May 2024

Advocates Oppose New Juvenile Solitary Confinement Legislation in King County

Seattle News:

Another lawsuit has been filed against SPD Chief Adrian Diaz, this time by SPD Captain Eric Greening, who is alleging Diaz discriminated against women and people of color. Greening is the sixth SPD employee to file a suit against Diaz in the last four and a half months. This count does not include the lawsuit filed by Officer “Cookie” Boudin against the department last November, also alleging racial and gender discrimination. 

SPD Officer Daniel Auderer, the SPOG VP who was caught on body cam footage mocking the death of Jaahnavi Kandula, finally had his Loudermill hearing last Thursday. This was the last necessary step before Chief Adrian Diaz announces his disciplinary decision, which he must do within three weeks of the hearing. It is unclear if the timing of this hearing will affect Auderer’s receipt of the backpay negotiated in the new SPOG contract should the Chief decide to fire him. 

Gennette Cordova wrote an op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald about the continued problem of violent and racist policing in the U.S. I suggest reading the whole thing, but here is a taste:

“Due to a massive hole in our budget, our entire city is plagued by a spending freeze and, in many departments, significant cuts — except for the police. Not only does their budget continue to grow but, this week, the council will vote on paying Seattle Police officers $96 million in back pay and raises, on top of their $400 million budget, while adding zero accountability measures.

As we approach the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, let this serve as a reminder that the pervasive problems with policing, and the issues that arise from the systemic defunding of social programs, that were all highlighted four years ago — are now worse. If making our communities, and our country as a whole, safer is a priority for you, we must renew the fight that so many left behind in 2020.”

The SPD recruitment bill passed Full Council this week with two amendments, one that requires more reporting on the 30×30 Initiative to recruit women officers and one that adds childcare provisions. The vote was unanimous, although Councilmembers Woo and Strauss were not present. The continued push to recruit women officers given the 30×30 report last year saying current women officers wouldn’t recommend working for SPD, as well as so many recent lawsuits alleging sexual discrimination, is concerning. 

Another women died at the SCORE jail this March, raising the total death tally for the jail to 5 individuals in a period of a little over a year, which is quite high. SCORE has still to file 2 of the 4 reports required for the previous deaths. Rumors continue that the Seattle City Council and Mayor are considering a contract with SCORE for booking low-level misdemeanors that the King County Jail currently won’t book. Another possibility on the table is a contract with the Issaquah City Jail. As PubliCola reported, at least 2 people died at that jail last year. 

There was a court ruling on May 10 regarding a group of protesters arrested in early 2021 for writing in chalk on the barrier around the SPD East Precinct, after which they were booked into the King County Jail counter to the currently standing booking restrictions. In the case of Tucson et al v. City of Seattle et al, the judge found that the decision to book the protestors was due to “City policy or practice to discriminate against anti-police protestors.” The judge further denied qualified immunity to the nine SPD officers named in the suit.

At next week’s Public Safety committee meeting, councilmembers are expected to receive an overview of the 30×30 Initiative and SPD’s latest 2024 Staffing and Performance Metrics report. Not on the agenda is further discussion of the Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) legislation. The Community Police Commission (CPC) said in its latest newsletter that Councilmember Bob Kettle is seeking feedback on the ALPR proposal. Here’s one quick way to send that feedback.

King County News:

At their Law and Justice committee meeting this week, King County councilmembers held a discussion on proposed legislation to modify the definition of solitary confinement for juveniles. This legislation was first discussed back in the fall with the stated purpose of of being able to provide one-on-one programming to juveniles in detention, but it was put on hold due to some legal questions. Now it’s back on the docket, and the ACLU Washington, the King County Department of Public Defense, Team Child, and Choose 180 all turned up to speak against the new legislation. 

