May 2022

The New Proposed SPMA Contract Is Out

Seattle News

This week, the Seattle Full Council passed both CM Nelson’s resolution on SPD hiring incentives and CM Herbold’s legislation on SPD moving expenses, a recruiting advertising campaign, etc. Both passed with a vote of 6-3, with CMs Nelson, Herbold, Lewis, Strauss, Pedersen, and Juarez voting yes. In covering this resolution in The StrangerHannah Krieg wrote, “The resolution does not indicate a specific dollar amount or fund a specific bonus program from the $4.5 million in salary savings, but rather leaves it up to the Mayor to develop one with council’s approval. “Frankly, whatever. I don’t really care what it’s used for,” Nelson said.” I quote this to confirm that CM Nelson actually did say those words during one of the discussions on the resolution, proving that I do indeed still have the capacity to be shocked by what elected officials say in public meetings.
In any case, that resolution might be a bit of a moot point because the new SPMA contract was just released this week. In Central Staff’s summary of this contract, they note that “the Executive has indicated that it intends to instead use sworn salary savings in SPD’s Adopted Budget to fund the $3.39 million that is required to pay SPMA members for retroactive and current wage adjustments through the end of 2022.” That would leave only $1.11m of salary savings on the table, and CM Herbold’s legislation has already allocated $1.15m of that. Yes, the math already doesn’t entirely add up there.
The SPMA contract has already been referred to Full Council so we can probably expect a vote on it sometime in June. More details on this when I have them.
At this week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, council members heard a public safety presentation from neighborhood business districts. CM Lewis said he appreciated the support and advancement of some sort of alternative response model to supplement first response options. He sounded eager to work together with the business community to amplify this message and asked to promote it together publicly with the same level of enthusiasm that the business community promotes police staffing levels. He also mentioned SPD has spent $700k so far this year on overtime for traffic direction, a function that doesn’t need an armed officer with a badge.
Finally, Will Casey covered the brouhaha between the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and the Human Rights Commission. If you feel you could use a brush-up on the history of the consent decree and what the Human Rights Commission is attempting to do right now, this article will get you up to speed.
All of this leads to the obvious conclusion that no one mired in this controversy wanted to say on the record: The only reason for the City agencies involved in this process to try to intimidate the Human Rights Commission in this way would be to prevent Judge Robart from hearing what the commission had to say. And, given the congratulatory tone of the monitor’s latest preliminary report, it certainly sounds like the people responsible for delivering community feedback want the judge to hear that SPD is doing just fine – aside from that one outlier period of wantonly abusing people’s civil rights in the summer of 2020.

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The New Proposed SPMA Contract Is Out Read More »

American Police Still Kill an Average of Three People per Day

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. It is a natural time to reflect on what progress has been made to address the systemic racism that is part of the foundation of the United States, and in particular how we are addressing policing and criminal justice in this country, which currently disproportionately impacts Black and Brown people. It’s worth noting that American police are still killing an average of three people per day. We still have a lot of work to do.

