988 hotline

SPD Expects More Separations than Hires for Another Year, in Spite of Huge Raises

Seattle News:

First off, my piece on gun violence, student mental health, and the debate on whether student resource officers should return to Seattle schools was published in The Urbanist this week. The Seattle Times also ran an interesting piece reviewing ideas for improving safety in schools.

Last Friday Councilmember Cathy Moore asked interim SPD Chief Sue Rahr to place two members of SPD command staff currently under criminal investigation on leave: Assistant Chief Tyrone Davis and Deputy Chief Eric Barden. Davis is under investigation for alleged sexual assault and Barden is under investigation for alleged domestic violence. As King 5 reported: “Multiple law enforcement experts who spoke with KING 5 called it unusual for an officer under criminal investigation not to be placed on leave.” However, Rahr has said she hasn’t seen substantiated evidence to justify placing either man on leave at this time.

SPD has announced it will end the year with a net loss of officers once again. So far this year, SPD has experienced 40 departures and hired 15 new officers. Their revised projection says there will be 918 deployable officers at the end of 2024. 

Harrell’s office released an interesting statement to KOMO regarding this news: “It is incredibly disappointing that the PSCSC concluded that [the] Public Safety Test (PST) is not a valid exam option for the City of Seattle and did not complete an independent validation study to determine if another entry-level exam would meet our needs and maintain high standards. The PSCSC report indicates that PST declined to participate in their review, yet the PSCSC report also concludes that the PST test is flawed despite this information gap and despite PST expressing interest in partnering with Seattle. We reject PSCSC’s unsubstantiated conclusions.”

This statement appears to exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of the report PSCSC released last week, which stated that PST asked not to be considered as a testing vendor for Seattle. Furthermore, the PST did participate in some preliminary parts of the review.. And the reasons why the PSCSC recommends against the PST test are clear-cut: a different custom PST test would have to be developed for SPD specifically, which would mean officer candidates would still not be able to submit the results of the same PST they would be taking for smaller jurisdictions. In addition, there are significant legal difficulties with Seattle offering two different tests with such different pass rates. 

That being said, Public Safety Chair Bob Kettle is also upset about the PSCSC report, beginning this week’s public safety committee meeting with remarks about “misleading media reports” regarding the council’s attempts to replace the current police entrance exam with a different exam with a higher pass rate. As reported by PubliCola, “Kettle said he liked the idea of ranking applicants by their test scores and hiring only highly ranked applicants, but added that the city no longer has that luxury because the previous council drove down police applications.”

PubliCola goes on to point out the lower staffing at police departments is a nationwide trend. The Seattle community needs to consider whether we are willing to significantly lower standards for police officers because of this trend.

At the public safety committee meeting this week, councilmembers also discussed Seattle waterways safety and City Attorney Ann Davison’s proposed legislation instituting a $500 fine for street racing.

In legal news, Auburn officer Jeffrey Nelson was found guilty of murder and assault for shooting Jesse Sarey. He is the first police officer in Washington state to be found guilty of murder for on-duty actions. And the city of Seattle must pay $680,000 to four people arrested for writing chalk graffiti onto temporary concrete barricades outside SPD’s Western Precinct. As PubliCola reported:

 ““Based on the evidence presented at trial, the jury found the defendants arrested and booked the plaintiffs because of the content or viewpoint of their speech,” an attorney for the four plaintiffs, Braden Pence, said in a statement. “We hope this verdict will be a warning and a lesson to police officers and other government officials across the country who violate the First Amendment—that they are and will be held accountable when they arrest and jail people for protected speech.””

On Wednesday, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the CARE pilot program of dual dispatch alternative response will expand, with plans to hire 18 new responders and 3 supervisors. This expansion is being partially paid for by a federal grant. More on this soon. 

Erica C. Barnett of PubliCola wrote about how the new council hasn’t passed a single substantial piece of legislation since taking office at the beginning of January. 

