April 2022

Arguments Flare Over SPD Hiring Incentives

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to today’s Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. Public comments are just wrapping up now.
Fireworks exploded at Tuesday’s Seattle Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting when CM Nelson clashed with Chair Herbold on how the meeting ought to be run. The conflict took place during a discussion on CM Nelson’s resolution regarding hiring incentives for the SPD. Surprising almost no one, SPD is once again having more officer attrition than predicted and less hiring than hoped, leading to the anticipation of between $4. 1m-$4.5m in salary savings for 2022.
CM Herbold introduced draft legislation that would lift a proviso on $650k of that salary savings for SPD to use for moving expenses for recruits and a new recruiter. CM Nelson became visibly upset about this legislation, saying that she’d offered for CM Herbold to co-sponsor her resolution, and after that offer was declined, hadn’t heard anything else. She asked for her own rival draft legislation to be introduced, but as the conversation had already run well over its scheduled time, CM Herbold insisted on closing debate and moving to the next agenda item.
This issue is scheduled for a possible vote on Tuesday, May 10 at 9:30am, when we can see how much further acrimony might be on display. We can expect to see arguments on one side about how incentives haven’t proven to be effective (and indeed, the Mayor has not requested such incentives to be funded) and how we need to spend our money wisely given next year’s anticipated budgetary shortfall versus arguments that most police departments have hiring incentives so they must work and what else would we do with the $4m anyway? (The obvious answer to the latter is, we could in fact do quite a lot with that $4m.)
Perhaps one of the most telling moments of this discussion was when CM Pedersen asked if the City of Seattle has any alternate emergency responses ready to go today. He must have already known the answer, of course, which was a resounding no when it comes to the policing side of things (Health One is on the fire side and responds primarily to non-emergency medical calls.) SPD is slated to present their findings of their 911 call analysis on May 10, a report for which I’m already bracing myself. It is important to remember that much of the power for setting up any such alternate response rests with the Mayor’s Office, which is why so little has been accomplished in this vein thus far due to former Mayor Durkan’s lackluster interest.
Also discussed at the meeting was the case backlog at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, which I’ve previously covered here. The office only has one last position left to fill in its criminal division, but it still has several pre-filing diversion positions to fill. They expect it to take the rest of the year to review the backlog cases that aren’t being dismissed (almost 2000 are being dismissed) and will be asking for extra money to do so.
As Erica Barnett reports, this week City Attorney Ann Davison also asked the Seattle Municipal Court to allow her to deny “high utilizers” of the criminal legal system access to community court, overruling Judge Damon Shadid, who currently presides over said court. This policy change would result in previous criminal history impacting a person’s eligibility to use community court.
King County Department of Public Defense (DPD) director Anita Khandelwal says Davison’s letter “mischaracterizes Judge Shadid’s statements in the meetings,” which Khandelwal has attended, and “causes me concern about the possibility for good faith negotiations with the City Attorney’s Office given the inaccuracies in their statements.”
This issue is both complex and important enough that I recommend reading the complete article in Publicola when you get a chance.
Meanwhile, gotta love this headline:

Other News

I’ve been receiving a lot of questions lately about the new 988 crisis hotline, set to debut this summer, and how it will affect crisis response in Seattle and throughout the state. The answer, for now, appears to be that we’re not sure yet. There seems to be some confusion as to how this system is going to roll out, but it sounds like the launch of the 988 number is being seen as merely the first step in creating a behavioral health system that can provide appropriate and adequate crisis care. You can read more about it in Esmy Jimenez’s article in The Seattle Times.
Also in The Seattle Times recently was Mike Carter’s article on how much money taxpayers in Washington state are forking out because of police misconduct. The article has been rightfully criticized for not mentioning any specific misconduct cases in Seattle:
DivestSPD
Putting aside the fact that *we live in Seattle*, SPD accounted for $~4.5m of the $34.3m in 2021 suits (13%) referenced in the article, and at least that much in 2020.

