alternative emergency response

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

News from the Seattle Mayor’s Office

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

Seattle News

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

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

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

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

State and County News

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

Recent Headlines

Seattle parking officer fired over lynching comment gets his job back

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

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

Continued Institutional Resistance to a Civilian Alternate Response Service in Seattle

Seattle Public Safety Committee Meeting

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

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

911 Call Types and Risk Management Status Report

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

SPD Hiring Incentives/Strategies Resolution and Legislation

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

Other News

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

Recent Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Police Union Contract Negotiation Time in King County

Seattle News

 

The tensions between CMs Herbold and Nelson over SPD hiring incentives continued this week at both Council Briefing and the Full Council meeting. CM Nelson spent the bulk of her Council Briefing time talking about it, in fact, including offering the claim that she had the approval of the Executive (a claim that Publicola fact-checked and found a bit misleading.) However, CM Herbold prevailed, meaning the Public Safety committee will vote on both CM Nelson’s resolution and CM Herbold’s legislation next week on 5/10, while CM Nelson’s conflicting legislation will not receive a vote until a later date (if at all). If you would like to give public comment on 5/10 about this issue or email your council members, you can find some talking points here.
Also originally on the schedule for the 5/10 meeting is the report on SPD’s analysis of 911 calls and which types could be fielded with non-police response. If this schedule plan stands, the meeting will be jam-packed.
CM Herbold also reported the first meeting of the search committee for the new OPA director happened last Friday 4/29.
When asked where they think the city should direct its resources to deal with crime, 92% of respondents said funding for more addiction and mental health services. Eighty-one percent want to see more de-escalation training for police officers, 80% want more social programs to address crime’s root causes, 75% want to add more nonpolice staffing, and 73% want to see an increase in court staffing to process the caseload.
Particularly striking is that 92% of respondents wanted to see more funding go to addiction and mental health services, suggesting a broad base of support for scaling up the City’s offerings in these areas. Respondents were fairly equally divided between thinking crime is underreported in the media, overly reported in the media, or accurately reported in the media.
Meanwhile, in consent decree news, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office appears to have tried to pressure the Seattle Human Rights Commission into not seeking amicus curiae status on the consent decree.
CE Bick
NEW: Federal Monitor @AntonioOftelie just filed to extend the deadline for filing his compliance status update for the @CityofSeattle to May 13, in order to allow for “additional time for the Monitor and parties to validate the data in the Comprehensive Assessment, 1/

The Monitor’s compliance status update deadine was extended until May 13 (next Friday). This apparently has to do with the data error I reported on here; while the error is being fixed, there is speculation that the new data might rise additional questions. Stay tuned!

King County News

The bargaining process with KCPOG (King County Police Officer Guild) has begun. Once an agreement on a new contract is reached, it will need to be accepted or rejected by the King County Council. This contract will determine how much authority OLEO (Office of Law Enforcement Oversight) will have to hold officers accountable for misconduct, as well as the transparency and fairness of the disciplinary process. People Power Washington – Police Accountability has drafted some priorities for what should be included in this contract, and I encourage you to email your King County council members and let them know that you care about this issue. You can find more information and talking points here.
King County released its poll on “Reimagining Public Safety in Urban Unincorporated King County,” and as Will Casey pointed out in The Stranger, “More than half of the written comments from people surveyed expressed a desire to have an unarmed behavioral health professional available to respond to emergencies.” The County will spending around $500k to fund pilots for alternate emergency response programs that they expect to launch in mid-2022. Let’s hope Seattle isn’t far behind.
Earlier this week Executive Dow Constantine announced his choice for the next King County Sheriff, Patti Cole-Tindall, who is currently serving as interim Sheriff. The King County Council will vote on whether to confirm this nomination later this month.
Meanwhile, over in Bothell, which straddles King and Snohomish Counties, the City Council has voted 5-2 to approve federal funding of police body cameras.
#VeryAsian #American Han Tran
Bothell City Council voted 5-2 to approve federal funding of police body cameras while we were out protesting for abortion rights. 1/

If you’d like to learn more about police-worn body cameras and why their usage can be problematic, you can read more here.