King County and Washington State News:

King County’s Law and Justice committee met on Wednesday to discuss Councilmember Reagan Dunn’s motion declaring the King County Council’s intention to maintain operations at the county’s youth jail. Councilmember Jorge Barón proposed a striking amendment that states the King County Council intends to maintain operations of the youth jail until viable alternatives become operational, supports priorities that emerged from the Care & Closure work, and supports continued engagement with Executive Dow Constantine around this work. 

The committee didn’t have three votes to move anything forward. Councilmember Dunn opposed the motion to table, but Councilmember Claudia Balducci said it was important to be deliberate. Councilmembers Balducci, Barón, and Dembowski voted to table this discussion until the next meeting. 

Also at the meeting, the Office of Law Enforcement (OLEO) presented on their 2023 annual report.

After being rolled out almost two years ago, Washington State’s 988 is answering 91% of calls received. This is slightly better than the national average of 88%.

Recent Headlines:

SPD Expects More Separations than Hires for Another Year, in Spite of Huge Raises Read More »

The Exodus of Inmates from the King County Jail Continues

We’ll start off this week by looking at Chloe Cockburn’s recent reporting on the current landscape of policing in the United States. Police have already killed hundreds of people in 2023 (220 to be precise, and keep in mind we’re only two and a half months into the year). That figure is up 6% since 2021. 

She also reminds us of a Gallup poll conducted at the end of April-early May of 2022, saying:

If you were just going by media commentators you would have thought that support for reforms had completely collapsed in the face of rising concerns about crime. On the contrary:  45% of Americans in 2022 supported eliminating police enforcement of nonviolent crimes, and 44% supported eliminating police unions. Moreover, 15% of Americans support eliminating police departments entirely, while Black Americans support this at the rate of 21%.”

I bring this up because I know some of you are disheartened by recent developments in the Washington state legislature. It is important to remember in spite of what the media might be saying, there is still an appetite in the United States for taking a different avenue to public safety that is more equitable and less harmful. The work being done in this space matters.

Seattle News:

This past Tuesday Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee discussed the Seattle City Attorney’s Q4 2022 report. In Q4, the City Attorney’s Office received 2,740 referrals from SPD. For pre-pandemic comparison, the SPD gave 3,529 referrals in Q4 of 2018 and 3,724 referrals in Q4 of 2019. These referrals were all misdemeanors, as the City Attorney’s Office doesn’t deal with felony charges. 

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office also announced a 50% decrease in their case backlog over the course of 2022. The office filed 1,323 cases and declined 3,336 cases in Q4. Many of those declined cases were part of the aforementioned backlog. The office also took the opportunity during their presentation to discuss the difficulties recruiting and retaining prosecuting attorneys given their relatively low salaries compared to salaries of prosecutors in other cities.

At the State of Downtown event on Tuesday, Mayor Harrell said he wants to change significant laws to improve public safety, but he declined to give any details on what those laws might be. Stay tuned!

King County News:

Erica C. Barnett reports that this past weekend 50 inmates were moved from the King County Jail to the Maleng Regional Justice Center (MRJC)  in Kent. The MRJC is also suffering from insufficient staffing. According to the Department of Adult & Juvenile Detention, most of the people who were moved are facing misdemeanor or non-violent felony charges.

If you remember the plan discussed by the King County Law & Justice committee last week to move 50 additional inmates to SCORE in Des Moines, the Public Defenders’ Union is now trying to get an amendment added to that legislation that would codify the Department of Public Defense’s visitation needs and require some reporting. This legislation is due to be voted on by the full King County Council next week. 

Meanwhile, the Bellevue City Council approved funding for teams to provide public safety on public transit including the light rail. I’ve heard this new transit unit will consist of 7 armed officers who will patrol light rail stations and transit hubs. A community forum to discuss this new, already funded unit was held this past Tuesday evening.