So it’s odd, to say the least, that SPD is totally absent from this piece. https://t.co/C4subOhvrQ

Minneapolis has made the news recently when the Minnesota Department of Human Rights released a report detailing their investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. As Steve Karnowski and Mohamed Ibrahim report:
The report said police department data “demonstrates significant racial disparities with respect to officers’ use of force, traffic stops, searches, citations, and arrests.” And it said officers “used covert social media to surveil Black individuals and Black organizations, unrelated to criminal activity, and maintain an organizational culture where some officers and supervisors use racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language with impunity.”
As a result of this report, Minneapolis will be entering into a consent decree to address the problems detailed.
Finally, I have two newsletters to recommend. First is Chloe Cockburn’s Just Impact. You can read her latest here, and I particularly suggest checking out the “Solutions and Progress” section if your spirits are in need of some lifting. Second is the new newsletter of Olayemi Olurin, who is a public defender in NYC. His first piece, “America’s Hypocrisy on Violence: The Case of Police Brutality,” is definitely worth a read.

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Arguments Flare Over SPD Hiring Incentives Read More »

More on data and disparity in Seattle’s policing and criminal legal systems

Seattle News

Guy Oron reports that data from the Seattle Municipal Court shows the City Attorney’s Office has disproportionately prosecuted Black and Indigenous people during the first three months of 2022. 31.7% of the people charged were Black during these months, compared to 7.1% of the total Seattle population.
Speaking of the City Attorney’s Office, it sounds like it is struggling to deal with a large number of misdemeanor cases, leading to this week’s announcement that they are dismissing 2,000 misdemeanor cases. They will be making the argument to City Council that they need more funding in the mid-year supplemental budget to hire more staff to address the backlog of cases, starting with a presentation discussing the backlog at next week’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting.
Also scheduled for the Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting on Tuesday, April 26 at 9:30am will be the continued discussion about hiring incentives for police officers. There will be an opportunity at the beginning of this meeting for public comment or you can call or email your council members to give them your feedback about this proposal.
At this week’s Council Briefing, CM Herbold reported on the finding in the Court Monitor’s recent use of force assessment, saying that SPD had looked into the matter of officers failing to report subjects’ race and discovered a technical error was responsible for the lack of data, which the officers actually had been reporting. SPD expects to correct the error. The assessment relies completely on SPD-reported data to come to its conclusions.
The CPC released a statement yesterday stating its concerns over this data error, saying “Concerns about data validity underscore larger issues, namely that SPD manages its own data and conducts its own self-reporting, as well as how the Federal Monitor has been overly dependent on SPD data.” They went on to recommend an independent data management body to increase transparency and trust with the community and are calling for a special meeting with the Monitor and SPD about the data malfunction. In regards to the ongoing consent decree, they say:
By painting an inaccurate picture of the realities of communities who are disproportionately impacted by policing, the Monitor and SPD are losing sight of a key goal of police accountability. Further, by relying on inaccurate race data and while prematurely pushing end the Consent Decree, the Federal Monitor and SPD are dismissing the real harm and impact of Seattle policing on communities of color.
The OIG recently released a report finding the OPA routinely dismissed public complaints about SPD officers not wearing masks as required, finding this noncompliance was a “cultural problem” within the department. As Erica Barnett reported, the OPA didn’t sustain any of the 98 complaints about officers not following the mask mandate, and supervisors rarely disciplined officers even after their fourth or fifth violations of the mask mandate. The report itself says:
“Director Myerberg stated that no one in headquarters wore masks and related that someone had sent OPA a photo of multiple lieutenants, captains, and chiefs celebrating an event at headquarters without any masks. Director Myerberg explained that he perceived the mask non-compliance as indicative of a serious culture issue within SPD and stated that it was not sustainable for OPA to be the ‘thought police’ of the Department.”
Erica Barnett attempted to get a statement from Andrew Myerberg, but: “a spokesman for Harrell’s office referred questions about Myerberg’s role in dismissing mask complaints to the OPA, saying, “Public Safety Director Myerberg does not comment on his past role and previous OPA work.””
If you would like to sign up to participate in dialogues between community and police that are being conducted by Seattle University through their Micro-Community Policing Plan Research Team, you can do so here.
If you’re interested in getting some additional insight about media coverage and how reporting tends to dehumanize and criminalize people who are houseless, struggling with mental illness and/or addiction, Tobias Coughlin-Bogue wrote a piece about recent local coverage in Real Change that you may want to check out.
Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about what happened at this week’s CPC meeting, CE Bick linked to a video recording and did a Twitter thread, which starts here:
CE Bick
I was unable to attend yesterday’s @SeaCPC meeting, but I wanted to create a thread about it in light of yesterday’s press release (QT below). 🧵 1/ https://t.co/ZE1WzEV72d

