Blake decision

Seattle’s Alternate Response Pilot a Far Cry from 2020 Demands

Seattle News:

Yours truly was quoted in a recent Urbanist article about the recent shakeup at the Mayor’s Office, which reports that Tim Burgess will be promoted to Deputy Mayor in Monisha Harrell’s wake. Former OPA Director Andrew Myerberg will also be receiving a promotion to Chief Innovation Officer, which will put him on the executive team. It appears that current Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell will be staying until the end of the summer.

Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell appeared at Tuesday’s Public Safety and Human Services Department committee meeting to deliver a presentation on the City’s much-delayed dual dispatch response. The City is hiring six mental health professionals and one clinical supervisor; the mental health professionals will be dispatched in three teams of two, with two teams working at a time. When the new program launches, theoretically in October, it will respond to calls such as welfare checks and person down calls, and it will not provide 24/7 response. Monisha Harrell spoke to the potential of alternate response programs to act as preventative measures that address situations before they become emergencies. 

However, this new program ultimately won’t deliver on the hope to have a new non-police emergency response in Seattle, which has been consistently blocked for the last three years by SPD, SPOG, and former Mayor Durkan. As Ashley Nerbovig at the Stranger succinctly summarizes: “A lot of questions about the direction of the program remain, and part of the pilot program includes collecting data to learn what types of calls don’t require police. That data basically already exists, though. The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform’s 2021 analysis showed that 80% of SPD calls for service involved non-criminal matters. The report also found that about half of all calls did not require a sworn response.” 

She reports that the main difference between this pilot program and the already existing Crisis Response Team is that with the new program, police will be allowed to leave the scene if they decide their presence is unnecessary. This might reflect a recent change in the pilot design as in the past, the dual dispatch plan has been described as having police staged nearby in case backup was needed, which is a key difference as police being directly on the scene can have an escalating effect. In any case, it seems clear the new pilot deviates from the model proven by the successful CAHOOTS and STAR programs.

Meanwhile, the overdue white paper was not mentioned.

On Tuesday the Mayor held a press conference to discuss his downtown activation plan, but he was interrupted by a small group of protesters demanding a ban on sweeps during the winter and extreme weather events. According to The Stranger, he got “incredibly flustered” and stated that the press conference “had them outnumbered at least.” Expect local groups to take notice of the Mayor’s discomfort with protestors and increase their direct actions in response.

Publicola reported on the substance of the proposal, which is mostly a repeat of what the Mayor has announced before: “And, of course, it assumes a heavier police presence downtown—a mostly unspoken, but bedrock, element of the proposal. “Make Downtown Safe and Welcoming” is actually number one on the plan’s list of seven priorities, starting with arrests of people “distributing and selling illegal drugs” (and, presumably, using them—Harrell mentioned that a bill criminalizing drug possession and public use will likely pass in July).”

Mayor Harrell’s office has released a memo on OPA findings about former SPD Chief Carmen Best. Because Best refused to participate in the investigation, the OPA said they were unable to find sufficient evidence to determine whether several of her statements in the summer of 2020 were “knowingly false.” The Mayor’s memo acts as a toothless rebuke, as Best will suffer no repercussions for her actions, even as the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reports that “Best’s use of information and inaccurate statements fits into a pattern of disinformation and “improper ruses” used by SPD during the protests.”

SPD Officer Constantin, who was fired for his social media posts, had his appeal dismissed after he failed to appear. Former SPD Officer Adley Shepherd’s appeal (he was suing the City after being fired for punching a woman he’d arrested and handcuffed) has also been dismissed.

County, State, and National News:

The King County Sheriff’s Office has been ordered to reinstate a deputy they fired in 2021 for killing an unarmed man who was wanted for the theft of a vehicle and a poodle. (The poodle survived.) King County later settled with the man’s family for $2.5 million. Deputy George Alvarez, who already had five shootings under his belt at the time of the incident, will return to the department, although he will not be reinstated to the SWAT team. As Publicola reports, Tamer Abouzeid, the director of OLEO, hopes the outcome of this case could lead to changing the burden of proof of administrative investigations to a preponderance of the evidence, which is a lower burden of proof than the current standard used of clear and convincing standard. 

In the last three or so months, nearly 400 inmates in the King County Jail have been moved to the Maleng Regional Justice Center (MRJC) in Kent. MRJC  now houses about 40% of the average daily jail population, up from around 25%, while the population of the downtown jail has been decreased by about a third. Right now, SCORE is housing 30 jail residents for King County. 

Meanwhile, Larch Corrections Center in Clark County will be closing this fall. It is one of twelve prisons in Washington State. Apparently the Department of Corrections is also finally developing a plan to reduce the use of solitary confinement in Washington prisons, after strong grassroots advocacy for legislation that would ban such use entirely, given that solitary confinement that lasts more than 15 days is recognized as torture by the United Nations and various human rights organizations.

Scott Greenstone at KNKX recently published an excellent piece outlining the lack of drug treatment facilities in Washington state and consequences of the new Blake fix drug law. While legislators and the governor insist the new law is meant to help people get more treatment more than it is to increase incarceration rates, there is a serious lack of treatment facilities in the state, and the existing facilities often have wait times of several months. We don’t know the full extent of the problem because “it’s unclear how many beds are actually sitting empty right now in Washington: The system is so complicated and poorly tracked, neither the governor’s office, nor the Washington Department of Health, nor the Healthcare Authority could provide those numbers.” And the urgency of the problem is increasing: while the number of people getting treated for substance use disorder has stayed relatively flat, the number of overdoses has skyrocketed in recent years.

The article also features noted addiction expert Caleb Banta-Green, who spoke to his feelings of discouragement after the new law was passed, as well as his worries that it will “make it easier to shut down clean-needle exchanges, and force people into an ineffective treatment system.”

Nationwide, we’re seeing a drop in the murder rate, as reported by Radley Balko: “If trends continue, 2023 will see the largest percentage drop in murders in U.S. history. The drop will be driven primarily by large declines in big cities. This would seem to undermine the argument that the 2-year rise in homicides during the pandemic was driven by criminal justice reform, George Soros’s favored prosecutors, or policing shortages.”

Housekeeping:

I’ve received a few pledge requests through Substack, so I just wanted to give you a reminder that if you want to support Notes from the Emerald City via subscription, you can do so through my Patreon.

Recent Headlines:

Seattle’s Alternate Response Pilot a Far Cry from 2020 Demands Read More »

Seattle to Launch “War on Health”

Seattle News

Mayor Harrell has announced the formation of a 24-member Fentanyl Systems Work Group to work on addressing the opioid crisis, using the baffling tag phrase “war on health”. He expressed his support of passing a city ordinance to allow the City Attorney to prosecute drug possession and drug use in public while also providing more treatment and diversion options. The timeline for the work group to come up with a plan is tight, with the goal to be finished by July 1, the date that the new state law goes into effect. To be clear, if the City were to miss this deadline, nothing particularly catastrophic would happen; Seattle never moved to adopt the State’s temporary new drug law passed in 2021 into the municipal code. It will be interesting to see what agreements the 24 people in this work group will be able to reach in only a few weeks, or if they instead end up blowing past the deadline.

CM Lewis is talking about the possibility of a new therapeutic court, which could potentially replace the recently ended community court. Meanwhile the City Attorney’s Office will be dismissing around another 1,000 misdemeanor cases filed before 2022

SPD has referred the case of Officer Kevin Dave, who hit and killed pedestrian Jaahnavi Kandula this January, to the King County Prosecutor, who will decide whether to charge Dave. It is unclear whether SPD referred the case because they believe Dave may have committed a crime or because they were required by law to do so. 

More lawsuits related to the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020 have been filed: Molly Moon’s ice cream shop and Hugo’s Properties LLC are both suing the City. The family of Antonio Mays Jr., who was killed near the CHOP in the summer of 2020, are also suing the City, former Mayor Durkan, and CM Sawant. The missing text messages will almost certainly be relevant in all these cases.

CM Pedersen has proposed a capital gains tax for Seattle. The 2% tax would replace a current tax on water bills, a move some opponents have criticized because low income households are eligible for a 50% discount on their water bills, meaning removal of the water tax might mostly serve as a subsidy to well-off homeowners. However, the implementation of a capital gains tax and the removal of the water tax are being moved through Seattle City Council as two separate ordinances, opening the possibility that the capital gains tax may be passed without repealing the water tax.

A US District Court has issued an injunction against Seattle enforcing its ordinance banning graffiti, saying it is likely too broad and might violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. From The Stranger:

In response to the order, SPD released a statement saying cops could do nothing about property damage. Of course, SPD failed to mention the reason for the order—SPD officers blatantly abusing their power to arrest as a way to discourage free speech. In any case, the City Attorney’s office clarified that the order only applies to the part of the ordinance that describes damage done by writing, painting, or drawing on property. People can still complain that the judge decriminalized graffiti.”

The Community Police Commission (CPC) has requested changes be made to the 2017 accountability ordinance, all of which are directly concerned with the CPC’s operations, including adding additional stipends, adding constraints to stipends, changing the CPC’s ability to remove commissioners, and deleting the phrase “to help ensure public confidence in the effectiveness and professionalism of SPD” from the description of the CPC’s role. Some of the changes appear to be reflective of some of the recent struggles the CPC has been undergoing.

Meanwhile Castill Hightower, sister of Herbert Hightower Jr, who was killed by an SPD officer, has said the CPC is continuing tosilence, undermine, belittle, mock and now threaten with violence the very communities they were initially created to center.” She asks that they stop their interference with creation of the Affected Persons program and relinquish control over the complainant appeals process, among other demands. The CPC was originally supposed to create such an appeals process, but after years of delay, that duty was transferred to the group working on developing the Affected Persons program. You can read her full letter here.

Recent Headlines

 

Seattle to Launch “War on Health” Read More »

Seattle to Decide Whether to Launch a New ‘War on Drugs’

Seattle News

As a result of the new state level drug legislation, the Seattle City Council is on track to vote on a bill giving the City Attorney the authority to prosecute drug possession and the new crime “public use of drugs” as soon as Tuesday, June 6, without running the legislation through committee. Drug possession is currently prosecuted by the King County Prosecutor, and in practice, King County has stopped prosecuting cases involving the possession of small amounts of drugs. Criticized by opponents for reigniting a new War on Drugs in Seattle, this legislation would further criminalize poverty while turning away from evidence-based strategies of drug treatment. Furthermore, because this is the first time Seattle would be prosecuting such crimes, the City currently has neither a drug court nor prosecutors and judges with experience in these matters. There is also the open question of how much putting new structures in place, as well as increasing prosecutions and jail use due to the new legislation, would cost the City. 

Opponents of the bill, including the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, ACLU Washington, SEIU 925, Real Change, Collective Justice, and VOCAL-WA,  are hosting an Emergency Teach-In virtually on Tuesday, May 30 at 6:30pm. You can register for the webinar here to learn more about the legislation and how to take action.

Carolyn Bick has uncovered yet more SPD chain of command confusion regarding the use of tear gas during the 2020 George Floyd protests.

SPD has announced they are beginning their pilot use of the BOLAwrap, also described as a high-tech lasso, a less-lethal weapon that “uses a Kevlar rope aimed at the legs or arms of an individual to detain them.” Its design was inspired by a hunting technique of nomadic peoples in Latin America and has been criticized for being cruel and dehumanizing. Guy Oron at Real Change News reports that we don’t know how much these BolaWrap weapons cost and writes: “In a 2020 Human Rights Watch report, researchers found that the BolaWrap and other weapons like stun guns could result in increased police violence against populations who are stigmatized by society, including mentally ill, poor, Black, Brown and Indigenous people.”

The OPA released its 2022 Annual Report this week. Some highlights: 454 cases were opened (compare this to 929 cases opened in 2019), and 13% of investigations had sustained allegations. Force allegations were down 36%. 411 SPD employees had at least one complaint in 2022, 94% of whom were sworn officers (385), and 142 employees received more than one complaint. 945 sworn officers were in service during Q4 of 2022, which means about 40% of sworn officers received at least one complaint.

This week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting featured a presentation about overdose trends and harm reduction programs in the city and the Q1 2023 SPD staffing and overtime report. In the first quarter, SPD had 26 hires and 28 separations, with 2023 estimates of the force having 928 deployable sworn officers out of 1028 total sworn officers (the difference are those on long-term leave, such as disability, parental, etc.). CM Herbold reported that police hiring is picking up across the country but still not able to keep up with the number of officers leaving. That being said, the rate of separation at SPD does appear to be slowing.

SPD is expecting around $3m in salary savings this year, and they’re also expecting to exceed their overtime budget, possibly by more than their realized salary savings. Not very much of the money allocated (with much fanfare) for recruitment and retention has been spent, but the Mayor’s Office says they’ll start spending much more in the second half of the year, probably mostly for their big new marketing campaign that is supposed to launch around August. Stay tuned!

King County News

The quarterly King County Firearm Violence Report is out, showing gun violence in King County is continuing to decrease from its high in mid-2022:

“Compared to the average of the previous five quarters of data, shots fired incidents in Q1 (348) were down around 3% (-12) and the number of shooting victims (50) were down 34% (-35). More specifically, the number of fatal shooting victims declined almost 17% (-3) and nonfatal shooting victims declined 41% (-35) over those averages.”

Recent Headlines

Seattle to Decide Whether to Launch a New ‘War on Drugs’ Read More »

We’re Going to Go Tougher on Drugs Because No One Cares about Evidence of What Actually Works

Seattle News:

In the latest in the ongoing saga of the missing text messages, the City of Seattle has agreed to pay a $2.3 million settlement to the two whistleblowers who revealed that former Mayor Durkan’s text messages had been deleted. When combined with legal fees, this lawsuit has cost Seattle taxpayers more than $3 million. One of the employees, Stacy Irwin, is quoted as saying, “There’s been no accountability. These officials basically got away with it and the taxpayers are paying.”

Crosscut published an interesting investigation on Seattle’s bike cops:

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney and executive director of the Center for Protest Law & Litigation, said police violence and misconduct are going to occur regardless of the vehicle or weapon. 

“There was some thinking t”hat bicycle units are somehow going to be better because it seems softer,” she said. “But we have seen bicycle units act with extreme violence, attacking en masse, throwing their bikes down and charging crowds of people.”

Police bicycle tactics are concerning because in spite of their violence, the use of bicycles to, for example, push protesters, was not a reportable use of force during the protests of 2020. Another issue at play is cost, with a fully equipped Volcanic police bike model now costing around $2,495. SPD also formed the Community Response Group in October 2020, requiring all team members to be bike-trained, which expanded their ranks of deployable bike officers, meaning this is not an issue that is going away any time soon.

Given the Blake compromise law just passed by the state legislature (more on this below), CMs Nelson and Pedersen are introducing a new version of their legislation to criminalize public drug use. This legislation would be necessary for public drug use and drug possession to be charged by the Seattle City Attorney; right now drug possession is handled by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

A correction from last week: the appointment of Anthony Gaedcke to the CPC fulfills the requirement of the CPC to have two officers on the commission, one from SPOG and one from the SPMA. In the documentation, these two appointments count as appointments by the CPC, as opposed to by the Mayor’s Office or the City Council.

