alternative emergency response

Washington State Has 4th HighestJail Death Rate in the US

Seattle News:

As one of her first acts as Council President, Sara Nelson has fired Central Staff Director Esther Handy. In her place will be Ben Noble, a denizen of Central Staff from the days of Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess. Noble most recently served as the Mayor’s Budget Director and then the Director of the Office of Economic and Revenue Forecasts. 

The Stranger has this to say about this move:

Though axing the head of central staff fits within her purview as president, Nelson’s highly atypical move flies in the face of the new council’s “good governance” messaging. Replacing a perceived progressive with a clear fiscal conservative makes a mockery of the purported objectivity of central staff.”

However, Publicola reports that Noble “is widely known for his old-school commitment to neutrality, which is one reason he has survived at the city for 23 years under a wide range of mayoral administrations and council members.” Most of the current Central Staff has not worked with Noble, who left Central Staff in 2013.

The Council’s main piece of business right now is appointing a replacement for CM Mosqueda, who holds one of the two city-wide Council seats. The Council received 72 qualified applicants. They are holding a special meeting tomorrow, 1/12, with a public comment opportunity starting at 2pm. At this meeting they will decide on the finalists for the position, as well as deciding which community organization will host the public forum that will take place sometime next week. The two organizations in the running are the Transit Riders Union and Seattle CityClub. 

The new council members are also busy hiring their staff and getting their offices in order. CM Hollingsworth of D3 has hired Anthony Derrick as her chief of staff. Derrick has served in the past as Communications Director for the City Attorney’s Office under Ann Davison and as Mayor Durkan’s press secretary. She also hired Logan Bowers as her policy director, who you might remember for his unsuccessful primary run for the City Council D3 seat in 2019.

While the Black Lives Memorial Garden in Cal Anderson Park was forcibly removed in late December, it sounds like that area’s legacy of sweeps is continuing, with another sweep occurring late in the evening of January 4. Before the removal of the garden, it had been swept 76 times

Bryan Kirschner wrote an op-ed in The Urbanist discussing the inefficiency of SPD. To understand the full thrust of his argument, I suggest reading the whole piece, but here is a sample:

If you’re seeing a pattern here, it’s that the mayor and police chief kneecapped the department’s ability to investigate serious crime in order to backfill officers handling calls that don’t require officers to handle.

We know with 100% certainty that they did not need to do this, because other police departments are already using alternative responders to handle these types of calls.”

King County News:

Choose 180 has announced a new executive director: Nneka Payne.

CM Mosqueda has been sworn in as a councilmember of King County, and she will be chairing the Health and Human Services committee. Not only does this committee oversee issues relating to affordable housing, but it also has purview over the County’s gun violence prevention programs, which reside under Public Health.

Washington State News:

A Seattle Times op-ed discusses our state’s jail fatality crisis and demands better (and independent) oversight:

What we found demonstrates that immediate action is required. Even accounting for Washington’s population growth, the Washington jail death rate nearly tripled between 2000 and 2019 — an increase 16 times that of the national average. Outpacing other states, Washington now has the fourth-highest rate of jail deaths in the nation.”

The internal investigation of the officers responsible for the death of Manual Ellis has been completed, but the release of the findings is being delayed until next Tuesday, January 16. Meetings between the officers and the police chief are scheduled to take place this Friday. This investigation will determine whether the officers in question can remain at the Tacoma Police Department.

House Bill 1994, a bill that would “allow defendants in misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor cases to request a dismissal if they complete court-ordered conditions that vary by case,” received a hearing on Tuesday. King 5 goes on to report: 

“The bill’s prime sponsor, Darya Farivar (D) 46th District, said that most people who enter the criminal justice system do so because of their disabilities, and this bill will reduce an overwhelmed prison system and reduce the rate of recidivism. 

“What this bill does is it allows our only neutral party in the courtroom to make a decision that could lead to increased success in a more meaningful way than incarceration has been proven to do in the past,” said Farivar. “This is not a blank check to anyone. This is an opportunity to be creative and to meet people where they’re at, which I think is really missing in our criminal legal systems.””

Unsurprisingly, City Attorney Ann Davison opposes this bill. 

National News:

The Guardian ran a story this week on 2023’s record number of killings by the police in the US: “Police in the US killed at least 1,232 people last year, making 2023 the deadliest year for homicides committed by law enforcement in more than a decade, according to newly released data.

On police killings vs the national homicide rate: “The record number of police killings happened in a year that saw a significant decrease in homicides, according to preliminary reports of 2023 murder rates; one analyst said the roughly 13% decrease in homicides last year appears to be the largest year-to-year drop on record, and reports have also signaled drops in other violent and property crimes.”

On disparate impacts on people of color: “In 2023, Black people were killed at a rate 2.6 times higher than white people, Mapping Police Violence found. Last year, 290 people killed by police were Black, making up 23.5% of victims, while Black Americans make up roughly 14% of the total population. Native Americans were killed at a rate 2.2 times greater than white people, and Latinos were killed at a rate 1.3 times greater.”

Recent Headlines:

 

Washington State Has 4th HighestJail Death Rate in the US Read More »

Will Seattle Pay SPOG a Premium to Let Others Help SPD with its Staffing Woes?

Seattle News

Most of this week has been elections, elections, elections. As of this writing, a few Seattle councilmember races are still too close to call, but we’re seeing a definitive shift to the right.

It looks like CM Mosqueda will be moving over to the King County Council next year, and she has announced she intends to step down from Seattle City Council at the beginning of next year, when the new Council will be able to appoint a replacement. In the meantime, she’ll be busy getting the 2024 budget passed as well as finishing up other budget work.