Washington State News

Yet another survey of 832 Washingtonians (‘tis the season) found majority support (53%) for Initiative 1992, which is currently collecting signatures to be placed on the ballot later this year and would decriminalize drugs (while allowing cops to continue to seize them) and allocate $141m in pot revenues to drug outreach and recovery services. You can read a little more about it over at The Stranger.

Recent Headlines

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Arguments Flare Over SPD Hiring Incentives

Seattle News

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

Other News

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

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

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

Recent Headlines

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

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

Alternate Response in Seattle Meets Another Hurdle

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good news at today’s Seattle’s Public Safety committee meeting this morning. There will be a public forum with the finalists for the OPA Director position. This wasn’t originally going to be part of the process, but it has been added.
Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee met on Tuesday morning and discussed two items of interest.
First they discussed the process by which the City will hire a new Director of the OPA. As suggested by CM Mosqueda two weeks ago, a public forum was added to meet with the three finalists for the position, tentatively listed as being on June 23. The other change announced was that the search would be conducted by the City’s HR instead of an outside firm. As we’ve seen throughout former Director Myerbeg’s tenure, the OPA Director really sets the tone for the OPA as an organization, so this is a significant appointment. It’s also worth noting the current interim Director, Dr. Gráinne Perkins, spent fifteen years as an operational police officer and did her thesis work on “the risk and danger encountered by members of the South African Police Service in their daily routines.”
Amy Sundberg
Also at this morning’s Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting is the presentation of SPD’s 2022 Strategic Plan by interim Chief Diaz and COO Maxey. You can see the plan here: https://t.co/O4KS9FCJAj
You can read SPD’s 2022 Strategic Plan here, but as The Stranger‘s article about it states, only ten pages of the twenty-seven-page plan actually discusses any plans SPD has for 2022, so you can probably skip it. The bulk of the SPD’s presentation on Tuesday was about the Equity, Accountability, and Quality program (EAQ), which is a program that uses statistical modeling to look for systemic issues and patterns of disparity in police officers’ daily interactions. It’s a program with multiple components, and no materials about it were circulated before (or after) the presentation, although Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey said there would be another more in-depth presentation later. There are concerning implications of this program, but it’s hard to draw any conclusions from the information given, so I will be interested to hear more details.
Perhaps most troubling during the overall presentation was Brian Maxey’s answer to CM Herbold’s question about the SPD’s analytical work related to 911 calls to identify call types that don’t require sworn officer response. He said they’d be presenting a more granular report at the end of Q1 (which is practically upon us), and he also said as a result of this work, the city will be providing a service currently not being served rather than supplanting officer work.
If you recall, the analytical work being done now was in response to the report the department paid NICJR to conduct that found 49% of 911 calls currently handled by SPD could be handled by organizations other than SPD. SPD immediately pushed back, saying they could only identify 12% of calls they were confident could be answered with an alternate response. They said they needed to do a further analysis themselves to do a risk assessment and create appropriate dispatch protocols. That the first news we hear about this analysis is that officer work will not be supplanted does not bode well for the department’s willingness to offload some of their work to alternate responders like mental health professionals, social workers and case managers, and other civilians.
The only pushback to this announcement at the meeting came from CM Mosqueda, who suggested this evaluation should be done with an outside party. While it does seem it was perhaps asking too much for SPD to do this analysis by themselves in a non-biased way, we’re here in the first place because of recommendations by an outside agency that the SPD said they couldn’t implement without further study. If nothing else, the SPD has been doing a wonderful job stalling any significant alternate response from being stood up in a timely fashion, which serves both them as an institution and their officers more than it serves the community who has been asking for a more robust alternate response for over two and a half years now.
Also this week, the OIG released wave 2 of their sentinel event report of police response to 2020 protests, this one covering June 2-7, 2020. This report has not yet been presented at a committee meeting. As Paul Kiefer reports, one of the key findings is a persistent lack of trust between a portion of the public and SPD. How SPD could address this lack of trust given their behavior in 2020 and the lack of accountability with which much of that behavior has been met is an open question. The report also offers two dozen suggestions to improve SPD’s protest response planning.
Meanwhile, at UW, the university recently expanded its existing civilian responder program with a team to respond to non-criminal emergency calls and removed armed police patrols from its dorms, replacing them with a combination of in-house social workers and campus safety responders. In response, sworn officers filed an unfair labor practice complaint, saying it was a violation of their contract for the university to hand over some of their responsibilities to a new team of employees. Publicola reported on the outcome:
PERC sided with the university, ruling that the decision to use civilians instead of sworn officers to patrol the dorms has a “limited impact” on the police officers themselves—an impact, they wrote, that is outweighed by UW’s “compelling interest” in rethinking how it approaches campus safety. According to the ruling, the change did not require UW to lay off or cut the pay of any police officers, nor did it reduce opportunities for the officers to work overtime.
Officials in Seattle government could potentially use this ruling as an argument in favor of the legality of creating more alternate response from non-sworn officers who don’t carry a gun.
And lastly, yesterday CM Nelson put forward a resolution to support the development of an SPD staffing incentives program, which rated its own press release including support from CP Juarez. That this resolution should be coming from someone other than the Chair of the Public Safety Committee seems a bit strange, especially as any related legislation would normally move through that body before coming to a final vote at Full Council.