Election News:

The filing deadline for candidates for this election cycle is this Friday, May 19. The primary election will be on August 1.

We’ve had a few late declaring candidates, including Jorge Barón for King County Council District 4, Tyesha Reed in Seattle District 5, and Olga Sagan in Seattle District 7.

After last week’s MLK Labor Council’s candidate forum, the Council has endorsed Maren Costa in Seattle’s District 1.

WA State Legislature News:

The legislature’s special session lasted a single day on Tuesday. The Stranger’s Ashley Nerbovig gave a succinct summary of the downsides of the compromise legislation, which is centered around criminal penalties and coercive treatment instead of a harm reduction approach:

The legislation increases criminal penalties for drug possession, creates a new criminal offense for public drug use, gives prosecutors more power to direct people to jail rather than to diversion programs, allows cities and counties to ban harm reduction services, and adds barriers to siting drug treatment facilities. 

Drug possession and a new offense of public drug use are now defined as gross misdemeanors, but with a maximum sentence of 180 days for the first two convictions (instead of 364 days). This is in spite of many studies showing the criminal legal system is ineffective when addressing addiction.

The bill also includes $62.9 million, an increase of $19.6 million from previous versions of the bill, for an array of supportive services.

Ironically, seven people incarcerated in the Snohomish County Jail overdosed on fentanyl this week, belying legislators’ confidence in jails being an effective place to treat addiction problems. And don’t forget that this new drug legislation will probably also impact the population of the already overcrowded King County Jail.

Recent Headlines:

We’re Going to Go Tougher on Drugs Because No One Cares about Evidence of What Actually Works Read More »

New Drug Law Negotiations Still Messy

Once again, we have a more bare bones edition this week while my hand takes its time healing and I am still unable to type normally. These headlines should give you a sense of what’s been going on this week.

Seattle:

As a Firefighter, I Oppose Criminalizing “Interference” with Seattle Fire Department Personnel

Seattle City Council will vote on this legislation on Tuesday. For more information, read this.

Seattle to settle lawsuit by employees who blew whistle on mayor’s missing texts

Seattle Cop Mocks Trans People, Blames Jan. 6 Riots on Pelosi; County Council Plays It Safe by Proposing Flat Levy Renewal

Seattle-Based Seabold Group Investigated Fmr. SPD Chief Best — Unclear Where Investigation Stands

Maren Costa Builds Council Run on West Seattle Roots and Climate Organizing

King County:

King County councilmembers seek evaluation of jail population reduction programs

King County Council approves sending renewal of Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services levy to ballots

They decided not to ask for an increase in the tax rate.

Washington State:

Progressive Democrats Want to Compromise on a New Drug Law

Inslee calls WA Legislature special session to address drug possession

Criminalizing Drug Possession Is a Mistake We Must Not Make Again

New Police Pursuit Law Requires Less Evidence to Give Chase

Here’s What Happened in Olympia

Heroes and Zeroes of the 2023 Washington State Legislature

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says he won’t run for a fourth term

Slog AM: Ferguson Exploring Run for Governor, Durkan’s Whistleblower Settlement, Biden Agrees to Debt Ceiling Talks

Sen. Patty Kuderer Announces Run for Insurance Commissioner

Resources & Commentary

Our Media Is Fueling Vigilantism Against Homeless People

Three Things To Read This Week: Baltimore’s “Community Violence Intervention Program Is Helping To Drop The Homicide Rate.”

 

 

New Drug Law Negotiations Still Messy Read More »

Hunger Games in the King County budget?

It has been a very eventful week in local news, but unfortunately, I have sprained my hand and am unable to type at any length. So until it’s healed, I will be providing a list of links to help keep you informed of the latest developments.

Particular points of interest:

  • King County is facing a budget shortage that could result in cutting many crucial upstream programs including gun violence prevention, public health drug prevention and treatment programs, adult and juvenile jail diversion programs, youth programming and job training, public health disease tracking and prevention, and more. Part of this budget gap could be alleviated if the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services levy, which will be on the ballot in August, is increased from $0.10 per $1,000 of property value to $0.12. The King County Council is scheduled to vote on what level to include in the final ballot measure early next week.
  • The Washington State legislative session is over, and the legislature failed to pass a new drug law dealing with the Blake decision. The stop gap law expires in July, and there is talk of a special session happening before then to try to come to some kind of compromise. In the meantime, Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison, along with Seattle CMs Nelson and Pederson, have suggested a new drug law for Seattle, but CM Herbold has said she wants to wait to see what might come from a special session first.
  • This week the Urbanist published an article exposing yet more lies that were told around the abandonment of the East Precinct in the summer of 2020.

Resources & Commentary:

Our Full Polling Results on Community Safety Departments

Bail Reform: What to Know and Where to Go for More

“Real public safety problems”

Chicago Victory

The Law Won’t Save Us

Seattle:

“Please Stop on the Teams Chat”: New Records Expose Mayor Durkan’s Role and Others in Abandonment of East Precinct

Proposal to Make Public Drug Use a Misdemeanor Unlikely to Have Much Visible Impact

New public drug use, possession legislation proposed in Seattle

Central Staff memo on new legislation amending the crime of Obstructing a Public Officer to include obstruction of Seattle Fire Department (SFD) firefighters and other fire department personnel.

Annual financial disclosures for Seattle elected officials

The Battle for the Seattle City Council, Part 1: The Incumbents

The Battle for Seattle City Council, Part 2: D1 and D3 Free-for-All

The Battle for Seattle City Council, Part 3: D4 and D5 Scramble

Essential Workers Protest Harrell’s “Insulting” 1 Percent Pay Increase Offer

Here’s why the Lavender Rights Project, county officials, and Seattle’s mayor think this Capitol Hill apartment building is the right place to start a new approach to creating supportive housing and putting a real dent in the homelessness crisis

Edmonds Police Arrested Two Senior Seattle Cops for DUI

King County:

King County crisis center measure leads at first vote drop

King County voters approve crisis care centers levy

King County asking for community input on budget cuts after state’s failure to fix county’s broken tax system

Will Voter Approval of Crisis Centers Spur a More Ambitious Vets and Human Services Levy?

WA State Legislature:

Olympia Shatters Plan to Reboot Its War on Drugs

WA Legislature fails to pass new drug law; special session likely

No Clear Path Toward Criminalizing Drugs in Washington

How the implosion of WA’s drug possession law could spell disaster for addiction support services

Washington to invest more in 988 mental health crisis line

The bills that survived Washington’s 2023 legislative session

Washington Legislature unveils $69.2B two-year state budget

Hunger Games in the King County budget? Read More »

Disproportionate Incarceration is Alive and Well in King County

Seattle News

Judge Robart has set the next consent decree hearing for Tuesday, May 30 at 1pm. Buckle your seatbelts because this one should be interesting!

Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee heard a presentation from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on Tuesday regarding the work that office will be doing should the new consent decree agreement be approved. The Monitor’s oversight work will be transitioning over to OIG, which will also review other parts of SPD beyond those mandated by the consent decree. OIG will be producing a use of force assessment to be delivered to the court by the end of July, which will include force used in crisis incidents, use of less lethal devices, and force used during crowd management, using data from 2021 and 2022. Note this data is provided directly by SPD. They are also hoping to analyze data on traffic stops that aren’t Terry stops, the data of which has been fairly inaccessible up until now. 

OIG’s fourth and final Sentinel Event Review (SER) covering the 2020 protests should be released in the next few weeks. In total, OIG has made more than 400 recommendations to SPD based on these SER reports, the implementation of which they’ll be monitoring. They are also considering utilizing the SER model in the future for officer-involved shootings in crisis incidents. In addition, they will be investigating whether SPD has the appropriate systems to comply with the new state decertification law. 

OIG has made a number of comments designated as “matters of consideration,” which don’t go as far as recommendations. CM Herbold asked about the matter of consideration pertaining to the fact that historically SPD police chiefs have chosen to apply the lower end of recommended discipline when there has been misconduct; Director Judge replied this was a good time to refresh that data and see what Chief Diaz’s trend has been in this regard. OIG is looking at several other issues, including limiting deception during interrogation and reviewing SPD’s “ruse” policy; work around traffic stops with the Vera Institute; case closure rates in the investigative bureau; and a report to be released in Q2 analyzing SPD’s compliance with the city’s youth rights ordinance that requires youth be allowed to consult with counsel before waiving their rights. 

OIG has a new Deputy Director, Bessie Marie Scott, who worked previously for the Public Defender Association and as the Interim Director of the CPC. OIG is currently hiring for three additional full-time positions, including a team lead and two policy analysts. 

This week the Seattle City Council also received an economic forecast report, including a revenue forecast, which shows the core general fund revenue sources are not expected to keep up with inflation. Actual revenues from the Jumpstart tax fell from $293m in 2021 to $253m in 2022, and are expected to be $263m this year, revised significantly downwards from the previous estimate of $294m. The REET revenue forecast for 2023 has also significantly dropped; in November, these estimates were revised from $95m to $68m, and that number has dropped even further to $55m. The REET revenues aren’t expected to recover fully until 2027.

All of this is to say that the Council will be looking at an even smaller pot of money than expected during this fall’s budget season, and the results of the progressive revenue task force have become even more critical.

King County News

This week seems like a good opportunity to dig into the recent booking data from the King County Jail. In the last two weeks, there have been 148 total bookings; 38.4% of bookings have been misdemeanors, of which 50.2% were booked by SPD. If you remember, the King County Council mentioned Executive Constantine can enact booking restrictions for misdemeanors. That being said, 88.6% of the total jail population were booked for a felony. And 21% of the population have been imprisoned in the King County Jail for more than a year.

If you look at how race correlates with charge type, 34.2% of those misdemeanor bookings were Black people, whereas for felony bookings, 27.7% were Black people. Looking at the total jail population, Black people constitute 38.6%. For comparison, Black people make up around 7% of both Seattle and King County’s populations. As we learned in the last few King County Council meetings, many of those in the King County Jail are there because they cannot afford to pay bail or are waiting for competency restoration. 

Thus we can see how disproportionate incarceration is alive and well in King County, and how systemic racism, the racial wealth gap, and underinvestment in marginalized communities continue to cause harm today.

charts showing percentages discussed in text
KCJ bookings showing misdemeanors 4/12/2023
Chart showing percentages discussed in text
KCJ bookings showing felonies 4/12/2023
Chart showing percentages discussed in text
KCJ Population by Charge Type, Race, and Length of Stay

WA State News

While this year’s legislative session has been very productive in some ways, it’s been a disappointing year for police accountability. None of the major bills designed to improve police accountability made it through the legislative process, and SB 5352, the bill that rolls back reforms to lethal police pursuits made in 2021, was passed by the House this week in a vote of 57-40, in what Representative Julia Reed called “the most bizarre debate experience I’ve had to date.”

On Tuesday night the House voted on the Blake bill, SB 5336, which passed 54 to 41. The Senate version set drug possession as a gross misdemeanor, and the new House version changes that to a simple misdemeanor. The potential jail time for a gross misdemeanor in Washington State maxes out at 364 days, whereas for a simple misdemeanor it maxes out at 90 days. You can read more about this bill here, which will now move on to negotiations between the House and the Senate.

Two gun control bills have also now passed both houses. The one getting the most press is the assault weapon ban, which now goes to the governor for a signature and is expected to be the subject of a future lawsuit. The other bill would require potential gun owners to get trained, screened, and wait for 10 days before being able to purchase a weapon. 

Meanwhile, Austin Fields criticized the recent capital gains tax ruling by the Washington Supreme Court for falling short of making a case for a more equitable economy:

The Court’s cautious path was predictable—and widely predicted—but that doesn’t excuse the justices’ failure to endorse a more democratic, equitable tax system. Of course, the state desperately needs the estimated $500 million from the tax to fund early childhood programs. But the Court could have gone further and acknowledged the State Legislature’s existing authority to directly tax the incomes of Washington’s mega-rich to pay for thousands of affordable homes, a health care system capable of treating everyone, and everything else a truly progressive state would guarantee its residents.”

Recent Headlines

Disproportionate Incarceration is Alive and Well in King County Read More »

Innocent Bystanders are the Losers in this Week’s WA Senate Shenanigans

Seattle News:

Erica C. Barnett has uncovered additional information about the call to which Officer Dave was allegedly responding when he hit and killed student Jaahnavi Kandula. The call was not an opiate overdose as has been implied; instead it was a “suspected overdose” responded to by a single aid car as the caller was lucid at the time of the call, and was finished within 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, this incident appears to have reignited a dispute between SPD and SFD about who should respond to medical emergencies. An SFD union leader wrote to Mayor Harrell objecting to SPD officers being trained as EMTs and then being deployed to medical emergencies, while former SFD assistant chief A.D. Vickery “said he’s heard alarming reports about police officers “racing to the scene, putting everybody at risk, so they can be the first one to the patient.””

Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee has released their 2023 work plan.

King County News:

At this week’s Law, Justice, Health, and Human Services committee meeting, King County council members agreed to move up to 150 male inmates from the King County Jail to the regionally owned SCORE jail in Des Moines. The council plans to work out the details to adopt this plan by the end of March, with the goal of moving 50 male inmates beginning in April. This move would require defense attorneys to visit a third jail to see their clients, and SCORE only has one booth where attorneys can pass documents and the like back and forth with their clients. SCORE also doesn’t allow in-person visitation of inmates except with their attorneys.

A new report about JustCARE, completed in January of this year, shows the program has markedly increased its effectiveness: 

“The dramatic increase in the share of JustCARE participants who secured permanent housing at the time of exit appears to reflect three main developments: The shift to longer-term funding for JustCARE from the KCRHA and City of Seattle, which made longer term arrangements possible; The increased availability of affordable, low-barrier permanent housing resources in King County, and Effective coordination by the Public Defender Association and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) that ensures that JustCARE participants are able to access those resources.”

Executive Constantine gave his State of the County address this week, in which he said there will be cuts to essential services as soon as this fall without help from state lawmakers, as property taxes, one of the County’s main sources of revenue, are capped at a 1% increase per year, which is being far outpaced by the current rate of inflation. He also spoke about the King County Jail, as reported by Kate Stone:

“Constantine did emphasize the need to address the behavioral health system with regards to the jail. State law says when a person charged with a crime is deemed not competent to stand trial, the state has seven days to transfer them out of jail and provide the person with mental health services until they are found competent. According to Constantine, that’s not happening in King County.

“Through a lack of funding, a lack of capacity, or a lack of political will, the backlog has left hundreds of people around our state waiting in a jail cell for the help they need. For King County, there are around 100 people languishing in our custody on any given day … some for up to 10 months,” he told the county council. He said only action from the state would be sufficient to address that problem.” 

WA State Legislature News:

This past Wednesday was the cutoff for bills to be passed out of their house of origin, leading to a flood of bill deaths. The following bills are no longer active for this session:

  • HB 1513 regarding traffic stops
  • HB 1024 regarding minimum wage for inmates
  • SB 5383 regarding decriminalizing jaywalking
  • HB 1025, regarding civil liability for police
  • HB 1445, regarding giving the state’s Attorney General powers of investigation & reform 

HB 1579 for an independent prosecutor passed the House and is now being considered in the Senate. The middle housing bill also passed the House. 

The Senate passed a drug possession bill requiring coercive treatment as well as failing to decriminalize drug possession. This will now be considered in the House.

In alarming news, the Senate passed a bill rolling back limitations on high-speed vehicular pursuits, even though the new limitations have been shown to be saving lives, including those of innocent bystanders. Senator Dhingra had refused to give this bill a hearing during committee meetings earlier in the session, but the Senate suspended the rules in order to push this bill to the floor on the last possible day for its consideration. It would lower the standard for police to begin a chase from probable cause to reasonable suspicion. Disappointingly, several Democrats voted in favor of this rollback. 

Recent Headlines:

Innocent Bystanders are the Losers in this Week’s WA Senate Shenanigans Read More »

SPD Continues to Answer a Large Number of Non-Criminal Calls

Seattle News

SPD’s 2022 Crime Report was released this week and will be discussed at the next meeting of Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee on Tuesday. While one of the report’s pull quotes is “the violent crime rate reached a 15-year high in 2022,” it is important to remember not only that crime data provided by police departments is not inherently reliable, but that violent crime in Seattle began to drop in the fall of 2022, and December 2022 had the fewest number of violent crimes reported since March of 2020. 

As an article in today’s Seattle Times states: “Overall Seattle crime is down 28% in the past five months, and violent crime is down 30% compared to earlier in 2022, which Diaz said translated to 1,000 fewer police reports filed last month than in January 2022.” Regarding gun violence, it states: “Manion, who’s planning a gun violence prevention summit next month, noted the last quarter of 2022 was also the fourth consecutive quarter where the number of people age 18 to 24 injured or killed in shootings had declined. She thinks the decrease among that demographic is likely a result of intervention work being done by community groups and Harborview social workers, as well as the return to in-person schooling.Unfortunately injury and fatalities from gun violence in the 30-to-39 year old age group have continued to increase, showing where more intervention may be needed.

Other information of note in the SPD’s 2022 Crime Report:

  • The top five categories of 911 call types answered by SPD in 2022 were non-criminal in nature: traffic, suspicious circumstances, disturbance, assist public, and premise checks.
  • Community-generated calls remained at the same level in 2022 as 2021.
  • Bias crimes against unhoused people increased in 2022.

Several surveillance technologies currently in use by SPD were discussed at the Economic Development, Technology, and City Light Committee meeting this past Wednesday. You can read more about the ACLU Washington’s take on Seattle’s use of these technologies here.

A crowd of bystanders gathered near 12th and Mercer on Wednesday night to intervene with a police response to an unarmed person in crisis. One officer had aimed his rifle at the person in crisis and commanded them to drop any weapons and get on the ground. Bystanders yelled that the person in question didn’t have a gun and began filming the scene, eventually persuading the police to disengage and protecting the person in question from a potentially violent police response.

Election News

Seattle CM Mosqueda has confirmed her run for King County City Council Seat 8, and she already has a huge number of endorsements, including from Seattle Mayor Harrell and his opponent former Seattle Council President Lorena González, Executive Constantine, and the more progressive Seattle and King County CMs.

CM Lewis has his first announced opponent for Seattle CM in District 7 in Ryan Krumbholz.

And of course, ballots for Initiative 135 for social housing in Seattle are due on Tuesday, February 14.

WA State Legislature News

Senator Dhingra introduced her drug decriminalization bill that follows SURSAC recommendations, SB 5624, which had a hearing on Monday. The bill had also been scheduled for an executive session for later in the week, but this hearing was later canceled. Senator Robinson’s bill SB 5536 appears to be the preferred vehicle moving forward. This bill makes drug possession a felony while inserting the word “knowingly” to address the Blake decision, and it encourages the use of diversion programs.

Bills are moving along as we draw closer to the committee cutoff date of February 17, a week from today. HB 1513 regarding traffic stops and safety had an executive hearing on Thursday. HB 1363 unrolling the important high speed pursuit bill of 2021 has a tentative executive hearing next week, SB 5533, which would study high speed pursuits and collect more data, is scheduled for a hearing in the Ways & Means committee on Tuesday.

HB 1024 providing minimum wage in prisons has an executive session in the Committee on Appropriations on Monday, as does HB 1087 regarding solitary confinement. SB 5383 to decriminalize jaywalking has its first hearing in the Transportation committee on Monday. HB 1579 to establish an independent prosecutor had an executive session on Thursday. HB 1025 concerning civil liability for police had an executive session on Friday, and HB 1445, the AG investigative and reform bill, was referred to Appropriations. 

Housekeeping

I’ll be keeping a general eye on events but will be on vacation for the next two weeks, so unless something monumental happens, you can expect more Notes from the Emerald City in early March.

Recent Headlines

SPD Continues to Answer a Large Number of Non-Criminal Calls Read More »

The Cycle of Police Violence Continues Unabated

National News

Front of mind is the recent video footage release of the Memphis police killing Tyre Nichols. 

I was particularly struck by something Courtney Milan, writer and lawyer, shared on Twitter:

“We’re threatened with random, stochastic crimes by faceless criminals to justify the senseless violence that is being dealt by officers of the state. It keeps happening, and we keep doing the same thing. It’s not just that we should defund the police and fund social services. It’s that funding social services—things that could house the unhoused, really treat addiction, etc etc—would remove the visible markets that are used to keep us in fear.

So many people have died in pain and the only thing that happened was that the backlash to people saying “we should not do this, let’s stop” meant that police got even more money.”

The cycle of police violence is very apparent, and it will continue unabated until enough people work together to stop it.

I will leave you with a quote from journalist Derecka Purnell in the Guardian:

“I immediately noticed that almost all of the reforms that liberals suggest will save Black lives were present in Tyre’s death. Diversity was not an issue: the five cops who killed him are all Black. The body cameras strapped to their chests did not deter their fists from delivering blow after blow. Memphis has about 2,000 cops, and if this were a “few bad apples” in the department issue, then maybe they all happened to be working on the same shift. Cops did not shoot Tyre; they opted for a less deadlier force: they beat him for three minutes, shocked him and pepper-sprayed him.

In fact, Memphis police department boasts that they have met all of the features of Campaign Zero’s #8CantWait campaign, which includes a requirement for officers to intervene when other officers are using excessive force and a requirement to de-escalate encounters with civilians. The department has been under a consent decree for decades. MPD hired its first Black woman police chief in 2021 and holds Black History Knowledge bowls and basketball programs to “build trust” and relationships with local teenagers.”

Other relevant articles:

Seattle News

The officer who killed Jaahnavi Kundala, a graduate student who was in a crosswalk when hit by his SUV, has been identified as one Kevin Austin Dave. The watchdog group DivestSPD was the first to release this name, which was later corroborated by SPD. There are still many unknowns outstanding about this incident, including how fast Dave was driving and whether he stopped after hitting Kundala.

My colleague at People Power Washington, Dr. Shannon Cheng, appeared on Hacks & Wonks this week to discuss the SPOG contract: why it’s important, bargaining challenges past and present, and what to look for in the next contract.

Carolyn Bick at the South Seattle Emerald has uncovered evidence suggesting former Mayor Durkan and her office were interfering in Seattle’s police accountability process by trying to either delay or prevent the OPA from investigating then-Chief of Police Carmen Best for her role in handling the 2020 protests.

Will Casey, who has been doing an excellent job covering the “Criminal Justice” beat at The Stranger, has unfortunately left the paper. While I look forward to the work of his replacement, whoever that may be, this is another loss for local news coverage in the Puget Sound area. While the importance of media coverage is widely understood, journalists often receive relatively low pay and work long hours, making it difficult to retain them and provide quality local news coverage. Consider this your regular reminder to contribute to local publications the South Seattle Emerald and Publicola if you are able.

Election News

We’ve made it to February, and there’s so much election news!

CM Morales has announced she will be seeking re-election in Seattle’s District 2. She is only the second Seattle CM to decide to run again, and now we’re waiting for CM Strauss to have a complete picture of which seats are open.

In District 1, Maren Costa has announced her candidacy, meaning there are now three declared candidates. District 3 has five announced candidates thus far, and in District 4, in addition to early announcer Matthew Mitnick we now have Kenneth Wilson, who ran against Teresa Mosqueda for a city-wide seat last year, and urbanist Ron Davis, who comes into the race with a slate of endorsements and after publishing several op-eds over the last few months.

Meanwhile, in the King County Council races, Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld has declared her candidacy for District 4, and there are rumors CM Mosqueda is considering a run for the District 8 spot. If she were to be elected to the King County Council, the two years remaining in her Seattle City Council term would be served by someone appointed by the Council, a body that will be largely reshaped by the elections this November.

The King County Council voted to put the new crisis center levy on the ballot, and residents will vote on this initiative this April (April 25, to be precise). This property tax levy would go into effect in 2024, and over a nine year period it could raise as much as $1.25b to fund the construction of five much-needed walk-in crisis centers that would be open twenty-four hours.

And don’t forget Initiative 135 for social housing! The ballots have been mailed, and the deadline for voting is February 14.

WA State Legislature News

HB 1579 to establish an independent prosecutor had its first hearing in the House on Tuesday, and HB 1513 regarding traffic stops had its first hearing in the House on Monday. HB 1024 regarding minimum wage for prison labor had a hearing in the Appropriations Committee on Monday afternoon. HB 1045, the basic income bill, was referred to Appropriations. SB 5383 regarding jaywalking still hasn’t had its first committee hearing. 

HB 1087 to end solitary confinement has a hearing in the Appropriations Committee tomorrow afternoon. You can sign in PRO here or find a script to email the committee members here.

As for a new bill to address the Blake decision on drug possession, while a bill has been introduced by Senator Dhingra based on the recommendations of SURSAC that would decriminalize most “personal amounts” of drugs, she has said she doesn’t have the votes to pass it. Instead what is likely to pass is a bill re-criminalizing drug possession but encouraging diversion programs.

Recent Headlines

The Cycle of Police Violence Continues Unabated Read More »