October 2022

OLEO Finally to Get Its Subpoena Power

King County News

We’ll start off with some big news: King County has finished negotiating their police union contract with the King County Police Officers Guild (KCPOG). While I have not yet read through the contract (oh, what fun weekend reading I have ahead of me!), the big headline here is that the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) has finally been given the powers King County voters decided to grant them that have been blocked by the old contract. OLEO will be able to issue subpoenas and conduct independent investigations of alleged misconduct and use of force cases involving the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). Until now OLEO has had their hands tied without access to the information they would have needed to perform solid investigations, but this contract would change that.
The new contract will have to be voted upon by the King County Council before going into effect. It will cover the 3-year period of 2022-2024.
Meanwhile, the King County Jail is still having water problems, and inmates are still drinking bottled water. These problems first began more than three weeks ago, and there are questions as to whether inmates are getting sufficient bottled water for their needs.

Election in Two Weeks

The election is coming up, ballots have been mailed out, and voting guides are being published. Here are a few worth checking out:

Seattle News

As expected, it looks like CM Mosqueda is not supportive of permanently changing how the Jumpstart tax funds are allowed to be used in Seattle’s budget.
Budget amendments relating to SPD, the CSCC, and HSD will be discussed this Thursday so expect more on that in the next newsletter. The next opportunity for public comment will not be until the morning of Tuesday, November 8 at 9:30am. Budget Chair Mosqueda’s balancing package will drop the previous day, Monday, November 7. And there’s a tight turnaround for any amendments CMs might want to add to that package.
There will be a Rainier Beach Public Safety town hall this Thursday, October 27 from 6-8pm at the New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave South. The proposed gunfire detection system (likely ShotSpotter) will be discussed. Masks are required, and dinner, child care, and translation will be provided.
We are not quite done with the Seattle redistricting process. The final map vote will take place on Monday, October 31, and the final map and resolution from the committee will be confirmed on Tuesday, November 8. Apparently a new map not favored by the Seattle Redistricting Coalition was introduced at a meeting earlier today, and you’ll have a last chance to give public comment about the map options on Monday 10/31 at 12pm at this Zoom link. You can find a script (that will probably be updated before that meeting) here.

Other Resources

City Leaders Fight over Policing Pirates - The Stranger

Policing Seattle

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It’s Almost as if Seattle Doesn’t Want to Reimagine Public Safety After All

Seattle Budget: Parking Enforcement Officers

Last Thursday, the Council held budget meetings about the potential parking enforcement officer (PEO) transfer from SDOT to SPD, SPD’s proposed budget, and the Community Safety and Communications Center’s (CSCC) proposed budget. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s dive in.
First up are the PEOs. The move to SDOT about a year ago has not thus far been a success, and labor issues have resulted. The PEOs are vastly understaffed, both as a result of general unhappiness over a botched move and SDOT’s decision to keep some positions open so as to use the money this freed up to pay for their overhead costs (more about that in a minute.) There are only 80 PEOs right now, for a department that calls for the staffing of 123 FTE. The PEOs are still housed within the physical structures of SPD, they still wear SPD uniforms, and they still have SPD emblazoned on their vehicles. They no longer have access to SPD databases (well, really it’s the FBI’s CJIS, more about this in a minute). And then of course there was the debacle where, due to “mistakes” made by SPD and potentially the last Mayor’s Office, the PEOs weren’t given their special commissions when they were moved to SDOT, and therefore $5m worth of traffic tickets had to be either voided or refunded earlier this year.
Whether it was sabotage or simply shocking incompetence, nobody can argue that this has been a smooth transition. Hence the Mayor’s proposal to move the PEOs back into SPD.
Because of the way SDOT calculates its overhead, which is complicated due to its multiple funding sources, it costs an additional $8m from the General Fund to keep the PEOs in SDOT, a fact that the Mayor’s Office and SDOT, who both lobbied heavily for the PEOs to move to SDOT rather than the CSCC, somehow failed to mention at that time.
Another issue is the PEOs’ lack of access to the CJIS database. Right now SPD provides them with a static hot sheet with a list of vehicles by license plate that are stolen, but the PEOs can’t call in to get at-the-moment information from the database, which includes information such as registered owner and address. It is unclear how large a problem the lack of access to this database actually is, but it is interesting to note that even if they were to move to the CSCC, the PEOs wouldn’t be granted access to it; the 911 dispatchers have this access, but WASPC, the state body who decides these matters, has said the PEOs aren’t performing a criminal justice purpose and therefore are ineligible. No outside legal analysis of this issue has been completed.
The SPD, unsurprisingly, is happy to welcome back the PEOs with open arms, especially as they’ll come with funding for the entire 123 FTE. Because there are only currently 80 PEOs, that means SPD will get an extra $4.2m; while they will use part of this sum to hopefully pay for additional hires, there will be some left over, for which they will inevitably find an indispensable use within the department. The PEOs themselves took a poll and overwhelmingly expressed a desire to be back in SPD rather than in SDOT.
A third option not explored in the aforementioned poll is to move the PEOs to the CSCC, which was the Council’s original plan back in 2020. Aside from the issue of database access, the CSCC is a new department that would need lead time to prepare to receive the PEOs, which would nearly double their headcount. There would probably be some extra overhead involved with this as well, although nowhere near SDOT’s staggering $8m price tag. However, this move would preserve the Council’s intent to move civilian functions outside the police department in response to the protesters that were in the streets for so much of 2020.