SPD Detective Cookie Boudin has followed up her spring tort claim by suing the City. She is seeking an unspecified amount of damages, saying she’s spent her whole career dealing with a pattern of racist harrassment. The trial date has been set for November 4, 2024. 

KUOW reported that a cooking show/class at PCC hosted by SPD Chief Diaz and special guest former Chief Best cost the city $2000 in overtime this past Saturday, as five other SPD employees were paid to attend: two bodyguards, a community outreach officer, a patrol officer, and an executive assistant. Four more similar events have been scheduled and in total could cost more than $9000 in overtime. “Current numbers show the department will be between $1.5 to $4.6 million over budget by year end, Jamie Housen, spokesperson with the mayor’s office, wrote by email. He said overtime costs were mostly to blame.”

The Firefighters have reached a tentative contract with the city that isn’t good news for workers. It gives minimum annual wage increases of 2-4%, as well as a 4.5% raise in 2022 and a 5.5% raise in 2023. Given these rates don’t keep up with the rates of inflation during those same years, this represents a wage cut in real terms. This could bode poorly for the Coalition of City Unions, who have currently been offered a 2.5% wage increase. As Erica C. Barnett writes:In contrast, Seattle police officers received a 17 percent pay increase after their last contract negotiation, with retroactive pay increases between 3 and 4 percent a year for the years they worked without a contract. The city council approved hiring bonuses of up to $30,000 for police last year.”

Seattle Budget and the SPOG MOU 

Seattle’s Budget Committee will be meeting on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week to discuss budget-related legislation and councilmember amendments. Votes on amendments are expected on Tuesday 11/14, with Wednesday’s meeting most likely to consist of discussion of budget proposals and progressive revenue options that aren’t needed to balance the 2024 budget.

There will be an opportunity to give public comment on Monday, November 13 at both 10am and at the public hearing at 5pm. Solidarity Budget will be hosting a budget rally outside City Hall on Monday starting at 4pm. Suggested talking points for public comment and emails are available here.

Solidarity Budget co-hosted a webinar on Wednesday with ACLU Washington on the problems with the ShotSpotter surveillance technology that is currently being given funding in the 2024 budget. You can watch the webinar here, look at the slides, and find more talking points about ShotSpotter here. One of the amendments slated to be voted on next week will require a racial equity toolkit be done on this technology whenever it is moved to a new neighborhood, as opposed to the original plans announced by Senior Deputy Mayor Burgess to only require an omnibus Surveillance Impact Report (SIR). Another amendment would take the $1.5 million currently allocated for this technology and instead spend it on mental health services for tiny house villages, which are currently funded at significantly lower levels in 2024 than they were in 2023.

This week the city also announced a proposal for a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). You can read the Central Staff memorandum on the MOU on page 42 and the full text of the MOU on page 51 of this packet.

The MOU accomplishes three things:

  • It would allow the city flexibility to sometimes use parking enforcement officers to staff special events.
  • It would allow the city to implement its dual dispatch emergency alternative response program. In spite of all the hype around the launch of this pilot, it turns out that until and unless this MOU is agreed upon, police can actively request CARE members only after they’ve arrived at and secured a site for Wellness Check and Person Down Calls, meaning it’s not even a true dual dispatch yet.
  • It would allow the city to use park rangers at parks outside of the downtown area.

There are several problematic aspects of the MOU. Perhaps the biggest one is the agreement to give officers who volunteer to staff special events an additional $225 bonus for each shift worked (in addition to any relevant overtime pay). This bonus is projected to cost $8 million in additional funds through the end of 2025. So here we have a situation in which firefighters are taking a pay cut in real terms if they accept their proposed contract while police officers are getting further bonuses beyond overtime for working special events, increasing SPD’s budget bloat even further at the expense of other core city services.

The rationale behind this odd choice is that right now SPD can only staff these special events through mandatory overtime, which is putting a strain on their workforce. But SPOG is only willing to give these officers relief by allowing other people to do some of the special events work if their officers get paid an extra bonus. Meanwhile, SPD once again went significantly over their overtime budget this year and yet are still willing to spend $2000 in overtime for a cooking class, as mentioned above. 

I’ll also note that once a new section involving extra pay is added to police guild contracts, it tends to be very, very difficult to remove later. Not to mention that this doesn’t appear to show particularly good negotiating tactics on the part of the city, who are still working with SPOG to agree upon a new contract almost three years after its expiration.

Another problematic aspect of the MOU has to do with the new dual dispatch pilot. This MOU restricts the number of responders that can be hired by CARE to 24 FTEs, meaning SPOG gets to determine the size of the pilot. It restricts the call types to which they can respond to only Person Down and Welfare Check calls, hence the Director’s reluctance to suggest response to any other call types. In addition, according to the MOU, dispatching CARE responders is not to affect the number of police dispatched to any given call. And CARE responders will be required to write a report that is available to SPD officers, which could potentially dissuade people who are already wary of the police from being willing to use this new program.

The budget amendment funding this MOU will be voted on next week and provide $4.5 million of funding to cover SPD special event bonuses for October thru December of this year and 2024. It is unclear how this extra expenditure will be balanced in the budget. The legislation related to the MOU will be on the Introduction & Referral calendar on November 21 and is expected to be voted on at Full Council sometime during the first half of December.

Recent Headlines:

Will Seattle Pay SPOG a Premium to Let Others Help SPD with its Staffing Woes? Read More »

Budget Amendments are Coming!