Seattle Council Briefing & Public Safety Meeting

Amy Sundberg
It’s time for the Seattle Council Briefing!
On Monday CM Morales asked to add the finished legislation around the participatory budgeting process to the introduction and referral calendar. This would allow the Council to skip the usual committee vote and have the legislation go directly to the full Council meeting on June 1.
CM Herbold introduced an amendment that allowed the Council to go forward with the transfer of the 911 call center to the new safety center while giving the PEOs until September 1 to try to find agreement between their two unions as to whether to move to the new center or to SDOT.
Meanwhile, Kevin Schofield reported that the reason the legislation to cut the SPD budget (originally by $5.4m, now by ~$2m) didn’t appear on this week’s agenda after all was because:
The problem, it appears, is that only seven of the nine Council members were present today, with Gonzalez and Juarez having excused absences. A bill requires five votes to pass the full Council, and with Sawant and Morales already on the record as hard “no” votes, that left no room for error: Herbold needed all five of the remaining Councilmembers on her side. Rather than play those odds, she apparently decided to wait a week (or perhaps more) until all nine Councilmembers are in attendance.
It is unclear whether even with full attendance, CM Herbold will have enough votes to pass this legislation, which many feel no longer holds the SPD accountable for going over budget last year. Complicating matters, the Police Monitor is on the record as opposing even a $2m budget cut. If the legislation doesn’t pass, the proviso will remain in place and the status quo of the budget will be maintained.
Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to the Seattle Public Safety and HSD committee meeting. CM Pedersen is attending in place of CP González today.
This week’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting heard the 2020 annual report from the OPA (slide deck here). CM Herbold opened the meeting by talking about the swinging pendulum of racial justice and her fear that City Hall is losing its sense of urgency. She directly stated her belief that the consent decree is a barrier, while also going over the last year’s achievements.
The OPA annual report shows us that 40% of sworn SPD officers received at least one complaint in 2020, with professionalism, use of force, and bias being the three most common complaints. Use of force complaints rose dramatically. 18% of OPA investigations resulted in sustained findings, and disciplinary appeals decreased 70% from 2019.
Director Myerberg reported on his progress with the investigation into the six SPD officers present in Washington DC on January 6 during the insurrection. He expects to issue his findings in the case in early July. The Terry Carver case is also completed but the findings haven’t been issued; he expects an update there within 30 days.
Director Myerberg also talked about his efforts to change state law in order to reform the objective reasonableness standard in his investigations, which is extremely preferential to police officers; this reform was not enacted by the state but could be worth some energy to pass in a future session. There was also some discussion of how the SPOG contract prevents the OPA from hiring more than two civilian investigators; some experts believe having at least 50% civilian investigators could lead to better accountability. He called out the enacted state decertification bill, saying it could be a sea change on police accountability. He closed by saying Seattle is using the best existing model for accountability systems and cautioning against change that isn’t driven by research and data.
The new board will have powers beyond this: It will be able to investigate police misconduct — and, to complete its work, will be able to subpoena documents and compel the release of evidence, witness testimony, and the cooperation of sworn officers. Rather than recommend discipline, the board will impose it itself — it will even be able to fire officers, including those found to have lied when presenting evidence or testimony during the course of the inquiry.
And the new board will have the ability to make policy; should the department reject a rule created by the board, that rule will automatically be sent to the city council for a vote, and the council could vote to institute it.
However, the new board has already, unsurprisingly, hit some snags. Still, it is expected to be running in a year and a half. It will be interesting to see if it can overcome the hurdles to its implementation and perhaps set a new “best existing model” for police accountability in the nation.

Also in Seattle

Paul Kiefer reports that Inspector General Lisa Judge recently sent a recommendation to Interim Chief Diaz “asking him to start phasing out traffic stops for “civil and non-dangerous violations”—violations that, unlike DUI or reckless driving, do not endanger the public.” He also reports on continuing concerns over the Chief’s overturn of the OPA’s misconduct finding in the pink umbrella case.
Meanwhile, former Police Chief Carmen Best appeared on a podcast talking more extensively about the decision (or lack thereof) to abandon the East Precinct last summer, prompting the Seattle Times to interview her again as well.
And with the filing deadline passed for Seattle election candidates, we now know the full slate running in the primary in August. Fifteen candidates have filed to run for Seattle mayor, and incumbent City Attorney Pete Holmes has two challengers, Ann Davison and abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy. The open Council Seat 9 has three leading fundraising candidates, and for Council Seat 8, incumbent CM Mosqueda has attracted ten challengers, none of whom have raised any sizable contributions.

American Police Still Kill an Average of Three People per Day Read More »

Seattle To Get Alternate Response Service in…2024? 2025?