WA State News

Late last week Governor Inslee signed 2037 into law.
We also have more salacious news about WA’s redistricting panel. Not only did the panel violate the state’s Open Public Meetings Act, it now appears dozens of relevant text messages were not released as public records to Crosscut when they should have been, and some of these texts may have been deleted. As Melissa Santos reports:
The withheld text messages show a much deeper level of coordination between state lawmakers, legislative staffers and the Redistricting Commission than what was shown in the records the commission previously released.
State Representative Pollet is considering the possibility of filing a Public Records Act lawsuit in response.

Recent Headlines

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The Quick and Dirty on the Seattle Budget Balancing Package

Seattle Budget Balancing Package

Budget Chair Mosqueda released Seattle’s 2022 budget balancing package yesterday. This package is a revision that is balanced to the latest revenue forecast and adjusts the Mayor’s proposed budget to reflect the Council’s spending priorities. This morning the Council met for almost four hours to review what is included in this new budget proposal.

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s special Select Budget Committee meeting. Today there is a presentation on the Budget Chair’s Balancing Package for the 2022 budget.
This evening the Council is holding the second public hearing on the budget, which begins at 5:30pm. Sign-ups begin at 3:30pm. For those planning to comment today, or who wish to contact their CMs via phone or email with their thoughts, here is a summary of changes in public safety spending in this new budget.
First, the budget cuts $10.8m from SPD’s budget. This would lead to SPD’s overall budget being reduced, albeit by a relatively small amount, for the second year in a row. The cuts are coming from the following:
  • Hiring incentive program for new officers and lateral hires
  • Cutting funding for two technology projects (although funding for one part of one of these projects is being provided elsewhere, $216k to analyze the NICJR report on 911 calls)
  • a new squad of CSOs proposed by Mayor Durkan (the main issues at play here are that the currently funded CSO positions are still being filled and there is disagreement as to where the CSOs should be housed, SPD or the CSCC)
  • assuming greater salary savings because of attrition in 2022, including that due to 80 officers who have asked for accommodation from the vaccine mandate, which will probably lead to some number of those officers being let go (the estimate in this case is 12 officers let go)
  • other salary and efficiency savings as outlined by CM Herbold in her amendment two weeks ago
Before we get too hysterical about further cuts to SPD, it’s important to remember that the number of officers responding to 911 calls has thus far remained consistent. This means the increased 911 call response times cannot be attributed to lower staffing at SPD, but is because of some combination of other causes. This balancing package fully funds SPD’s proposed hiring plan in 2022. What it doesn’t do is fully fund SPD’s proposed staffing plan, as the Council is assuming more attrition than SPD is. Expect to hear a lot of vitriol around this distinction. Ultimately the attrition number for 2022 is just a guess, and not a very historically accurate one at that. If the guess is too low, the Council can proviso the money and try to reclaim it later. If the guess is too high, SPD can come to the Council and ask for additional funds.
