officers made a series of disastrous assumptions and miscalculations that made the shooting almost inevitable.
The article went on to discuss the reaction of CM Lisa Herbold, the chair of Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee:
Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold criticized both the OPA’s ruling and the relatively minor punishments for Butler and Jared on Wednesday, arguing that one or both decisions exposed a dangerous gap in the city’s police accountability system. “When an officer’s out-of-policy actions contribute to the circumstances leading to someone’s death, our accountability system must hold them accountable,” she said of Myerberg’s decision to not fault Butler and Jared for the shooting itself.
Myerberg, of course, has left the OPA and gone on to become the Director of Public Safety for the City of Seattle.

King County News

We have a new candidate in the race for King County prosecutor: Stephan Thomas, who plans to bring a full-scale restorative justice framework to his work in the prosecutor’s office, aided by his experience and relationships with local groups like CHOOSE 180 and Community Passageways. In his recent interview with the South Seattle Emerald, he describes a clear vision of building new processes and systems based on the work of such groups. As he says, “What does moving forward look like? It looks like investing in the things that right now are in their infancy. Things like Community Passageways, things like CHOOSE 180, things like treatment on demand, things like housing first. Those are the things that we know work.”

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WA Legislature Discusses Rollbacks to Last Year’s Public Safety Progress Read More »