News from the Seattle Mayor’s Office

This week my favorite podcast, Hacks & Wonks, featured a conversation between host Crystal Fincher and Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell on the topic of public safety. I highly recommend listening to the entire podcast or reading the transcript to get insight into what the Mayor’s Office is thinking at this time, but I’ll pull out a few highlights for you.
First, it sounds like the Mayor’s Office is serious about instituting a new third department of public safety to go along with the fire and police departments. While this idea sounds great in theory, the timeline is less inspiring: Senior Deputy Harrell said they hoped to have a white paper on this by the end of the year (2022), would then begin structuring the department in 2023, with hopes of deploying the new department in 2024. If the Mayor’s Office decided to work with existing community groups, much of this work could be expedited, but that doesn’t seem to be the way they’re leaning at this moment.
If that timeline makes you feel sad, the news only gets worse from there. When asked about the current SPOG contract negotiations, Senior Deputy Harrell said the priority for this contract is definitely accountability; one reason for this, of course, is the Mayor’s desire to exit the consent decree. [She] went on to say: “…some people will want to jump ahead and say, well, let’s negotiate what the third department looks like and the trading off of those roles. The police contract is only three years and we’re already one year into a three-year contract. We can negotiate the roles of that next contract in the next cycle.”
Let’s break that down a bit, shall we? The contract currently being negotiated will run till the end of 2023. The subsequent contract could easily take another year or more to negotiate, meaning it might not be done until the end of 2024 or even into 2025, which would be after the next mayoral election. Any related state legislation is likely to focus on accountability, not alternate response, at least if we’re going by past years’ efforts. So we might be waiting several years before bargaining about alternate responses could bear fruit.
Another option not discussed on this podcast episode might be making the argument that SPD cannot currently meet its functions due to its staffing shortage, making alternate response necessary to meet the public safety obligations in the City’s Charter. UW saw some success in defending its recent alternate response against officers’ objections, although it used a different defense due to its status as an educational institution. Regardless, alternate response in Seattle continues to face an uphill battle.
Well, you might say, at least we’ll get a better contract as it pertains to accountability. But Senior Deputy Harrell says, “It will probably take us, it will take us more than this contract to get to a fully civilianized team, investigative team at OPA.” So keep those expectations lowered for now.

Seattle News

Seattle City Council is expected to vote on the resolution and legislation about SPD hiring incentives/moving costs/etc. next Tuesday, May 24 at 2pm. You can give public comment at the meeting or call/email your council members to give feedback. More information and scripts are here.
Also on Tuesday is the next Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting at 9:30am. The agenda has not yet been released, but we might be hearing from the Mayor’s Office about their work on analyzing alternate response, as detailed above.
At this week’s council briefing CM Herbold reported the OPA Director search committee will be meeting again sometime this week and is getting ready to start interviewing candidates.
Carolyn Bick has released a few valuable Twitter threads recently. One of them is a live tweet of this week’s CPC meeting:
CE Bick
Today’s @SeaCPC meeting agenda has a review and vote on an MAR for Terry Caver and a “community conversation” regarding stop-and-frisk (and, presumably, the racial disparity data in the Monitor’s most recent Comprehensive Assessment). Meeting 🧵
https://t.co/qEs0fXduds

The other is a helpful overview of Monitor Oftelie’s Comprehensive Assessment of the SPD submitted to the court overseeing the consent decree. For more about the assessment, you can also read Will Casey’s scathing review, which he concludes with the fiery “This is all to say that when you bungle the only tool that could theoretically compel at least some real police reform, you don’t leave accountability advocates many options other than Becoming Abolitionists.”

CE Bick
Okay! As promised, here is a longer thread breaking down the revamped @monitor_seattle @AntonioOftelie‘s Comprehensive Assessment (May 2022). 1/
https://t.co/BVlGUi7jtw

Meanwhile, Carolyn Bick also received three leaked communications for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office regarding that pesky Seattle Human Rights Commission voting to apply for amicus status with the federal court overseeing the consent decree. It looks like someone really doesn’t want that to happen. Two commissioners have been forced to resign following the vote, as their employers deemed their service to constitute a conflict of interest. Exactly what the Seattle Human Rights Commission will do going forward remains unclear.