The funds for participatory budgeting and the Equitable Communities Initiative have been reduced to $30m per program for next year, using some funds that weren’t spent this year. HSD’s community safety capacity building program was also partly funded by funds not yet used for the program this year. The Seattle Community Safety Initiative (the community safety hubs) appears to now be fully funded as well.
Much of the funds to stand up Triage One were cut because SFD is now saying the new program can’t be stood up until December 2022 or January 2023 at the earliest. Apparently bargaining with SPOG about having some 911 calls answered by this new unit won’t even begin till spring 2022. This is all in spite of this new program being announced with large fanfare this past summer. There is still some confusion about the ultimate purpose of this program and how it will complement or fit into other alternate emergency response in the city.
CM Lewis’s amendment asking for $3.1m for a pilot program for a contracted provider-based low-acuity 911 emergency response was not included in the package. This would have started up a program in Seattle similar to CAHOOTS in Eugene, OR or STAR in Denver. Instead $400k is being added to the CSCC to develop an implementation plan and response protocols for such a program, so if it ever gets funded, at least this early work will have been done.
Still, this feels like a setback, especially since Mayor Elect Harrell has said he supports a CAHOOTS-like program in Seattle. The lack of funding for a coherent and cohesive plan for alternate emergency response in Seattle is one of the major disappointments of this balancing package and of the City’s work in general around public safety in the last year and a half.
Other programs not funded in this balancing package include Just Care, which houses people without homes in hotels and would have to cease operations by June 2022; LEAD, which is getting a bit of money but enough to scale up as much as was hoped; and much less funding than requested for the mobile crisis teams managed by DESC to address behavioral health crises, as well as no capital funds for a new voluntary crisis stabilization center. It looks like there will be no additional van for Health One either, although that might be due to constraints in SFD right now.
Programs that are being funded include adding more dispatcher positions to the CSCC, adding more firefighters, and funding CM Morales’s proposal for restorative justice programs. Funds totaling around $4.5m were added for various diversion programs.
The balancing package also provides an impressive $192m for affordable housing and related services.
After tonight’s hearing, the next budget meeting will be at 9:30am on Friday. There will be a chance for public comment at the beginning of this meeting. CMs will continue to discuss the balancing package, asking clarifying questions to Central Staff. Any self-balancing amendments they care to propose must be turned in by noon on Friday.

Other Resources on the Balancing Package

2022 budget "balancing package" released

A Clearer Picture of Seattle’s Proposed Budget Begins to Emerge

Seattle Budget Season News:

This week the Seattle City Council has been meeting to be briefed upon the Mayor’s proposed 2022 budget. Here is the live tweet thread and slide deck for the general budget overview held on Wednesday morning, as well as the proposed budget in total:

Good morning, and welcome to this season’s first select budget committee meeting! There are budget meetings all day today, tomorrow, and Friday.
And here is the live tweet thread for Thursday afternoon’s briefing on Community Safety and Community Led Investments and the Seattle Police Department.
Amy Sundberg
Good afternoon, and welcome to Seattle’s select budget committer, where we’ll be hearing presentations on community safety and community-led investments and the Seattle Police Department.
We’re beginning to see a few points of contention emerging in regards to the budget. One of them is about alternate emergency response: while SPD and the NICJR report supposedly agreed on 12% of 911 calls that don’t require a response from law enforcement, the only additional emergency response funded in the proposed budget, Triage One, is designed to answer a fraction of those calls. Chris Fisher from SPD says he wishes to do risk assessment for every type of call, including the 28 call types upon which there was agreement. When pressed, he said it might be possible to expedite the process for those 28. Meanwhile, there’s no movement whatsoever on the information provided by NICJR that 49% of calls don’t require law enforcement involvement and an even larger percentage still don’t require law enforcement to lead the response. The Mayor’s office is also pushing for any alternative emergency response to consist of city employees, which is different from the Cahoots and Star models that have been so heavily discussed.
There is also the question of the Community Safety Officers. The proposed budget adds another unit of CSOs, and there is disagreement as to where they should be housed: within SPD itself or within the new CSCC. There are labor issues involved here, as well as resistance from within SPD itself, which doesn’t want to relinquish its control over the CSOs. There was a suggestion of possibly even adding more CSOs, but both where they would be housed and current lack of data as to how much time they save sworn officers make that proposal uncertain.
The SPD presentation didn’t make clear how much salary savings was anticipated in 2022 (when asked, Director Socchi said $18-19m) or where it was all being spent, so that information should be forthcoming. CM Herbold also discovered an unintentional error, with $4m of funding for community safety hubs being overlooked, but Director Noble said they could probably fill that funding gap.
There was also an allusion to the possibility of Ann Davison winning the City Attorney race, with CM Lewis suggesting the Council make a pre-filing diversion program for young adults a permanent fixture of the City Attorney’s Office.
Meanwhile, certain CMs expressed their disappointment in the Mayor’s use of the JumpStart funds:
Mosqueda said “it was disheartening to see the mayor’s proposed budget not only use those funds in ways that do not align 100% with what the JumpStart investment was for, but then to also propose legislation” that essentially allows future mayors to use JumpStart funds however they’d like.
Another issue with this decision appears to be the hope that the one-time federal relief dollars would be additive in terms of investments in affordable housing etc instead of merely hitting the original JumpStart spending goals.
Aside from the regular business of calling, emailing, and meeting with your CMs, the next chance to get involved with the 2022 budget will be the week of October 11. The first public hearing about the 2022 proposed budget will be on Tuesday, October 12 starting at 5:30pm, to be followed by three days of budget meetings on October 13-15, which will also have short public comment periods each day at 9:30am.

WA State Redistricting

 

The public hearings related to Washington State’s once-a-decade redistricting effort are coming up next week. Opportunity to give public comment on redistricting regarding STATE legislative maps will be on Tuesday, October 5 from 7-10pm, and opportunity to give public comment on redistricting regarding proposed Congressional maps will be on Saturday, October 9 from 10am-1pm. You can read more about what’s at stake during this redistricting process here.
Right now there are four proposed maps drawn by commissioners, two of whom are Democrat (Sims and Walkinshaw) and two of whom are Republican (Fain and Graves). Unfortunately there are some problems with the Republican maps, namely:
  • greater deviation in district population
  • both split Hispanic/Latino communities in the Yakima Valley
  • neither honored the Chehalis Tribe’s request to remain split between the 19th and the 20th
  • Fain’s map splits Spokane Valley into 3 LDs in spite of community asking to remain in 1 LD
  • Fain’s map in particular further divided many majority-POC cities
  • the Democrats’ maps reduced city splits while one Republican map increased these significantly and the other increased these by a small amount
Why are these maps important? Because they will determine the political future of Washington State on both the state and national levels. Please consider providing public testimony or submitting written comments. At least three commissioners must agree on a final plan by November 15, or the decision moves to the state Supreme Court.

Other Seattle News

SPD released a letter today from Chief Diaz to SPD employees, telling them that Monday, October 4 is the last day for them to get their second Pfizer or Moderna shot in order to be fully vaccinated by the vaccine mandate deadline. He says, “At the moment – we have to assume we have hundreds of unvaccinated individuals based on the information submitted.” HUNDREDS.
District 3 of Seattle will be voting on whether to recall CM Sawant during a special election on December 7. The election will cost around $300k of City funds to administer.
In Seattle’s mayoral race, both candidates have raised a large amount of money. One of Harrell’s largest PACs is financed by large real estate interests, while one of González’s largest is financed by labor. The two candidates attended a debate on homelessness sponsored by the Seattle Times on Wednesday, with Bruce Harrell making what can only be characterized as a callous gaffe, saying, “We shouldn’t have to look at the human suffering of other people, and that’s my attitude going in, that I will bring into the mayor’s office: We don’t have to see it, and we’re going to lead with love, and we will make sure that people can enjoy their parks and have a quality of life that they deserve.”

Recent Headlines

King County crisis services ask for clarity on police intervention | Crosscut

Seattle’s Participatory Budgeting Process Moving Forward

Lots of news to discuss at the end of a busy week!

First off, the Black Brilliance Project presented their final report at the City Council committee meeting this morning. You can view the slide deck here.