Seattle News

Budget

In budget news, Budget Chair Mosqueda released her balancing package late last week. Yes, ShotSpotter is still in there, and I encourage you to continue to tell your councilmembers about all the problems with it

Councilmembers had to turn in their budget amendments by noon on Tuesday. We will hear all about them at the budget meeting on Friday 10/27, with a chance to give public comment at 10am. 

I will be giving a virtual budget workshop with journalist extraordinaire Ryan Packer, sponsored by The Urbanist, on Monday, October 30 from 7-8:30pm, where we’ll fill you in on everything going on with those amendments, answer questions about the budget process, and more. Sign up for your free ticket here.

Elections

Money is pouring into the Seattle city councilmember races, with real estate companies and other business interests outspending labor 4 to 1, supporting the more conservative candidate in each race. Amazon tried a similar spending strategy back in 2019 only to have most of their preferred candidates lose, but it remains to be seen whether Seattle voters will be equally savvy this year. If big business wins out this year, The Stranger has shared some insights of what we can expect.

Dual Dispatch

CARE’s new dual dispatch alternative response program has officially launched. I have already covered this program in depth, but I will note the pilot is initially focusing on downtown, including the CID and SODO.

New Drug Law

The ordinance criminalizing public drug use went into effect last Friday, and SPD was ready. On Friday afternoon they targeted 12th Ave S and Jackson St in the CID and 3rd and Pine downtown and arrested about two dozen people, ten of whom went to jail. Chief Diaz says he intends to run similar operations on a weekly basis. This would seem to lend credence to the capacity concerns around the LEAD diversion program.

Other Seattle News 

The King County Prosecutors’ Office has hired an independent investigator to look into the death of Jaahnavi Kandula due to a potential conflict of interest of having SPOG being involved in the initial investigation. The work is supposed to be completed sometime in November.

The South Seattle Emerald did a great write-up of the new, very promising Guaranteed Basic Income program being run by Hummingbird Indigenous Family Services. This is the first GBI program in the country focusing exclusively on Indigenous communities. Their director, Patanjali de la Rocha, was one of the panelists for Solidarity Budget’s GBI panel earlier this month. 

Recent Headlines

Budget Amendments are Coming! Read More »

SPD’s Unfavorable Rating Soars to 64% in Local Poll

Seattle News

CARE Department Issue Identification

Last Friday, City Council discussed budget issues concerning the new CARE department. The new community response teams will start responding on Thursday, October 19, working 7 days a week from 11am to 11pm. The six responders will be costing $840k annually. 

While discussing the possibility of violence prevention programs currently housed within HSD moving over to CARE, CM Herbold mentioned there has been a group already at work on an assessment of the city’s gaps in violence prevention programming and where county offerings complement or duplicate the city’s offerings, which is wonderful to hear, as I’ve been asking pointed questions about this for some time and haven’t yet gotten any satisfactory answers. However, Central Staff was unsure of the degree of alignment between this assessment project and the potential scope of projects and programs that could move into the CARE department. 

The Director/Chief (this title is currently under debate) of CARE, Amy Smith, said that since they’re starting with only 6 responders, they will only be able to answer person down and wellness check calls for the foreseeable future. She expects her first recommendation to be to expand the service to provide response 24/7, which would require 12 responders. 

Senior Deputy Mayor Burgess said that at some point in the future (he mentioned 6-18 months), the 911 center will have 3 options for dispatch: the police, a joint response of police and the community response team, and just the community response team. However, Chief/Director Smith made it clear that to begin, the community response teams will indeed be answering all calls with police present, and she seemed to imply it will be up to the police to recommend whether they should stop being present for every call, as opposed to being the decision of the community response team members.

Revenue Forecast Update and Budget News

The City Council received an updated revenue forecast on Tuesday, and this time it was mostly good news, with the General Fund receiving $9.8 million more than expected and JumpStart collecting $14.2 million more than expected. There are slight decreases in REET (real estate excise tax) and combined transportation revenues. Mayor Harrell suggests spending these additional funds on “restoring investments in school safety through automated traffic enforcement cameras, resolving open labor contracts for our City employees, and paying down the looming deficit in 2025.

Budget chair Mosqueda stated she was interested in investing in “our city contracts, support for our frontline workers, access to basic needs like food and housing, and investments to help make our community healthier and infrastructure safer.”

Councilmembers’ budget amendments are due early next week. The next chance to give public comment about Seattle’s budget is Friday, October 27 at 10am. 

Meanwhile, Real Change ran an op-ed last week by Solidarity Budget entitled Seattle’s Budget Should Meet the Basic Needs of our Residents.

Other Seattle News

Hannah Krieg wrote a helpful primer on the Mayor’s continued shenanigans related to the budget and JumpStart tax dollars.

Erica C. Barnett reported on SPD signing a $2.6 million contract with a marketing firm to “create an ‘SPD recruitment brand’ and produce video, online, radio, and social media ads for the department.” 

KOMO conducted a poll with Strategies 360 that found that approval of SPD has plummeted since last year. Everyone continues to love hating the City Council. And Bruce Harrell is less popular than pickleball. 

The light rail came out on top in terms of popularity. 

The expansion of light rail, fav 84% unfav 14%The Seattle Kraken, fav 68%, unfav 6%
A potential new NBA basketball team in Seattle, fav 61%, unfav 15%
Pickleball, fav 44%, unfav 11%
Bruce Harrell, fav 41%, unfav 35%
The Seattle Police Department, fav 33%, unfav 64%
The Seattle City Council, fav 20%, unfav 70%
Source: KOMO News (https://komonews.com/news/local/poll-finds-strong-support-mass-transit-professional-sports-seattle-voters-strategies-360-nba-franchise-opinion-civic-pride-crime-homelessness-drug-use-housing-affordability-upcoming-election-coverage#)

The New Drug Bill

Tobias Coughlin-Bogue, the associate editor at Real Change, had an op-ed this week in the South Seattle Emerald about the recently passed drug bill and what a performative waste of time the whole process was. I am going to share a few quotes from it, and I highly recommend you click over and read the entire piece for yourself.

