911 calls

Questions About SPD’s Risk Managed Demand Report Overshadowed by the Start of Budget Season

If you want to read about SPD’s Risk Managed Demand presentation, you can skip straight down to the “Seattle’s Public Safety Committee Meeting” section. But first, budget news!

Seattle’s Proposed Budget

Amy Sundberg
The first Seattle Select Budget committee meeting of the season has begun. I’m not going to live tweet the whole meeting, but I’ll try to tweet the things I find interesting.
You can see the Mayor’s proposed 2023-2024 budget here and the Budget Office’s presentation on it here. You can read local coverage of the budget here and here, and coverage of the Solidarity Budget here.
Let’s dive in and see what’s in this proposed budget relating to public safety.
First of all, SPD. The SPD budget in 2022 was $353m, and its proposed budget for 2023 is $373.5m, which is close to a 6% increase.
The bulk of this increase–almost $20m–is due to the Mayor’s proposal to move the parking enforcement officers (PEOs) back into SPD from SDOT. The stated reasons for doing so are that it will save more than $5m in overhead costs that SDOT needs to house the PEOs but SPD wouldn’t need, as they didn’t lose any overhead dollars when the PEOs left their department, and the PEOs would regain access to certain SPD databases, which would remove the basis for unfair labor practices. In addition, it sounds like the culture of the PEOs hasn’t yet shifted away from a more police-oriented feel. Mayor Harrell mentioned this might not be the final home of the PEOs. Reasons for keeping the PEOs in SDOT include maintaining promises made to community in 2020 to work to move civilian functions outside SPD; allowing closer collaboration between PEOs and SDOT to make our streets safer using more strategies than just ticketing; and leaving the PEOs where they are until a final home for them has been decided (I’m assuming the Mayor was referencing the possibility of housing them in the third public safety department he envisions).
In addition, the Mayor plans to reinvest about $17m of salary savings in SPD back into the department. This salary savings is realized through ghost positions within SPD that remain funded even though they will not be able to be filled during 2023. This money is to be used for the following investments:
  • $1.3m for addt’l police equipment, which is mostly weapons;
  • $4.25m for recruitment and retention bonuses;
  • $2.6m in addt’l overtime;
  • almost $3m for more technology projects;
  • $1m for a gunfire detection system, ShotSpotter;
  • $250k for Harbor Patrol;
  • $490.5k for a mental health practitioner;
  • $168k for a new OPA employee
  • $446k for relational policing, about which we have no details
  • $424.9k to transfer 1 IT employee and 2 LAW employees into SPD
Also in the budget for HSD are $4.3m for the Seattle Community Safety Initiative and $1.5m for the King County Regional Peacekeepers Collective, as well as $502k for victim advocates. The $1.2m allocated for alternative emergency response in the mid-year supplemental is retained, along with an additional $700k, all of which is currently sitting in Finance General until the Council decides which department to move it into. That $700k appears to be the only new investment allocated for community-based public safety alternatives, as the SCSI and the Peacekeepers were already funded in last year’s budget.
Controversially, the proposed budget includes legislation that would cap future liability for inflation-based increases for human service contracts at 4%. For reference, over the 12 month period ending in June 2022, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 9.1 percent. It’s important to understand that these human service providers are public safety workers performing essential public services and already tend to be underpaid and are currently also understaffed. In a budget in which both police officers and fire fighters are being offered recruitment and retention packages, this legislation is a slap in the face to these essential workers, for whom it basically results in a pay cut.
Key Dates in the Seattle Budget Process:
October 11, 5pm: First evening public hearing
November 7: Chair’s Balancing Package introduced
November 8, 9:30am: Morning public hearing
November 15, 5pm: Second evening public hearing
November 16: Budget committee votes on balancing package
November 21: Budget committee vote on budget in the AM; final Full Council vote on the budget at 2pm
Public comment will also be heard at the October 11 and October 25 budget meetings at 9:30am, and probably one or two budget meetings in November as well.