King County News

This week King County held its two public forums with the three final candidates for King County Sheriff. At this morning’s forum, eyebrows were raised when candidate Charles Kimble, Police Chief from Killeen, Texas, suggested that an innovation for King County to consider might be a program that would provide bumper stickers for people to be able to inform police they have a mental illness. Of course, these stickers also proclaim that same information to the general public. One wonders if support of such a problematic program might lower Charles Kimble’s chances of receiving the final offer.

Erica C. Barnett
I’ve been watching the King County Sheriff candidate forums (#2 is happening now) and nothing much jumped out until one of the finalists, Killeen Police Chief Charles Kimble, touted a program that provides bumper stickers for people to inform police they have a mental illness.

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The Police Hiring Incentives Conversation Continues

Seattle News

Lots of news pieces of note to go over today!

Amy Sundberg
Good morning! Let’s take a listen to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, shall we? And I believe you can still sign up for public comment for this morning as well.
First, Seattle had a Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting on Tuesday, at which there was a robust conversation about the report on city-wide hiring incentives. The findings were that hiring incentives tend to act as a short-term fix to increase the applicant pool and have a limited impact on retention. Looking at the hiring incentives in place for SPD and the 911 call center from October 2021-January 2022, they did increase the applicant pool for emergency dispatchers at the call center, but SPD did not see any increase in candidates. Proponents of the hiring bonuses say four months wasn’t a long enough time to see if they would be effective, which would be more convincing if the 911 call center hadn’t seen some success in the same time period.
CM Nelson says we know these hiring incentives work because police departments in other cities use them and therefore more study isn’t needed. CM Herbold referenced a preliminary study done on 2019 SPD hiring incentives, in which only 1 in 5 applicants said the bonus had affected their decision to apply; she seemed more interested in the idea of offering relocation assistance for lateral hires. CM Lewis pointed out police departments across the country are having trouble hiring police officers and wanted to investigate whether any departments are seeing more hiring success in order to emulate them if so.
The conversation will continue at the next Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting on Tuesday, April 26 at 9:30am, at which you can sign up to give public comment. Last week there was discussion that there wouldn’t be a committee vote on any hiring bonus legislation until May 10, which would mean no full council vote until later in May. The conversation is especially critical given the city is still facing a $150m budget deficit for 2022, meaning every dollar counts.
Seattle has officially selected the Participatory Budgeting Project to administer its participatory budgeting program. If you remember, this organization suggested community voting would be unable to take place until early in 2023.
Court Monitor Oftelie released his Use of Force Preliminary Assessment, and the community engagement meeting regarding it was held on Tuesday evening. Carolyn Bick has two excellent Twitter threads regarding this report: the first one details issues they find in the report itself, and the second one is reporting from the meeting itself.
CE Bick
Reading through Federal Monitor @AntonioOftelie‘s prelim assessment of SPD’s uses of force. This item stuck out to me, because my recent story in the @SoSeaEmerald from last Thursday revealed the former OPA director may have retroactively approved an untrained force tactic. https://t.co/F8wgih0cTx
CE Bick
The @SeaCPC is now starting its Community Engagement Meeting, the last one where @AntonioOftelie will be present. This is the thread about that meeting.
“At the same time, the monitor points out that Black and Native American people continue to be disproportionately represented when force is used, based on census data, and that Asian and Black people make up an inordinate number of the victims of police shootings. However, Seattle police monitor Antonio Oftelie said any conclusions are complicated by the fact that race data was missing in almost a third of the reports overall, even though officers are required to provide it. Both the monitor and Seattle police officials said the failure by officers to report the data, as well as their supervisors to require it, was troubling.”
Meanwhile, Seattle’s Human Rights Commission has decided to pursue amicus status in the consent decree. This status would potentially allow them to file a brief that could contain “the stories and solutions of our residents and community stakeholders most affected.” The goal, as I understand it, is to ensure residents’ experiences are preserved as part of the official record. What other effect this could have on the consent decree, if any, or indeed, how Judge Robart would respond to such an idea, remains unclear. You can read more about this decision here.
If you’re interested in how Operation New Day is going, Paul Kiefer wrote an excellent update and overview over at Publicola. There have been few felony arrests at Third and Pine, and US Attorney Nick Brown has said finding any high-level drug dealers at that intersection is unlikely. Police officers have begun to refer cases to LEAD again, there is still disagreement about how and whether to continue to fund JustCARE, and Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell is talking about the possibility of opening smaller satellite police precincts in places like downtown and the ID.