“Long story short, under the new bill, the experience of people suffering from substance use disorder in our city will be, as it has always been, almost entirely dependent on what kind of mood cops are in.”

and

“Why, when we are facing unprecedented crises in housing affordability, homelessness, climate change, public transit, mental health care, infrastructure, and many, many other areas, are we playing political theater? Why is our City Council so obsessed with the optics of things rather than the actuality of them? Why, when we need policy that rapidly and tangibly improves the material reality of everyday Seattleites, do we get nonbinding resolutions and 26-member task forces and symbolic commissions and studies that no one ever reads?”

Marcus Harrison Green had an op-ed in the Seattle Times, also about the new drug bill, advocating for funding for treatment and safe consumption sites:

We already have people dying on our streets and in their homes who will continue to die in the absence of a well-thought-out, well-funded plan. We have people who need drug treatment who can’t find it in an overstretched system. What we don’t have is a serious plan to address this crisis. We have words, failed solutions and unkept promises that will change nothing.”

King County News

King County has announced a new Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be headed by Eleuthera Lisch, formerly the Director of Public Health Seattle & King County (PHSKC)’s Gun Violence program. And indeed, it sounds like this new office is going to be doing exactly what the PHSKC was already in the process of doing. It will have a budget of $6.75 million; in 2022 PHSKC’s Gun Violence program had a budget of around $6 million. This appears to be mostly a re-organizational move as the overall investment level isn’t increasing significantly, which is unfortunate, since this is an area in which both Seattle and King County are deeply underinvesting in spite of the current need, as I wrote about last June.

Elections are Coming Up

People Power Washington has released their 2023 Policing and Public Safety Voter Guide, which covers the City Council races in Seattle and Burien, as well as the King County Council races.

Recent Headlines

SPD’s Unfavorable Rating Soars to 64% in Local Poll Read More »

Alternative Response in Seattle is Behind…Again

Seattle News

There’s a lot to catch up on, so let’s start off with the big news that the Social Housing Initiative 135 has passed! Next steps include bringing together a board of directors and seeking funding.

Mayor Harrell gave his State of the City speech last week. Apparently the white paper about a third public safety department that was supposed to be completed last year is still forthcoming. As this was supposed to be the main tangible step forward in 2022, the failure to deliver this white paper in a timely fashion is disappointing to say the least. But at least the new department has a name now, which obviously took many hours of painstaking work: CARE, the Civilian Assisted Response and Engagement Department. Apparently we’ll also be hearing more about police officer hiring this year, which is hardly a surprise, although given the difficulty police departments across the country are having hiring, these are conversations that seem unlikely to deliver the desired results.

Last week the Adley Shepherd case was dismissed by a U.S. District Court Judge. Adley Shepherd is a former SPD officer who was fired after punching a handcuffed woman in the back of a squad car. His case has been filtering through arbitration and courts ever since, most recently as a suit brought by him against the City of Seattle.

The City of Seattle settled the CHOP lawsuit for $3.65m, $600k of which was due to the missing texts of former Mayor Durkan, former SPD Chief Best, and others. This money, as well as additional costs of defending the lawsuit, comes from taxpayer dollars.

At this week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, the CSCC presented on their 911 Protocols Software that would enable them to dispatch calls to responders other than the police. Right now the plan is to implement dual dispatch including SPD, although CM Herbold was quick to remind us that dual dispatch doesn’t necessarily mean a police officer will be on the scene in every instance, but rather in some cases SPD would simply be situationally aware of the dispatch of a civilian responder. That being said, it was made clear at the meeting that the nature of the dual dispatch model has yet to be determined

Shocking no one, given we’ve been holding our breath for a particular white paper since December, all the work on alternative response appears to be behind schedule. None of the deliverables outlined on the term sheet regarding developing alternative response between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff appear to be complete. Some of this delay was attributed to the hiring and on-boarding of the new interim Director of the CSCC, Rebecca Gonzales, although of course everyone already knew when deliverable dates were set that a new director would need to be found. CM Lewis was frustrated enough to say that if more progress isn’t forthcoming in future briefings, the Council might need to take a more assertive role in this work. Given Seattle has been waiting two and a half years for alternative response with nothing to show for it, this reaction seems quite measured.

The protocols and work flow of the new triaging dispatch system also won’t be complete until late this year. CM Herbold called out that we continue to be told of reasons why we can’t move forward on implementation of alternate response: SPD’s RMD analysis, the overdue white paper from the Mayor’s Office outlining the new third public safety department, and now this triage dispatch system. She expressed her hopes that launching an alternate response pilot for person down and wellness checks won’t depend on the dispatch system being complete. CM Lewis pointed out other cities with alternative response have triage systems that dispatch to fully civilian responses, not just dual dispatch. And so the slog to push alternative response continues sluggishly forward as Seattle continues to fall behind many other cities who have been able to do this work.

Due to objections from SPOG, SPD discontinued use of Truleo software that analyzed police body-cam footage to look for potential police misconduct. Unfortunately, SPD’s use of several other surveillance technologies was approved by the Seattle City Council earlier this week, including “cell phone and laptop extraction tools, a geospatial analysis technology called GeoTime, remotely operated vehicles, crash retrieval forensics and hidden GPS trackers and cameras.” Seattle has its own Surveillance Advisory Working Group, and the CMs failed to implement many of this work group’s recommendations relating to the use of these technologies.