King County Proposed Budget:

Executive Dow Constantine proposed his King County 2023-2024 budget on Tuesday. You can read about new investments being made in the law & justice category of the budget here and the complete rundown on the law, safety, & justice can be found here.
Some highlights:
  • $9m to the Regional Peacekeepers Collective
  • $2.3m to the Sheriff’s Office for a new gun violence unit and for detectives for the major crimes unit
  • $21m for 140 Metro “transit security officers” whose duties are not yet clear
  • $2.1m for behavioral health co-response unit expansion, which still involves sending armed officers to behavioral health crises
  • $5m for body cameras (this will take some years to implement)
  • $6.3m for jail-based opioid treatment programs and services for people being released from jail with substance abuse disorder
You can make public comment on the budget in person or virtually on the evening of Wednesday, October 5 at 6pm, and there are two in person only public comment opportunities on October 12 and October 19 at 6pm. There is one additional opportunity for public comment on November 8 at 9:30am. You can also email the King County council members directly about the budget. Suggested scripts are forthcoming from People Power Washington.

Seattle’s Public Safety Committee Meeting

The last Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting until the end of budget season was held this Tuesday. Among other issues, the CMs discussed the City Attorney’s Office Q2 report and the SPD’s long-awaited Risk Managed Demand report.

Amy Sundberg
Good morning and welcome to Seattle’s special Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. We’re starting with a bunch of appointments.
The City Attorney’s Office Q2 report showed how much faster the office has been making its filing decisions. The number of filed cases has more than doubled, in spite of misdemeanor referrals from SPD being down. They have also been declining fewer cases. Just as filed cases have risen dramatically, so have referrals to Community Court and Mental Health Court.
You can see the Risk Managed Demand (RMD) presentation here and the technical brief here. SPD requested to do this research before an alternative emergency response program was designed here in Seattle.
The analysis looks at injuries associated with the final 911 call type using a matrix of likelihood and severity. SPD had to manually upgrade or downgrade slightly more than 50% of the 356 call types, meaning the matrix worked less than half of the time, which caused some concern to CMs. Also causing concern was the belief this report was supposed to be analyzing the risk to call responders, while instead it uses the risk to the subject as a proxy for that, leaving out data from calls that involved use of force. If this sounds convoluted to you, you are not alone.
CM Mosqueda questioned whether, given the issues with this new report, the NICJR findings weren’t just as sound while also giving concrete policy changes that this new report doesn’t give. CM Herbold was concerned, given that 50% of the time call types were either upgraded or downgraded, that we need to understand what policies, principles, or rules lead to those judgment calls of how to change call type classification.
CM Lewis brought up Denver’s successful STAR program that answers calls that this new RMD report would suggest should go to some kind of co-response instead. In response, Dan Eder of the Mayor’s Office said the RMD report can’t answer CM Lewis’s questions, explaining that this risk analysis isn’t determinative of the most appropriate kind of program to design or call types to assign to a new program. Which begs the question: if this research doesn’t answer these questions, why are we a.) spending tons of taxpayer money on it, and b.) allowing it to drastically delay implementation of any alternative emergency response program?
CM Herbold said this RMD report shouldn’t hold up implementation of a new alternative response as discussed in the term sheet between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff, and announced the next Public Safety committee meeting will take place on Tuesday, December 11 at 9:30am.

Other News of Note

Seattle’s Redistricting Commission voted to approve an amendment that unites Magnolia into District 6 and divides the Fremont neighborhood into three districts: D4, D6, and D7. As Doug Trumm writes: “[Commissioner] Juárez also pointed out that this was a significant departure from the Redistricting Justice for Washington Seattle maps that had the most positive comments throughout the process, which is why the commission’s initial proposal had largely been based on that map.”
It is worth noting that Magnolia is predominantly zoned for single family housing, while a large part of Fremont is within an urban village and is more renter-friendly. You can give public comment on this new plan on Saturday, October 8 from 10am-12pm via Zoom or in the Bertha Knight Landes Room on the City Hall 1st Floor.
King County leaders held a press conference to announce a $1.25B plan to address the behavioral health crisis, which will involve a new property tax levy that will be on the ballot in April 2023.
Last Friday Seattle’s Neighborhoods, Education, Civil Rights & Culture committee discussed the participatory budgeting process, and they’ll be back to discuss it further on December 9. The timeline for PB is as follows: planning and design will happen in fall of 2022; idea collection and proposal development will happen in winter of 2022-2023; proposal development and voting will happen in spring of 2023; and funding will be provided to the winning projects in summer of 2023.
A forum was held for Seattle Municipal Court judge candidates Pooja Vaddadi and Adam Eisenberg. You can watch it here.

Recent Headlines

Questions About SPD’s Risk Managed Demand Report Overshadowed by the Start of Budget Season Read More »

King County Able to Produce Risk Index of 911 Calls With Little Fuss, Unlike Seattle

Seattle News

The Seattle City Council’s final vote on the SPMA contract was delayed for a week to allow both CMs and community more time to understand the ramifications of this new contract. The CMs voted to approve this contract yesterday with an 8-0 vote (CM Sawant was not present.) You can read more about the new contract here.
The forum for the finalist candidates for OPA Director was changed from June 23 to June 8 with very little notice to the public. The Mayor’s Office didn’t tell CMs about the new forum date until late the preceding Friday, when such details were likely to slip through the cracks. After public complaint, the Mayor’s Office finally published a press release about the forum late on the day of June 7. People Power Washington has asked for the selection process to begin anew with greater community engagement. That being said, an announcement on the selected candidate is expected in early July.
At Tuesday’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, CMs discussed SPD’s quarterly report on finances and overtime. SPD’s use of overtime is up, creating worries that the department will overspend their annual budget on overtime, something they have a history of doing. The bulk of overtime in the first quarter of the year was used for emphasis patrols, but as we move into the summer season, more overtime is typically used for big events. CMs asked questions related to the prioritization of officer hours and the possibility of transferring certain kinds of work to civilian workers.
We learned that SPD’s new scheduling and timekeeping software solution has run into implementation issues that have led SPD to decide not to deploy this solution after all, after spending many years working on this project. The original auditor’s report referencing this project came out, in fact, in 2016. SPD is now exploring a different software solution, and in the meantime continue with their abysmal timekeeping system. The SPD has also implemented a new call triage policy called Z-Disposition Clearing. Finally, 911 call response time is up.
CM Herbold announced that at the committee’s June 28 meeting, there will be a briefing on the next steps around the analysis of which 911 calls could be handled by alternative response. She said this report will be less about the outcome of the analysis and more focused on the process and who is involved and next steps. The length of time this analysis is taking is fascinating, particularly in light of the fact that the King County Auditor’s Office has already been able to create a risk index of 911 calls answered by the King County Sheriff’s Office. More on that in a bit.
Meanwhile, the City Council is also working on a new bill that would close a loophole in the police accountability system when complaints are lodged against the Police Chief; a substitute bill is expected to be introduced in an upcoming meeting. Will Casey’s article in The Stranger explains how the loophole played out following the 2020 protests:
What the OPA manual didn’t account for is what Mayor Durkan did next. Instead of following through on OPA’s recommendation to secure an outside investigator, Durkan did … nothing. By simply failing to act at all, she effectively covered up any alleged misconduct in which her police chief engaged for the rest of her term in office.

King County News

Also this week, the King County Auditor’s Office gave a presentation and delivered their report looking at racial disparities in arrests and use of force and looking into alternative response for King County.
In their work around alternative response, the Office produced their own risk index of 911 calls based on calls answered by the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) over the last few years. They determined that 58% of these calls fall into the lowest-risk category of call outcomes and that about 15% of calls could be answered by an alternative response. They studied alternative response programs in Denver, Phoenix, Austin, and Albuquerque to develop a list of best practices the programs have in common. King County is currently working to develop a pilot alternative response program.
Regarding racial disparities, KCSO only collects racial data on about 4% of its service calls, which is obviously insufficient. From the small data set available, Black people are more likely to be arrested and more likely to be subject to use of force. White officers are also much more likely to use force. You can read more about this here. The Auditor’s Office recommended that KCSO begin collecting and analyzing data on all calls for service where an officer stops someone, begging the question as to why this wasn’t already being done.

