ALPRs

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.

Recent Headlines:

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Seattle Breaks Its Sweeps Record in 2023

Seattle News:

This week Real Change reported that the city of Seattle’s Unified Care Team performed 2,827 sweeps in 2023. Compared to 922 sweeps in 2022, this represents about a 207% increase in the number of sweeps performed, with an average of 7.75 sweeps performed per day. This is the highest number of sweeps conducted in a single year in Seattle since the numbers began being recorded in 2016. 

The Unified Care Team has a budget of $26.6 million in 2024. $2.2 million of this covers police wages for staffing sweeps.

Complaints about unhoused people also increased to 41,536 in 2023, while the city received 29,304 complaints in 2022. 

In the article, Real Change referenced “a growing body of research that suggests encampment sweeps and other policies of continual displacement directly contribute to increased rates of death and illness.” Critics say that sweeps are not only deadly but also ineffective, failing to address the root causes of homelessness.

My latest piece at The Urbanist covers the recent announcement that Seattle will not be using ShotSpotter technology this year, as well as the surveillance technology expansion going forward, including license plate readers that have some serious data security concerns. This expansion could impact people seeking abortions and gender-affirming healthcare, immigrants, domestic violence victims, and those practicing their constitutional right to protest, among others. The public safety committee will be discussing the license plate readers again at their meeting on Tuesday, June 11 at 9:30am. 

Interim SPD Chief Rahr has been in her new job for about a week, and so far she has not chosen to shake up SPD management. John O’Neill will continue to head up SPD’s public affairs office, in spite of being accused of sexual harassment and retaliation by female subordinates. And Rahr reinstated Assistant Chief Tyrone Davis to full duties just 8 days after former Chief Adrian Diaz put him on administrative leave. She said her decision was based on newly available information.

Mike Solan, the president of SPOG, has said he’s open to flexible scheduling and part-time officers on the force. He said he isn’t concerned about losing a lot of officers once the backpay authorized by the new SPOG contract is processed. But he implied the city will not be able to hire as many officers as it wants until accountability measures for police officers are changed. “The pay is very nice. We thank Mayor Harrell and the city council for recognizing that this needed to be fixed,” he told KOMO. “But until the accountability piece gets rectified to a reasonable point. You’re not going to entice more people to come here. It needs to be addressed immediately.”

The Seattle Times’ editorial board said SPD’s response to the tort claim filed by 4 women officers several weeks ago was “breathtaking in its defensiveness” and quoted Mayor Harrell citing that in his decision to demote Diaz: 

“The quotes in the newspaper on the people making claims was completely inconsistent with how I want the department to respond to allegations,” Harrell told the editorial board after his May 29 announcement seeking a new chief. “And yes, that always factors into strategic decisions that I make — that words do matter, and how you respond to allegations matters.””

Nevertheless, the editorial board thinks the now vacant position of SPD Chief is “one of the best law enforcement jobs in the country.”

Meanwhile, PubliCola reported that the City Attorney’s Office wants to begin using Stay Out of Drug Area (SODA) orders, which prevent people from entering certain areas of the city with “continuous drug activity.” As PubliCola explains:

Studies of SODA areas in Seattle have found that they can exacerbate biased policing when police target people of color, as well as people who appear to be homeless, for exclusions from large swaths of the city, including the areas where most social services are located.”

The Stranger reported on Court Monitor Antonio Oftelie, who seems to have a cozy relationship with SPD and doesn’t appear to take accountability particularly seriously. A text conversation about “Cookie” Bouldin’s lawsuit against the city between him and two members of SPD leadership seemed dismissive:

“Boatright responded at length, saying Bouldin’s lawsuit involved “decades old” claims and adding that the department “has bent over backwards to accommodate Cookie.” Oftelie then asked about Bouldin’s motivation for the suit.

“Cynically? She’s ready to retire and wants to get paid on way out, [sic]” Maxey said. 

Maxey went on to claim that if Bouldin really wanted change, she would have filed an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint. Bouldin ultimately filed a lawsuit in November, in which she called parts of the EEO complaint process “patronizing and harassing.””

Another text message chat between the three above shows Oftelie saying he is interested in seeing “systemic learning” instead of the accountability the community wanted.

A new incident of potentially excessive force used by two SPD officers was recorded last Friday. The officers were arresting a man for felony arson. The video shows the two officers punching and kneeing the man as well as hitting him several times with a baton. It is unclear whether one of the officers was also kneeling on the person’s neck, which would be against SPD policy.

DivestSPD reported on an incident that occurred last June, when SPD officers decided to socialize for 49 minutes at a Starbucks instead of responding to a domestic violence call.