State and County News

If you’re interested in the new 988 service being rolled out in July, there was a great piece about a recent fact-finding mission to Arizona led by legislators Manka Dhingra and Tina Orwall who want to overhaul the way Washington State deals with mental health crises. “Senator Dhingra’s ultimate goal involves standing up a statewide crisis response infrastructure that operates 24/7 with enough capacity to treat every person who needs medical help during a crisis.”
And Crosscut‘s Brandon Block wrote a piece about American Rescue Plan Act money (federal relief money due to the pandemic) being used by local jurisdictions for law enforcement, including: buying new squad cars, buying new body cameras, giving $10k retention bonuses to sheriff’s deputies in Pierce County, paying officer salaries, and buying new tasers. Not exactly the first use of money that comes to mind when thinking about addressing the huge amount of need that has arisen as a result of the pandemic.
Oh, and the King County Council confirmed Patti Cole-Tindall as King County Sheriff yesterday.

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Seattle To Get Alternate Response Service in…2024? 2025? Read More »

Continued Institutional Resistance to a Civilian Alternate Response Service in Seattle

Seattle Public Safety Committee Meeting

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting! Everyone is here, and we’ll be hearing about the 911 call type for civilian response report status, CM Nelson’s resolution re SPD hiring incentives and CM Herbold’s related legislation.

We had a doozy of a Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting yesterday morning.

911 Call Types and Risk Management Status Report

First the committee members listened to a presentation on the status of SPD’s 911 call analysis/risk analysis, attempting to determine which calls could be answered by a civilian response. Present for this report were Director of Public Safety Andrew Myerberg and SPD’s Brian Maxey and Loren Atherley. As you may recall, last year a NICJR report on this subject found that almost 50% of 911 calls could be eligible for a non-officer response. At that time SPD agreed on 12% of calls that could benefit from this type of response, a consensus that led to the proposal of the (now probably defunct before it even started) Triage One program.
Now, however, SPD is walking back from even that low 12% number, saying it was simply a rough estimate and that the analysis they’re doing now is much more sophisticated. So sophisticated, in fact, that instead of classifying call types into 300 call types like NICJR, they’ve broken them into 41,900 types. No, those zeroes aren’t typos. Unfortunately, SPD’s highly technical presentation was not made available to the public ahead of time and is still unavailable at the time of this publication.
This presentation raised a few salient points. First, SPD has already been working on this analysis for quite some time, and they’re still not finished. They hope to have a populated risk matrix to present to the Council in July. Meanwhile, in spite of council member encouragement to stage the work (most of the CMs seem eager to move forward after two years of unmet promises to community), Andrew Myerberg sounds reluctant to push forward with much of the work until the SPD report is entirely finished…which may be July or even later. He mentioned he might be able to provide a timeline of when the City will stand up related work groups (not, you may notice, when they might be able to launch an actual pilot program).
Second, CM Lewis brought up the excellent point that several other cities have managed to stand up successful alternate response programs without doing this complex risk analysis: most notably, the STAR program in Denver, a comparably-sized city that has had such success with STAR they’re in the process of greatly expanding it. CM Pedersen also referenced a similar pilot that launched in Oakland, CA last month. CM Lewis asked why we weren’t visiting Denver and other relevant cities and learning from the work already done there.
The answers were revealing, to say the least. Andrew Myerberg’s response was that they had been studying such programs but wanted to wait until the data analysis and risk mitigation work was done. SPD’s Brian Maxey said he’d met with Denver’s STAR and that they’d developed call center protocols for triaging calls but hadn’t done a risk assessment like SPD is doing now.
However, Brian Maxey had two reasons to offer as to why Denver’s success wasn’t relevant to Seattle. First, he said in Denver there was an organic group that said they were interested in providing such an alternate response service. To this, CM Lewis said he was aware of several such groups in Seattle and would be happy to coordinate connections in this regard. Second, Brian Maxey said STAR mostly responds to calls that police didn’t historically respond to. CM Lewis rebutted this false claim, saying that of 2700 calls answered in the STAR pilot, 2294 of those calls would have in fact been responded to by the police. For those not wanting to do the math, that’s almost 85% of the total calls answered by STAR.
Over the course of the meeting, it became increasingly clear that SPD is going to continue dragging their feet and throwing up whatever obstacles come to mind to delay or prevent any meaningful non-police alternate response from being stood up in our city. It is popular to blame the city council members for such failures, but in this case it will ultimately be up to Mayor Harrell as to whether we push through this resistance and stand up an alternate response pilot program on a reasonable timeline.