A recent report shows that Seattle’s automated traffic cameras disproportionately target Communities of Color. In fact, 65% of automated traffic cameras are placed in neighborhoods with relatively more people of color and immigrants; Seattle’s most dangerous roads tend to be in these communities because of displacement. In 2022, Seattle’s automated cameras issued almost 200,000 traffic tickets, which is almost fifty times more than the number given by police. It’s also worth noting that these camera-generated tickets currently require review by police, meaning such a large volume requires additional resources given to SPD in order to review them; to do otherwise would require a law change. An op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald by Ethan C. Campbell and Nura Ahmed outlines several ways to address issues of equity surrounding traffic cameras in Seattle. 

CM Herbold wrote the following about violent crime in Seattle in 2022:

Although, over the entire year, the data shows violent crime higher than it’s been for years, the SPD Crime Dashboard shows that there were 363 violent crimes reported in December 2022; this is the lowest number of violent crimes reported for a month since February 2021, when 329 violent crimes were reported. The December 2022 figure is lower than the 403 violent crimes reported in December 2019 (before COVID-19, before the murder of George Floyd, and before 500 officers left SPD).

A further review of the SPD dashboard shows that moving into 2023 (the report only covers 2022), 371 reported violent crimes in January, slightly lower than January 2020, with 373 reported violent crimes.

Shots fired, while higher overall in 2022, are also dramatically declining, according to the Chief.”

When discussing violent crime in 2022, it would be remiss not to reiterate the increasing violence experienced by unsheltered people.

The turmoil at the Seattle Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the Community Police Commission (CPC) continues. Two more SHRC commissioners have recently resigned as commissioners continue to receive legal threats from the City Attorney’s Office about trying to seek amicus status in the consent decree, and the CPC Executive Director Brandy Grant resigned on February 10. Cali Ellis has been named as the interim director. After events at a CPC community engagement meeting on February 14 and the CPC’s regular meeting on February 15, both Castile Hightower and Howard Gale have filed complaints with the OPA about SPD Officer Mullens, who also sits on the CPC. 

King County News

The ACLU of Washington filed a lawsuit on Friday against King County and Executive Constantine arguing they are in breach of a settlement agreement regarding the King County Jail mandating certain staffing levels and inmate access to medical care and court hearings. Advocates held a press conference and rally outside the jail on Monday morning.

Election News

Becka Johnson Pope, who has spent the last three years managing King County’s budget, announced her run for the King County Council seat for District 4. Sarah Reyneveld has already announced her run for the same seat.

Seattle CM Dan Strauss has announced his intentions to run for re-election in District 6.

ChrisTiana Obeysumner has declared their candidacy in District 5. They are one of six filed candidates so far for the district.

WA State Legislature

Sadly, the bill banning solitary confinement has died again this year. The new drug possession bill also doesn’t look promising.

HB 1513 (traffic stops), HB 1025 (qualified immunity), HB 1579 (independent prosecutor), and HB 1445 (AG investigations & reform) are all headed for floor votes. March 8 is the cut-off date for bills to be voted out of their house of origin. 

Recent Headlines

Alternative Response in Seattle is Behind…Again Read More »

It’s Almost as if Seattle Doesn’t Want to Reimagine Public Safety After All

Seattle Budget: Parking Enforcement Officers

Last Thursday, the Council held budget meetings about the potential parking enforcement officer (PEO) transfer from SDOT to SPD, SPD’s proposed budget, and the Community Safety and Communications Center’s (CSCC) proposed budget. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s dive in.
First up are the PEOs. The move to SDOT about a year ago has not thus far been a success, and labor issues have resulted. The PEOs are vastly understaffed, both as a result of general unhappiness over a botched move and SDOT’s decision to keep some positions open so as to use the money this freed up to pay for their overhead costs (more about that in a minute.) There are only 80 PEOs right now, for a department that calls for the staffing of 123 FTE. The PEOs are still housed within the physical structures of SPD, they still wear SPD uniforms, and they still have SPD emblazoned on their vehicles. They no longer have access to SPD databases (well, really it’s the FBI’s CJIS, more about this in a minute). And then of course there was the debacle where, due to “mistakes” made by SPD and potentially the last Mayor’s Office, the PEOs weren’t given their special commissions when they were moved to SDOT, and therefore $5m worth of traffic tickets had to be either voided or refunded earlier this year.
Whether it was sabotage or simply shocking incompetence, nobody can argue that this has been a smooth transition. Hence the Mayor’s proposal to move the PEOs back into SPD.
Because of the way SDOT calculates its overhead, which is complicated due to its multiple funding sources, it costs an additional $8m from the General Fund to keep the PEOs in SDOT, a fact that the Mayor’s Office and SDOT, who both lobbied heavily for the PEOs to move to SDOT rather than the CSCC, somehow failed to mention at that time.
Another issue is the PEOs’ lack of access to the CJIS database. Right now SPD provides them with a static hot sheet with a list of vehicles by license plate that are stolen, but the PEOs can’t call in to get at-the-moment information from the database, which includes information such as registered owner and address. It is unclear how large a problem the lack of access to this database actually is, but it is interesting to note that even if they were to move to the CSCC, the PEOs wouldn’t be granted access to it; the 911 dispatchers have this access, but WASPC, the state body who decides these matters, has said the PEOs aren’t performing a criminal justice purpose and therefore are ineligible. No outside legal analysis of this issue has been completed.
The SPD, unsurprisingly, is happy to welcome back the PEOs with open arms, especially as they’ll come with funding for the entire 123 FTE. Because there are only currently 80 PEOs, that means SPD will get an extra $4.2m; while they will use part of this sum to hopefully pay for additional hires, there will be some left over, for which they will inevitably find an indispensable use within the department. The PEOs themselves took a poll and overwhelmingly expressed a desire to be back in SPD rather than in SDOT.
A third option not explored in the aforementioned poll is to move the PEOs to the CSCC, which was the Council’s original plan back in 2020. Aside from the issue of database access, the CSCC is a new department that would need lead time to prepare to receive the PEOs, which would nearly double their headcount. There would probably be some extra overhead involved with this as well, although nowhere near SDOT’s staggering $8m price tag. However, this move would preserve the Council’s intent to move civilian functions outside the police department in response to the protesters that were in the streets for so much of 2020.