Seattle Budget: Seattle Police Department

SPD is enjoying being able to say they’re taking the largest cut of any department. This is misleading rhetoric, of course; the actual size of their budget will be larger than it was in 2022 if the proposed budget doesn’t change. Much time was spent in the SPD budget meeting discussing the $250k increase to Harbor Patrol, which moved into a discussion of whether certain aspects of Harbor Patrol might be more suitable for a civilian response (namely, search and rescue and water safety). In response to this suggestion, Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell mentioned that houseboat piracy was a problem.
Moving past the serious piracy issue facing Seattle, Central Staff projects 153 officers will be separating from the department in 2022 by the end of the year. Once again, SPD’s projections for separations and hiring for 2023 seem overly rosy, although the high rate of separations has been going on for long enough at this point that people can now bring up the point of diminishing returns, ie that in a smaller police force, there will also be a smaller number of people leaving. The 80 positions not being funded for 2023 are not being permanently cut (abrogated) but rather underfunded for now.
There was also a discussion of the gunfire detection system (which will probably be ShotSpotter). Interestingly, CM Nelson brought up a study by Edgeworth Analytics that found a high accuracy rate for ShotSpotter, but didn’t disclose that this study had in fact been funded BY ShotSpotter. Luckily CM Mosqueda brought up that point. CM Nelson also stated that if even one life were to be saved by a gunfire detection system, then the financial investment would be worth it, even though it had been emphasized earlier in the presentation that these detection systems are not intended to reduce gun violence in any way, but rather to help capture evidence about gun-related crimes after they happen. Regardless, the city surveillance ordinance would require the completion of a surveillance impact report (SIR), which Central Staff thinks would take more than 12 months to complete, meaning this budget item may well be premature.

Seattle Budget: CSCC

During this meeting, Ann Gorman of Central Staff presented the results thus far of the collaboration between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff over alternative response as memorialized in a term sheet. There is agreement that the $1.9m for a near-term pilot of alternative response in Seattle could be spent in 2023 on some combination of the following:
  1. Direct dispatch of SFD Health One units
  2. Intelligent non-emergency reporting: this is instant reporting that doesn’t require an SPD officer to come to the scene. In practice, this would be improvement of online reporting or reporting by phone, for example, by providing better support of other languages.
  3. Expansion of CSO duties: currently the CSOs serve as liaisons between SPD and community and don’t have law enforcement authority. It may be possible to expand their role in a way that lessens the workload of SPD officers.
  4. Dual (SPD/civilian) dispatch to augment current mental/behavioral health response: This means that two separate units would be sent to the scene, one from SPD and one that is a city-staffed team with relevant clinical and procedural training. In other words, this response would still involve officers with a gun coming to the scene, although CM Herbold mentioned that perhaps the SPD officers could sometimes stage themselves nearby instead of arriving directly on the scene.
For proponents of a mental health crisis response alternative in Seattle, this list will doubtless be less than inspiring, as none of these options is what has been asked for, including the co-response detailed in option 4. However, both CM Herbold and CM Lewis, who have previously been strong proponents of a civilian alternative response such as STAR in Denver, were both effusive in their praise. CM Herbold went so far as to walk back some of her criticism of the Risk Management Demand report delivered by SPD a few weeks ago. (This is the system SPD has spent large amounts of time and money developing only to have to go in and manually correct more than 50% of call type classifications provided by their new system. The system was also meant to assess risk to responders but instead used risk to the subject as a proxy.)