Councilmember Martiza Rivera walked back her amendment freezing 2024 EDI funds, instead introducing an amendment that will require a report from the Office of Planning and Community Development by September 24. The amendment passed 8-1, with only Councilmember Tammy Morales voting against. Rivera and her fellow council member Bob Kettle argued that the 2024 EDI funds were never at risk, in spite of all the analysis saying the opposite. Proponents of the EDI program are worried this may be a signal that the program could be on the chopping block come budget season.

Recent Headlines:

 

Seattle Breaks Its Sweeps Record in 2023 Read More »

Advocates Oppose New Juvenile Solitary Confinement Legislation in King County

Seattle News:

Another lawsuit has been filed against SPD Chief Adrian Diaz, this time by SPD Captain Eric Greening, who is alleging Diaz discriminated against women and people of color. Greening is the sixth SPD employee to file a suit against Diaz in the last four and a half months. This count does not include the lawsuit filed by Officer “Cookie” Boudin against the department last November, also alleging racial and gender discrimination. 

SPD Officer Daniel Auderer, the SPOG VP who was caught on body cam footage mocking the death of Jaahnavi Kandula, finally had his Loudermill hearing last Thursday. This was the last necessary step before Chief Adrian Diaz announces his disciplinary decision, which he must do within three weeks of the hearing. It is unclear if the timing of this hearing will affect Auderer’s receipt of the backpay negotiated in the new SPOG contract should the Chief decide to fire him. 

Gennette Cordova wrote an op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald about the continued problem of violent and racist policing in the U.S. I suggest reading the whole thing, but here is a taste:

“Due to a massive hole in our budget, our entire city is plagued by a spending freeze and, in many departments, significant cuts — except for the police. Not only does their budget continue to grow but, this week, the council will vote on paying Seattle Police officers $96 million in back pay and raises, on top of their $400 million budget, while adding zero accountability measures.

As we approach the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, let this serve as a reminder that the pervasive problems with policing, and the issues that arise from the systemic defunding of social programs, that were all highlighted four years ago — are now worse. If making our communities, and our country as a whole, safer is a priority for you, we must renew the fight that so many left behind in 2020.”

The SPD recruitment bill passed Full Council this week with two amendments, one that requires more reporting on the 30×30 Initiative to recruit women officers and one that adds childcare provisions. The vote was unanimous, although Councilmembers Woo and Strauss were not present. The continued push to recruit women officers given the 30×30 report last year saying current women officers wouldn’t recommend working for SPD, as well as so many recent lawsuits alleging sexual discrimination, is concerning. 

Another women died at the SCORE jail this March, raising the total death tally for the jail to 5 individuals in a period of a little over a year, which is quite high. SCORE has still to file 2 of the 4 reports required for the previous deaths. Rumors continue that the Seattle City Council and Mayor are considering a contract with SCORE for booking low-level misdemeanors that the King County Jail currently won’t book. Another possibility on the table is a contract with the Issaquah City Jail. As PubliCola reported, at least 2 people died at that jail last year. 

There was a court ruling on May 10 regarding a group of protesters arrested in early 2021 for writing in chalk on the barrier around the SPD East Precinct, after which they were booked into the King County Jail counter to the currently standing booking restrictions. In the case of Tucson et al v. City of Seattle et al, the judge found that the decision to book the protestors was due to “City policy or practice to discriminate against anti-police protestors.” The judge further denied qualified immunity to the nine SPD officers named in the suit.

At next week’s Public Safety committee meeting, councilmembers are expected to receive an overview of the 30×30 Initiative and SPD’s latest 2024 Staffing and Performance Metrics report. Not on the agenda is further discussion of the Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) legislation. The Community Police Commission (CPC) said in its latest newsletter that Councilmember Bob Kettle is seeking feedback on the ALPR proposal. Here’s one quick way to send that feedback.

King County News:

At their Law and Justice committee meeting this week, King County councilmembers held a discussion on proposed legislation to modify the definition of solitary confinement for juveniles. This legislation was first discussed back in the fall with the stated purpose of of being able to provide one-on-one programming to juveniles in detention, but it was put on hold due to some legal questions. Now it’s back on the docket, and the ACLU Washington, the King County Department of Public Defense, Team Child, and Choose 180 all turned up to speak against the new legislation. 

Chief among their concerns are the many exemptions this legislation would put in place that could extend the current 4-hour limit on juvenile isolation, which is currently the main protection for youth. Other concerns are a lack of time restrictions for one-on-one programming, which has the potential for abuse, and the lack of language prohibiting solitary confinement for juveniles due to lack of staff, as the Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center (CCFJC) has been struggling with staffing along with the King County Jail. King County Public Defender Anita Khandelwal commented that the ordinance banning juvenile solitary confinement has been “chronically violated over the last several years.” 

She continued, “Just this past week, one of our clients advised her attorney that she and the other girls only got out of their cells for a normal amount of time twice out of the eleven days she’d been in custody.”