Seattle Budget: Seattle Police Department

SPD is enjoying being able to say they’re taking the largest cut of any department. This is misleading rhetoric, of course; the actual size of their budget will be larger than it was in 2022 if the proposed budget doesn’t change. Much time was spent in the SPD budget meeting discussing the $250k increase to Harbor Patrol, which moved into a discussion of whether certain aspects of Harbor Patrol might be more suitable for a civilian response (namely, search and rescue and water safety). In response to this suggestion, Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell mentioned that houseboat piracy was a problem.
Moving past the serious piracy issue facing Seattle, Central Staff projects 153 officers will be separating from the department in 2022 by the end of the year. Once again, SPD’s projections for separations and hiring for 2023 seem overly rosy, although the high rate of separations has been going on for long enough at this point that people can now bring up the point of diminishing returns, ie that in a smaller police force, there will also be a smaller number of people leaving. The 80 positions not being funded for 2023 are not being permanently cut (abrogated) but rather underfunded for now.
There was also a discussion of the gunfire detection system (which will probably be ShotSpotter). Interestingly, CM Nelson brought up a study by Edgeworth Analytics that found a high accuracy rate for ShotSpotter, but didn’t disclose that this study had in fact been funded BY ShotSpotter. Luckily CM Mosqueda brought up that point. CM Nelson also stated that if even one life were to be saved by a gunfire detection system, then the financial investment would be worth it, even though it had been emphasized earlier in the presentation that these detection systems are not intended to reduce gun violence in any way, but rather to help capture evidence about gun-related crimes after they happen. Regardless, the city surveillance ordinance would require the completion of a surveillance impact report (SIR), which Central Staff thinks would take more than 12 months to complete, meaning this budget item may well be premature.

Seattle Budget: CSCC

During this meeting, Ann Gorman of Central Staff presented the results thus far of the collaboration between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff over alternative response as memorialized in a term sheet. There is agreement that the $1.9m for a near-term pilot of alternative response in Seattle could be spent in 2023 on some combination of the following:
  1. Direct dispatch of SFD Health One units
  2. Intelligent non-emergency reporting: this is instant reporting that doesn’t require an SPD officer to come to the scene. In practice, this would be improvement of online reporting or reporting by phone, for example, by providing better support of other languages.
  3. Expansion of CSO duties: currently the CSOs serve as liaisons between SPD and community and don’t have law enforcement authority. It may be possible to expand their role in a way that lessens the workload of SPD officers.
  4. Dual (SPD/civilian) dispatch to augment current mental/behavioral health response: This means that two separate units would be sent to the scene, one from SPD and one that is a city-staffed team with relevant clinical and procedural training. In other words, this response would still involve officers with a gun coming to the scene, although CM Herbold mentioned that perhaps the SPD officers could sometimes stage themselves nearby instead of arriving directly on the scene.
For proponents of a mental health crisis response alternative in Seattle, this list will doubtless be less than inspiring, as none of these options is what has been asked for, including the co-response detailed in option 4. However, both CM Herbold and CM Lewis, who have previously been strong proponents of a civilian alternative response such as STAR in Denver, were both effusive in their praise. CM Herbold went so far as to walk back some of her criticism of the Risk Management Demand report delivered by SPD a few weeks ago. (This is the system SPD has spent large amounts of time and money developing only to have to go in and manually correct more than 50% of call type classifications provided by their new system. The system was also meant to assess risk to responders but instead used risk to the subject as a proxy.)

King County Budget

The next opportunity for public comment on the biennial 2023-2024 King County budget is tomorrow, Wednesday, 10/19 at 6pm. More details and a script can be found here. If you can’t make the meeting, you can also email your King County council members.

Election News

People Power Washington’s voter guide is out! You can see questionnaires about public safety answered by candidates for state legislature, for King County prosecutor, and for Seattle Municipal Court Judge. Information about races for prosecutor and judge in particular can be hard to come by, so this is an excellent resource for helping you make an educated decision come Election Day.
There is a King County prosecutor candidate debate this Thursday, 10/20 from 6-8pm in Federal Way. More details and sign up can be found here.