King County Budget

The next opportunity for public comment on the biennial 2023-2024 King County budget is tomorrow, Wednesday, 10/19 at 6pm. More details and a script can be found here. If you can’t make the meeting, you can also email your King County council members.

Election News

People Power Washington’s voter guide is out! You can see questionnaires about public safety answered by candidates for state legislature, for King County prosecutor, and for Seattle Municipal Court Judge. Information about races for prosecutor and judge in particular can be hard to come by, so this is an excellent resource for helping you make an educated decision come Election Day.
There is a King County prosecutor candidate debate this Thursday, 10/20 from 6-8pm in Federal Way. More details and sign up can be found here.

Other Seattle News

Also in the budget: Mayor Harrell’s proposal to spend $38m on the Unified Care Team and the Clean City Initiative. As Erica C. Barnett reports:
memo accompanying that presentation adds that, legally speaking, there’s no guarantee that the new funding won’t be used to “accelerate encampment removals.”
In redistricting news, Seattle’s redistricting commission voted on a new map today. They passed a map that divides Magnolia along the west-east ridge and doesn’t divide Fremont into three(!) different districts. All but one commissioner voted in favor of this new map, and you can see it here. The exact dividing line in Magnolia might change, but other that that, Erica Barnett reports this will be the map, which represents a heartening victory for Redistricting Justice for Seattle and their bid for an equitable map.
You might remember that earlier this year, the Human Rights Commission tried to initiate a data collection project on behalf of those impacted by police violence, including wanting to file for amicus status with the court overseeing the consent decree process, only to be shot down by the City Attorney. Well, now four commissioners, including three co-chairs, have resigned in protest. You can read their passionate open letter here.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released Wave 3 of their Sentinel Event Review report on the 2020 protests, which covers June 8 – July 1, 2020. And it is quite damning, showing that in addition to miscommunication and sloppy police work, the SPD indulged in flat-out lying in their infamous ruse in which they tried to make protesters believe armed Proud Boys were headed to CHOP. As Justin reports:
The Wave 3 report includes … SPD officials either mistakenly or intentionally making statements about unsubstantiated and not fully investigated allegations of armed checkpoints and shakedowns of area businesses in press conferences and statements to the media as evidence of bad decisions and a lack of leadership that hindered the city’s response — and set it on a permanently flawed course contributing to the growth of dangerous conditions in the CHOP zone.
It is worth reading the entire article, which also provides access to the full OIG report.
Finally, CM Dan Strauss held a community meeting about safety in Greenwood last night, at which he told attendees they weren’t allowed to record and barred journalists from entry until the end. Not exactly the best way to promote an environment of transparency and accountability.
Isolde Raftery
@CMDanStrauss are you seriously preventing the media from attending your PUBLIC meeting on safety in Greenwood???

Standing outside the @TaprootTheatre with @king5 …

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The 2022 Seattle Budget Underspend Hit Public Safety Alternatives Hard

Seattle Budget

Amy Sundberg
This morning in Seattle we’re getting a presentation on balancing and other fund policies pertaining to the budget. I’m hoping to gain a greater understanding of the JumpStart funds reallocation and how that is being framed.
Amy Sundberg
Seattle City Council is now discussing the JumpStart find spending plan.

