Adrian Diaz

Seattle City Council Pushed for Easier Police Officer Entrance Exam that the Company Doesn’t Even Want to Provide

Seattle News:

Seattle City Council voted to pass the expansion of license plate readers (ALPRs). Currently installed in 11 of SPD’s vehicles, the expansion will lead to 360 of SPD’s vehicles having ALPRs. This vote took place in spite of the fact that 3 of the 9 councilmembers were not present at the meeting. Councilmember Cathy Moore asked for a delay of the vote but received no support from her colleagues. It sounds like she intends to abandon her legislation limiting data retention to 48 hours due to the opposition for this data security  measure from the majority of the Council. 

In spite of a few amendments, and without a 48-hour retention limitation, privacy concerns with this expansion still abound, especially for those seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare and undocumented immigrants. At the council meeting, Councilmember Bob Kettle apparently stated that folks are not coming to Washington State for abortions, a statement that is patently untrue.

The Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) released their report on police officer entrance exams this week. The recommendation about the test remains the same, that Seattle should continue to use the NTN test as opposed to the PST test (that has a significantly higher pass rate). Of particular note, PST asked to not be considered as a testing vendor for Seattle. 

It is also clear that even if PST was willing to work with Seattle (which they are not), their standard test used by smaller agencies in the region would be inappropriate for SPD, and a new test would need to be developed. This would mean that law enforcement applicants would still have to take a separate test to be considered as an SPD officer, which defeats the stated purpose for switching tests. There are also significant legal difficulties involved with Seattle offering both the NTN and PST tests, which would prevent candidates from being ranked equitably and fairly based on their test results, especially given the large difference in pass rate between the tests (NTN has a 73% pass rate while PST has a 90% pass rate). 

Why the City Council spent so much time pushing for a test that the provider doesn’t even want to provide is an interesting question, particularly given the glaring problems with SPD’s backgrounding process that have come to light over the past several months due to the case of Officer Kevin Dave. PubliCola has now reported that Dave, who struck and killed Jaahnavi Kandula last year, did not have a valid Washington State driver’s license at the time of the collision. 

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison announced legislation that would bring Seattle into line with new state law around the definition of street racing. However, her legislation would also institute a $500 fine, which is not required by state law. This legislation will be discussed at the public safety committee meeting this coming Tuesday.

Deputy central staff director Aly Pennucci will be leaving the city after 11 years, to become one of two deputy county executives in Whatcom County. Following Julie Dingley’s departure as director of the city’s budget office, this feels like a painful brain drain before the city has to grapple with the 2025 budget deficit. Readers will remember that Esther Handy was also removed earlier this year from her position as head of Central Staff.

PubliCola reported on the hiring of a new head of the Council’s communications office, Brad Harwood, who has an interesting political past, including being quoted as a spokesperson for the state Republican party.

Former Senior Deputy Mayor (and niece to Mayor Bruce Harrell) Monisha Harrell was pulled over for a traffic stop on Sunday, June 16 that she called “frightening”, because of her car having a license plate cover:

“Harrell, who is Black, said the stop was a clear example of the kind of racial profiling the Seattle Police Department pledged to reduce in 2022, when the department adopted a new policy barring police stops for some minor violations, including missing registration stickers and obscured license tabs.

“Despite the gestures SPD has made toward ending racial profiling, Harrell said, it seems like nothing has changed. “We just went through this whole [process of asking], can we do things to minimize unnecessary stops … because it increases the rate of violence between people and law enforcement,” she said. “Sandra Bland,” the Texas woman who died in a jail cell in 2015 after police pulled her over for a minor traffic violation, “was not that long ago. … I get ‘two steps forward, one step back,’ but I cannot explain to you how far back this goes.””

Data collected by SPD themselves shows they continue to struggle with racial disparity in their stops and frisks, with Black and Indigenous community members five times to seven times more likely to get stopped and six times to seven times more likely to be frisked than White community members. 1 out of every 20 Terry stops conducted by SPD is unconstitutional.  

Former SPD Chief Adrian Diaz came out as gay this week in an interview with conservative talk show host Jason Rantz. He appears to be using this news as a defense against allegations against him of sexual harassment, discrimination, and creating a hostile work environment for Black and women officers. He is also now up for a job as Chief of Police in Austin, Texas.

But as PubliCola reported this week, “several current and former Seattle Police Department officers say Diaz established a “dictatorship” at the department in which officers who speak out against the chief and an inner circle of leadership have been demoted or subject to retaliatory investigations.” It is important to note that this behavior, in addition to the previously stated allegations, is not impossible just because a person is gay.

After the recent shooting and death of a student at Garfield High School, there are discussions about whether school resources officers (SROs) should be put back into Seattle schools. One parent wrote an op-ed in The Stranger about the poor experience her son had with Garfield’s SRO back before they were removed from schools in 2020.

Jail News:

Another person in custody at the SCORE jail in Des Moines died on May 9, PubliCola reported. This is the 6th death since March 2023 and the second death in the last two months. This is a very high rate of deaths for a jail, and particularly concerning given ongoing discussions in Seattle to contract with SCORE.

Crosscut reported on the “grim conditions” at the Patricia H. Clark Children & Family Justice Center–the King County youth jail. Staffing shortages there continue to impact youths’ access to programming, including educational programs and enrichment sessions. Youth go long periods without visitors (including attorneys) and are worried about the quality of their drinking water. As I reported in February, this youth jail was originally slated to be closed by 2025, but Executive Dow Constantine has since walked back this commitment, saying it will now be closed by 2028 at the earliest. 

Recent Headlines:

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75% Approval of Unarmed Emergency Response in Seattle

Seattle News:

The Seattle Times printed the results of an interesting poll they conducted with Suffolk University. It was conducted by phone, so adjust your opinions about it accordingly.

First of interest is that 75% of respondents support shifting emergency calls away from police to workers who aren’t armed. Only 18% oppose this change. This is a huge majority, reflecting how popular the idea of alternate response has become while underscoring the absurdity that Seattle continues to only pursue dual dispatch.

The other response I found interesting was that 61% of responders said the statement “The Seattle police generally do a good job and treat people of different races fairly, even if there are a few bad apples on the force” comes closer to their views than the opposite. This shows a key area ripe for further political education, as recent data from SPD itself shows 1 out of 20 of its Terry stops are unconstitutional, 1 out of 7 of its frisks are unconstitutional, and Black and Indigenous people are 5-7 times as likely to be stopped as white people. Meanwhile, the idea that any problem with American policing is because of “a few bad apples” has been repeatedly challenged; a few examples are here, here, and here.

Meanwhile, command staff at SPD has been undergoing changes, with a new deputy chief role and a “Relational Policing Innovation Team.” Two assistant chiefs who had applied for the Police Chief job were demoted to captain. Going forward there will be five bureaus instead of six. And perhaps of most interest, a new Chief of Staff position was added for former TV news anchor Jamie Tompkins who started at SPD just a few months ago as head of Communications: your tax dollars hard at work.

And there’s a little election scandal in the ongoing City Council races: 26 out of 40 ARTS staff wrote a letter complaining about the leadership shown by Maritza Rivera–who is running for the open seat in D4–and her boss, royal alley-barnes. The letter complained that leadership “disregarded City policies, created a toxic work environment, and hindered staff’s ability to do its work and deliver for the community.” Rivera has denied the letter’s claims, but several workers have “recalled a pattern of defensive, hostile, and condescending interactions with Rivera” and the department had (and continues to have) a high rate of turnover. Half the people who had left at the time of the letter were people of color.

Recent Headlines:

 

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The Ongoing Crisis at the King County Jail

King County News

News broke a few weeks ago about Michael Rowland, a Black homeless man experiencing a mental health crisis who died in the King County Jail on April 19th of last year after being put into the prone position twice, once by SPD officers when they arrested him and again by corrections officers at the jail. There is research showing that using the prone position can be dangerous, for example by increasing the chances of cardiac arrest. As Sydney Brownstone and Greg Kim write:

Rowland’s death probably should have been classified as a homicide, according to Maastricht University professor of forensic medicine Dr. Michael Freeman, who reviewed the autopsy report at the request of The Seattle Times.

Also exposed in this article is the fact that two days after Rowland’s death, Tim Burgess, the director of strategic initiatives for the Mayor’s Office, complained that the jail was refusing to book people whose medical issues could be handled in the jail: 

“I’m fearful,” Burgess wrote, “that I will hear next that an arrestee has a hangnail and is declined.”

The King County Jail has been dodged by problems in recent months. The jail has experienced an extremely high rate of suicide since 2020, along with severe understaffing. Nor was it following a 2021 state law requiring it to publicly post analyses of unexpected jail deaths within 120 days until a Seattle Times article revealed this failure. It was also without potable water for a month last fall. 

In the summer of 2020, Executive Dow Constantine said the following in his State of the County address:

 

Completed in 1986, the King County Correctional Center is decrepit and expensive to operate, and its physical layout does not lend itself to behavioral health and other care…We must reimagine King County’s downtown Seattle campus in light of the realities today. And the old jail must at some point come down. As we prepare the budget later this year,  I intend to propose a phased closing of the King County Correctional Center after the pandemic.

WA State News


The 2023 state legislative session begins next week! Possibly on the docket include bills that would ban solitary confinement, reduce stops for low-level traffic violations, establish an independent prosecutor for the state, allow the Attorney General to investigate and sue police departments illustrating patterns of misconduct, remove qualified immunity, and eliminate the jaywalking law. We will also see legislators continue to grapple with addressing the Blake decision; at least two bills will be introduced for this purpose, one of which will focus on decriminalizing drug possession as well as providing treatment.

A few upcoming dates: Friday, February 17 is the policy committee cutoff; a bill must be passed from its policy committee by this date. Friday, February 24 is the fiscal committee cutoff, when a bill must be passed through any necessary financial committee. And Wednesday, March 8 is the deadline for bills passing out of their house of origin. Legislative sessions in Washington alternate between long and short sessions, and this year we have a long one, so that means there will be continuing action in Olympia until April 24.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson released his office’s legal opinions of questions relating to 2021’s bills 1310 and 1054, both of which have generated controversy in spite of being fairly mild. 1054 banned police use of chokeholds and neck restraints, while 1310 required de-escalation if possible and limited officer use of force in some situations. 1310 was partially rolled back last year after pushback from police departments and police unions. Ferguson prefaces his remarks on the legal interpretation of the laws by stating: 

As we noted in our previous Opinion addressing the first three questions, the answers to your questions are extremely difficult because reasonable minds disagree about the correct legal conclusions. We provide legal answers for them here, but must acknowledge that these answers are debatable and uncertain.

Tina Podlodowski is stepping down as Chair of the WA State Democrats, and Shasti Conrad, a two-term Chair of the King County Democrats,  has announced her candidacy.

Seattle News

This week has been a relatively slow news week for Seattle, but there are a few items of note. First, the City Council finally confirmed Adrian Diaz as SPD’s Chief. He has been serving as Interim Chief since Carmen Best resigned in 2020.

And second, CM Pedersen has announced he will not be running for a second term, making him the third councilmember with intentions of leaving at the end of the year, along with CM Herbold and CP Juarez. The remaining four councilmembers whose terms end this year have not yet announced their plans.

Recent Headlines

 

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