Councilmember Claudia Balducci said she supports a ban on isolation in juvenile detention, but that the amount of violence in the facility has been increasing the last couple of years, the vast majority of which are youth assaulting other youth. She spoke of the need to protect the youth in the County’s care from being assaulted by others. She acknowledged that restrictive housing being used due to staffing issues is a problem.

The legislation would also allow a person alleging to have been injured by a violation of the county’s solitary confinement policies to recover reasonable litigation costs and make ongoing independent monitoring and reporting of the facility permanent. 

The Law and Justice committee normally meets once per month on the fourth Wednesday, so unless an extra meeting is added to the schedule, the earliest this legislation would be up for discussion and possible vote would be June 26. 

Washington State News:

We have news of how much was paid in the new Washington state capital gains tax for 2023: $433 million, down from $786 million paid last year, which was the first year of the new tax. As KUOW reported:The top 10 payments accounted for $142 million this year compared to $394 million last year.” This volatility is particularly interesting as one of the most mentioned progressive revenue options for Seattle is a city-wide version of this tax. 

Recent Headlines:

 

Advocates Oppose New Juvenile Solitary Confinement Legislation in King County Read More »

Homelessness up 23% while Seattle plans to cut funding for homelessness by 19%

Seattle News:

The new interim SPOG contract passed City Council on Tuesday with a 7-1 vote, Councilmember Tammy Morales being the only CM opposed. Mayor Bruce Harrell signed the legislation soon thereafter. You can read more about it in my article here. You can read about some of the SPD officers who will be receiving large backpay payments here.

Officer Kevin Dave, who hit and killed Jaahnavi Kandula last year, was issued a traffic citation by the Seattle Municipal Court. Dave was required to pay a $5k fine by May 13, but as of the evening of May 14, he hadn’t yet paid. If he continues to fail to pay the fine, he could have his driver’s license revoked.

At the Public Safety committee meeting this week, councilmembers discussed the bill to approve the expansion of SPD’s automatic license plate readers (ALPRs). SPD wants to include these ALPRs in all existing patrol vehicle dash cameras, which would cost about $280k per year. Councilmembers expressed concern about the current data retention period as well as harms this technology could cause to people seeking reproductive healthcare. The legislation has not yet come to a committee vote, but may do so as early as May 28. 

At the Select Budget committee meeting on Wednesday, councilmembers heard presentations on the General Fund Financial Plan Update and the JumpStart Payroll Expense Tax. The budget deficit for 2025 has grown once more, from $241 million to $258 million, due to settled labor contract costs exceeding planning estimates, Councilmember Rob Saka expressed some reluctance to use the JumpStart tax to fill in the General Fund deficit, and other councilmembers also expressed interest in staying true to the original purpose of the tax, which was codified in the JumpStart spending plan that allocates money to affordable housing, green new deal investments, equitable development, and small businesses. They were also concerned about the tax’s potential volatility when considering using it as a permanent General Fund fix. 

Ballard Food Bank’s 2023 annual report was recently released, and it showed the number of household shopping visits and deliveries in 2023 was more than double the number in 2019.  Emergency financial assistance in 2023 was 4 times what it was in 2021.  

KUOW uncovered the secret donor behind the kid playground at Denny Blaine Park that would have potentially displaced the nude beach that is currently located there. Wealthy resident Stuart Sloan, who lives near the park, texted Mayor Bruce Harrell directly to complain about the park and offered to foot at least part of the bill for the proposed playground. As KUOW reported, “The playground plans showcase how the ultra-wealthy can exert influence in Seattle city government, and how the city’s policy of accepting anonymous gifts allows it to keep contributors secret.”

On Homelessness in the Region:

The 2024 King County Point-In-Time count was released this week, and it showed that 16,385 individuals on any given night in King County are experiencing homelessness. This number has increased 23% from the same estimate done in 2022, and is the largest number ever found in these reports. Homelessness in King County continues to impact communities of color disproportionately, with 19% of those unhoused identifying as Black and 7% as Indigenous while only 6% of King County’s total population identifies as Black and only 1% identifies as Indigenous, although there is a possibility that the disparity for Indigenous communities is even worse than these numbers due to counting methods.

As The Seattle Times reports, this news comes at a time when Seattle has asked the King County Regional Homelessness Authority to cut its funding ask for 2025: “The current proposed budget would eliminate hundreds of shelter beds, among other services, which are often used to move people from the street and get them ready for permanent housing.”

A more detailed article from The Seattle Times elucidates that the net loss for 2024 would be $21 million, which is about a 19% decrease. This would cut “about 300 emergency shelter beds, a 125-bed shelter for Black men in the Central District, homelessness diversion funding for 265 households, and a reduction in behavioral health services or beds at tiny home villages.”

The article quotes Alison Eisinger, the executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness: “I defy you to find me one person in the city of Seattle who thinks that reducing the number of shelter beds available in this city is the right move,” she said.

Recent Headlines:

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