Washington State News

Last week in a landmark decision, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that race and ethnicity must be taken into account when the police stop someone. As David Gutman wrote in The Seattle Times:
The court also clarified state law to say police have seized a person if an objective observer would conclude that the person was not free to leave or refuse a request. But, the court wrote, that “objective observer” must be aware that discrimination and biases “have resulted in disproportionate police contacts, investigative seizures, and uses of force against Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.”

Recent Headlines

Officers seek ban on video livestream of Charleena Lyles' inquest - Axios Seattle

Ex-Seattle police chief testifies she deleted text messages in bulk - Axios Seattle

Kent to pay $1.5 million to settle dispute with assistant police chief who displayed Nazi insignia | The Seattle Times

Assistant police chief gets $1.5 million settlement after displaying Nazi symbols - The Washington Post

Eight weeks of therapy, plus some cash, can change the lives of violent men - The Washington Post

Special edition: California elections roundup

King County Able to Produce Risk Index of 911 Calls With Little Fuss, Unlike Seattle Read More »

Continued Institutional Resistance to a Civilian Alternate Response Service in Seattle

Seattle Public Safety Committee Meeting

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting! Everyone is here, and we’ll be hearing about the 911 call type for civilian response report status, CM Nelson’s resolution re SPD hiring incentives and CM Herbold’s related legislation.

We had a doozy of a Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting yesterday morning.

911 Call Types and Risk Management Status Report

First the committee members listened to a presentation on the status of SPD’s 911 call analysis/risk analysis, attempting to determine which calls could be answered by a civilian response. Present for this report were Director of Public Safety Andrew Myerberg and SPD’s Brian Maxey and Loren Atherley. As you may recall, last year a NICJR report on this subject found that almost 50% of 911 calls could be eligible for a non-officer response. At that time SPD agreed on 12% of calls that could benefit from this type of response, a consensus that led to the proposal of the (now probably defunct before it even started) Triage One program.
Now, however, SPD is walking back from even that low 12% number, saying it was simply a rough estimate and that the analysis they’re doing now is much more sophisticated. So sophisticated, in fact, that instead of classifying call types into 300 call types like NICJR, they’ve broken them into 41,900 types. No, those zeroes aren’t typos. Unfortunately, SPD’s highly technical presentation was not made available to the public ahead of time and is still unavailable at the time of this publication.
This presentation raised a few salient points. First, SPD has already been working on this analysis for quite some time, and they’re still not finished. They hope to have a populated risk matrix to present to the Council in July. Meanwhile, in spite of council member encouragement to stage the work (most of the CMs seem eager to move forward after two years of unmet promises to community), Andrew Myerberg sounds reluctant to push forward with much of the work until the SPD report is entirely finished…which may be July or even later. He mentioned he might be able to provide a timeline of when the City will stand up related work groups (not, you may notice, when they might be able to launch an actual pilot program).
Second, CM Lewis brought up the excellent point that several other cities have managed to stand up successful alternate response programs without doing this complex risk analysis: most notably, the STAR program in Denver, a comparably-sized city that has had such success with STAR they’re in the process of greatly expanding it. CM Pedersen also referenced a similar pilot that launched in Oakland, CA last month. CM Lewis asked why we weren’t visiting Denver and other relevant cities and learning from the work already done there.
The answers were revealing, to say the least. Andrew Myerberg’s response was that they had been studying such programs but wanted to wait until the data analysis and risk mitigation work was done. SPD’s Brian Maxey said he’d met with Denver’s STAR and that they’d developed call center protocols for triaging calls but hadn’t done a risk assessment like SPD is doing now.
However, Brian Maxey had two reasons to offer as to why Denver’s success wasn’t relevant to Seattle. First, he said in Denver there was an organic group that said they were interested in providing such an alternate response service. To this, CM Lewis said he was aware of several such groups in Seattle and would be happy to coordinate connections in this regard. Second, Brian Maxey said STAR mostly responds to calls that police didn’t historically respond to. CM Lewis rebutted this false claim, saying that of 2700 calls answered in the STAR pilot, 2294 of those calls would have in fact been responded to by the police. For those not wanting to do the math, that’s almost 85% of the total calls answered by STAR.
Over the course of the meeting, it became increasingly clear that SPD is going to continue dragging their feet and throwing up whatever obstacles come to mind to delay or prevent any meaningful non-police alternate response from being stood up in our city. It is popular to blame the city council members for such failures, but in this case it will ultimately be up to Mayor Harrell as to whether we push through this resistance and stand up an alternate response pilot program on a reasonable timeline.

