License Plate Reader Expansion Moves Forward in Seattle; if Approved, Will Represent the Largest Deployment of the Technology in Washington State

Seattle News:

At the public safety meeting on Tuesday, councilmembers voted to pass the legislation to greatly expand license plate readers (ALPRs) out of committee, with Councilmember Moore abstaining. In a blast from the past, I live tweeted much of that agenda item of the meeting

The legislation will now head to full Council for a final vote. CM Moore indicated she would be putting forward separate legislation that would limit the license plate data storage to 48 hours. As the legislation currently stands, SPD would retain the data for 90 days, which would be a reasonable timeframe for outside entities to subpoena for the data from Axon, who will be storing the data. It is unclear how much support this legislation will garner from her colleagues.

One of the more bizarre moments of the meeting was when Chair Bob Kettle stated that if there were going to be any privacy problems with the license plate data, mainstream media such as the LA Times, Seattle Times, New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN would have reported on it. Data provided by the ACLU and UW appeared to be unacceptable. This seems to indicate a fundamental misunderstanding about how the mainstream media and university research operate. 

He also stated Seattle has the best accountability system in the country, which is a bold thing to say given this very system has been crippled since its founding by the SPOG contract.

Andrew Engelson of PubliCola conducted an interview with new interim Chief of SPD Sue Rahr last week. Some key points:

  • Rahr said it breaks her heart that SPD officers don’t feel they’re being embraced by the community: “The officers were—I don’t know how to describe it. I don’t want to say hurt, that sounds a little bit melodramatic. But they want to work with the community and they feel like the community is rejecting them.”
  • She said she wasn’t making command staff changes right now, but would make them if she felt it necessary. She didn’t appear to hold much credence for accusations that command staff were retaliating against officers or weaponizing OPA complaints.
  • She said that because we live in a sexist society, of course our police department is sexist, but didn’t acknowledge any particular issues that might make police departments more susceptible to misogyny than any other institution. She said she wants to focus on the staffing crisis.
  • She doesn’t know what her decisions regarding Officers Auderer and Dave will be, and she said she hasn’t read the reports yet.
  • She said she would support a city contract with another jail (besides King County Jail) if that’s what’s needed to allow for booking of minor misdemeanors that officers feel are necessary.

The death of the student shot at Garfield High School last week, Amarr Murphy-Paine, has rocked the community. There will be a Unity Walk this Thursday at 6pm starting at Jimi Hendrix Park and ending at Garfield High, organized by Pastor Lemuel Charleston and Apostle James Sears. Sears is the Murphy-Paine family’s pastor. 

Other News:

In King County Executive Dow Constantine’s State of the County address yesterday, he proposed “100 Days of Action” to prevent gun violence. The relatively new King County Regional Office of Gun Violence Prevention will be coordinating this work. He said Mayor Bruce Harrell is in agreement and will be making an announcement later this week to advance the collaboration, which would include supporting youth mental health. As always, I am interested in how many resources will be allocated by the county and city to this initiative, as more investment in gun violence prevention is urgently needed.

In a large Washington Post investigation, journalists identified at least 1,800 law enforcement officers who were charged with crimes involving child sexual abuse between 2005 and 2022. “​​When pressed by The Post, some police officials, prosecutors and judges admitted that they could have done more to hold officers accountable in the cases they handled. But nationwide, there has been little reckoning over child abusers within the ranks of law enforcement.”

Nearly 40% of convicted officers avoid prison sentences, and many used threats of arrest or physical harm to make their victims comply. A national tracking system for officers accused of child sexual abuse does not currently exist.

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