SPD Hiring Incentives/Strategies Resolution and Legislation

The Public Safety committee then moved onto discuss CM Nelson’s resolution on hiring incentives and CM Herbold’s legislation lifting a proviso on $650k of salary savings to pay for another SPD recruiter and moving expenses, primarily for lateral hires, at least to start.
Both of these ended up with amendments. The language of CM Nelson’s resolution was amended to signal intent to release only the amount necessary to fund the incentive program, acknowledging some salary savings could be used to address 2023 budget challenges. CM Herbold’s legislation was amended to release more money from the proviso (for a total of $1.15m) in order to pay for a national search for a new police chief and a national officer hiring campaign.
Both passed out of committee with CM Mosqueda being the sole “No” vote, and because the vote was divided, they will come before Full Council for a vote on Tuesday, May 24. If nothing changes in the interim, we can expect both to pass, potentially with a 6-3 vote. It doesn’t seem like these measures will lead to much of an increase in SPD hiring but are instead passing on the merits of “doing something.” CM Nelson in particular repeated that she doesn’t care about the details as long as they’re doing something right now.

Other News

The City of Seattle settled the Seattle Times lawsuit over former Mayor Durkan and former Chief Best’s missing text messages, agreeing to pay a sum of $199,855 (that is taxpayer money, to be clear), and follow the rules/laws they were supposed to follow in the first place. Not a very satisfying conclusion to a betrayal of the public trust.
At the end of last week the Seattle Municipal Court voted to accommodate City Attorney Davison and exclude her “high utilizers” from using community court. An analysis by the King County Department of Public Defense shows that most of these high utilizers are either unsheltered or experiencing extreme behavioral health issues, neither of which are successfully addressed by a year in the County jail.
Will Casey reported this week on a new public database put together by the American Equity and Justice Group that contains all of Washington State’s adult felony convictions from 2000-2020. Obtaining reliable data about our criminal legal system tends to be dodgy at best, so this is a valuable resource for lawmakers and activists alike. AEJG plans to expand and improve upon their database; if you are a software engineer interested in volunteering your time, you can attend their launch event on May 17.
Finally, Kevin Schofield, lately of SCC Insight, is back with a new site, Seattle Paper TrailHis most recent piece is a breakdown of the 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey conducted by Seattle University. While I always take this survey with a grain of salt, given its troubling weaknesses, he does draw some interesting conclusions from the flawed data:
First, it continues to be the case that the city’s Black neighborhoods are largely not the ones where fear of crime is high, even though they tend to be over-policed to the detriment of Black residents; they have some of the lowest levels of social disorganization in the city, and also some of the lowest fear of crime. Second, police legitimacy dropped across the board, with only a handful of exceptions in places where fear of crime also rose (though most of the places where fear of crime rose did not see an increase in police legitimacy; it seems to be necessary but not sufficient). Third, social disorganization also decreased nearly across the board, for reasons that are unclear though perhaps related to COVID and more people spending increased time working from home and populating their own neighborhood around the clock.

