July 2022

SPD Asks for More Money for Hiring Bonuses in 2021

National Policing News

Let’s start off today’s newsletter with a look at some national trends. The Washington Post began tracking fatal shootings by on-duty police officers back in 2015, and has discovered the fatal shootings reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program are vastly lower than shootings the Washington Post has been able to substantiate–indeed, less than half the number. When reading about UCRP numbers, remember that these are voluntarily self-reported by law enforcement agencies, which is why projects like that being done by the Washington Post are so valuable. In fact, it reports that in 2020, only 27 percent of American law enforcement agencies contributed data to the National Use-of-Force Data Collection Program, covering 42 percent of officers. 
The Washington Post‘s data shows a new high of 1,021 fatal shootings by on-duty police officers in 2020. This is in spite of the pandemic and all the protests against police brutality that took place last year. The data shows police shoot an average of almost 3 people per day, and usually about 1,000 people per year. As the article states:
Since Ferguson, departments across the country have taken steps toward reform, but these efforts have been inconsistent and incomplete. Most police departments still do not use body cameras. Experts in law enforcement and criminal justice say there have not been the large-scale policy or legal shifts that might reduce uses of force. And sending mental health teams in response to people in crisis, alongside or instead of armed officers, remains the exception.
The article goes on to say that racial disparities have been documented in police use-of-force, and that Black people are shot and killed at higher rates than White people.
Meanwhile, over at FiveThirtyEight, Samuel Sinyangwe, the founder of the Police Scorecard, says the data shows that cities that have reduced arrests for minor offenses saw fewer police shootings. Indeed:
Reported crime fell in jurisdictions that cut low-level arrests; in fact, it fell by just as much as those cities that made more low-level arrests. Consistent with recent research, cities that reduced low-level arrests did not experience an uptick in violent crime — or murder, specifically — compared to other cities during this period. Moreover, cities that made fewer arrests for low-level offenses did not see a substantial reduction in violent crime arrests, suggesting a more lenient approach to low-level offenses has not resulted in police being less responsive to serious public safety threats.
So much for the broken windows theory of policing. And there is still room for improvement. Sinyangwe says low-level arrests still made up 55 percent of all arrests reported in the nation’s largest cities, and 69 percent of all arrests nationwide, in 2019. It’s possible that further reducing these arrests might reduce the number of police shootings even more, while continuing the move away from criminalizing poverty, mental illness, and drug addiction.

SPD Asks for More Money for Staffing, Again

Mayor Durkan has proposed new legislation that would reinstate $15,000 hiring bonuses for lateral transfers into SPD from other cities, as well as $7,500 bonuses for new recruits to SPD, in addition to adding other incentives to boost hiring, such as mental health professionals for officers. The total legislative package comes in a bit over $15m, which would be accessed by lifting provisos and using SPD attrition salary savings. $1.54m is proposed for Triage One, a CSCC protocol dispatch system, and the Peacekeepers Collective (under the subheading “Community Safety Reinvestments”), with the remaining $13.75m being spent on various SPD budget adjustments including the hiring bonuses.
Because this legislation is being presented as being in response to the recent gun violence in Seattle, the Mayor has emphasized this legislation needs to be passed as soon as possible. CM Pedersen is on the record as saying he wants to vote for the legislation next week. If you don’t wish to see SPD’s budget grow or increased hiring of police officers beyond the current staffing plan in 2021, now would be a good time to write or call your CMs.

The Pink Umbrella Case Strikes Again

Back in May, SPD Chief Diaz raised eyebrows when he overturned the OPA’s decision to discipline Lieutenant John Brooks for the part he played during the Pink Umbrella Protest in the summer of 2020. After saying he had evidence the OPA didn’t have–a claim he later walked back–Chief Diaz eventually disciplined Captain Steve Hirjak for the incident instead by demoting him from Assistant Chief.
Well, now Captain Hirjak has filed a discrimination and retaliation claim against the City of Seattle. He argues that he has been treated unfairly because of his race, and points to errors made by white command staff that have not been disciplined, as well as promotions for Lieutenant John Brooks, among others. The Seattle Times discusses the letter accompanying Captain Hirjak’s claim, saying:
Those identified include Brooks, who received a de facto promotion and pay raise despite racking up 14 misconduct complaints during the protests; Assistant Chief Thomas Mahaffey, who hasn’t been disciplined for ordering officers to abandon the East Precinct; and Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette, who faced no consequences for failing “to gather and understand relevant intelligence” and leaving the department unprepared, according to the letter.
Following the lawsuit brought against the University of Washington by its Black campus police officers earlier this summer claiming unbearable racism, this continues to raise questions as to how minorities are treated when they join law enforcement.
The City and Chief Diaz have until August 11 to agree to mediation in this case; otherwise Captain Hirjak will most likely file a lawsuit.