Other Seattle News

Also in the budget: Mayor Harrell’s proposal to spend $38m on the Unified Care Team and the Clean City Initiative. As Erica C. Barnett reports:
memo accompanying that presentation adds that, legally speaking, there’s no guarantee that the new funding won’t be used to “accelerate encampment removals.”
In redistricting news, Seattle’s redistricting commission voted on a new map today. They passed a map that divides Magnolia along the west-east ridge and doesn’t divide Fremont into three(!) different districts. All but one commissioner voted in favor of this new map, and you can see it here. The exact dividing line in Magnolia might change, but other that that, Erica Barnett reports this will be the map, which represents a heartening victory for Redistricting Justice for Seattle and their bid for an equitable map.
You might remember that earlier this year, the Human Rights Commission tried to initiate a data collection project on behalf of those impacted by police violence, including wanting to file for amicus status with the court overseeing the consent decree process, only to be shot down by the City Attorney. Well, now four commissioners, including three co-chairs, have resigned in protest. You can read their passionate open letter here.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released Wave 3 of their Sentinel Event Review report on the 2020 protests, which covers June 8 – July 1, 2020. And it is quite damning, showing that in addition to miscommunication and sloppy police work, the SPD indulged in flat-out lying in their infamous ruse in which they tried to make protesters believe armed Proud Boys were headed to CHOP. As Justin reports:
The Wave 3 report includes … SPD officials either mistakenly or intentionally making statements about unsubstantiated and not fully investigated allegations of armed checkpoints and shakedowns of area businesses in press conferences and statements to the media as evidence of bad decisions and a lack of leadership that hindered the city’s response — and set it on a permanently flawed course contributing to the growth of dangerous conditions in the CHOP zone.
It is worth reading the entire article, which also provides access to the full OIG report.
Finally, CM Dan Strauss held a community meeting about safety in Greenwood last night, at which he told attendees they weren’t allowed to record and barred journalists from entry until the end. Not exactly the best way to promote an environment of transparency and accountability.
Isolde Raftery
@CMDanStrauss are you seriously preventing the media from attending your PUBLIC meeting on safety in Greenwood???

Standing outside the @TaprootTheatre with @king5 …

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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.

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Seattle May Get Its Alternative Response Pilot in 2023 After All

Chances to Act and Learn

Your next chance to weigh in on Seattle’s redistricting process is THIS Thursday, September 15th at a public forum from 6-8pm. You can either attend in person at City Hall L280 Boards and Commissions Room or call in remotely via Zoom. Either way you can register in advance with with the City. You can read a sample script here. Your last chance to weigh in will be on Saturday, October 8th from 10am-12pm.
Last week the League of Women Voters Seattle King County held their forum entitled “Public Safety and the Role of the King County Prosecutor.” You can watch this spirited and informative conversation for yourself on Youtube.
Also on Thursday evening 9/15 will be the forum for the final three candidates for SPD police chief, live on the Seattle Channel from 6-7:30pm. You can submit questions ahead of time here. If you’re not sure what to ask or want suggestions, People Power Washington has curated a list of potential questions here.

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting. Right now the CMs are meeting the new nominee for the head of Public Health for Seattle and King County, Dr. Khan.
At this morning’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting, two items of note were discussed.
First, the committee questioned the final candidate for OPA Director, Gino Betts Jr. You can read his written answers to several pertinent questions here. The committee voted in favor of his confirmation, with all CMs voting in favor except for CM Mosqueda, who abstained as she wishes to speak with him further as well as engage in more stakeholder dialogue. His final confirmation vote should take place at the full City Council meeting next Tuesday 9/20.
He has spoken many times of his preference for OPA to become a fully civilianized investigative body, and he has also committed to ruling on cases based on the merit of the case as opposed to ruling with an eye as to how they will fare on appeal. This morning he also suggested the next step for radical transparency would be for the OPA to release all video footage, including body-worn camera and car camera footage, as well as police reports to the public, preferably within 30 days of a complaint being filed. He also suggested if SPD was resistant to recommended policy changes, he’d engage with the OIG and CPC and also potentially make the case directly to the people of Seattle. All of these statements stand in strong contrast to the stance of his predecessor, Andrew Myerberg.
In his Q&A linked above, Gino Betts also spoke in support of mediation, a process the OPA offers but which has been little utilized since the start of the pandemic. The mediation system has often been criticized by community and advocates, so it will be interesting to see how hard he pushes for this going forward.
Second, the committee discussed the “term sheet” between the Executive and Legislative branches around work on alternative 911 response in Seattle. As regular readers of this newsletters know, all efforts to stand up alternative response over the past few years have suffered from a lack of coordination and cooperation between these two branches. This new agreement includes provisions for standing up one new alternative response in 2023, as well as further call analysis building on SPD’s risk management demand analysis in order to determine the best alternative response models going forward. The sheet also memorializes agreement over creating a policy proposal to minimize use of sworn officers for special events staffing.
Going forward then, we should expect the following:
  • money allocated in the 2023 budget for the new alternative response that will be implemented in 2023
  • SPD’s risk management demand analysis report, to be presented to the committee on Tuesday, September 27
  • a proposal for special events staffing to be available for analysis later in 2022
  • the policy document outlining the framework for permanent alternative response models in general by the end of 2022
As mentioned above, the City of Seattle announced their three finalists for the SPD police chief position. Two of the finalists already work for SPD, including Interim Chief Adrian Diaz and Assistant Chief Eric Greening. The third finalist, Kevin Hall, is an Assistant Chief of Police in Tucson, Arizona, and implemented his department’s pre-arrest deflection program. However, this program has been criticized by advocates who say it is neither effective nor equitable. Once the Mayor selects his final choice, the candidate will need to be confirmed by the City Council.

Bail Reform

A new study on bail reform in Harris County, Texas shows results of fewer low-level offenders in jail and improved public safety. If you’re interested in bail reform, you can also read civil rights attorney Scott Hechinger’s thread on the topic here:

Scott Hechinger
Please pay attention: Years into bail reform in handful of cities & states round country. Research, reports, & data all are definitive. 100,000s more people free. $100,000,000s taxpayer dollars saved. No related increase in crime. These are facts. Stop believing lies.