King County News

Stephan Thomas, who appeared to be the most progressive of the existing candidates, has withdrawn from this year’s King County Prosecutor race. The primary will still take place in August.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday the three candidates for King County Sheriff met with the press, and you can read a little about them here. You can also attend forums to hear them yourself on Monday, April 18 at 6pm and Thursday, April 21 at 9am. Erica Barnett reported the following about candidate Interim Sheriff Cole-Tindall.
Erica C. Barnett
On a press call just now, we (or maybe just I!) learned that if interim King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall is appointed permanent sheriff, she’ll have to go back through the police academy, a 19-week commitment, during which @kcexec would likely have to appoint someone else.

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The OPA is Back in the News

OPA News

The South Seattle Emerald is currently conducting a survey asking for readers’ priorities for the new OPA Director, and I highly encourage you to fill it out and be active in this process.
Yesterday morning at the CPC meeting we learned that Director of Public Safety (and former OPA Director) Andrew Myerberg will be shepherding the process of finding the new OPA Director. As Bick also helpfully reminds us in the below thread, Myerberg is currently under investigation by an outside organization hired by the City. It is safe to say that many, including some CPC commissioners, are very unhappy at the large role Myerberg is slated to play in selecting his successor.
CE Bick
Interesting new tidbit from this morning’s @SeaCPC meeting: according to Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell (@RuleSeven) former @SeattleOPA dir. Andrew Myerberg — now dir. of public safety — will be “shepherding” important aspects of the OPA dir. search.
Speaking of Myerberg, Carolyn Bick has released two more articles in their series shining a light on problems with the OPA’s investigation of the 2020 Labor Day protest at SPOG HQ:
Part 1: SPOG Officers ‘Were Ready to Entertain Ourselves’: 2020 Labor Day Protest
Part 2: OPA Interviews Suggest Former OPA Dir. Retroactively Ok’d Out-of-Policy Force Tactic
The Cased Closed Summary (CCS) of this case was finally released back in February of this year. Interestingly, the date on the CCS is April 8, 2021, which begs the question of why it took ten months to make this document public. And as Bick writes at the beginning of Part 1: “Though some of the narrative has been corrected — thus confirming several of the concerns that the whistleblower noted and what the Emerald wrote — this two-part article will help readers understand the many flaws that remain and why the OPA’s claims in the CCS regarding the auditor’s partial certification do not appear to accurately represent the totality of the evidence available that the OPA investigator in charge of this investigation appears to have ignored.”
They continue by highlighting several omissions, weaknesses, and discrepancies in how this case was handled. Following are a few additional key quotations from Part 2. Hendry was the lead OPA investigator on the case.
“In reviewing the interviews Hendry did conduct, not only do all of the officers give false information — false information that the OPA’s DCM appears to try to support, as discussed in the Emerald’s first story on this matter — but it appears that Hendry asked these officers leading questions. The OPA itself admits to these leading questions. When these officers did not give the answers that Hendry appears to have wanted, he allowed the SPOG representatives who were present to effectively give interviews in place of the officers, sometimes at great length.”
“…based on statements from several officers within these OPA interviews, it appears that former OPA Dir. Andrew Myerberg retroactively OK’d the untrained tactic of using the front tires of bicycles as a means to move people and for crowd control directly in response to the events of the 2020 Labor Day protest and the fact that officers used their bikes to repeatedly shove and strike protesters during that event.”
Bick’s reporting continues to highlight the broken nature of Seattle’s current accountability system.

