Author name: Amy Sundberg

2024 Has Not Been Kind to Seattle Protesters Thus Far

Lots to cover from the last two weeks! Let’s get right into it. 

Seattle News:

First off, King County prosecutors declined to prosecute SPD Officer Kevin Dave, who ran over pedestrian Jaahnavi Kandula going 74 mph in a 25 mph zone last year, killing her. The case was referred by SPD as a felony traffic case last summer, and now the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has said they would be unable to prove felony charges beyond a reasonable doubt. The Stranger reported thatDave joined the department in 2019 and received a hiring bonus. He previously had his Arizona driver’s license suspended in 2018 for unpaid traffic fines and failure to appear in court, according to reporting from DivestSPD.” The OPA will now re-start their own investigation of Dave: “the formal complaint against Dave accuses him of behaving unprofessionally and violating the emergency driving policy, among other potential violations.”

This week, six protesters were arrested at the full City Council meeting on Tuesday. Council President Sara Nelson limited public comment to 20 minutes, in spite of there being many present to ask for help funding housing for asylum seekers currently camping outside a Tukwila church. CP Nelson called for security to clear the room, and then when protestors continued to bang on windows from outside, CM Cathy Moore asked for a police presence to arrest the individuals. You can read more about her remarks here.

As a result, six protesters were arrested and booked into the King County Jail, where they were each required to post $1000 for bail. Given the current booking restrictions at the jail, this is particularly noteworthy. This follows the case pursued by the Seattle City Attorney brought to trial about the Stop the Sweeps protester who tried to prevent an RV from being towed for a few minutes while its owner obtained a spare tire. 

Also taking place this week was the “final” hearing on the three new surveillance technologies being proposed for SPD: AGLS, CCTV, and RRTC software. Seattle Solidarity Budget submitted a letter opposed to these technologies signed by over 70 community organizations and 1,200 individuals. At the end of this hearing, it was announced the public comment period for these technologies was being extended until March 22. You can fill out feedback forms about these technologies here, and you can find talking points to help you here. You can also read more about the final public hearing here.

In accountability news, the two SPD officers who waited 20 minutes to respond to a shooting call, first reported on by DivestSPD, were given a day off without pay as a consequence. The SPD communications office has been experiencing turmoil lately; since its head, Lt. John O’Neil was appointed in August 2022, the division has experienced turnover of “more than 100 percent,” per Publicola, and an office that previously had 3 men and 3 women is now all men, with one of the women leaving SPD and the other two accepting demotions of rank and now working in patrol.

SPD Officer Mark Rawlins is being investigated by the OPA after throwing a handcuffed 58-year-old Black man onto the ground, an action that was reported by King County Jail supervisors. Rawlins has been investigated by the OPA in 8 different cases since he joined SPD in 2017.

Washington State News:

A bill might be passing the legislature this session that would allow DACA recipients to work as police officers and firefighters. Many supporters of this legislation say it would help hire more police officers.

This week the legislature is also looking into significantly reducing the rules around police pursuits, even though studies show these sorts of chases have been killing 2 people per day in the US the last few years. The new initiative would allow police to start a car chase if they had any reason to believe the person violated any law, which could include traffic infractions and other low-level, non-violent offenses (or no offense at all). This represents a significant rollback of reform initiated in previous sessions.

The Seattle Times ran an in-depth piece examining the current crisis of public defenders in Washington State. There aren’t enough public defenders, which causes a vicious cycle of absurd case loads, burnout, and long wait times to receive free legal advice. 

Recent Headlines:

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:

 

Seattle’s 2020 Violent Police Response Worse Than Responses in Any Democratic Country

Seattle News:

First off, the City of Seattle settled in an excessive force lawsuit involving 50 protesters who were injured during the summer of 2020, paying them $10 million. In addition, the City spent around $30 million on legal costs defending the case. And in a year when the City is facing a huge budget deficit to boot! I covered this story here at the Urbanist. A particularly shocking quote:

Dr. Clifford Stott, an expert hired by the City to analyze the early days of the protests, said he had not seen that level of aggressive violent police response against protesters in any democratic state.”

