The Exodus of Inmates from the King County Jail Continues

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

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

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

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

Seattle News:

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

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

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

King County News:

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

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

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

Washington State News:

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

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

Recent Headlines:


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

A grab bag of news (and a couple actions) to lead us into the weekend!

Lots of news to report on this week! But first, a little housekeeping….

Changes to this newsletter

It’s hard to believe that I started this newsletter over nine months ago now. I’m pleased to say this is the 55th issue! This is also the first issue at Notes from an Emerald City‘s new home at Revue. While it was not an easy task to weigh the ethical problems with Twitter against the ethical problems with Substack, I have ultimately come to the conclusion that for now I am more comfortable working on the Revue platform. Hopefully this change won’t affect you, the reader, at all; I’ve already ported my email subscription list over to this new platform. You will receive one last notification email from the old Substack newsletter, and then we will carry on here at Revue.
At the suggestion of a few readers, I have also added a paid subscription option to this newsletter. I think it’s important the news and information I discuss here be free and available to all, so I won’t be locking any posts for only paid subscribers. Instead this is a chance for you support the work I’m doing if you find it valuable and can afford to do so. You can give via a monthly subscription here.

WA State legislature news

In the Washington State legislature, both HB 1054, which deals with use of force, and SB 5051, which deals with the decertification process, have passed both Houses. HB 1310, which deals with de-escalation, is still in the Senate Rules committee. You can email the Chair of the committee, Karen Keiser, to ask her to pass this bill out of committee.
In other state legislature news, Governor Inslee signed the bill restoring voting rights to those who have committed felonies upon their release from prison. He also just signed SB 5055 today, which reforms arbitration but is fairly weak.

In Seattle

On Monday at their full council meeting, the Seattle City Council will be voting on whether to appropriate additional money for the SPD to fund civilian Bias Crime Prevention Coordinators. The Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP), a grassroots group providing outreach support for Asian immigrant massage workers in Chinatown-ID, has condemned this action, saying, “Despite the Executive’s insistence that this position will be undertaken by a non-uniformed, civilian position within SPD, we fully reject any attempts to conflate the police department with any attempts to address community safety and issues related to anti-Asian violence.” You can email your CMs to urge them to vote against this additional expenditure, or you can sign up for public comment at the meeting on Monday, April 12 at 2pm (sign-ups begin at 12pm).
The critique on the proposed charter amendment on homelessness continues. Main arguments against the amendment are its lack of naming a funding source or providing additional funding to achieve its goals and the ambiguous language that could mean a return to a city policy of more aggressive sweeps. Dr. LaMont Green of the Lived Experience Coalition said, “”You know this is all setting the stage for aggressive encampment sweeping.”
It’s clear that a great deal of power over how to enact such an amendment would rest with the Mayor. Accordingly The Stranger‘s Nathalie Graham asked mayoral candidates what they thought of the amendment. Andrew Grant Houston came out against the amendment, while Bruce Harrell supports it. Colleen Echohawk says she is hopeful about it, and Lorena González says it’s a good start while criticizing its lack of funding. Jessyn Farrell says what I’m thinking, which is, “This policy is really only going to be as good as the next mayor.” But the charter amendment would exist in perpetuity, which means it will also only be as good as the mayor after that, and the mayor after that.
Meanwhile, the appeals court upheld the termination of Officer Shepherd from the SPD for excessive use of force, although SPOG will be appealing this decision to the state Supreme Court. This case is interesting because, as Kevin Schofield reminds us, “It does remind us that arbitration, a right guaranteed to police officers under state law, is a far from perfect process that is still overdue for reform.”

Other WA State News

Meanwhile, across the lake in Bellevue, an outside consultant has completed their use of force policy review for the Bellevue Police Department and will be presenting their recommendations at the Belleuve City Council meeting on Monday, April 12 at 6pm. You can take a look at the report here, which ends with a whopping 47 recommendations for changes to the policy. The Bellevue Police Chief is scheduled to brief the Council on this report at a future meeting.
In King County, the calls for the King County Sheriff to resign are continuing. If Sheriff Johanknect were to resign, the timing would matter; before a certain date and there would have to be a special election for a new Sheriff for only a short period of time before the office becomes an appointed one, whereas if she resigns after May 15 she’d be replaced by an interim sheriff.
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely weekend!

Other Articles of Interest

DAJD Could Do More to Prevent Deaths in Jails, Disciplines With Racial Bias, Report Finds | South Seattle Emerald

Nearly 200 cops with credibility issues still working in Washington state | Crosscut

Decriminalizing Drugs Is Popular in Washington - Slog - The Stranger

A grab bag of news (and a couple actions) to lead us into the weekend! Read More »