Seattle News

At this week’s Council Briefing, council members discussed the timing for the legislation related to hiring bonuses for SPD officers. This legislation is currently on the agenda for the April 26th Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting (not the 4/12 meeting, as Sarah Nelson will not be present then), and CM Nelson said she expected a committee vote on the issue at the subsequent Public Safety committee meeting on May 10. That would mean a possible Full Council vote on Tuesday, May 17 at the earliest. So mark your calendars now! This legislation would lift the proviso on SPD salary savings and allow SPD to spend this money on hiring bonuses that may not work as designed. Meanwhile, the City still hasn’t budgeted sufficient funds for any significant alternate 911 response program.
At yesterday morning’s CPC meeting, we also learned that the SPMA (Seattle Police Management Association) bargaining process is in its final stages, so it will be interesting to see that contract and how it may have changed from previous contracts.
We also have an interesting analysis from Paul Kiefer–police accountability reporter extraordinaire slated to soon leave Seattle and begin reporting in Delaware–of OPA’s just-released 2021 annual report. Nearly 1,500 misconduct allegations were brought against SPD officers last year, of which almost 20% were regarding unprofessional behavior. Concerns about SPD professionalism tend to avoid drawing much attention from the oversight bodies, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. The next most common complaint type was regarding bias. Complaints about use of force fell by more than half from 2020, most likely because of the lack of large-scale protests in 2021. A total four SPD officers were fired in 2021.
Meanwhile, in Denver, Colorado, the STAR program that dispatches mental health teams to answer 911 calls has gone so well, the city is massively expanding it. Similar programs are beginning in other Colorado cities as well. While people can call a non-emergency number and specifically request STAR, the 911 dispatchers in Denver are trained to triage STAR calls and dispatch as appropriate. It is noteworthy that since the program began in June 2020, STAR has never called for police backup due to a safety issue, which suggests it’s quite possible to develop a dispatching protocol that works well.
One of the criticisms levied against considering the CAHOOTS model for Seattle is that Eugene, Oregon is a much smaller city. Denver, however, is of a very similar size to Seattle, which makes its success with this program that much more compelling for local advocates of alternate emergency response. That being said, Seattle currently still has no concrete plans for instituting its own STAR-like mental health response program that is independent from the police.
A preview for next week: not only do we have the regular Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting on Tuesday morning 4/12, but on Tuesday evening from 6-8pm is the last CPC community engagement session with Court Monitor Oftelie, during which he will present his assessment on SPD use of force and crowd control. If you would like to weigh in on your opinion about SPD use of force and crowd control tactics, you can sign up to attend this virtual meeting here.

King County News

Today Dow Constantine announced the three finalists for King County Sheriff: King County interim Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall; Charles Kimble, Killeen, Texas chief of police; and Reginald Moorman, an Atlanta Police Department major. There will be two virtual forums to give the public a chance to meet these candidates; the first is on Monday, April 18 at 6pm and the second is on Thursday, April 21 at 9am. The final decision on the Sheriff is slated to be made by early May.

