December 2022

Wrapping Up 2022

Seattle News

Some big Seattle City Council election news this past week! Both CM Herbold and CP Juarez have announced their intention not to run for re-election for their City Council seats next year. CP Juarez has always been clear about her intention to serve two terms, but much has been said about CM Herbold’s remarks about her decision. When comparing the upcoming D1 race to last year’s City Attorney race, it is important to remember a few key points. First, a district race is very different in character from a city-wide race. Second, one of the issues in the City Attorney’s primary was the lack of campaigning from Pete Holmes until the last second. And finally, Ann Davison’s campaign massively outspent Nicole Thomas-Kennedy’s campaign. So while the 2021 City Attorney’s race was certainly very interesting, we need to be cautious about the parallels we draw between these two races.

It does seem like the moderate council members, of which CM Herbold is one, face a messaging problem in this upcoming election. More conservative voters might disapprove of these CMs committing to trying to remove up to 50% from the police budget to reallocate for other public safety strategies back in 2020 (never mind that they never came close to this number), while very progressive voters might be disappointed at what could be characterized as a wishy-washy follow-through to that commitment.

It is interesting to note that CM Mosqueda, who is typically seen as a more progressive CM, won her city-wide race handily in 2021; she was one of seven council members to back the 50% defund pledge in 2020, but she has been more consistent and effective in her messaging and explaining her values than many of her colleagues.

The Public Safety committee voted unanimously to appoint Interim Chief Diaz as SPD’s new police chief. This is in spite of his lack of support of police alternatives, including the seemingly never-ending analysis of 911 calls the SPD has undertaken in spite of the fact that many other comparable cities have somehow managed to figure out how to implement civilian response programs without drowning in violence and death as a result. In addition, as Erica C. Barnett reports in PubliCola:
While transferring some low-risk work to trained civilian responders would be one way to free up SPD officers for police work and investigations, another option could be reducing the amount of overtime police burn through directing traffic and providing security for sports events, which added up to more than 91,000 hours through October of this year. Diaz didn’t seem particularly open to this suggestion, either, noting that there is always a risk of violence at large events, such as someone trying to drive through a barricade.
Meanwhile, in an act of breathtaking pettiness, the Seattle Municipal Court elected their new presiding judge without allowing recently elected new judge Pooja Vaddadi and recently elected returning judge Damon Shadid the chance to vote. As Erica C. Barnett in PubliCola says:
According to local court rule 10.2, the municipal court judges are supposed to elect a new presiding judge “within 30 days after [a] vacancy occurs.” Because Eisenberg will not vacate his position until next January, Vaddadi told PubliCola, “this action… was not appropriate, nor was it in line with [the local rule] for a minority of the judges to hold a secret vote to elect a presiding and assistant presiding judge.”

This action by the other sitting judges seems to exhibit both a lack of professionalism and respect for the law governing the institution.

Regional News

The Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer was found not guilty of false reporting today. While the verdict is not surprising in a country that rarely holds police accountable, this case appeared like a clear example of police overreach:

An investigation led by former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran, commissioned last year by the Pierce County Council, found Troyer had violated policies on bias-free policing and other professional standards. Moran’s report, released in October 2021, noted that Troyer had given shifting statements about the encounter to media, his neighbors, and police.

The King County Auditor released a report on the County’s incarceration alternative and diversion programs this week that found a lack of strategic direction and data coordination between the 12 existing programs. This deficit makes it hard to tell whether the County has implemented the right programs, how they could complement each other, or if they need more capacity. It also found the County’s criminal legal agencies collect race data in different ways, making it difficult to meaningfully analyze racial disparities in those agencies.

The King County Sheriff’s Office is looking for applicants for their Community Advisory Board. Applications will be accepted through the end of January. It is unclear why King County is forming a new advisory board instead of continuing the extant King County Public Safety Advisory Committee, although it is possible for members of that body to apply for the new board.

Governor Inslee introduced his proposed 2023-25 budget today. Included in his proposal are additional investments in law enforcement training. Washington State currently runs two academies in the state, the main one in Burien and a smaller one in Spokane. The governor is proposing funding for seven additional Basic Law Enforcement Academy classes per year, including four at two new regional campuses, in order to reduce the waiting time for training and increase the output of trained officers per year. He also wishes to invest in grants to help local agencies pay for their share of training costs and increase recruitment efforts. The total proposed investment for these additions would be $16.16m.