Washington State News:

Taija PerryCook had a very informative article on the new 988 system in Crosscut. My takeaways:

  • Crisis Connections, which answers King County’s 988 calls, has experienced a 25-30% increase in calls since 988 launched last July. 
  • Before 988, Crisis Connection answered around 40% of calls within 30 seconds. Now they are able to answer 90% or more within 30 seconds.
  • 95% of calls are resolved over the phone. Fewer than 2% of 988 calls end up involving the police or EMS. 
  • For the 5% of calls not able to be resolved over the phone, speed of that response is critical. There is currently a bill in the state legislature that would increase funding for rapid-response teams. This bill was passed in the House and is now being considered in the Senate.

Recent Headlines:

 

The Exodus of Inmates from the King County Jail Continues Read More »

The Fight Over a Seattle Alternative Response Pilot Continues

Seattle News

Yesterday morning Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee received their long-awaited update from the Mayor’s Office regarding the development of alternative responses in Seattle.

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. CM Mosqueda is excused from this meeting.
And the news, while not surprising, was not good. The Mayor’s Office continues to drag their feet on standing up any kind of pilot for alternative response like other similar cities have already done. Indeed, other cities’ alternative response have had time to launch pilots and begin to scale up their programs in the time it has taken Seattle to…string together a lot of empty words. The Mayor’s Office said they expect SPD’s risk management report any day now, and promised to share it with City Council very quickly…which turned out to mean in August, at least a full month after its expected receipt. CM Herbold asked for this to happen at the end of July instead.
Both CM Herbold and CM Lewis pushed multiple times for more urgency in this work, although their arguments seemed to have little visible impact on Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell and Director of Public Safety Andrew Myerberg. The white paper regarding standing up a third public safety department was once again referenced as being expected “by the end of the year”, with no apparent plans for any pilot program in the meantime. CM Lewis said he’d had a pilot priced out, and it would only cost $700k-$1m, which is a drop in the bucket of Seattle’s overall budget.
Council members also pushed for CSOs (Community Service Officers) to potentially be given the task of answering certain low-acuity 911 calls, at which point we learned the hiring pipeline for CSOs is apparently having difficulty. CM Lewis cautioned against giving the CSOs work that didn’t fit with their “culture” of being a police auxiliary, but CM Herbold shared the news that this culture has shifted since last year, and there is now more diversity of opinion within the CSO unit as to what their duties should entail and perhaps even where they might best be housed. Moving the CSOs out of SPD so they are able to develop their own culture separate from SPD matches more closely to what many advocates have been asking for when it comes to alternative response.
Meanwhile, while the Mayor’s Office has promised to work together with City Council’s Central Staff on these issues, it came out that the interdepartmental team (IDT) that would include Central Staff hasn’t been active, and they’re still working to put meeting dates on the calendar. You can read more about all these issues from Will Casey at The Stranger.
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The meeting also featured a presentation on the new 988 behavioral crisis system, which launches on July 16. It is being handled by King County Behavioral Health and Crisis Connections, with opportunities for partnership with Seattle. They have a three step plan for implementing the 988 vision: first, making sure the state hotline is fielding 90% of calls by next year; next, that 80% have access to a rapid crisis response by 2025; and lastly that 80% have access to community-based crisis care by 2027. There has been some money allocated to help make this happen. However, the mobile crisis team, while in the process of being doubled, is still quite small, and one of the biggest identified gaps in the system right now is the lack of enough mental health crisis facilities, so this development of a continuum of behavioral health supports is going to take time.
Meanwhile, Initiative 135 for social housing collected enough signatures to go onto November’s ballot…hopefully. They need 26,500 signatures and were able to collect 29,000, which doesn’t give much buffer should some of those signatures prove to be invalid. Cross fingers! Unfortunately Washington State Initiative Measure No. 1922, which would have decriminalized personal drug possession and provided funding for additional prevention, treatment, and recovery services, did not collect enough signatures to make the ballot this year.
Finally, Publicola‘s Erica Barnett published an article with a gem of a headline this week: Times Columnist Wants Seattle to Have So Many Cops, They’ll Rush Across Town to Arrest IPhone Thieves.

Nationwide News

CBS released a news story this week that everyone is talking about. They reviewed US murder clearance rate statistics from the FBI and found that the rate for 2020 was at around 50%, its lowest rate in more than fifty years. Murders involving Black and Hispanic victims were much less likely to be solved than those involving white victims during this time. While the usual culprits of not enough police staffing and backlogged courts are blamed for this low rate, CBS’s story says that “police are also contending with a breakdown in trust between their officers and the communities they serve, a result of decades of tensions that spilled over during high-profile cases of police misconduct in recent years.”

Recent Headlines

The Bright Side of SPD's Staffing Shortage - The Stranger

Seattle Might Soon Defund a Promising Police Alternative - The Stranger

The King County Jail knew these bunks were a suicide risk. And still, more people died | The Seattle Times

Seattle police officers won’t march in Pride Parade, frustrated chief says | The Seattle Times

The Fight Over a Seattle Alternative Response Pilot Continues Read More »

Seattle To Get Alternate Response Service in…2024? 2025?

News from the Seattle Mayor’s Office

This week my favorite podcast, Hacks & Wonks, featured a conversation between host Crystal Fincher and Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell on the topic of public safety. I highly recommend listening to the entire podcast or reading the transcript to get insight into what the Mayor’s Office is thinking at this time, but I’ll pull out a few highlights for you.
First, it sounds like the Mayor’s Office is serious about instituting a new third department of public safety to go along with the fire and police departments. While this idea sounds great in theory, the timeline is less inspiring: Senior Deputy Harrell said they hoped to have a white paper on this by the end of the year (2022), would then begin structuring the department in 2023, with hopes of deploying the new department in 2024. If the Mayor’s Office decided to work with existing community groups, much of this work could be expedited, but that doesn’t seem to be the way they’re leaning at this moment.
If that timeline makes you feel sad, the news only gets worse from there. When asked about the current SPOG contract negotiations, Senior Deputy Harrell said the priority for this contract is definitely accountability; one reason for this, of course, is the Mayor’s desire to exit the consent decree. [She] went on to say: “…some people will want to jump ahead and say, well, let’s negotiate what the third department looks like and the trading off of those roles. The police contract is only three years and we’re already one year into a three-year contract. We can negotiate the roles of that next contract in the next cycle.”
Let’s break that down a bit, shall we? The contract currently being negotiated will run till the end of 2023. The subsequent contract could easily take another year or more to negotiate, meaning it might not be done until the end of 2024 or even into 2025, which would be after the next mayoral election. Any related state legislation is likely to focus on accountability, not alternate response, at least if we’re going by past years’ efforts. So we might be waiting several years before bargaining about alternate responses could bear fruit.
Another option not discussed on this podcast episode might be making the argument that SPD cannot currently meet its functions due to its staffing shortage, making alternate response necessary to meet the public safety obligations in the City’s Charter. UW saw some success in defending its recent alternate response against officers’ objections, although it used a different defense due to its status as an educational institution. Regardless, alternate response in Seattle continues to face an uphill battle.
Well, you might say, at least we’ll get a better contract as it pertains to accountability. But Senior Deputy Harrell says, “It will probably take us, it will take us more than this contract to get to a fully civilianized team, investigative team at OPA.” So keep those expectations lowered for now.

Seattle News

Seattle City Council is expected to vote on the resolution and legislation about SPD hiring incentives/moving costs/etc. next Tuesday, May 24 at 2pm. You can give public comment at the meeting or call/email your council members to give feedback. More information and scripts are here.
Also on Tuesday is the next Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting at 9:30am. The agenda has not yet been released, but we might be hearing from the Mayor’s Office about their work on analyzing alternate response, as detailed above.
At this week’s council briefing CM Herbold reported the OPA Director search committee will be meeting again sometime this week and is getting ready to start interviewing candidates.
Carolyn Bick has released a few valuable Twitter threads recently. One of them is a live tweet of this week’s CPC meeting:
CE Bick
Today’s @SeaCPC meeting agenda has a review and vote on an MAR for Terry Caver and a “community conversation” regarding stop-and-frisk (and, presumably, the racial disparity data in the Monitor’s most recent Comprehensive Assessment). Meeting 🧵
https://t.co/qEs0fXduds