The law firm who represented the plaintiffs says they’d like to release the hundreds of hours of depositions they took from figures such as former Mayor Durkan, former Chief Best, current Chief Diaz, and a bunch of other police. If they’re able to make good on this promise, we might see some further interesting information emerge.

Today the closing arguments were delivered in the case against the Stop the Sweeps protester currently being tried at Seattle Municipal Court. The protester is being charged with misdemeanor obstruction in the sort of case that usually doesn’t make it to trial. The protestor allegedly tried to prevent an RV from being towed by standing on its roof while a spare tire was being obtained. The delay was only 12 minutes. 

This follows what might be becoming a disturbing national trend of an attempt to criminalize people for helping other people, either by making sure their home doesn’t get towed or by trying to give them food. You can see Ashley Nerbovig’s live tweets at the trial today here. We are now awaiting a verdict.

Also this week, the OPA found that the remarks of Officer Daniel Auderer about the death of student Jaahnavi Kandula, which took place about a year ago, were “inhumane,” “biased,” and “callous.” A disciplinary hearing was supposed to be held this Tuesday, and we are now waiting for Chief Diaz to announce his decision as to what discipline Officer Auderer will receive. 

The officer who struck and killed Jaanavi Kandula with his vehicle, Kevin Dave, was fired from the Tucson Police Department in 2013. Meanwhile, as reported in Publicola

SPD has not released information about what discipline, if any, Dave has received, and the King County Prosecutor’s Office has not revealed whether it will prosecute him.”

In what many (including myself) were calling a foregone conclusion, the City Council voted 5-3 to appoint losing D2 candidate Tanya Woo to the open city-wide seat on the Council. 

And Mayor Harrell announced the City is facing even more significant fiscal challenges now than was forecast a mere few months ago and is therefore instituting a hiring freeze. The hiring freeze will impact almost all city departments, except for–you guessed it!–the Seattle Police Department. The Seattle Fire Department and the CARE department will also be exempt from the hiring freeze. The city would have likely hired 800-900 regular employees and over 1,000 temporary employees in 2024. 

This move illustrates the human impact of austerity in the city. More jobs are likely to be lost to address the $229 million deficit for 2025, and basic city services are likely to be impacted. 

King County News:

King County held its first Law and Justice committee meeting of the year this week, now chaired by new CM Jorge Barón. The committee heard a presentation about the County’s gun violence prevention efforts, which are partially funded by American Rescue Plan dollars that run out at the end of the year. Given the program only has a $13 million budget over the biennium (which means $6.5 million per year), this isn’t perhaps an insurmountable gap. My understanding has been that part of this $6.5 million is already being covered by the City of Seattle. In fact, this highlights how gun violence prevention programs are already underfunded in our region and how much they urgently need further investment. 

You can look at the list of current legislation in process that is likely to be heard by this committee in 2024. 

King County also held its first Budget & Fiscal Management committee meeting of the year this week. The committee is now chaired by CM Girmay Zahilay. You can read my live tweets here. It provided a good overview of the King County budget process.

The most important point to highlight is that if you want to share your budget input and priorities, you should reach out to departments and councilmembers very soon. The committee will pass a budget priorities motion in March or April.

WA State News:

It’s hard to believe that we’re already at the end of Week 3 of this legislative session. The first cut-off date is Wednesday, January 31, so we’re going to see a lot of dead bills next week.

A companion GBI bill has now been introduced in the Senate and will receive a hearing on Tuesday, January 30 at 10:30am. You can sign in PRO for the bill now. 

Recent Headlines:

 

Tacoma Pays $3 Million to the 3 Cops who Killed Manuel Ellis

Seattle News:

First off, I have a new piece in The Urbanist all about what to look for in the new SPOG contract we’re expecting to see sometime this year. New information about the Executive’s bargaining priorities was recently made public in a report from the Court Monitor, and I discuss that as well as explaining the various accountability provisions that are currently missing from the contract and referencing other considerations to take into account when analyzing and understanding the contract.

We now know the new CM members of the Labor Relations Policy Committee: CMs Nelson, Rivera, Kettle, Moore, and Strauss. These CMs will be able to potentially set new bargaining parameters with SPOG. If they decide to set new parameters that are more favorable to SPOG, this could expedite the negotiation process and cause us to see a new potential contract sooner. More favorable parameters could include increased compensation of various kinds and/or decreased accountability measures. 

Meanwhile, the process to select the vacant CM seat on the City Council continues. The Council selected 8 finalists on Friday. The leading contender is Tanya Woo, who ran for the D2 seat in the most recent election. Insiders were saying at one point she had six of the eight votes for the seat. 

However, Vivan Song, a current member of the Seattle School Board, was selected by CM Strauss and is also in the running. She was just endorsed by the MLK Labor Council. 

Business interests and the Mayor’s Office seem to be aligning behind Tanya Woo. As Publicola reported, Tim Ceis, an insider at City Hall, emailed supporters of the independent expenditure campaigns that funded the moderate slate that had so much election success last November, telling them that said election success entitles them to a say about the vacant seat, saying, “I don’t believe all of you worked so hard and gave so much to let unions and the left decide who gets this seat.”

Much speculation abounds about who will run for the seat this November. You can read more analysis on the current politics at play here.

A public forum for the 8 candidates will be held on Thursday, January 18 from 5:30-7:30pm at City Hall and also streaming on the Seattle Channel. The City Council chose the Seattle CityClub to host the event, passing over the Transit Riders Union. The final vote on the appointment will be on Tuesday, January 23.

January 23 is also the anniversary of the death of Jaahnavi Kandula. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has still not publicly stated whether they will be filing criminal charges against the officer who hit and killed Kandula with his vehicle. The complaint against Daniel Auderer, the SPOG vice president and SPD officer who was recorded laughing about Kandula’s death, is also still pending

PROTEC-17, which has over 2,700 members in the City of Seattle, has reached a tentative agreement with the City that will cover 2023-2026. They will receive a 5% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2023, a 4.5% COLA for 2024, and for 2025 and 2026 they’ll receive a COLA tied to the local consumer price index between 2-4%. 

Tacoma News:

The news broke this week that in an internal Tacoma Police Department (TPD) investigation, the three Tacoma police officers involved in the killing of Manuel Ellis were cleared of violating rules and using excessive force, with the exception of one officer failing to be courteous. The officers will be paid $500k each to leave their employment with TPD voluntarily. They were also paid a cumulative $1.5 million in pay (and accrued a lot of vacation days to boot) while being on leave since June 2020. This means they each received around $1 million for the last three and a half years while doing no work. And because they were cleared of violating any rules, they could theoretically be hired elsewhere as police officers.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is opening a federal review of the legal case against the three officers. As The Seattle Times reports: “It’s not clear from the U.S. attorney’s limited statement about the review whether it will be confined to the actions of the three officers, or more broadly examine the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department’s initial investigation of Ellis’ death, or possibly the court case.”

At the Tacoma City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, councilmembers discussed a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Tacoma Police Union Local #6. Wages are being increased 6.5% in 2024, 7% in 2025, and in 2026 they will be increased 100% of the local consumer price index to fall between 1-5%, with an additional guarantee of remaining the current first place ranking in the market. 

The Body Worn Camera (BWC) and In-Car Video policy is being removed from the CBA and placed in the police manual. Language has been removed from the CBA that required the City to delay compelled statements until after criminal investigations and charges are complete.

One of the most interesting changes is that officers charged with crimes that, if sustained, would cause them to lose their commission, will be placed on an investigative suspension without pay. This includes felonies, gross misdemeanor domestic violence charges, or an offense with sexual motivation. 

Advocates are criticizing the new CBA, saying it doesn’t contain anything having to do with police oversight or conditions for firing police. 

WA State News:

The state legislative session continues!
You can watch the hearing for SHB 1045, the bill to establish a basic income pilot program, here. Its companion bill, SB 6196, has been introduced in the Senate, and a hearing is expected sometime around the end of the month. 

You can sign in PRO for SB 5975, a bill that would allow the Housing Trust Fund to provide loans and grants to social housing. The deadline is 9:30am on Friday, 1/19.

You can sign in PRO for HB 2065, a bill that would make last year’s legislation to cease using juvenile points in sentencing retroactive.

Three accountability bills are currently moving through the House:

  • HB 1445 would give the attorney general the right to investigate and sue law enforcement departments for systemic discriminatory practices.
  • HB 1579 would establish an independent prosecutor for pursuing police misconduct cases who is free from the conflict of interest inherent for County Prosecutors, who work closely with law enforcement.
  • HB 2027 would close a loophole to make sure all law enforcement personnel are subject to the same certification, background checks, and training requirements. 

Five gun control laws are currently being discussed in session. You can read more about each of the five proposed bills in the second half of this newsletter.

The Washington Observer also discusses HB 1479 at length, which deals with student confinement and isolation. I highly recommend reading this piece to learn more about this issue.

Recent Headlines:

Washington State Has 4th HighestJail Death Rate in the US

Seattle News:

As one of her first acts as Council President, Sara Nelson has fired Central Staff Director Esther Handy. In her place will be Ben Noble, a denizen of Central Staff from the days of Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess. Noble most recently served as the Mayor’s Budget Director and then the Director of the Office of Economic and Revenue Forecasts. 

The Stranger has this to say about this move:

Though axing the head of central staff fits within her purview as president, Nelson’s highly atypical move flies in the face of the new council’s “good governance” messaging. Replacing a perceived progressive with a clear fiscal conservative makes a mockery of the purported objectivity of central staff.”

However, Publicola reports that Noble “is widely known for his old-school commitment to neutrality, which is one reason he has survived at the city for 23 years under a wide range of mayoral administrations and council members.” Most of the current Central Staff has not worked with Noble, who left Central Staff in 2013.

The Council’s main piece of business right now is appointing a replacement for CM Mosqueda, who holds one of the two city-wide Council seats. The Council received 72 qualified applicants. They are holding a special meeting tomorrow, 1/12, with a public comment opportunity starting at 2pm. At this meeting they will decide on the finalists for the position, as well as deciding which community organization will host the public forum that will take place sometime next week. The two organizations in the running are the Transit Riders Union and Seattle CityClub. 

The new council members are also busy hiring their staff and getting their offices in order. CM Hollingsworth of D3 has hired Anthony Derrick as her chief of staff. Derrick has served in the past as Communications Director for the City Attorney’s Office under Ann Davison and as Mayor Durkan’s press secretary. She also hired Logan Bowers as her policy director, who you might remember for his unsuccessful primary run for the City Council D3 seat in 2019.

While the Black Lives Memorial Garden in Cal Anderson Park was forcibly removed in late December, it sounds like that area’s legacy of sweeps is continuing, with another sweep occurring late in the evening of January 4. Before the removal of the garden, it had been swept 76 times

Bryan Kirschner wrote an op-ed in The Urbanist discussing the inefficiency of SPD. To understand the full thrust of his argument, I suggest reading the whole piece, but here is a sample:

If you’re seeing a pattern here, it’s that the mayor and police chief kneecapped the department’s ability to investigate serious crime in order to backfill officers handling calls that don’t require officers to handle.

We know with 100% certainty that they did not need to do this, because other police departments are already using alternative responders to handle these types of calls.”

King County News:

Choose 180 has announced a new executive director: Nneka Payne.

CM Mosqueda has been sworn in as a councilmember of King County, and she will be chairing the Health and Human Services committee. Not only does this committee oversee issues relating to affordable housing, but it also has purview over the County’s gun violence prevention programs, which reside under Public Health.

Washington State News:

A Seattle Times op-ed discusses our state’s jail fatality crisis and demands better (and independent) oversight:

What we found demonstrates that immediate action is required. Even accounting for Washington’s population growth, the Washington jail death rate nearly tripled between 2000 and 2019 — an increase 16 times that of the national average. Outpacing other states, Washington now has the fourth-highest rate of jail deaths in the nation.”

The internal investigation of the officers responsible for the death of Manual Ellis has been completed, but the release of the findings is being delayed until next Tuesday, January 16. Meetings between the officers and the police chief are scheduled to take place this Friday. This investigation will determine whether the officers in question can remain at the Tacoma Police Department.

House Bill 1994, a bill that would “allow defendants in misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor cases to request a dismissal if they complete court-ordered conditions that vary by case,” received a hearing on Tuesday. King 5 goes on to report: 

“The bill’s prime sponsor, Darya Farivar (D) 46th District, said that most people who enter the criminal justice system do so because of their disabilities, and this bill will reduce an overwhelmed prison system and reduce the rate of recidivism. 

“What this bill does is it allows our only neutral party in the courtroom to make a decision that could lead to increased success in a more meaningful way than incarceration has been proven to do in the past,” said Farivar. “This is not a blank check to anyone. This is an opportunity to be creative and to meet people where they’re at, which I think is really missing in our criminal legal systems.””

Unsurprisingly, City Attorney Ann Davison opposes this bill. 

National News:

The Guardian ran a story this week on 2023’s record number of killings by the police in the US: “Police in the US killed at least 1,232 people last year, making 2023 the deadliest year for homicides committed by law enforcement in more than a decade, according to newly released data.

On police killings vs the national homicide rate: “The record number of police killings happened in a year that saw a significant decrease in homicides, according to preliminary reports of 2023 murder rates; one analyst said the roughly 13% decrease in homicides last year appears to be the largest year-to-year drop on record, and reports have also signaled drops in other violent and property crimes.”

On disparate impacts on people of color: “In 2023, Black people were killed at a rate 2.6 times higher than white people, Mapping Police Violence found. Last year, 290 people killed by police were Black, making up 23.5% of victims, while Black Americans make up roughly 14% of the total population. Native Americans were killed at a rate 2.2 times greater than white people, and Latinos were killed at a rate 1.3 times greater.”

Recent Headlines:

 

SPD Breaks the Law about Kids’ Rights 96% of the Time

Housekeeping:

Happy New Year! I hope you have all had a great beginning to your 2024. 

Thanks to your generosity, I’m pleased to let you know that the hosting costs for Notes from the Emerald City have now been covered. Thank you so much for your continued support!

Seattle News:

First off, the OIG completed an audit on “SPD compliance with youth access to legal counsel requirements” and released it in a particularly egregious news dump the Friday before Christmas. The audit found that SPD is in compliance with the law requiring them to provide youths with access to a lawyer before interviewing them only 4% of the time

As former CM Herbold told the Seattle Times: ““This is one of the most straightforward civil rights protections we’ve enacted — police should not be able to question children until they have talked to a lawyer,” said Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who requested the audit. “That Seattle police officers were only following this law 4% of the time is very disappointing. We know it’s possible to comply with this law — nearly every law enforcement agency in Washington state appears to have done so.””

Just another example of the exceptionalism of SPD–that they are above the law as it suits them. But given this is an issue of the civil rights of CHILDREN, you’d think there would be a greater outcry.

First in her newsletter and then during the City Council’s first meeting of 2024, CM Morales stated that in 2024, the Council would be voting on a new SPOG contract. You can read more about the background of the SPOG contract, how these negotiations work, and recent developments in my article over at The Urbanist.

All the new Seattle council members have been sworn in, Sara Nelson has been elected as Council President, and committee assignments have been discussed. CM Kettle of D7 will be heading the new Public Safety committee. As Fox 13 reported, CM Kettle “has strong feelings about Seattle Police, saying he believes that it’s the best force in the entire country.” 

Guess he didn’t get the memo about children’s civil rights being violated.

Human Services has been broken away from Public Safety, being moved to the Housing and Human Services Committee, which will be chaired by CM Moore of D5. CM Strauss is going to try filling CM Mosqueda’s shoes as Finance (and Budget) Committee Chair. 

CM Morales, the most progressive CM left on this new Council, will be chairing the Land Use committee, which is crucial as Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan is due to be updated this year. This only happens once per decade, and as The Urbanist reported, acts as an “overhaul to Seattle’s overarching strategy for growth and infrastructure needs, ultimately defining the city’s land use and zoning map and laying out a 20-year growth strategy.”

We don’t yet know which council members will be serving on the LRPC. Whoever is selected will have the opportunity to change the bargaining parameters before what could be the closing stretch in the contract negotiations with SPOG.