The Washington Coalition of Police Accountability (WCPA) announced four new bills related to policing that will be discussed during the upcoming legislative session (which begins on January 9). The most promising might be the “Traffic Safety for All” bill that would limit traffic stops and provide a pool of money for low-income drivers to keep their vehicles in compliance with traffic laws. The other three are: a Washington Attorney General pattern-or-practice law that would allow the state to sue departments that systemically violate the law, not unlike federal consent decrees but at the state level; the establishment of an independent prosecutor to investigate and prosecute police misconduct at the state level; and revoking qualified immunity for police officers on the state level. I’m also hoping we’ll see the bill for ending solitary confinement in Washington again this session.

Housekeeping

The Seattle City Council has their Winter Recess from December 19 through January 1st.

Revue, the host of this newsletter, will be discontinued as of January 18. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve already begun the process of researching alternatives, and I’m hoping to use the City Council break to make some real headway in setting up a new delivery system for Notes from the Emerald City. My plan will be to automatically add my subscribers’ email addresses to the new system to keep the changeover as painless as possible.

For those of you who are paid subscribers, first of all, thank you for your support! On December 20, Revue will set all outstanding paid subscriptions to cancel at the end of their billing cycle. I expect to be setting up some new kind of payment system, and I’ll let you know the details when I have them.

In the meantime, I’m wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season. I hope you find some time to rest and rejuvenate; I have a feeling 2023 is going to be an eventful year!

Recent Headlines

Seattle Is Ignoring Major Support for Social Housing - The Stranger

King County jail diversion programs not collecting enough data | The Seattle Times

Is Burlington, Vermont suffering a crime wave because "woke" officials cut police funding? Probably not.

A wave breaks? In downtown Seattle, crime is now falling | The Seattle Times

Former Office of Police Accountability director files a lawsuit alleging city interfered with former BPD chief investigation

Wrapping Up 2022 Read More »

American Police Have Managed Not to Kill Someone 13 Days This Year

Seattle Budget Wrap-Up

The Seattle City Council passed the 2023-2024 municipal budget last week in a bitter 6-3 vote. CM Sawant cast her usual protest vote against a budget she characterized as an austerity budget, while CMs Pedersen and Nelson voted against the budget because…they were upset 80 unfillable positions were eliminated from SPD. They were also concerned that the Council will be continuing to practice basic fiscal oversight over a police department that ran completely amuck as recently as two years ago, as well as having a track record of habitually overspending their overtime budget. Quelle horreur.
Before we get any further, a correction. Both my reading of Seattle’s City Charter and consultation with others had, back in 2020, led me to the conclusion that the budget needed a ¾ vote to pass, which if rounding up, meant 7 out of 9 council members needed to approve it. However, since the budget passed with 6 votes last week, this understanding was clearly incorrect. Unless more comes to light about this matter, we can expect future budgets to require only 6 votes to pass.
Let’s talk some more about those 80 abrogated positions, shall we? The Seattle Times editorial board weighed in last week, saying:
Against this backdrop, council members Lisa Herbold, Dan Strauss, Tammy Morales, Debora Juarez, Kshama Sawant and Teresa Mosqueda flouted the mayor’s request and voted to eliminate 80 unfilled SPD positions. Mayor Bruce Harrell wanted these positions to support his effort to rebuild the department to 1,450 officers.
This ignores the fact that these abrogated positions are unfilled and will remain unfilled for several years. Those positions will remain unfilled regardless as to how the Seattle City Council feels about it because of simple mathematics; SPD literally cannot hire and train enough new officers to expand the department quickly, especially given the number of separations every year. 160 unfilled and still funded positions remain in SPD even after this abrogation, and CM Herbold estimates it will take EIGHT YEARS to fill 120 of these positions. That means that even if Council members wish to aggressively grow the police department, no additional positions will be necessary until 2030. Furthermore, additional positions are added to city departments all the time; this is standard practice, and the idea that Seattle council members will be unable to do this in 2030 (or whenever the need might arise) if they are in agreement as to the proper size of the department is absurd.
It is also worth noting the overall SPD budget will grow by around $15m in 2023 after shrinking for the last two years (2021 and 2022). The Council’s changes to SPD’s budget from the one proposed by Mayor Harrell at the end of September amount to a less than 1% decrease. Fiscal realities due to lower-than-expected city revenue meant there simply weren’t a lot of additional resources to devote to any part of the budget, including to a police department that is only expecting to gain a net of 15 police officers in 2023 in spite of funding hiring bonuses and an expensive media campaign. Unfortunately, this also negatively impacted investment in alternative public safety programs that are often both more effective in making people feel safe and more cost effective than hiring more police.
This was CM Nelson’s first budgetary vote, but why did CM Pedersen choose this year to put his foot down budgetarily speaking, given the above? Certainly the budget included much more controversial choices back in 2020, when he chose to vote in favor of it. One cannot help wondering if next year’s elections have something to do with this change in approach.

Other Seattle News

Seattle has released its legislative agenda for the next state legislative session, which begins in January. The following items related to public safety and the criminal legal system made the city’s agenda, among others:
  • ending qualified immunity for police officers
  • allowing police chiefs to lay off officers on the Brady list
  • removing issues of “disciplinary action, appeals of discipline, subpoena authority, and any state reforms related to law enforcement” from collective bargaining
  • supporting independent prosecutions of deadly use of force
  • supporting more training for cops
  • supporting “increasing the flexibility for local jurisdictions to allow civilian personnel to respond to 911 calls and low-level criminal calls, as in the CAHOOTS program”
  • eliminating or significantly reducing the role of local law enforcement officials in immigration law enforcement
  • supporting various gun laws, such as limiting or banning assault weapons and having a ten-day waiting period for purchasing a firearm
  • supporting criminal legal system reform, including “decreasing mass incarceration and supervision, decreasing racial disproportionality, making the system more equitable, and ending the death penalty” (note no specific mention of solitary confinement)
  • funding for behavioral health care and substance abuse disorder treatment as well as permanent supportive housing
While all of this is very interesting, mostly in seeing what made the cut and what didn’t, it’s worth noting the city’s legislative agenda as it pertained to public safety last year was barely addressed. That being said, the climate is considerably more friendly towards getting things done this year.
Meanwhile, both Will Casey at The Stranger and Doug Trumm at The Urbanist have called out the difficulties of progressive voter turnout in Seattle in odd years. Unfortunately, changing our local elections to even years would require a change in state law, but it is a popular idea, as is evinced by the success of the measure in King County in last month’s elections to move some elections to even years. Otherwise, Will Casey talked to political consultant Michael Ferkakis, who suggests, “If progressives want to have a shot at winning, they have to really focus on turning out low-turnout voters and having policies that are progressive but can’t be construed as radical to scare consistent voters.” Not the most inspiring strategy for progressives who want to get things done. Ferkakis particularly called out District 1 as a difficult district for a progressive.
The investigation into former OPA Director Myerberg is continuing to drag on in its messy way:
Further documentation reveals that the City plans to spend — or, at the time of this writing, has already spent — $50,000 on Seyfarth Shaw to “fact-find” for the OIG, despite the fact that the OIG is not looking at the formal allegations as articulated in Lippek’s original complaint. In other words, the City is apparently spending thousands of public dollars to fund a fact-finding mission based on a flawed investigatory premise.

Other News

Five cities in our region–Kirkland, Bothell, Kenmore, Shoreline, and Lake Forest Park–have agreed to band together to offer a regional crisis response that merges Kirkland’s program with the RADAR Navigator program. It will begin operation at the end of Q1 2023. Kirkland CM Black said about the program, “We are committed to reducing reliance on law enforcement as the primary responders to our community members experiencing behavioral health crisis and finding other ways to connect them to care and resources.”
As we near the end of 2022, it seems like a good idea to check in with the Mapping Police Violence resource to see how the US has been doing this year. US police have killed 1,074 people so far this year. There have been 13 days this year during which the police succeeded in not killing someone. Black people have been three times more likely to be killed by police than white people during the last decade, even though they are 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed. Only 1 in 3 killings over the last 6 years began with an alleged violent crime. 35 people were killed by police so far this year in Washington State.

Recent Headlines

Jim Brunner
NEW: Lawsuit seeks to stop disqualification of WA ballots for signature mismatches, arguing practice is arbitrary, error-prone & disproportionately disenfranchises young voters, voters of color #waelex https://t.co/R5E81NALZ1 via @seattletimes
Council Member Nelson “Egregiously Misconstrued” African American Museum Director to Save a Fraction of the Police Budget

King County Sucks at Tackling Organized Retail Theft, but the State Wants to Help

New Seattle Council Districts Probably Won’t Sweep Antifa into Power

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SF police 'killer robots' motion passes

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Seattle Is Back from the Brink of Dying? - The Stranger

Council Votes to Take More Money from You but Not Amazon - The Stranger

Breaking down Seattle's $7.4B final budget | Crosscut

Seattle City Council approves budget. Here are 3 things to know | The Seattle Times

American Police Have Managed Not to Kill Someone 13 Days This Year Read More »