The other is a helpful overview of Monitor Oftelie’s Comprehensive Assessment of the SPD submitted to the court overseeing the consent decree. For more about the assessment, you can also read Will Casey’s scathing review, which he concludes with the fiery “This is all to say that when you bungle the only tool that could theoretically compel at least some real police reform, you don’t leave accountability advocates many options other than Becoming Abolitionists.”

CE Bick
Okay! As promised, here is a longer thread breaking down the revamped @monitor_seattle @AntonioOftelie‘s Comprehensive Assessment (May 2022). 1/
https://t.co/BVlGUi7jtw

Meanwhile, Carolyn Bick also received three leaked communications for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office regarding that pesky Seattle Human Rights Commission voting to apply for amicus status with the federal court overseeing the consent decree. It looks like someone really doesn’t want that to happen. Two commissioners have been forced to resign following the vote, as their employers deemed their service to constitute a conflict of interest. Exactly what the Seattle Human Rights Commission will do going forward remains unclear.

State and County News

If you’re interested in the new 988 service being rolled out in July, there was a great piece about a recent fact-finding mission to Arizona led by legislators Manka Dhingra and Tina Orwall who want to overhaul the way Washington State deals with mental health crises. “Senator Dhingra’s ultimate goal involves standing up a statewide crisis response infrastructure that operates 24/7 with enough capacity to treat every person who needs medical help during a crisis.”
And Crosscut‘s Brandon Block wrote a piece about American Rescue Plan Act money (federal relief money due to the pandemic) being used by local jurisdictions for law enforcement, including: buying new squad cars, buying new body cameras, giving $10k retention bonuses to sheriff’s deputies in Pierce County, paying officer salaries, and buying new tasers. Not exactly the first use of money that comes to mind when thinking about addressing the huge amount of need that has arisen as a result of the pandemic.
Oh, and the King County Council confirmed Patti Cole-Tindall as King County Sheriff yesterday.

Recent Headlines

Seattle parking officer fired over lynching comment gets his job back

Inslee taps former judge to lead new agency investigating police use of deadly force | The Seattle Times

Slog AM: Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Shot Someone, Scientists Get Plants to Sprout in Moon Dirt, and Washington’s Anti-Tax Clown Won't Go Away - Slog - The Stranger

Seattle To Get Alternate Response Service in…2024? 2025? Read More »

Arguments Flare Over SPD Hiring Incentives

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to today’s Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. Public comments are just wrapping up now.
Fireworks exploded at Tuesday’s Seattle Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting when CM Nelson clashed with Chair Herbold on how the meeting ought to be run. The conflict took place during a discussion on CM Nelson’s resolution regarding hiring incentives for the SPD. Surprising almost no one, SPD is once again having more officer attrition than predicted and less hiring than hoped, leading to the anticipation of between $4. 1m-$4.5m in salary savings for 2022.
CM Herbold introduced draft legislation that would lift a proviso on $650k of that salary savings for SPD to use for moving expenses for recruits and a new recruiter. CM Nelson became visibly upset about this legislation, saying that she’d offered for CM Herbold to co-sponsor her resolution, and after that offer was declined, hadn’t heard anything else. She asked for her own rival draft legislation to be introduced, but as the conversation had already run well over its scheduled time, CM Herbold insisted on closing debate and moving to the next agenda item.
This issue is scheduled for a possible vote on Tuesday, May 10 at 9:30am, when we can see how much further acrimony might be on display. We can expect to see arguments on one side about how incentives haven’t proven to be effective (and indeed, the Mayor has not requested such incentives to be funded) and how we need to spend our money wisely given next year’s anticipated budgetary shortfall versus arguments that most police departments have hiring incentives so they must work and what else would we do with the $4m anyway? (The obvious answer to the latter is, we could in fact do quite a lot with that $4m.)
Perhaps one of the most telling moments of this discussion was when CM Pedersen asked if the City of Seattle has any alternate emergency responses ready to go today. He must have already known the answer, of course, which was a resounding no when it comes to the policing side of things (Health One is on the fire side and responds primarily to non-emergency medical calls.) SPD is slated to present their findings of their 911 call analysis on May 10, a report for which I’m already bracing myself. It is important to remember that much of the power for setting up any such alternate response rests with the Mayor’s Office, which is why so little has been accomplished in this vein thus far due to former Mayor Durkan’s lackluster interest.
Also discussed at the meeting was the case backlog at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, which I’ve previously covered here. The office only has one last position left to fill in its criminal division, but it still has several pre-filing diversion positions to fill. They expect it to take the rest of the year to review the backlog cases that aren’t being dismissed (almost 2000 are being dismissed) and will be asking for extra money to do so.
As Erica Barnett reports, this week City Attorney Ann Davison also asked the Seattle Municipal Court to allow her to deny “high utilizers” of the criminal legal system access to community court, overruling Judge Damon Shadid, who currently presides over said court. This policy change would result in previous criminal history impacting a person’s eligibility to use community court.
King County Department of Public Defense (DPD) director Anita Khandelwal says Davison’s letter “mischaracterizes Judge Shadid’s statements in the meetings,” which Khandelwal has attended, and “causes me concern about the possibility for good faith negotiations with the City Attorney’s Office given the inaccuracies in their statements.”
This issue is both complex and important enough that I recommend reading the complete article in Publicola when you get a chance.
Meanwhile, gotta love this headline:

Other News

I’ve been receiving a lot of questions lately about the new 988 crisis hotline, set to debut this summer, and how it will affect crisis response in Seattle and throughout the state. The answer, for now, appears to be that we’re not sure yet. There seems to be some confusion as to how this system is going to roll out, but it sounds like the launch of the 988 number is being seen as merely the first step in creating a behavioral health system that can provide appropriate and adequate crisis care. You can read more about it in Esmy Jimenez’s article in The Seattle Times.
Also in The Seattle Times recently was Mike Carter’s article on how much money taxpayers in Washington state are forking out because of police misconduct. The article has been rightfully criticized for not mentioning any specific misconduct cases in Seattle:
DivestSPD
Putting aside the fact that *we live in Seattle*, SPD accounted for $~4.5m of the $34.3m in 2021 suits (13%) referenced in the article, and at least that much in 2020.

So it’s odd, to say the least, that SPD is totally absent from this piece. https://t.co/C4subOhvrQ

Minneapolis has made the news recently when the Minnesota Department of Human Rights released a report detailing their investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. As Steve Karnowski and Mohamed Ibrahim report:
The report said police department data “demonstrates significant racial disparities with respect to officers’ use of force, traffic stops, searches, citations, and arrests.” And it said officers “used covert social media to surveil Black individuals and Black organizations, unrelated to criminal activity, and maintain an organizational culture where some officers and supervisors use racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language with impunity.”
As a result of this report, Minneapolis will be entering into a consent decree to address the problems detailed.
Finally, I have two newsletters to recommend. First is Chloe Cockburn’s Just Impact. You can read her latest here, and I particularly suggest checking out the “Solutions and Progress” section if your spirits are in need of some lifting. Second is the new newsletter of Olayemi Olurin, who is a public defender in NYC. His first piece, “America’s Hypocrisy on Violence: The Case of Police Brutality,” is definitely worth a read.

Recent Headlines

Redmond City Council approves $7.5M settlement to family of woman killed by police in 2020 | The Seattle Times

Crime is up in Seattle. So why are city residents less fearful? | The Seattle Times

Arguments Flare Over SPD Hiring Incentives Read More »