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Continued Institutional Resistance to a Civilian Alternate Response Service in Seattle Read More »

It’s Police Union Contract Negotiation Time in King County

Seattle News

 

The tensions between CMs Herbold and Nelson over SPD hiring incentives continued this week at both Council Briefing and the Full Council meeting. CM Nelson spent the bulk of her Council Briefing time talking about it, in fact, including offering the claim that she had the approval of the Executive (a claim that Publicola fact-checked and found a bit misleading.) However, CM Herbold prevailed, meaning the Public Safety committee will vote on both CM Nelson’s resolution and CM Herbold’s legislation next week on 5/10, while CM Nelson’s conflicting legislation will not receive a vote until a later date (if at all). If you would like to give public comment on 5/10 about this issue or email your council members, you can find some talking points here.
Also originally on the schedule for the 5/10 meeting is the report on SPD’s analysis of 911 calls and which types could be fielded with non-police response. If this schedule plan stands, the meeting will be jam-packed.
CM Herbold also reported the first meeting of the search committee for the new OPA director happened last Friday 4/29.
When asked where they think the city should direct its resources to deal with crime, 92% of respondents said funding for more addiction and mental health services. Eighty-one percent want to see more de-escalation training for police officers, 80% want more social programs to address crime’s root causes, 75% want to add more nonpolice staffing, and 73% want to see an increase in court staffing to process the caseload.
Particularly striking is that 92% of respondents wanted to see more funding go to addiction and mental health services, suggesting a broad base of support for scaling up the City’s offerings in these areas. Respondents were fairly equally divided between thinking crime is underreported in the media, overly reported in the media, or accurately reported in the media.
Meanwhile, in consent decree news, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office appears to have tried to pressure the Seattle Human Rights Commission into not seeking amicus curiae status on the consent decree.
CE Bick
NEW: Federal Monitor @AntonioOftelie just filed to extend the deadline for filing his compliance status update for the @CityofSeattle to May 13, in order to allow for “additional time for the Monitor and parties to validate the data in the Comprehensive Assessment, 1/

The Monitor’s compliance status update deadine was extended until May 13 (next Friday). This apparently has to do with the data error I reported on here; while the error is being fixed, there is speculation that the new data might rise additional questions. Stay tuned!

King County News

The bargaining process with KCPOG (King County Police Officer Guild) has begun. Once an agreement on a new contract is reached, it will need to be accepted or rejected by the King County Council. This contract will determine how much authority OLEO (Office of Law Enforcement Oversight) will have to hold officers accountable for misconduct, as well as the transparency and fairness of the disciplinary process. People Power Washington – Police Accountability has drafted some priorities for what should be included in this contract, and I encourage you to email your King County council members and let them know that you care about this issue. You can find more information and talking points here.
King County released its poll on “Reimagining Public Safety in Urban Unincorporated King County,” and as Will Casey pointed out in The Stranger, “More than half of the written comments from people surveyed expressed a desire to have an unarmed behavioral health professional available to respond to emergencies.” The County will spending around $500k to fund pilots for alternate emergency response programs that they expect to launch in mid-2022. Let’s hope Seattle isn’t far behind.
Earlier this week Executive Dow Constantine announced his choice for the next King County Sheriff, Patti Cole-Tindall, who is currently serving as interim Sheriff. The King County Council will vote on whether to confirm this nomination later this month.
Meanwhile, over in Bothell, which straddles King and Snohomish Counties, the City Council has voted 5-2 to approve federal funding of police body cameras.
#VeryAsian #American Han Tran
Bothell City Council voted 5-2 to approve federal funding of police body cameras while we were out protesting for abortion rights. 1/

If you’d like to learn more about police-worn body cameras and why their usage can be problematic, you can read more here.

Washington State News

Yet another survey of 832 Washingtonians (‘tis the season) found majority support (53%) for Initiative 1992, which is currently collecting signatures to be placed on the ballot later this year and would decriminalize drugs (while allowing cops to continue to seize them) and allocate $141m in pot revenues to drug outreach and recovery services. You can read a little more about it over at The Stranger.

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It’s Police Union Contract Negotiation Time in King County Read More »