February 2024

City Council Talks SPD Staffing While Ignoring Damning Report on the Department’s Treatment of Women

Seattle News

My article on the three new surveillance technologies currently undergoing impact reports is up now at The Urbanist: Harrell Plans Hasty Rollout of Massive Surveillance Expansion. And here’s another great resource for learning more about these technologies.

I strongly encourage you to get involved in this conversation by doing one or more of the following:

  • You can sign on as a group or individual to this letter.
  • You can attend a public meeting that is part of the SIR process and give public comment on Tuesday, February 27, from 6-7pm at Bitter Lake Community Center (or remotely)
  • You can fill out survey forms for each of the three technologies. More possible talking points are here.

Last year SPD commissioned a report that describes the harassment and discrimination faced by their women officers. The report describes womens’ difficulties being promoted, discrimination about getting pregnant, sexist behaviors and comments, being excluded, and sexual harassment, among other issues. 14.4% of SPD sworn officers are women, down 1% since 2017

Publicola reported that in 2023, out of 61 new officers hired, just five were women, according to Jamie Housen. One of the talking points of the Executive’s Office seems to be that “almost half” of SPD’s command staff is women, but actually only 5 out of 13 are women, with only one being a sworn officer. The other 4 hold civilian positions that are typically held by women. 

In addition to last year’s lawsuit brought by Detective Cookie Boudine, another lawsuit was brought against SPD last month by Deanna Nollette alleging gender discrimination.

The Seattle Times reported: “Most of the report’s interviewees would not tell other women to join the department, James wrote.

“Well, if I were to tell my daughters or, you know, my friends, I tell them to run in the opposite direction, you know, because of the experiences that I’ve had,” one participant said.”

While SPD’s Chief Diaz mentioned wanting to specifically recruit more women at the year’s first Public Safety committee meeting this week, not one council member saw fit to ask him about this report. This lack of oversight fit nicely with the committee’s new attitude of bending over backwards to support SPD.

New Public Safety Chair Robert Kettle emphasized how the problems in Seattle stem from a “permissive environment” and named 6 pillars to address this: police staffing, legal tools, unsecured vacant buildings and lots, graffiti, public health, and “One Seattle engagement with the County and the State.” As Publicola points out, this is in stark contrast to the previous mission of this committee, which “previously highlighted police accountability, alternatives to arrest and jail, and “programs to reduce the public’s involvement with law enforcement and decrease involvement with the Criminal Legal System.”

In other words, it’s all about deterrence and punishment now, with strains of broken windows theory coming round yet again to haunt us.

CARE department head Amy Smith, who everyone called Chief, said that she’d like to expand the hours of the alternate responders. They now cover from 11am-11pm, and she’d like to cover the 11pm-2am window as well. She also mentioned that the responders sometimes have joint trainings with SPD officers.

SPD gave an update on 2023 crime numbers and staffing. In 2023, there was a 9% reduction in overall crime, a 10% reduction in property crime, and a 6% reduction in violent crime. There was a 1% decrease in total shots fired and shooting events, a 23% increase in homicides (although apparently some of these were delayed deaths, the Chief said), and a 3% increase in shooting events alone. The first month of 2024 saw a large reduction in homicides from previous Januaries. The number of rounds fired has increased recently due to high capacity magazines that hold many more rounds.

SPD lost 36 more officers than they were able to hire in 2023. This is a smaller decrease in staffing than any year since 2019, when they had a net gain of 16 officers. Over the last five years, they have lost 715 personnel. For January of this year, they are breaking even in terms of officers leaving vs officers being hired.

The average response time to a Priority 1 911 call is seven and a half minutes; their goal is seven minutes even.

He mentioned they want to close out the consent decree in 2024 and expressed pride that SPD would be one of the first departments to be able to do that. 

There was a lot of discussion of how to increase officer morale, make them feel more supported, increase staffing, and help them recover from the trauma they endured after George Floyd. There was also talk about how not having a new contract is harming SPD in terms of recruiting since officers aren’t being paid enough compared to other agencies. Chief Diaz mentioned doing a lot of recruiting from nearby military bases, citing Portland’s success in increasing staffing in this way. 

CM Moore said they were going to allow police to police and not engage in the micromanagement of the past. She complained that the city is paying for jail space it’s not getting, saying they are paying for 190 jail beds per night but only getting 40, which is a problem, as she wants to send a message of holding people accountable. She suggested the idea of the city looking elsewhere for jail space, which could mean another spotlight on the SCORE jail in Des Moines. As of October 2023, 4 people had died in the SCORE jail in 2023, a very high number.

Publicola ran an article about SPD and the City Attorney’s Office continuing to crack down on sex work:

“Criminalizing sex work is broadly unpopular; during jury selection, echoing national sentiment, 23 of 25 potential jurors said they didn’t think sex work should be illegal. But the city remains deeply invested in penalizing the practice—and pouring resources into prosecuting men who patronize sex workers.

Like James, most of the people prosecuted for patronizing prostitutes are men of color, and defense attorneys say many are immigrants—mostly Latino—who don’t speak English fluently or at all.”

The article also explores what a huge amount of resources these stings and trials take (a single sting can involve as many as 20 officers), and how in City law and SPD policy, sex work and human trafficking are practically the same thing. 

WA State Legislature:

A quick update here. HB 1579–the independent prosecutor bill–and SB 6009–a bill banning hog tying–both passed their houses of origin. Unfortunately, the traffic safety bill HB 1513 has died. HB 1445–the bill giving the Attorney General investigatory power over systemic practices of police agencies–is also dead. HB 2065–the bill about juvenile points–passed out of its house of origin and has a hearing and an executive session scheduled for next week. 

HB 1932 –the bill to allow even year elections–has passed from its house of origin.

Housekeeping:

I’m on vacation next week, so you’ll be hearing from me next in early March. 

Recent Headlines:

Welcome to Surveillance City

This week’s Notes from the Emerald City will be somewhat truncated this week due to my extremely heavy workload. But I did want to put out something since there’s an important public meeting on Monday!

Surveillance City

Seattle is embarking on a process to attempt to massively expand surveillance in the city by attempting to procure 3 new technologies: CCTV, acoustic gunshot technology (AGLS) like Shotspotter, and Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) software, a cloud based surveillance tool that centralizes data from multiple surveillance tools. There are multiple concerns about these technologies, including their ineffectiveness, their cost, their chilling effect on civil rights, and their negative impact on marginalized and vulnerable communities. 

I am in the process of writing an article exploring these technologies in more depth and hopefully explaining what they are and their possible consequences in a way that is easy to understand. So look for that soon at the Urbanist.

In order to procure these technologies, the City first needs to go through a Surveillance Impact Report (SIR) process, which includes a Racial Equity Toolkit (RET). Right now Seattle is trying to rush through the SIR, and there are many ways you can get involved!

    • You can sign on as a group or individual to this letter.
    • You can attend this month’s two public meetings that are part of the SIR process and give public comment (either in person or remote): 
        • Monday, February 12 from 12-1pm @ City Hall
        • Tuesday, February 27, from 6-7pm 
    • You can fill out survey forms for each of the three technologies. Possible talking points are here and hopefully my upcoming article will also help folks wrap their heads around what we’re talking about here.

King County Youth Jail

I wrote a piece for The Urbanist about Executive Constantine pushing back the timeline for closing the youth jail. 

Recent Headlines

 

 

The Political Wheel is Turning

Seattle News:

Remember the Stop the Sweeps case at Seattle Municipal Court last week? The judge declared a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach consensus. On Monday morning, an Assistant City Attorney announced they would not retry the case, “citing a need to save city resources.”

Soon thereafter, the news broke that the head of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office’s criminal division, Natalie Walton-Anderson, announced her resignation after only two years in the position. Interesting timing, no? She will leave at the end of February, and this position will not be subject to the city’s hiring freeze. 

In the Jaahnavi Kandula misconduct case against Officer Auderer, SPD’s command staff has recommended he either be suspended without pay for one month or fired. About Auderer, they wrote:

“The disgrace you have brought to the department on a global scale will undoubtedly stain SPD’s reputation for years, and your insensitivity tarnished some observers’ perceptions of all SPD officers.”

However, they disagreed about the OPA’s finding that Auderer showed bias (ageism) and say they are worried that keeping that charge will make any discipline easier to overturn. They instead want the focus to remain on the professionalism charge. 

Auderer will have a disciplinary hearing with Chief Diaz on Monday, March 4. In addition, the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission is considering decertification of Auderer because of his comments. Were he to be decertified, he would no longer be allowed to work as a police officer in Washington State. 

CM Hollingsworth of D3 held a well-attended public safety community meeting on Tuesday evening. She said she expects a new SPOG contract to be ready potentially in March or April of this year. Capitol Hill Seattle’s article also mentions “talks of major hiring bonuses” for SPOG members, in spite of the fact hiring bonuses still haven’t been shown to actually work. 

The meeting focused especially on gun violence. CM Hollingsworth has worked with Black Coffee Northwest to hopefully  activate the area around 23rd and Jackson when it opens in a few months. It sounds like she mostly spoke about hiring more police and trying to increase their morale. But some attendees had other ideas, like this student:

“A senior at Garfield High shared how they saw a person die from gun violence on Sunday, and that police presence seems to be ineffective. They asked how or if the city works with mental health services in schools, because teachers are taking on the mental health load of students and adding more police officers doesn’t accomplish much on the mental health aspect.”

Apparently SPD had both enough staffing and enough morale to conduct inspections at four LGBTQ+ bars and clubs last weekend. Officers told managers they observed lewd conduct violations because a few people were wearing jockstraps and they saw a bartender’s nipple. After public outcry, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board said they would suspend enforcement of its lewd conduct rule.

House Our Neighbors will be holding a press conference on the morning of Tuesday, February 6 to announce a ballot initiative to raise new progressive revenue to fund the Seattle Social Housing Developer.

Finally, in a nice catch of rhetoric shift, David Kroman noted that City Hall is now calling the JumpStart tax the PET, or payroll expense tax. The name JumpStart is very aligned with the much discussed JumpStart spending plan memorialized legislatively, which allocates funding as follows: 62% affordable housing, 15% small business, 9% Green New Deal, and 9% Equitable Development Initiative. There has been speculation the Mayor might push for an end to the JumpStart spending plan in the 2025 budget. 

King County News:

Renton is currently voting in a special election to determine whether the minimum wage will be raised. Ballots have been sent out, and voting ends on February 13.

Executive Dow Constantine announced his plan going forward to ultimately shut down King County’s youth jail. He originally promised to close the youth jail by 2025, but his new plan both definitively nixes this timeline and doesn’t present a new proposed closure date. More on this soon.

WA State Legislature:

HB 1062, which would prohibit the use of deception in interrogation, had a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee yesterday. You can read more about this bill here.

You can read here about the status of various bills now that we’ve passed the first cut-off date. One noteworthy survivor is Rep. Dariya Farivar’s HB 1994, which would allow some misdemeanor cases to be dismissed if a defendant meets conditions set by the judge. HB 2331, which would stave off school book bans based on discrimination, also survived, as did HB 1513, a bill reducing low level traffic stops.

Recent Headlines: