February 2023

SPD Continues to Answer a Large Number of Non-Criminal Calls

Seattle News

SPD’s 2022 Crime Report was released this week and will be discussed at the next meeting of Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee on Tuesday. While one of the report’s pull quotes is “the violent crime rate reached a 15-year high in 2022,” it is important to remember not only that crime data provided by police departments is not inherently reliable, but that violent crime in Seattle began to drop in the fall of 2022, and December 2022 had the fewest number of violent crimes reported since March of 2020. 

As an article in today’s Seattle Times states: “Overall Seattle crime is down 28% in the past five months, and violent crime is down 30% compared to earlier in 2022, which Diaz said translated to 1,000 fewer police reports filed last month than in January 2022.” Regarding gun violence, it states: “Manion, who’s planning a gun violence prevention summit next month, noted the last quarter of 2022 was also the fourth consecutive quarter where the number of people age 18 to 24 injured or killed in shootings had declined. She thinks the decrease among that demographic is likely a result of intervention work being done by community groups and Harborview social workers, as well as the return to in-person schooling.Unfortunately injury and fatalities from gun violence in the 30-to-39 year old age group have continued to increase, showing where more intervention may be needed.

Other information of note in the SPD’s 2022 Crime Report:

  • The top five categories of 911 call types answered by SPD in 2022 were non-criminal in nature: traffic, suspicious circumstances, disturbance, assist public, and premise checks.
  • Community-generated calls remained at the same level in 2022 as 2021.
  • Bias crimes against unhoused people increased in 2022.

Several surveillance technologies currently in use by SPD were discussed at the Economic Development, Technology, and City Light Committee meeting this past Wednesday. You can read more about the ACLU Washington’s take on Seattle’s use of these technologies here.

A crowd of bystanders gathered near 12th and Mercer on Wednesday night to intervene with a police response to an unarmed person in crisis. One officer had aimed his rifle at the person in crisis and commanded them to drop any weapons and get on the ground. Bystanders yelled that the person in question didn’t have a gun and began filming the scene, eventually persuading the police to disengage and protecting the person in question from a potentially violent police response.

Election News

Seattle CM Mosqueda has confirmed her run for King County City Council Seat 8, and she already has a huge number of endorsements, including from Seattle Mayor Harrell and his opponent former Seattle Council President Lorena González, Executive Constantine, and the more progressive Seattle and King County CMs.

CM Lewis has his first announced opponent for Seattle CM in District 7 in Ryan Krumbholz.

And of course, ballots for Initiative 135 for social housing in Seattle are due on Tuesday, February 14.

WA State Legislature News

Senator Dhingra introduced her drug decriminalization bill that follows SURSAC recommendations, SB 5624, which had a hearing on Monday. The bill had also been scheduled for an executive session for later in the week, but this hearing was later canceled. Senator Robinson’s bill SB 5536 appears to be the preferred vehicle moving forward. This bill makes drug possession a felony while inserting the word “knowingly” to address the Blake decision, and it encourages the use of diversion programs.

Bills are moving along as we draw closer to the committee cutoff date of February 17, a week from today. HB 1513 regarding traffic stops and safety had an executive hearing on Thursday. HB 1363 unrolling the important high speed pursuit bill of 2021 has a tentative executive hearing next week, SB 5533, which would study high speed pursuits and collect more data, is scheduled for a hearing in the Ways & Means committee on Tuesday.

HB 1024 providing minimum wage in prisons has an executive session in the Committee on Appropriations on Monday, as does HB 1087 regarding solitary confinement. SB 5383 to decriminalize jaywalking has its first hearing in the Transportation committee on Monday. HB 1579 to establish an independent prosecutor had an executive session on Thursday. HB 1025 concerning civil liability for police had an executive session on Friday, and HB 1445, the AG investigative and reform bill, was referred to Appropriations. 

Housekeeping

I’ll be keeping a general eye on events but will be on vacation for the next two weeks, so unless something monumental happens, you can expect more Notes from the Emerald City in early March.

Recent Headlines

SPD Continues to Answer a Large Number of Non-Criminal Calls Read More »

The Cycle of Police Violence Continues Unabated

National News

Front of mind is the recent video footage release of the Memphis police killing Tyre Nichols. 

I was particularly struck by something Courtney Milan, writer and lawyer, shared on Twitter:

“We’re threatened with random, stochastic crimes by faceless criminals to justify the senseless violence that is being dealt by officers of the state. It keeps happening, and we keep doing the same thing. It’s not just that we should defund the police and fund social services. It’s that funding social services—things that could house the unhoused, really treat addiction, etc etc—would remove the visible markets that are used to keep us in fear.

So many people have died in pain and the only thing that happened was that the backlash to people saying “we should not do this, let’s stop” meant that police got even more money.”

The cycle of police violence is very apparent, and it will continue unabated until enough people work together to stop it.

I will leave you with a quote from journalist Derecka Purnell in the Guardian:

“I immediately noticed that almost all of the reforms that liberals suggest will save Black lives were present in Tyre’s death. Diversity was not an issue: the five cops who killed him are all Black. The body cameras strapped to their chests did not deter their fists from delivering blow after blow. Memphis has about 2,000 cops, and if this were a “few bad apples” in the department issue, then maybe they all happened to be working on the same shift. Cops did not shoot Tyre; they opted for a less deadlier force: they beat him for three minutes, shocked him and pepper-sprayed him.

In fact, Memphis police department boasts that they have met all of the features of Campaign Zero’s #8CantWait campaign, which includes a requirement for officers to intervene when other officers are using excessive force and a requirement to de-escalate encounters with civilians. The department has been under a consent decree for decades. MPD hired its first Black woman police chief in 2021 and holds Black History Knowledge bowls and basketball programs to “build trust” and relationships with local teenagers.”

Other relevant articles:

Seattle News

The officer who killed Jaahnavi Kundala, a graduate student who was in a crosswalk when hit by his SUV, has been identified as one Kevin Austin Dave. The watchdog group DivestSPD was the first to release this name, which was later corroborated by SPD. There are still many unknowns outstanding about this incident, including how fast Dave was driving and whether he stopped after hitting Kundala.

My colleague at People Power Washington, Dr. Shannon Cheng, appeared on Hacks & Wonks this week to discuss the SPOG contract: why it’s important, bargaining challenges past and present, and what to look for in the next contract.

Carolyn Bick at the South Seattle Emerald has uncovered evidence suggesting former Mayor Durkan and her office were interfering in Seattle’s police accountability process by trying to either delay or prevent the OPA from investigating then-Chief of Police Carmen Best for her role in handling the 2020 protests.

Will Casey, who has been doing an excellent job covering the “Criminal Justice” beat at The Stranger, has unfortunately left the paper. While I look forward to the work of his replacement, whoever that may be, this is another loss for local news coverage in the Puget Sound area. While the importance of media coverage is widely understood, journalists often receive relatively low pay and work long hours, making it difficult to retain them and provide quality local news coverage. Consider this your regular reminder to contribute to local publications the South Seattle Emerald and Publicola if you are able.

Election News

We’ve made it to February, and there’s so much election news!

CM Morales has announced she will be seeking re-election in Seattle’s District 2. She is only the second Seattle CM to decide to run again, and now we’re waiting for CM Strauss to have a complete picture of which seats are open.

In District 1, Maren Costa has announced her candidacy, meaning there are now three declared candidates. District 3 has five announced candidates thus far, and in District 4, in addition to early announcer Matthew Mitnick we now have Kenneth Wilson, who ran against Teresa Mosqueda for a city-wide seat last year, and urbanist Ron Davis, who comes into the race with a slate of endorsements and after publishing several op-eds over the last few months.

Meanwhile, in the King County Council races, Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld has declared her candidacy for District 4, and there are rumors CM Mosqueda is considering a run for the District 8 spot. If she were to be elected to the King County Council, the two years remaining in her Seattle City Council term would be served by someone appointed by the Council, a body that will be largely reshaped by the elections this November.

The King County Council voted to put the new crisis center levy on the ballot, and residents will vote on this initiative this April (April 25, to be precise). This property tax levy would go into effect in 2024, and over a nine year period it could raise as much as $1.25b to fund the construction of five much-needed walk-in crisis centers that would be open twenty-four hours.

And don’t forget Initiative 135 for social housing! The ballots have been mailed, and the deadline for voting is February 14.

WA State Legislature News

HB 1579 to establish an independent prosecutor had its first hearing in the House on Tuesday, and HB 1513 regarding traffic stops had its first hearing in the House on Monday. HB 1024 regarding minimum wage for prison labor had a hearing in the Appropriations Committee on Monday afternoon. HB 1045, the basic income bill, was referred to Appropriations. SB 5383 regarding jaywalking still hasn’t had its first committee hearing. 

HB 1087 to end solitary confinement has a hearing in the Appropriations Committee tomorrow afternoon. You can sign in PRO here or find a script to email the committee members here.

As for a new bill to address the Blake decision on drug possession, while a bill has been introduced by Senator Dhingra based on the recommendations of SURSAC that would decriminalize most “personal amounts” of drugs, she has said she doesn’t have the votes to pass it. Instead what is likely to pass is a bill re-criminalizing drug possession but encouraging diversion programs.

Recent Headlines

The Cycle of Police Violence Continues Unabated Read More »