CM Morales made a point to emphasize the City of Seattle has been doing participatory budgeting since 2015, albeit on a smaller scale, and that as a result, they have systems already in place to deal with both online and off-line systems for voting etc. The two highest priority focuses to guide the participatory budgeting process were housing & physical space and mental health, and the need for a big push for digital equity was also discussed.

A steering committee will create the rules for the participatory budgeting process. This body will consist of 7 people who meet various criteria that strongly emphasizes lived experience (you can see details of these criteria in the slide deck). The process of choosing the committee will be as follows: first job descriptions will be created and shared, then from the pool of most qualified applicants several will be randomly selected to serve on a jury. This jury will then choose the actual members of the steering committee from the remaining pool of most qualified applicants. There will also be several workgroups working on the PB process.

A potential timeline for the participatory budgeting process has been released. As you can see below, they are hoping the community can vote on proposals this summer, with implementation of the proposals later this year. This is contrary to some commentators’ predictions that participatory budgeting wouldn’t be able to be completed this year.

As you may remember, the City Council has been deeply interested in crisis response systems such as CAHOOTS in Eugene and STAR in Denver. When asked about the potential for a similar system to be funded through the PBP, Shaun Glaze said that community had expressed more interest in many small investments in crisis response and wellness management as opposed to a larger program run by city workers. They mentioned people might still not trust a CAHOOTS-style program that is run by the City.

The next step for the City Council is to lift the proviso on the funds allocated for the PBP, which CM Morales said she’d like to try to do at her next committee meeting on March 16. Right now in the PBP, we are currently in the design phase, and the next step will be brainstorming ideas, which they are hoping to start in March.


In election news, Brianna Thomas is running for CP González’s vacated seat on the City Council. Mike McQuaid is running against CM Mosqueda for City Council, and it has recently been reported that he was charged with assault and harassment over a landscape dispute in 2015. This doesn’t seem to demonstrate the kind of cool head and anger management skills we might hope for in a city council member.


The CPC voted this week to approve a list of recommendations for Seattle’s upcoming contract negotiations with SPOG, in spite of community urging them to collect more community feedback during a community conversation earlier in February:

“The commission generally agreed on the transparency proposals, which included a recommendation to require the city to make public the membership of its negotiating team, its bargaining priorities, and any concessions it makes during negotiations. Commissioners also broadly supported a recommendation that negotiators try to remove the parts of the SPOG contract that allow the agreement to supersede city law; Officer Mark Mullens, the only SPD officer on the commission, was the only member to oppose that proposal.”

The CPC decided against recommending to completely civilianize the OPA’s staff, worried that the police department would then be more likely to hide things from that department. They also chose not to advocate for a section in the bargaining allowing SPD to lay off officers “in a safe and effective manner,” allowing for out-of-order layoffs, citing a concern that this could cause mismanagement.

The new Police Monitor for the City of Seattle’s consent decree, Antonio Oftelie, had an op-ed in the Seattle Times this week. In it he echoes Judge Robart’s warning from earlier this month, basically coming out against defunding the police department, although he is not against finding additional funding for community-driven alternative approaches:

Through the consent decree, the city made a set of binding promises about how SPD will promote public safety. Compliance with the decree requires that the city provide resources necessary to carry out those promises. Stripping away funding from SPD without meaningfully standing up the alternative community resources and social programs necessary to provide for community well-being risks undermining the progress that Seattle has made over the past eight years.


In state legislature news, the Pathways to Recovery Act, also known as the Treatment and Recovery Act, is officially dead. The bill could be picked back up in 2022, although given its status as a “bigger bill” it would be more difficult to pass it during the short session of 2022. Advocates are also considering turning it into a ballot measure in 2022. A similar ballot measure passed in Oregon in 2020.

In related news, yesterday the Washington Supreme Court struck down the state’s drug felony possession law because unlike similar laws in other states, the law didn’t require prosecutors to prove someone knowingly possessed drugs. This ruling could have wide-sweeping implications. The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys have instructed their members to immediately drop any pending cases for simple drug possession and to obtain orders vacating the convictions of anyone serving time for simple drug possession. State legislators are likely to take up this matter before the end of the legislative session this spring, introducing new legislation, so we’ll see what happens there.

Finally, SB 5051, a bill about decertification of police officers, has passed the Senate and moved onto the House. You can read more details about it at the Seattle Times and at People Power Washington.

Thanks for sticking with me, and have a wonderful weekend!

An important Seattle Public Safety Committee meeting tomorrow

Lots of news to cover today!

First of all, we have this morning’s Seattle Council Briefing.

CM Herbold’s report this morning was rather bracing. She spoke about the agenda for tomorrow morning’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting. Included will be the continuation of the discussion about the less lethal weapons draft bill that she’s hoping they can vote to send to the DoJ and Police Monitor to review, as well as a discussion about legislation to reduce the SPD’s 2021 budget by $5.2m to hold them accountable for that level of overspending in 2020. Both of these deserve more discussion.

Kevin at SC Insight does a good job summarizing where we are right now with the less lethal weapons draft bill. Tomorrow the committee will be discussing an amendment to weaken the ban on SPD using tear gas, so now would be a good time to email your CMs to support the complete tear gas ban and/or to testify during public comment tomorrow (2/9) at 9:30am (sign-ups at 7:30am). Amendments both strengthening and weakening the private right of action (the ability of individuals to sue and hold the SPD accountable for misuse of these weapons) will also be discussed.

The CMs agreed to reduce SPD’s 2021 budget by the amount of their overspending in 2020 late last year and seemed generally in agreement about taking this measure to hold the SPD accountable for a long pattern of overtime overspending. However, today CM Herbold signaled that she was waffling on this course of action, mentioning that the SPD has other funding needs; for example, the SPD needs funds to fulfill public disclosure requests, meet minimum requirements for evidence storage, and to hire civilians for CSOs (community service officers) and the CPC. So there might be a bit of a fight over whether this $5.2m should be left in the SPD’s budget after all to cover these expenses or whether it should be removed and potentially allocated into the pool of money for participatory budgeting. It doesn’t look like there’s a committee vote scheduled for tomorrow on this issue, as CM Herbold said representatives from the SPD will be attending a future meeting to discuss further.

CM Herbold also defended the Council’s actions last year after Judge Robart roundly criticized them during last week’s consent decree hearing. During the hearing the new Police Monitor submitted a new work plan for 2021, about which the Judge appears generally favorable. It will be considered for approval on February 19. In the meantime, Judge Robart said that in this time of flux (the pandemic, the upcoming election with the mayor and two Council seats up for grabs, SPD having an interim police chief, and the upcoming SPOG negotiations) it is going to be hard to continue making progress with police reform. He is particularly upset that the Council acted in various ways in the summer (vocally supporting a 50% defund, for example) that contravened the consent decree.

Meanwhile CM Lewis mentioned that STAR out of Denver, a low acuity response program similar to CAHOOTS in Eugene, just released a six month report and has been quite successful thus far. Out of 748 incidents responded to by the program, none ended up needing police involvement.


In election news, Council President González announced she will be running for Mayor this year, creating a wide-open race for her Council seat. So far the most well-known candidate for that Council seat is Sara Nelson, co-founder of Fremont Brewing. Her top issues involve the hospitality industry (big surprise), economic recovery, and restoring public trust in local government. Ouch. You can read more about her here:

Even though the Seattle council seats are officially non-partisan, most members indicate party leanings. On her official website, Nelson — a lifelong democrat — characterizes herself as a “moderate pragmatist,” and many of her positions seem to be to the right of several current city council members (she said she opposed the recent tax on big businesses, for instance, as well as cutting Seattle’s police budget by 50 percent).


The CPC appointed a permanent director last week, Brandy Grant, who had already been serving as interim director. She was the only one of the three candidates who didn’t have a background as a police officer.

The CPC is also hosting a community conversation on the Seattle Police Contracts this Thursday, February 11 at 4pm. The description of the event is as follows:

A chance for the community members to discuss what they want out of police contract negotiations and how we achieve complete police accountability. This event is hosted by the Community Police Commission. City leaders and staff involved in the negotiations will also be there to listen and speak on specific issues.


Finally, some excellent investigative reporting dropped at the South Seattle Emerald today, an article about SPD officials asking King County Jail officials to override COVID-19 restrictions and book protesters facing nonviolent misdemeanor charges.


Expect an update later this week on tomorrow’s Public Safety committee meeting, along with a possible update on the Pathways to Recovery Act decriminalizing drug use and addiction, which may have a hearing in the state legislature on Friday morning.

And the wheel continues to turn slowly

Just a quick update to keep you apprised of current happenings in Seattle, starting with yesterday’s Council Briefing.

During the briefing, there was a second presentation on Seattle’s state legislative lobbying agenda. This agenda will be voted on at the full Council meeting on either December 7 (their goal) or December 14. You can read the current draft of the agenda.

Apparently there is still a chance of a short special state legislative session before the main one beginning in January. However, there’s not much time left to make this happen. There was also another state revenue forecast last week, with positive news that the projected state deficit has shrunk from $10b to $3.3b. The downside to this news is that it may reduce the urgency of lawmakers to pass more progressive taxation legislation this session. Also of note is a new section in Seattle’s lobbying agenda calling for the decriminalization of transportation activity:

We support the decriminalization of transportation activity to improve safety for travelers and the public. We support ending the use of weaponized enforcement for traffic violations and allowing non-uniformed officers, including those working for a local city department that is not a police department, to perform garage and event management activities. We support decriminalizing pedestrian activities such as loitering and jaywalking, which disproportionately impact BIPOC communities. We support setting traffic citation amounts based on income to avoid perpetuating cycles of poverty while ensuring enforcement remains an effective deterrent regardless of an individual’s income and providing additional mitigation for marginalized communities.

In other news, the next Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting will be next Tuesday, December 8 at 9:30am. On the agenda are a discussion about granting the OPA and OIG subpoena powers, a presentation from Co-LEAD, and a discussion about the principles behind CM Herbold’s previous proposal to create defenses for people committing certain misdemeanors when poverty, mental illness, or substance abuse is involved. I plan to live-tweet this one.

Other issues discussed at Council Briefing this week included a COVID relief package for restaurants and restaurant workers; a new project on permanent supportive housing and ways to adjust land use controls to make building it cheaper and faster, presented by CM Lewis (expect more discussion of this in future weeks); and the skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19 cases in our area.

Also yesterday was a legislative preview of police reforms from the Washington State House Public Safety Committee. Among the speakers were several family members of victims of police violence, a few proponents of police reform such as Tim Burgess and Anne Levinson, and representatives of various police groups and unions. The committee chair, Rep. Roger Goodman, said he expected there to be around a dozen proposals to discuss in January, and that they will dedicate entire two-hour hearings to individual bills as necessary. Among the issues under discussion are a state-wide use of force policy; a bill on police tactics that would include a ban on all chokeholds and neck restraints, more limitations on police dog duties, and cessation of no knock warrants; an independent state agency to investigate and prosecute police misconduct relating to deadly force; a statewide requirement for deescalation; a robust decertification system and reporting on officer misconduct by other officers; a publicly searchable database of officer misconduct and also potentially various effectiveness measures; arbitration reform; reforming collective bargaining so that accountability laws aren’t part of bargaining; etc. It’s going to be a busy session, although it’s also good to keep in mind that the legislative process is designed to cause the majority of bills to fail.

The representatives from police groups and unions spoke about the need for more education and training, including implicit bias training, as well as the importance of health, wellness, and resiliency programs for officers. While there are a few areas of overlap for support of reforms depending on the group, overall these groups are not in favor of many of the reforms discussed above.

A moment worth highlighting was when Rep. Lovick asked Tim Burgess why reforms up to this point have not worked. Mr. Burgess had a lengthy reply to this question, and among other things, he said, “The ability of police unions to build in obstacles to reform is extremely detrimental.”

Finally, San Francisco has launched a pilot program for a Street Crisis Response Team now responding to 911 calls related to mental health and addiction. We’ve talked about developing a similar response team in Seattle based on the CAHOOTS model, and it’s great to see other cities jumping on board with this idea.