CPC meetings this week and a review of various state bills

Let’s take a look at what’s been happening in Washington and Seattle, shall we?

In CPC news, the CPC will be having a town hall on SPD policy changes tonight at 6pm. This community-led conversation will be about changes the Seattle Police Department is proposing regarding how officers are allowed to use force and police protests and will be live-streamed by Converge Media, which can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

The CPC will also be having their regular meeting tomorrow at 9am. I know there’s a certain significant event taking place at that same time, but if you’re interested in attending, you can use this Zoom link and you can also look at the agenda. From 10:20-10:40am, they will be “addressing current events with OPA & OIG (Plans and processes for investigating recent misconduct connected to the violence in Washington DC)” with OPA Director Andrew Myerberg. Will they be able to get many straight answers from him? Wellll, perhaps not. But it’s still worth supporting the only police accountability agency in Seattle that is fighting the good fight.

I don’t have a Twitter thread on today’s Council Briefing, but we heard from the City’s state legislature lobbying team. They spoke about the hearing I testified at last week about SB5055 and SB 5134. The presenter echoed my own feelings that overall the hearing had gone well, but that 5055 has a much better chance of moving forward than 5134, mostly because labor strongly opposes the elimination of arbitration when dealing with serious misconduct by law enforcement.

It is worth noting that the ACLU Washington supports 5134 and opposes 5055. My understanding of 5055 is that it embraces incrementalism instead of making true structural change, hence my own preference for 5134. CM Herbold asked if it might be possible to get support from stakeholders, especially labor, for certain provisions in 5134 if its elimination of arbitration was abandoned. The City’s lobbying team is also pushing for the inclusion of amendments to 5055 that would place further guardrails around the arbitration process. So we’ll see how things develop with these two bills.

Other bills of interest in the police reform/criminal justice space:

  • HB 1078, introduced last week, would make felons automatically eligible to vote once they are released from incarceration. It is important, particularly with our current broken and deeply racist criminal justice system, that we not disenfranchise citizens who are re-entering society after serving their time.
  • SB 5127, a bill prohibiting assault weapons. There are apparently some other bills limiting open carry that are also being discussed.
  • HB 1267, regarding police use of force and establishing a state-wide office to address use of deadly force, will probably have a hearing sometime next week.
  • HB 1054 addresses police tactics. This bill was first heard last year, and insiders expect amendments to be introduced that might help it get through.
  • HB 1082 and SB 5051 are companion bills addressing decertification of police officers, which would basically create a licensure system for police officers and seek, among other things, to prevent discharged officers from being able to go get a job at a different department. There were hearings for these two bills in the last few days.

A big story from the weekend was an SPD officer who refused to wear a mask while inside a local hospital ER. CM Herbold is checking with Interim Chief Diaz as to whether there’s another approach that doesn’t rely on the OPA to resolve the issue and cause corrective action, possibly involving chain-of-command becoming involved for cases of mask non-compliance.

At the next Public Safety and Human Services meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, January 26 at 9:30am, the CMs will be learning about the investment of the $3m provided by them in the summer rebalancing for community organizations with expertise in crime prevention. The additional $12m in funding from the summer rebalancing, to be focused on community capacity public safety investments, is still pending. With the veto etc. this money has still not been allocated, but they hope to be able to fund agencies by the end of the second quarter, aka by summer. This would represent a ten-month process to actually get that money out the door, which is not great given the urgent need to ramp up community organizations’ capacities.

Finally, Nikkita Oliver is teaching a course at Seattle University on policing and prison abolition this semester, and they are providing the syllabus and related materials to the community if you want to learn along with their class.