As CM Mosqueda is leaving to serve on the King County Council, her replacement needs to be chosen. Candidates can apply through next Tuesday, after which there will be a public forum. The Council expects to vote on the replacement on Tuesday, January 23. This person will serve until a new council member is elected in November to complete CM Mosqueda’s term. CP Nelson announced that until the replacement is chosen, there will be no regular committee meetings, which basically scratches out the first three weeks of January. Not the most auspicious start for a new Council eager to prove themselves.

The Unified Care Team, which is responsible for sweeps of the unhoused in Seattle, released their report covering sweeps between July and September of 2023, and it’s not looking good. As Publicola reports: “…almost nine in ten people the UCT contacted prior to encampment sweeps did not end up in any form of shelter—a decline from the UCT’s previous report, which showed a 15 percent shelter enrollment rate.”

In lawsuit news, demoted SPD commander Hirjak, who alleged his demotion after the Pink Umbrella incident of the 2020 protests was discriminatory, settled his lawsuit: “The settlement said Hirjak would receive back wages and damages (totaling $54,814, according to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office) and $250,000 in other compensation. It said his attorney’s firm would receive $300,000 in attorney’s fees and costs.”

Meanwhile, the trial regarding the lawsuit between 5 Black university police officers and the University of Washington in which the officers alleged years of discrimination and racist comments ended with the jury awarding the officers $16 million. UW is considering an appeal, and only one of the five officers remains with the department.

King County News:

In 2023, fentanyl overdose deaths topped 1,050, which is a new record and much higher than 2022. There were close to 1,300 fatal overdoses total during the year. 

Meanwhile, the jury acquitted the three Tacoma police officers of Manual Ellis’ death on December 21. You can read the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability’s statement on the verdict here, which says in part: “This verdict shows the stark contrast of our state’s statutory duty to protect and preserve all human life with the reality of systemic, wrongful use of force by police.” 

The officers in question still face a civil suit from Ellis’ family that may be heading to trial, as well as an internal affairs investigation to determine whether they can retain their jobs at the Tacoma Police Department.

WA State Legislative Session:

This year’s state legislative session begins next week! This will be the short session that happens every other year, which is generally more concerned with policy than with projects requiring new spending. 

This year’s Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) bill in the House, HB 1045, has a hearing in the Appropriations Committee (where it stalled out last session) on Thursday, January 11 at 4pm. You can sign in PRO for the bill here and the short link to share with your networks is: https://bit.ly/PROGBI

It is expected that there will be a companion bill for GBI in the Senate this session as well, which is encouraging progress. Because it is a short session, it is unlikely these bills will make it all the way to a floor vote this year, but they are still well worth supporting as part of building momentum to an eventual vote.

Recent Headlines:

Seattle Drug User Diversion (LEAD) Will Max Out Its Capacity in Spring 2024

Year End and Looking Forward:

As this is the closing edition of this year of the newsletter, I want to extend a big thank you to all my readers. I hope you’ve found my reporting this year to be helpful in keeping you updated on what’s happening in the public safety and criminal legal spaces in Seattle, King County, and Washington State. 

Looking forward, public safety will remain front and center as an issue of interest. A short state legislative session will be beginning in January; historically short sessions tend to focus more on policy and less than on fiscal issues. We’ll have a couple new faces on the King County Council and 7 new faces on the Seattle City Council. King County and Seattle will also both face large fiscal deficits for their 2025-2026 budgets, which they’ll hammer out in the fall. We’ll also see more developments with both Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) and social housing.

I’d like to give extra thanks to those who support this work via Patreon for helping make Notes from the Emerald City possible. And I’m making a small request. Donations this year are not quite going to cover the hosting fees for the Notes from the Emerald City website. So if you find this work valuable, now would be a really great time to give a small donation to help keep things running. You can give a monthly donation via Patreon or a one-time donation via Paypal.

Thank you so much, and here’s looking forward to more reporting and learning in 2024!

Seattle News:

At the last Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting of the year (and the last presided over by Chair Lisa Herbold), LEAD gave a report on how they’re doing with the new influx of police referrals following the passage and implementation of the drug criminalization ordinance. They are only continuing to accept community referrals (meaning not from SPD) from three geographic areas: upper Third Avenue, the CID, and Rainier Beach (the latter only because King County is specifically providing funding to provide this service there). Fewer community referrals in general are being made as they are so likely to be turned down by LEAD.