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People Still Don’t Want to Work for SPD

Seattle Public Safety Committee Meeting

Amy Sundberg
Good morning and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. Four are present (CM Mosqueda absent).
Yesterday morning Seattle had its last Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting before the summer break. The Mayor’s proposed new Director of the OPA, Gino Betts, was present for a drive-by introduction, and he will be back before the committee for a Q&A and committee vote on his appointment on September 13, which would potentially tee up the Full Council vote on his appointment for September 20, conveniently right before the madness of budget season is upon us. You can read his appointment packet here.
But the real interest of yesterday’s meeting was Greg Doss’s quarterly update on SPD’s staffing, finances, and call response times. Surprising nobody who has been paying attention, there have been 109 separations of sworn officers from SPD in the first six months of 2022, at odds with SPD’s previous projection that there would be 94 separations for the ENTIRE YEAR. Yes, you read that right. There have been 30 hires so far in the first six months of 2022, which doesn’t exactly put SPD on track for reaching their hiring projection of 125 for the year either.
These numbers mean there will be significantly more salary savings for 2022 than anticipated. However, SPD thinks they will burn through all this extra salary savings and might need even more money by the end of the year, primarily because of overtime spending, although also because of the costs of the hiring incentives bill the committee discussed at this meeting.
In a particular feisty moment, CM Lewis agreed that we don’t have the capacity to stand up alternative responses in the next few months because we should have taken the actions other cities took two years ago, a fairly safe political shot at now departed Mayor Durkan. The Council’s continued frustration at the lack of alternatives is palpable, although CM Herbold reported the joint workgroup on the subject between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff has finally begun, and it sounds like the Mayor’s Office may be softening towards the idea of trying one or more alternative response pilots, an idea that has been memorialized in the latest consent decree filing.
As for the hiring incentives legislation being discussed, it was more of the same as has already been discussed this year, offering hiring bonuses for new recruits and lateral hires as well as providing money for more HR staff/support for SPD, more marketing, and the police chief search. It’s just now a slightly higher amount than previously discussed. One cannot help remembering CM Nelson’s comments earlier this year that it didn’t matter what the money was spent on as long as they did something, and this bill definitely feels more like a performative “Look! We’re doing something!” than a tangible, data-backed plan to actually improve public safety in Seattle. Indeed, rumors have been circulating that hiring bonuses or no, it could easily take ten years to return to pre-pandemic SPD staffing levels, meaning alternative plans are going to be needed to address public safety regardless of where on the defund spectrum any particular elected official may fall.
The legislation passed 4-1 with CM Mosqueda casting the only nay vote. In order to display “urgency,” the legislation will probably be voted on next week at Full Council on August 16 even though it would normally be delayed due to the split vote (otherwise the vote wouldn’t be until September because of the Summer Recess). You can read another account of the meeting here.

Other Seattle News

CE Bick
Tonight’s @SeaCPC Community Engagement Meeting in which incoming @SeattleOPA Dir. Gino Betts starts in a few minutes. I’ll be live-tweeting the meeting on this thread. 🧵
Last night the CPC held a “community conversation” with proposed Director of the OPA Gino Betts, which you can read about in more detail in the Twitter thread above. Why did I put community conversation in quotations? Because partway through the meeting, Felicia Cross, the Community Outreach Manager at the CPC, said the purpose of the meeting was actually to welcome Mr. Betts to Seattle as opposed to giving community a chance to ask him substantive questions, an assertion that showed a lack of respect for all the community members who took time from their busy schedules for what had been advertised as a conversation. To give a bit of flavor, earlier in the meeting, a retired SPD officer appeared to suggest the public needs to participate in training so as to avoid being harmed or killed by the police, and an impacted family member of someone killed by SPD was told the only way to get things done (read: possibly slightly improve things) was to agree to sit down with Betts at a later date, even though they had already clearly articulated the actions they wished to see. All in all, not the most successful meeting.
The contract for Seattle’s participatory budgeting project was finally signed last week, with a community vote on potential proposals projected for March-April of 2023.
There are two more community conversations about the new SPD police chief scheduled for this week:
Will Casey at The Stranger wrote an analysis of the Seattle City Attorney Office’s High Utilizer Initiative (HUI), finding more than half of the prolific offenders targeted by this program have a history of mental illness that means they are ineligible for misdemeanor prosecution. The initiative also replicates the criminal legal system’s racial disparities. Oops. Casey suggests a potential alternate course of action for the City Attorney’s Office:
On a systemic level, the City Attorney’s Office could use its influence within Seattle’s public safety debate to make the case that the city, the state, and the federal government needs to spend more money to build more supportive housing and to expand behavioral health services now.
Those investments would take time to change the daily conditions on Seattle’s streets, but they would also make clear for the public that the people who should be “held accountable” for our public safety crisis are the politicians at every level of government who have repeatedly defunded our social safety net since the Reagan administration.
Last week the Seattle Redistricting Commission did indeed agree on a final proposed map, which follows the proposal given by the Redistricting Justice for Washington coalition fairly closely. You can read more analysis on the new proposed map here and here. There will be two more public forums coming up to give feedback on the map.
Finally, Carolyn Bick published a retrospective of the last year of their work on problems with Seattle’s police accountability system, which is a great review and resource.

Recent Headlines

Recent criminal justice news and commentary 8.8.22

CE Bick
INBOX: From @kcexec Dow Constantine’s office, a media statement regarding a person who died in custody. This statement says that the person’s death was announced this week and that King County jail staff are investigating this death — which, again, occurred under KC jail’s watch. https://t.co/Mc252xfdSi
Mistaken detention of Black Seattle driver prompts lawsuit | The Seattle Times

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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.
98
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.”

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