Chief among their concerns are the many exemptions this legislation would put in place that could extend the current 4-hour limit on juvenile isolation, which is currently the main protection for youth. Other concerns are a lack of time restrictions for one-on-one programming, which has the potential for abuse, and the lack of language prohibiting solitary confinement for juveniles due to lack of staff, as the Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center (CCFJC) has been struggling with staffing along with the King County Jail. King County Public Defender Anita Khandelwal commented that the ordinance banning juvenile solitary confinement has been “chronically violated over the last several years.” 

She continued, “Just this past week, one of our clients advised her attorney that she and the other girls only got out of their cells for a normal amount of time twice out of the eleven days she’d been in custody.”

Councilmember Claudia Balducci said she supports a ban on isolation in juvenile detention, but that the amount of violence in the facility has been increasing the last couple of years, the vast majority of which are youth assaulting other youth. She spoke of the need to protect the youth in the County’s care from being assaulted by others. She acknowledged that restrictive housing being used due to staffing issues is a problem.

The legislation would also allow a person alleging to have been injured by a violation of the county’s solitary confinement policies to recover reasonable litigation costs and make ongoing independent monitoring and reporting of the facility permanent. 

The Law and Justice committee normally meets once per month on the fourth Wednesday, so unless an extra meeting is added to the schedule, the earliest this legislation would be up for discussion and possible vote would be June 26. 

Washington State News:

We have news of how much was paid in the new Washington state capital gains tax for 2023: $433 million, down from $786 million paid last year, which was the first year of the new tax. As KUOW reported:The top 10 payments accounted for $142 million this year compared to $394 million last year.” This volatility is particularly interesting as one of the most mentioned progressive revenue options for Seattle is a city-wide version of this tax. 

Recent Headlines:

 

Advocates Oppose New Juvenile Solitary Confinement Legislation in King County Read More »

Homelessness up 23% while Seattle plans to cut funding for homelessness by 19%

Seattle News:

The new interim SPOG contract passed City Council on Tuesday with a 7-1 vote, Councilmember Tammy Morales being the only CM opposed. Mayor Bruce Harrell signed the legislation soon thereafter. You can read more about it in my article here. You can read about some of the SPD officers who will be receiving large backpay payments here.

Officer Kevin Dave, who hit and killed Jaahnavi Kandula last year, was issued a traffic citation by the Seattle Municipal Court. Dave was required to pay a $5k fine by May 13, but as of the evening of May 14, he hadn’t yet paid. If he continues to fail to pay the fine, he could have his driver’s license revoked.

At the Public Safety committee meeting this week, councilmembers discussed the bill to approve the expansion of SPD’s automatic license plate readers (ALPRs). SPD wants to include these ALPRs in all existing patrol vehicle dash cameras, which would cost about $280k per year. Councilmembers expressed concern about the current data retention period as well as harms this technology could cause to people seeking reproductive healthcare. The legislation has not yet come to a committee vote, but may do so as early as May 28. 

At the Select Budget committee meeting on Wednesday, councilmembers heard presentations on the General Fund Financial Plan Update and the JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax. The budget deficit for 2025 has grown once more, from $241 million to $258 million, due to settled labor contract costs exceeding planning estimates, Councilmember Rob Saka expressed some reluctance to use the JumpStart tax to fill in the General Fund deficit, and other councilmembers also expressed interest in staying true to the original purpose of the tax, which was codified in the JumpStart spending plan that allocates money to affordable housing, green new deal investments, equitable development, and small businesses. They were also concerned about the tax’s potential volatility when considering using it as a permanent General Fund fix. 

Ballard Food Bank’s 2023 annual report was recently released, and it showed the number of household shopping visits and deliveries in 2023 was more than double the number in 2019.  Emergency financial assistance in 2023 was 4 times what it was in 2021.  

KUOW uncovered the secret donor behind the kid playground at Denny Blaine Park that would have potentially displaced the nude beach that is currently located there. Wealthy resident Stuart Sloan, who lives near the park, texted Mayor Bruce Harrell directly to complain about the park and offered to foot at least part of the bill for the proposed playground. As KUOW reported, “The playground plans showcase how the ultra-wealthy can exert influence in Seattle city government, and how the city’s policy of accepting anonymous gifts allows it to keep contributors secret.”

On Homelessness in the Region:

The 2024 King County Point-In-Time count was released this week, and it showed that 16,385 individuals on any given night in King County are experiencing homelessness. This number has increased 23% from the same estimate done in 2022, and is the largest number ever found in these reports. Homelessness in King County continues to impact communities of color disproportionately, with 19% of those unhoused identifying as Black and 7% as Indigenous while only 6% of King County’s total population identifies as Black and only 1% identifies as Indigenous, although there is a possibility that the disparity for Indigenous communities is even worse than these numbers due to counting methods.

As The Seattle Times reports, this news comes at a time when Seattle has asked the King County Regional Homelessness Authority to cut its funding ask for 2025: “The current proposed budget would eliminate hundreds of shelter beds, among other services, which are often used to move people from the street and get them ready for permanent housing.”

A more detailed article from The Seattle Times elucidates that the net loss for 2024 would be $21 million, which is about a 19% decrease. This would cut “about 300 emergency shelter beds, a 125-bed shelter for Black men in the Central District, homelessness diversion funding for 265 households, and a reduction in behavioral health services or beds at tiny home villages.”

The article quotes Alison Eisinger, the executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness: “I defy you to find me one person in the city of Seattle who thinks that reducing the number of shelter beds available in this city is the right move,” she said.

Recent Headlines:

Homelessness up 23% while Seattle plans to cut funding for homelessness by 19% Read More »

Mayor Refuses to Acknowledge the Clear Roadmap of How Police Accountability Can be Improved in the SPOG Contract

Seattle News:

Mayor Bruce Harrell recently sat down for an interview with Cascade PBS and spoke at length about issues relating to public safety. The whole thing is worth a read, but I do want to call out one thing he implies, that people asking for more accountability in SPD aren’t being specific: “So rather than people saying nebulous claims that we want more accountability, tell me specifically.”

Police accountability advocates in Seattle have in fact been incredibly specific, even in the face of really technical issues that can be fairly opaque. For example, asking for the ability to implement the 2017 Accountability Ordinance is a very specific demand, and the details of what that would take have been laid out many times by many people and organizations. People Power Washington sent an incredibly detailed letter in 2022 laying out exactly what accountability improvements Seattle needs to make, a letter that has been circulated widely to the Mayor’s Office, last year’s City Council, this year’s City Council, and the OPA, among others. It is incredibly disingenuous for Harrell to say people are “saying nebulous claims” of wanting more accountability. There is nothing nebulous about what people are asking for.

Speaking of Mayor Harrell, his office announced a shakeup of staff this week. Budget Director Julie Dingley has resigned and her last day will be Friday, May 17. As a reminder, the Mayor usually presents the proposed budget the last week of September, so this is interesting timing for the resignation of the person in charge of preparing said proposed budget, particularly considering the looming $241 million budget deficit. 

A new hire is Natalie Walton-Anderson as the Mayor’s new director of public safety. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Walton-Anderson recently left her job at the City Attorney’s Office as the Criminal Division Chief. During her time at the City Attorney’s Office, she wrote the infamous memo laying out the office’s new policy of filing an affidavit of prejudice on Seattle Municipal Court Judge Pooja Vaddadi for all criminal cases. She announced her departure soon after the mistrial of the Stop the Sweeps protester who was tried for attempting to stop the police from moving an RV while its owner obtained a spare tire in order to move it herself. 

PubliCola reported: “Walton-Anderson was known for aggressively filing charges in drug-related cases that would ordinarily get channeled into the city’s pre-booking diversion program, LEAD, and Davison credited her with instituting the “high-utilizer initiative,” which targets people accused of multiple misdemeanor offenses for more punitive approaches than other defendants.”

And on the accountability front, the new SPOG contract, which will only cover from 2021-2023, will receive its final Council vote at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 14 at 2pm, skipping a committee hearing. Per the Central Staff memo, the contract will cost the city $96 million this year, and will add around $40 million per year to the SPD budget starting in 2025. As has been previously reported, the city has negotiated for very few accountability improvements in exchange. If you would like to email your councilmembers or prepare a public comment, there is more information here.

The Governance, Accountability, and Economic Development committee met on Thursday and voted unanimously to pass the SPD officer recruitment bill out of committee. It will likely receive a full Council vote on May 21. A few amendments were added, including one walked on by Councilmember Rob Saka and written by Councilmember Tammy Morales (who does not sit on this committee) that will require more reporting from SPD on how they’re doing with the 30×30 initiative that has to do with hiring women officers. This is in the wake of several women officers coming forward in the last six months alleging sexual discrimination and harassment.

Meanwhile, the Council has been signaling for some months its interest in finding another jail with which to contract due to the King County Jail’s booking restrictions for low-level non-violent misdemeanor crimes, including possibly the SCORE jail in Des Moines. Not only did the SCORE jail experience a large number of inmate deaths last year, but it is inconvenient for public defenders, and doesn’t provide the same access to basic things like video calls that work, privacy for an attorney to speak with their client, and ability to get people to their court appearances. 

The Stranger reported that the King County Public Defender’s union SEIU 925 said if Seattle uses SCORE, it could obstruct defendants’ constitutional right to an attorney. It could also extend case times. The Stranger continued in its usual trenchant fashion:

Sending someone to SCORE for a crime such as criminal trespass—which could mean that an unhoused person tried one too many times to use the bathroom at a grocery store—also seems like a waste of resources. SPD officers would have to drive that person about 16 miles to Des Moines, book them into SCORE, then drive 16 miles back, not to mention all the changes Seattle Municipal Court would need to make, either transporting more defendants or setting up video only appearances for people in jail. All that, so SPD could focus less on crimes with a real public safety risk, and instead boost officers “morale” by throwing people in jail for low-level crimes.”

This week Mayor Harrell announced the organizations who will receive $7 million in capital funds for facility improvements to provide post-overdose care, opioid medication delivery, and case management services. The Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) will receive $5.65 million, and Evergreen Treatment Center will receive $1.35 million, subject to federal approval. DESC will operate a post-overdose stabilization center on Third Avenue, with renovations to begin by quarter 1 of 2025. They will pilot services from their Crisis Solutions Center in the CID starting in June. Evergreen Treatment Center will launch a new mobile clinic this summer.

It is the end of filing week! I sat down for an interview with Alexis Mercedes Rinck, who is running for the City Council at-large seat this November. It also seems that Shaun Scott, who is running to be a state representative for the 43rd LD position 2, now has a challenger in Andrea Suarez, the founder of We Heart Seattle. Suarez first filed for position 1 in the 43rd LD against Nicole Macri, but it turned out she accidentally filed for the wrong position.

Recent Headlines:

 

Mayor Refuses to Acknowledge the Clear Roadmap of How Police Accountability Can be Improved in the SPOG Contract Read More »

A Disappointing SPOG Contract, Ignoring Community’s Interest in Accountabilty, Takes Another Step Forward

Seattle News:

Mayor Bruce Harrell announced legislation to move forward the new SPOG contract, previously discussed here. The new agreement, which gives SPOG members a total retroactive pay raise of 23%, only covers up until the end of 2023, which makes it “partial.” Negotiations for the 2024 contract are ongoing and currently in mediation. It is worth noting that if mediation fails, the next step would be to go to interest arbitration, the decision of which would be binding for both parties. 

For the most starry-eyed perspective of what this contract accomplishes, you can read the city’s press release, but it’s important to remember that this new contract does not even meet the minimum bar of achieving the 2017 Accountability Ordinance. Many advocates would like to see accountability pushed beyond an ordinance passed 7 years ago. The contract needs to be passed by City Council in order to be finalized.

I wrote a piece covering the current conversation related to SPD police officer recruitment and standards. I cover Councilmember Sara Nelson’s legislation asking to switch the officer candidate entrance exam, concerns with SPD’s backgrounding, and SPD cultural problems, including the recently filed tort claim by four female SPD officers alleging sexual harassment and discrimination. I also point out that Mayor Bruce Harrell’s recent move to hire an independent investigation firm to look into these charges comes an entire 7 months after the 30×30 report was released that uncovered these issues, and only after three separate law suits and tort claims that all allege sexual discrimination. 

The Stranger reported that “Council Member Tanya Woo let it slip last night that Public Safety Chair Bob Kettle and the City Attorney are “looking into possibly taking away the contract with King County and trying to have a contract with SCORE, private jails…” While SCORE isn’t technically a private jail, it does have serious safety concerns and would be more costly than the King County Jail, which Seattle currently uses. Whether private jails are also being looked into or Woo simply misspoke is unclear. 

In a strange display at Monday’s Council Briefing, Councilmember Cathy Moore appeared to be close to a temper tantrum over alleged uncollegial conduct from colleague Councilmember Tammy Morales after Moore voted against Morales’s Connected Communities legislation last week. The legislation would have made it easier to build more affordable housing in the city. You can watch her speech here. Thus far no journalist has been able to uncover any evidence that Morales actually said anything inflammatory. While this doesn’t have anything to do with public safety per say, it is a glimpse into a Council that continues to say bizarre things and occasionally throw facts to the wind. 

As we prepare for budget discussions this fall, it’s important to have an understanding of where the large ($240 million and growing) deficit came from. A new five-year analysis shows that around 79% of budget growth during that time came from keeping up with inflation, including increasing wages for city workers. New and expanded programs supported by the JumpStart tax accounted for 19%. 

As The Seattle Times reported, other budgetary issues have included increased legal claims against the city (much stemming from SPD’s behavior in 2020), increasing insurance costs, and costly technology upgrades.

SPD Officer Daniel Auderer, Vice President of SPOG whose claim to fame is laughing at Jaahnavi Kandula’s death, will be representing SPD at a national traffic safety conference in August in Washington DC. Taxpayers will undoubtedly be footing the expense for this trip.

Payments for the retroactive pay raise for the Coalition of City Unions, previously thought to be delayed until fall, will be given in July instead. The timeline of retroactive pay for SPOG members won’t be decided until after the City Council vote on the new contract.

SPD has ended its use of the experimental BolaWrap, a lasso-like device that they touted for using in situations where people in crisis had knives. In a report, SPD reported using the device only 3 times in 2023, and in one of these incidents the technology failed spectacularly. As The Stranger reports:

In 2021, the City agreed to restore more than $4 million for SPD’s discretionary spending fund in part based on the justification that SPD needed the money to invest in BolaWrap technology. The decision seemed rooted in the idea that new technologies can stop police violence. But cops often ignore less-lethal options in favor of their guns. In the SPD cases where they killed Caver, Hayden, and Charleena Lyles, no officer used the less lethal tools that SPD already equipped them with, such as Tasers, pepper spray, a baton, or a shield. Still, the City thought the BolaWrap, already a ridiculous concept for a device, would suddenly do the trick.”

King County News:

I wrote an article describing the new guaranteed basic income (GBI) program run by the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, starting in fall of 2022. While this program benefited people from many walks of life, I focused my article on two examples of folks receiving the GBI benefit who were justice-impacted and readjusting to life outside of prison. GBI programs like these continue to show large benefits, both for their recipients and for society as a whole. 

If you’re interested in the work around recommendations regarding the King County youth jail, there will be an informational webinar on Thursday, May 23 from 6-7pm. The Care & Closure Advisory Committee is also reconvening to discuss their two recommendations that were not unanimous: the proposed respite and receiving center and short-term respite housing. Their first meeting will be on Monday, June 3rd at 4pm.

Recent Headlines:

A Disappointing SPOG Contract, Ignoring Community’s Interest in Accountabilty, Takes Another Step Forward Read More »