 

The Seattle City Council has begun issue identification for various portions of Mayor Harrell’s proposed budget. First up on Tuesday was a general discussion on how the proposed budget is being balanced, including the changes in how the Mayor is suggesting JumpStart funds be used. You can find a detailed overview of this first day of discussions over at Publicola, which I recommend reading in full to understand all the nuances.
As we’ve previously discussed, the City is facing a deficit of about $141m for 2023. And the trend of the City having greater expenses than revenues looks like it will continue for the next several years at least. So the question becomes, how do our elected officials address this gap?
Mayor Harrell’s answer appears to be by using JumpStart tax revenues, for which there is a specific spending plan, to make up the difference. In order to do this, the laws governing the use of this tax would have to be changed, and Mayor Harrell is proposing to do so not just temporarily while the City identifies other progressive revenue streams (for which they’re putting together a work group that is supposed to have recommendations to put before the Council by May 2023), but in perpetuity. As Central Staff said in a memo:
“the proposed policy change … could result in permanently backfilling revenue losses that are due to noninflationary factors in other funds. Put another way, the JumpStart Fund transfer would be permanently solving stability issues inherent with the existing [general fund] financing structure.”
This shift in usage potentially means this tax could be permanently pulled away from the funding priorities for which it was intended.
CM Mosqueda has said that she (and a coalition that sent a letter earlier this year re the JumpStart funds) would like to see any JumpStart funds that are taken from their intended allocations used to prevent austerity and cuts, not to fund new programs. However, the Mayor’s proposed budget contains what amounts to a pay cut for human service providers while, per Erica C. Barnett, it also adds $32m in net ongoing new expenditures for 2023 (and $52m for 2024). And some of the money allocated towards the JumpStart priorities doesn’t seem to fit into the designated categories for which the tax is supposed to be used. However, it’s going to be a struggle to fix all of this: if the Council doesn’t wish to go along with Harrell’s plan to reallocate JumpStart funds, they’ll potentially have to find alternate funding for certain programs and/or make cuts, and they’ll have to decide whether to hold fast to their commitment to the community about how these dollars were to be spent.
Also as part of his proposed budget, the Mayor plans to underspend the budget by $10m in unspecified ways in 2023. He already performed an underspend of $19.77m in 2022, and looking at which projects were paused is instructive: 32% of the funds not spent were in the Human Services Department for uses such as restorative justice programs, expanding pre-filing diversion contracts, a survey on national best practices on interrupting gun violence, expanding behavioral health services, expanding the mobile crisis team, preparing a survey for designing a new behavioral health facility, and investments to address AAPI hate crimes. Other public safety investments in the 2022 budget that fell victim to this underspend included Mayor Durkan’s ill-fated Triage One, adding 26 dispatchers to the 911 call center, and a victim compensation fund. You can look at the complete list here in Attachment B, starting on page 44.
In summary, it turns out that when the Mayor’s office was choosing where to underspend, public safety alternatives were some of the first programs up on the chopping block. And because of the nebulous nature of the underspend going forward, we can’t really say what programs will end up getting nixed in 2023 and 2024, although we do know whatever programs get frozen will have had the consensus to be funded in whatever budget is passed in November.
Continuing budget season, the Council will hear issue identification for the CSCC and SPD, including the proposed transfer of parking enforcement officers from SDOT to SPD, tomorrow, October 12, and you can expect some analysis of those discussions early next week.
Finally, in more ShotSpotter news, the South Seattle Emerald ran a piece by Carolyn Bick reporting that the CEO of ShotSpotter donated $535 to Harrell in 2013, and ShotSpotter’s Director of Customer Success donated $100 in Harrell’s 2021 mayoral campaign. It’s possible this is something of a pattern, as the CEO of ShotSpotter also donated $1000 to Detroit Mayor Duggan’s 2013 campaign, and Detroit is another city where ShotSpotter had been lobbying its product and where it is now operating. As Bick writes:
Personal campaign contributions from company employees are not illegal, and these are relatively small amounts of money. However, the Emerald felt it important to report on these personal donations because they were made against the backdrop of Harrell launching several attempts to bring the ShotSpotter system to Seattle over the same period of time.

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Proposed Surveillance Tech Can Lead to Biased Policing

Seattle News

There have been no budget meetings during this second week of Seattle’s budget season, as both CMs and the public analyze the proposed budget and consider its ramifications and any changes they’d like to see. The next opportunity for public comment is on Tuesday, October 11. There will be public comment at the beginning of the budget meeting beginning at 9:30am (sign-ups starting at 7:30am), AND the first public hearing, also for public comment related to the budget, will be that evening at 5pm (sign-ups starting at 3pm). You can give your public comment at both meetings either in person at City Hall or remotely.
Speaking of budget season, the Solidarity Budget will be having its virtual volunteer orientation tomorrow night, Thursday 10/6 at 6pm. You can sign up to participate here.
One of the more controversial line items of the proposed budget is the $1m allocated in SPD’s budget for ShotSpotter. Mayor Harrell has been a long-standing proponent for the technology, which places microphones throughout specific neighborhoods in order to pick up the sounds of gunfire. Not only would this increase SPD’s surveillance capacity in a more diverse and lower income neighborhood in Seattle, but its efficacy is also in question. The OIG in Chicago found that ShotSpotter rarely results in evidence that leads to evidence of a gun-related crime, and the presence of the technology changes police behavior; areas with a perceived higher frequency of ShotSpotter activity leads to the justification of more stops and more pat-downs during stops, aka biased policing. In addition, prosecutors in Chicago are having to withdraw evidence generated by the technology. It is perhaps no surprise that the cities of Charlotte and San Antonio have dropped use of this technology in past years, or that the city of Buffalo recently blocked its implementation.
If you ever wonder how effective public comment is, wonder no more! Apparently one public comment made by programmer Scott Shawcroft at a redistricting commission hearing, in which he suggested putting Magnolia in District 6 and Fremont in District 7, prompted the amendment discussed in this newsletter last week that puts all of Magnolia in one district and divides Fremont into THREE districts. The last public hearing for the redistricting commission in Seattle is this Saturday, October 8 from 10am-12pm. You can register to give public comment online here, where you can also get the relevant Zoom link, or alternately you can show up in person. If you’d like to support the Redistricting Justice for Seattle proposed map, you can find talking points here.
In the story that keeps giving, remember those pesky deleted text messages of our former Mayor Durkan? New forensic evidence found that 191 of her texts were MANUALLY DELETED. This is very different from previous statements that the missing text messages were simply due to a setting mysteriously set to delete texts after 30 days. In addition, six other city officials had “factory resets” performed on their phones during the relevant period in 2020. This new evidence could strongly impact current lawsuits against the city.
The SPD announced they fired Officer Andrei Constantin, who took to Twitter to make fun of protesters and victims of police violence, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and local activist Summer Taylor, who was killed while protesting on I-5. Constantin had racked up at least nine other OPA complaints during his tenure at SPD, which began in April of 2016.
At the Council Briefing on September 26, CM Herbold announced that SFD has been doing an analysis of calls they respond to that can lead to violence. The analysis suggested an automatic joint response of SPD officers escorting SFD personnel to both overdose and seizure calls, as patients can be unaware of their surroundings and have an initial violent reaction after receiving NARCAN or coming out of a seizure. Along with this near-term change, the Joint Safety Committee is considering other recommendations along these lines.

King County News

Budget season has also begun in King County, and now is the time for you to email your King County council members about your budget priorities. People Power Washington has a script for you to use if you are so inclined. You can find the King County budget schedule, including opportunities to make public comment, here.
We conclude today’s newsletter on a somber note. Erica C. Barnett recently did an investigative piece on the King County youth jail, which is well worth a read. While the occupancy rate of the jail is rising and the number of staff is falling, the jail frequently uses solitary confinement for its juvenile occupants:
King County officials are aware that keeping kids in their cells is a problem, but the use of the practice has been escalating. In July, there were 13 days when kids were locked in their cells between 18 and 20 hours a day because of short staffing at the jail. Additionally, an independent monitor’s report released in May found a “significant increase” in the number of times youth were put IN “restrictive housing” (solitary confinement) because of a risk of “imminent and significant physical harm to the youth or others,” along with a spike in the length of this form of confinement; in the first quarter of this year, 41 kids were put in restrictive housing for an average of 6 hours per session.
We have kids in King County who have already experienced the trauma that resulted in them being in jail in the first place who are now having their trauma compounded by being locked into their cells for 18 to 20 hours per day. While the County has convened an advisory committee to make recommendations for how to phase out youth incarceration, little progress has been made thus far, which is concerning giving the urgency and gravity of their mandate.

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