SPD Hiring Incentives/Strategies Resolution and Legislation

The Public Safety committee then moved onto discuss CM Nelson’s resolution on hiring incentives and CM Herbold’s legislation lifting a proviso on $650k of salary savings to pay for another SPD recruiter and moving expenses, primarily for lateral hires, at least to start.
Both of these ended up with amendments. The language of CM Nelson’s resolution was amended to signal intent to release only the amount necessary to fund the incentive program, acknowledging some salary savings could be used to address 2023 budget challenges. CM Herbold’s legislation was amended to release more money from the proviso (for a total of $1.15m) in order to pay for a national search for a new police chief and a national officer hiring campaign.
Both passed out of committee with CM Mosqueda being the sole “No” vote, and because the vote was divided, they will come before Full Council for a vote on Tuesday, May 24. If nothing changes in the interim, we can expect both to pass, potentially with a 6-3 vote. It doesn’t seem like these measures will lead to much of an increase in SPD hiring but are instead passing on the merits of “doing something.” CM Nelson in particular repeated that she doesn’t care about the details as long as they’re doing something right now.

Other News

The City of Seattle settled the Seattle Times lawsuit over former Mayor Durkan and former Chief Best’s missing text messages, agreeing to pay a sum of $199,855 (that is taxpayer money, to be clear), and follow the rules/laws they were supposed to follow in the first place. Not a very satisfying conclusion to a betrayal of the public trust.
At the end of last week the Seattle Municipal Court voted to accommodate City Attorney Davison and exclude her “high utilizers” from using community court. An analysis by the King County Department of Public Defense shows that most of these high utilizers are either unsheltered or experiencing extreme behavioral health issues, neither of which are successfully addressed by a year in the County jail.
Will Casey reported this week on a new public database put together by the American Equity and Justice Group that contains all of Washington State’s adult felony convictions from 2000-2020. Obtaining reliable data about our criminal legal system tends to be dodgy at best, so this is a valuable resource for lawmakers and activists alike. AEJG plans to expand and improve upon their database; if you are a software engineer interested in volunteering your time, you can attend their launch event on May 17.
Finally, Kevin Schofield, lately of SCC Insight, is back with a new site, Seattle Paper TrailHis most recent piece is a breakdown of the 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey conducted by Seattle University. While I always take this survey with a grain of salt, given its troubling weaknesses, he does draw some interesting conclusions from the flawed data:
First, it continues to be the case that the city’s Black neighborhoods are largely not the ones where fear of crime is high, even though they tend to be over-policed to the detriment of Black residents; they have some of the lowest levels of social disorganization in the city, and also some of the lowest fear of crime. Second, police legitimacy dropped across the board, with only a handful of exceptions in places where fear of crime also rose (though most of the places where fear of crime rose did not see an increase in police legitimacy; it seems to be necessary but not sufficient). Third, social disorganization also decreased nearly across the board, for reasons that are unclear though perhaps related to COVID and more people spending increased time working from home and populating their own neighborhood around the clock.

Recent Headlines

Last Call for a Progressive King County Prosecutor Candidate - Slog - The Stranger

District Court Judge Who Used Racist Language Has Been Taken Off Cases, Court Says | South Seattle Emerald

Families of Those Killed by Police Honor Their Memories | South Seattle Emerald

Attorney General Bob Ferguson on using his platform to pursue justice | Crosscut

Black police, blue line: What happened when a Tacoma officer challenged institutional racism | The Seattle Times

Continued Institutional Resistance to a Civilian Alternate Response Service in Seattle Read More »