Recent Headlines

What new WA police accountability laws do and don’t do | Crosscut

New OPA Director Named; the SCC Continues to Push for Alternative Response Pilot

Seattle News

  • The Mayor’s Office has announced dates for the police chief search events. While these were first mentioned last week, I cannot find any public mention of the actual dates before Sunday, July 24, even though the first event listed is for…today, July 25. Once again, doesn’t seem like sufficient notice to allow people to clear space on their calendars. Here is a list of the events taking place over the next week; the event for the general public is tomorrow, July 26 from 7-8:30pm, in person and inside during the possible peak of this COVID wave. Wonderful.
  • Mayor Harrell named the new Director of the OPA, Gino Betts, who is coming to us from Chicago where he was working as the Cooke County Assistant State’s Attorney. His first day has been reported to be August 1, although since the appointment needs to be approved by the City Council, that seems like a tight timeline. It will be interesting to see how the new Director approaches the job and in what ways he departs from the precedent set by former Director Myerberg.
  • CMs Herbold and Lewis sponsored a change to the city’s 2022 budget that will allocate the $1.2m originally set aside for former Mayor Durkan’s now defunct Triage One plan to fund an emergency alternative response pilot. So a funding source has been identified, but we’ll have to see whether the Mayor’s Office is willing to compromise with the CMs to start an alternative response pilot earlier than their stated timeline.
  • Over at The South Seattle Emerald, Carolyn Bick released a three-part report related to issues with the OPA’s contact log for complaints and SPD sexual abuse data. It looks like the CPC either lost or deleted survey data that indicated possible sexual abuse by SPD officers. There also appear to be issues with how the OPA investigated a related case and how Court Monitor Oftelie and his team might have ignored a potential alternate source of this sexual abuse data. Finally, it appears the OPA might be misclassifying certain complaints as a “contact log,” meaning they are closed without investigation, even though at least some of them sound serious and may merit investigation. Relatedly, there has been a significant drop in the OIG’s concurrence rate; as Bick writes: “Additionally, the report itself noted that “[i]n the last six months of 2020, after OIG migrated to a quarterly retroactive sampling of Contact Log classifications, the concurrence rate decreased to 49%, resulting in an 81% overall average for the year.”” If this sounds messy and dysfunctional to you, you’re not alone; Bick reports that at a meeting, monitoring team member Ron Ward said that the City’s accountability system “is not functioning at the optimum level that it was hoped or that we aspire to, collectively.”
  • The City Council passed legislation about the police accountability system that makes changes relating to investigations of complaints made against the Chief of Police. You can read more about it here and here.
  • Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meets tomorrow morning, where among other things, they will be discussing gun violence and the mid-year accountability reports from the OPA, OIG, and CPC.
  • Mayor Harrell announced spending around another $1m for hiring incentives for cops.
  • The OPA made yet another shady ruling:

    DivestSPDDivestSPD

    @DivestSPD

    Ofc. Joel Nark claimed overtime for two days he was supposed to be on suspension, but OPA didn’t sustain findings, blaming “systemic gaps in SPD policies”

    Nark was previously suspended (but not fired) for fraudulently claiming overtime. (THREAD) https://t.co/ogn9SvR9Pu

    1:04 AM – 20 Jul 2022

 

Recent Headlines

The Three Functions of Copaganda - by Alec Karakatsanis

U.S. Media Helping Corporate America Union Bust, Repeal Criminal Reforms, by Mindlessly Citing ‘Crime’ as Excuse for Closures

Relocating gang members, securing parking lots: Seattle violence prevention groups get creative | The Seattle Times

New report: Crime fell in Washington last year, but violent offenses rose - Axios Seattle

Mayor Bruce Harrell announced a plan to hire 500 more police officers.

Charleena Lyles Inquest Provides “Peek Behind the Curtain”

Charleena Lyles Inquest Case

The big news this past week has been the jury’s findings in the Charleena Lyles inquest case that the two SPD officers used reasonable force when shooting Lyles back in 2017. You can read more about the verdict herehere, and here. As Erica C. Barnett from Publicola reported:
After the ruling, the attorney for Lyles’ family, Karen Koehler, said in a statement that the family “does not blame the jury” for finding that SPD followed its policies, because “SPD’s policies practices and procedures are designed specifically to allow an officer to shoot and kill a person in mental crisis with a paring knife.”
And on last week’s Hacks and Wonks podcast, EJ Juarez said:
I think what happened here is we got to peek behind the curtain, where this process actually showed that the policies and procedures of that department, which is charged with upholding the law and protecting people, is not actually designed to do that. And so this inquest found that despite all these numerous things that could have been done differently, all of these steps – which weren’t taken and which were – resulted in, largely, law enforcement officers following procedure and it still resulting in the death of a person. And I think that’s probably the most damning and heartbreaking piece of this – if the policy and procedures for law enforcement are truly designed to be followed the way that they were and it still results in the death of a person struggling with mental health, are those policies and procedures valid? Are they necessary? Are they the right policies and procedures?

Seattle News

Some quick news items:
  • SPD and the City filed a petition in King County Superior Court asking the Court to reverse an arbitration decision that gave a parking enforcement officer his job back after he was fired for wishing we could “bring back lynching.”
  • The members of the search committee for the new SPD Chief have been announced.
  • A deal between the city and the county was finalized to fund JustCare, although it will be continuing in a new form. Seattle has promised up to $4.4m to continue to support a diversion-based program that will provide 80 beds of hotel shelter through the end of the year. The County will be using state money that was allocated to clear homeless encampments located along state highway rights of way and to provide shelter and wraparound services to the people living there to continue funding some hotel beds.
  • Seattle’s Redistricting Commission will begin creating their final proposal soon. They are scheduled to solicit public comment on their proposal beginning in August and continuing through September and October. They must submit their final redistricting plan to the County by November 15 at the latest. This plan could have a substantial impact on the City Council elections in November 2023.

King County News

The King County Sheriff’s Office has announced a new community advisory board, as well as two new divisions: a community programs division and a special operations division. Details about the community advisory board are still thin on the ground.

Recent Headlines

Judge orders Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer to post $100,000 bail, finds him ‘a substantial danger’ after anti-harassment order | The Seattle Times

Seattle police watchdog investigating leak of memo detailing sexual assault staffing crisis | The Seattle Times

Reports show King County Sheriff’s deputies disproportionately target communities of color | June 29-July 5, 2022 | Real Change

Council Could Place Ranked-Choice Voting On Ballot; Ballard Commons Still on Slow Track to Reopening - PubliCola