LEAD is predicted to reach an absolute capacity ceiling in late April or early May of 2024. At that time, if more funding is not provided–either from the city, from the state, or from federal grants–LEAD will have to start rejecting not only community referrals but also referrals from the police. 

Lisa Daugaard, the co-executive director, also said that people are coming in at the highest level of clinical need they’ve ever seen, and that there are insufficient resources and options to offer these people. LEAD provides case managers who connect people with the services they need, but if those services are unavailable, the model cannot work as designed. One particular area where more service is needed is wound care as people are losing their limbs, and there aren’t resources to address this that are mobile.

In accountability news, an arbitrator has ruled that a former SPD officer who was fired for “using excessive force and violating the department’s de-escalation policies” was done so unlawfully and should at most have been suspended without pay for 60 days. Because she was fired back in 2017, the arbitrator didn’t order that she be given back her job, but he did order that she receive over $600k in backpay.

A new firefighters contract has been announced, which the local firefighters ratified with an 86% vote. This contract covers the period between December 21, 2021 and December 31, 2026 (meaning it covers two years in the past and three upcoming years). Cost of living adjustment (COLA) increases in the new contract are based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue with increase minimums and maximums that vary by year but are mostly a 2% minimum and a 4% maximum increase. The contract also includes a COLA bank that allows firefighters to bank excess cost of living increases when inflation is higher than 4%.

The back pay for the firefighters for the last two years (2022 and 2023) will cost $22.3 million. Going forward, the contract will cost an additional $21.4 million in 2024. The estimated total additional cost for the contract from 2022-2026 is $106.5 million. 

The Coalition of City Unions has also reached a tentative deal with the city. It hasn’t yet been approved, but it would provide a 5% COLA increase for 2023 and a 4.5% COLA increase for 2024. After that wage increases would be tied to the CPI for between 2-4%, just like the firefighters. 

In her wrap-up Bad Apples column for 2023, Ashley Nerbovig has this to say when summarizing the year:

And what a year for the Seattle Police Department, even aside from the OPA investigations. Barely a month into 2023, Seattle Police Officer Kevin Dave hit and killed 23-year-old college student Jaahnavi Kandula while driving nearly three times the posted speed limit. Kandula’s death led to worldwide outrage after a video surfaced of Seattle police union vice president Officer Daniel Auderer cackling and mocking Kandula on the night of her death. SPD took another hit in September when The Stranger published audio of Officer Burton Hill hurling a racial slur at his elderly Chinese neighbor. SPD faced broader criticism about racism within the department after prominent Black SPD detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin filed a discrimination lawsuit in November claiming she’d endured decades of racial and gender bias while working for SPD. Just cop things!”

King County and National News:

Prosecutors began their final arguments in the Manny Ellis trial on Monday. The jury began their deliberations on Thursday.

Meanwhile, even the New York Times is saying body worn cameras haven’t lived up to the hype

“The story demonstrates the mixed results of police-worn body cameras: Many people hoped they would help hold police officers accountable for wrongful shootings. But there has been a basic problem, as Eric Umansky found in an investigation for The Times Magazine and ProPublica: Police departments have often prevented the public from seeing the footage and failed to act when it showed wrongdoing.”

Recent Headlines:

 

SPD Sure is Excited About Increasing Surveillance in Seattle

Seattle News:

In a quick and dirty recap, Seattle City Council approved the budget on November 21, and Mayor Harrell signed it into law on December 1. The Stranger had this to say:

Last week, the Seattle City Council passed its supplemental 2023-2024 budget without any clear solutions for the looming 2025 budget shortfall but with about $385 million allocated for the Seattle Police Department (SPD), or about 24% of general funds. The Council made no mid-term adjustment to SPD’s staffing budget, despite the department failing to meet any of its staffing projections from 2023. SPD vowed to hire a record number of officers next year, and the Council allowed the department to keep all the funds for this potential influx of officers, all while other City workers continue to fight to bump their pay increase from 1% up to 2.5%.”