Redmond News

The City of Redmond is discussing a public safety levy that is being considered for the November ballot. The bulk of this proposed property tax will fund the hiring of more police officers and fire fighters in Redmond, as well as pay for body-worn cameras, with a slight nod towards Mobile Integrated Health and hiring one additional mental health professional co-responder.
Community members of Redmond are being encouraged to take a questionnaire by April 15 to weigh in on their opinions about this levy. There are also two remaining virtual Community Sounding Board meetings you can attend, one later in April and one in May.

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A Revealing Lens into the WA State Legislature

WA State News

 

There are two big pieces of news related to the state legislature this week.
First, Kirsten Harris-Talley wrote a revealing op-ed that ran in the South Seattle Emerald about why she’s choosing not to run again for her representative seat. In particular, she writes about what happened with the rollback police accountability legislation HB 2037 and SB 5919 during this year’s session. She relates how she was strongly discouraged by party leadership from proposing two amendments to 2037, thus at least allowing a conversation to take place about issues with the bill and setting up for improvements to the bill to take place in the Senate; leadership told her if she did this, it would interfere with their plan to block 5919 from passing in the Senate.
Of course, it turned out 5919 passed in the Senate anyway, only to quickly pass in the House. The only reason it didn’t get passed into law was because the Senate held it up at the last minute. Not the House, who was purportedly only passing 2037 to prevent 5919.
As Harris-Talley writes, “it took us years to get a little bit of justice for police accountability, but they are willing to reverse it in less than a year of these laws being on the books.” This action caused great harm to impacted families, who had given so much of their time and energy and emotion in service to getting 1054 and 1310 passed last year and then defending them this year.
Second, the state Criminal Justice Training Commission voted that last year’s 5051 decertification bill could be applied to past misconduct by police officers, not just to misconduct committed after July 25, 2021 when the law took effect. It is interesting to note the commission recently added six new members to their number, with more members being from the community and fewer representing law enforcement. There is still an open question as to whether some use cases of this law could be found to be unconstitutional, but for now, current certification decisions can be made based on 5051 even when applicable events happened before July 2021.

Seattle News

Mayor Harrell announced a nationwide search for a new police chief and encouraged Interim Chief Diaz to apply. The mayor must choose three finalists for the position, and whoever he chooses must be approved by the City Council. We can probably also expect to see some kind of engagement with the public during this process. The popular wisdom at present is that this is Diaz’s position to lose.
Meanwhile, SPD’s former Chief Carmen Best just got hired by Microsoft as director of global security risk operations, which is especially interesting given the recent released text message audit, in which it was clear she had deleted some of her text messages and initially lied about doing so. Apparently this behavior was not enough to give Microsoft qualms about making this hiring decision.
The House Our Neighbors coalition recently announced their ballot initiative to create a new public development authority to build social housing. Initiative 135 would also create a process for public land to undergo a feasibility study before being sold to determine whether it could be used for social housing. The initiative will need to collect around 35,000 signatures (26,500 plus a buffer for invalid signatures) to make it on the ballot this November. You can check out ways to volunteer for this effort here.
Starting tomorrow, the bus stop at Third and Pine in downtown Seattle will be temporarily closed. How effective this move will be to “increase visibility [by Seattle police] into criminal activity … and to reduce areas of congregation,” as mayoral spokesperson Jamie Housen put it, is unclear, but we can expect to hear more about it in the future.

King County News

The King County Council is considering draft legislation that would give adults the right to consult with an attorney before being searched by officers from the Sheriff’s Office. The purpose of such a bill would be to help people understand their constitutional rights regarding such searches. Many people are not aware they are allowed to refuse a search or may be afraid to do so, so being able to consult with a public defender could help. It’s important to note, as Erica Barnett reports in Publicola: “The new requirement wouldn’t apply when police have a warrant; when police have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person has committed or is about to commit a crime; or when police have reason to believe delaying a search would result in a loss of evidence or harm to the public or police, among several other exemptions.”
Whether and when this draft legislation might move forward in the process is not yet clear.

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