City Council ended up following the Mayor’s lead in not addressing the large budget gap the city will be facing in a year’s time. Yes, that’s right, no new progressive revenue options have been passed, which means next year’s budget season might get very interesting (and not in a good way).

City Council also passed the SPOG MOU on Tuesday, which I’ve written about previously and also discussed in a Hacks & Wonks podcast. The MOU passed in a 5-2 vote, with CMs Mosqueda and Morales voting against and CM Sawant and CP Juarez absent. It’s worth remembering the $8.1 million this MOU will cost the city over the next two years is NOT coming from SPD’s already bloated budget but instead is being drawn from a reserve that is meant for general labor expenses, meaning this money could have been spent on contracts for other city workers and/or to cover at least some of the large amount of backpay that is expected to be due when a new SPOG contract is agreed upon.

House our Neighbors, which ran the successful I-135 social housing initiative that passed this February, will be running a new initiative in 2024 focusing on obtaining funding for social housing in Seattle.

In participatory budgeting news, six projects were selected through the voting process and will be receiving funding over the next six months or so. One project selected will spend $2 million towards a “people not police crisis response team.” 

A timeline for adoption of the ShotSpotter (or similar) surveillance technology has been announced. The city will begin soliciting bids from technology companies by early next year. The plan remains to complete the surveillance impact report (SIR), including a racial equity analysis, in the first quarter of 2024, in the hopes of launching the use of the technology by summer. The City Council will need to vote to approve the SIR before the new tech can be deployed. 

In more surveillance news, SPD is planning to massively expand their surveillance of where people drive their cars through automatic license plate readers (ALPRs). SPD currently only has ALPRs installed in 19 SPD and parking enforcement vehicles, but this expansion would place an ALPR in all 300 vehicles in SPD’s fleet. Any data these license readers pick up would be stored for 90 days and accessible via public record request. Other states require law enforcement agencies to purge their files of license plates not connected to any crime much more rapidly (in New Hampshire, within 3 minutes). But SPD has said they cannot connect the license plate data to potential crimes within 48 hours.

Before this technology is installed in all 300 vehicles, it must go through another SIR, for which public comment is required. You can provide public comment at this site, and all comment is due tomorrow (12/8).

SPD officer and SPOG guild president Mike Solan has complained that the OPA conducting a second interview with him as the sole witness of the conversation he had with Officer Auderer regarding the death of Jaahnavi Kandula, who was hit by a patrol car driven by another SPD officer, is “union discrimination.” He claims the OPA was trying to intimidate the guild by asking for this second interview. 

Publicola published a piece on SPD’s emergency driving policy, which is vague and doesn’t specify what kind of calls justify emergency driving:

“While much of the recent debate over police driving has focused on whether or not to limit pursuits, similar risks associated with responding to emergency calls have largely slipped under the radar. Publicly available data on high speeds and risky behavior by SPD officers is virtually nonexistent.”

King County and Washington State News:

The Stranger published an op-ed giving an inside look into what happened with the bill banning solitary confinement in this last legislative session. It’s worth reading the entire piece, but I do want to call out something I found interesting at the time, namely that the bill was stymied by a large fiscal note being attached to it. The Department of Corrections claimed phasing out solitary confinement would cost the state a lot more money than continuing the status quo. This is in spite of data showing that solitary confinement is actually more expensive than housing someone in a prison’s general population:

Calculated by the Office of Financial Management using models constructed by the DOC, the note advised that reducing solitary would cost $78 million in the next fiscal period, and an additional $98 million in each of the two following fiscal periods.

These were curious numbers. The average cost of housing a person in solitary is three times higher than housing that same person in general population, $25,000 annually versus $75,000 dollars annually, according to UC Irvine professor Keramet Reiter.  

Why DOC would need a supplemental $274 million dollars to house prisoners in substantially less expensive living units has never been satisfactorily explained.”

What has also not yet been adequately explained is why the state legislature allowed a mysterious fiscal note not backed up by available data to be the deciding factor in halting a much needed bill protecting the human rights of Washington residents.

In news on juvenile solitary confinement in King County, the new ordinance has been paused as some legal issues have come up, so it will be returning to committee instead of receiving a final County Council vote.

Recent Headlines: