Blake decision

Police Trust Varies Widely by Neighborhood: Capitol Hill scores 48 while Madison Park scores 72.1

While we all draw a breath of relief over the verdict in the Chauvin trial this afternoon, we must recognize this is only one case among so many and continue to demand more. I am grateful for all of you who are engaged in this work. Together we have the hope of achieving much more change than we could do alone.

State Legislature News

At this week’s Seattle Council Briefing, we received the last state legislative update from OIR. As of yesterday morning, bill 5051 on decertification and bill 5066 on duty to intervene were both waiting for concurrence. The House has refused to concur on Bill 1054 on tactics and bill 1310 on use of force, so those two bills have been sent to conference, where those involved hope to reach a resolution before the end of the legislative session on Sunday.

 

Meanwhile there is still a lot of confusion over legislation to address the Blake decision, as legislators only have until Sunday to pass a vehicle. If they don’t achieve this in time, local jurisdictions will have to deal with the decision in an inconsistent and patchwork way, although a special session of the legislature may be convened in part to deal with this open question. But if 5476 passes as currently phrased, it could initiate other problems, such as a question of jurisdiction of the City of Seattle vs King County. As David Kroman eloquently states,
First, for the city to start prosecuting people for gross misdemeanor drug possession, the Seattle City Council would have to add the offense to its municipal code. Lewis is confident there are not five votes to do that because the council is not interested in “how we are going to rearrange the deck chairs on the war on drugs.
Seattle News
Meanwhile there is still a lot of confusion over legislation to address the Blake decision, as legislators only have until Sunday to pass a vehicle. If they don’t achieve this in time, local jurisdictions will have to deal with the decision in an inconsistent and patchwork way, although a special session of the legislature may be convened in part to deal with this open question. But if 5476 passes as currently phrased, it could initiate other problems, such as a question of jurisdiction of the City of Seattle vs King County. As David Kroman eloquently states,
First, for the city to start prosecuting people for gross misdemeanor drug possession, the Seattle City Council would have to add the offense to its municipal code. Lewis is confident there are not five votes to do that because the council is not interested in “how we are going to rearrange the deck chairs on the war on drugs.
We were not aware of SPD’s press release. However, if they are interested in better protecting our community by instituting changes to their crowd management policies – we remain ready to work with them to immediately implement the CPC’s recommendations.
The 2020 Seattle Public Safety Survey results have been released. Administered by Seattle University in partnership with SPD, the survey was answered by over 11,000 Seattle residents. The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog commented on the striking disparity of police legitimacy based on neighborhood:
Similarly, the average score citywide on the police legitimacy scale was 58.4, down slightly from 59.3 the year before. But if you look at the East Precinct, that number drops to 50.4; in 2019, it was 55.5. Going even further, Capitol Hill’s score was 48 and the Central Area’s 47.1 in 2020, signaling less trust of police in these communities.
Meanwhile, a more prosperous neighborhood like Madison Park scored 72.1 on the police legitimacy scale, indicating that residents there feel police to be more fair and trustworthy.
As we continue to move further into election season, it’s important to remember one of the deciding factors of the Seattle primaries will be who and how many turn out to vote on August 3.
Nathalie Graham wrote an insightful piece about Nikkita Oliver, one of the candidates for City Council Seat 9. About policing in Seattle, Oliver says, “”I think we have spent a lot of years talking about changing the culture of policing…. There is no reforming policing as we know it. There is dismantling and building the public health and public safety system.” They go onto discuss how their platform about housing, transportation, health care, and child care creates their vision of what public safety can be.
If you’re interested in hearing Nikkita Oliver speak, they have a Town Hall conversation coming up with Danielle Sered, who wrote the book Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to RepairThe event will be livestreamed on Sunday, May 2 at 2pm and costs $5 to attend.
Thank you for reading!

Police Trust Varies Widely by Neighborhood: Capitol Hill scores 48 while Madison Park scores 72.1 Read More »

40% of SPD sworn officers received at least one complaint in 2020

Seattle News

First up, Compassionate Seattle has changed the language in their charter amendment, adding a sunset clause so the amendment won’t remain in the charter in perpetuity and changing their language about sweeps. The new language is as follows:
It is the City’s policy to make available emergency and permanent housing to those living unsheltered so that the City may take actions to ensure that public spaces remain open and clear of unauthorized encampments. The City shall develop policies and procedures to address those individuals who remain in public spaces, balancing the City’s strong interest in keeping public spaces clear of encampments and the possible harm to individuals caused by closing encampments. While there is no right to camp in any particular public space, it is City policy to avoid, as much as possible, dispersing people, except to safe and secure housing unless remaining in place poses particular problems related to public health or safety or interferes with the use of the public spaces by others.
This appears to soften the amendment’s stance on sweeps, giving the serving Mayor discretion as to what kind of sweeps policy to pursue. However, given the downtown business donations to this charter amendment, it is apparent whose interests appear to be served by it.
Meanwhile, some disagreement has arisen as to where parking enforcement officers in Seattle shall be housed: the new Community Safety and Communications Center or SDOT. The workers themselves prefer the former option, and the Council followed their lead last year, but Mayor Durkan and SDOT prefer the latter. The parking enforcement officers were keen to be part of the new department in the hopes that they will eventually be allowed to take on additional duties that are currently performed by armed officers. This change of duties is, no surprise, subject to bargaining. While the Council has the power to decide where these workers will be housed, the Mayor’s office could make another obstructionist decision and slow down the development of the new department to show its displeasure.
The OPA released its annual report yesterday, and you can read a salient summary here. This graphic from the OPA’s report is worth a thousand words:
Seattle Office of Police Accountability
Seattle Office of Police Accountability
And if you’re interested in some election news, mayoral candidate Colleen Echohawk is still ahead in the mayoral fundraising race, with Nikkita Oliver leading the pack in the District 9 race.

Washington State News

 

SB 5476, the bill in response to the Blake decision decriminalizing drug possession, passed the State Senate this week, although its sponsor Senator Dhingra opted to vote against it. The new amendment that Senator Dhingra objected to made possession a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Now the bill moves onto the House, which has indicated more willingness to leave drug possession decriminalized. If they do, then the two chambers will be forced to hash out a compromise. Meanwhile, a lawsuit has been filed to force Washington State and its counties to repay financial penalties for drug charges it has imposed in the past.
And with that, I will leave you to enjoy the gorgeous weather this weekend!

Other Articles of Interest

 

986 people have been shot and killed by police in the past year

Legislature moves to resentence up to 114 people serving life without parole under Washington’s three-strikes law | The Seattle Times

Audit of King County jails finds racial disparities in discipline, says ‘double-bunking’ leads to violence | The Seattle Times

40% of SPD sworn officers received at least one complaint in 2020 Read More »

Mike McGinn has thoughts to share on the upcoming police contract, mayoral election, and reform roadblocks

Today really feels like spring!

First up, I want to recommend an excellent interview on Crystal Fincher’s podcast Hacks and Wonks with former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. It is worth listening to the whole thing or reading the transcription, but interesting topics covered include:

  • When the police union contract is being negotiated, if the parties cannot reach agreement then the process is brought to arbitration. In arbitration, the arbitrator is supposed to look at peer cities to determine the appropriate result. But if Seattle wants to be at the cutting edge of accountability reform, for example, then being held to other cities’ standards is a severe constraint upon what is possible. The main way out of this bind seems to be legislation at the state level that takes discipline and accountability provisions out of the providence of bargaining (like dead bill SB5134 was trying to do).
  • What the police contract DOES allow the City to do is reduce the total number of police officers because that is a budget question. However, Judge Robart saying the City cannot reduce the number of officers and remain in compliance with the consent decree largely ties the City’s hands in this way as well.
  • City Attorney Pete Holmes, who is up for election again this November, is in a unique position as an independently elected city attorney. McGinn: “Pete is now in a position to unilaterally decide what is or is not the City’s position on litigation – that’s what his position was. So it’s weird, you know? ‘Cause he represents himself as – his client is the public. Well, how does he know what the public wants? And so therefore he finds himself without a client, essentially, ’cause he can just divine it from within his own head.” Examples of some questionable decisions made in the last year by our city attorney are discussed.
  • The power about how to reform and whether reform is working now largely rests with the Judge, the City Attorney, the Mayor, the US Attorney for the Western District of Washington, the SPOG President, etc.: all older, white people. Meanwhile, BIPOC people have largely been silenced in this matter. Because “important people” told us police reform was on track, most people believed them when in fact the last year has shown us the system is still definitively broken: McGinn: “And I guess, you know, if we’re looking at the next mayor, it’s going to be who’s going to have the guts to just say, Look, this process – the process we were in, was broken and we’ve got to try to figure out how to fix it. And the contract’s an important piece of it, but it’s a lot deeper than that.”
  • McGinn discusses the mayoral election landscape in Seattle: Everyone’s a Democrat, and two candidates usually come out of the primary (in August), one endorsed by the Seattle Times and the Chamber of Commerce, one endorsed by the Stranger. Labor/unions are in the middle, with some falling on each side. A candidate needs to choose which of the two lanes they are going for while trying to fall somewhere in the middle. His assessment right now? Bruce Harrell and Jessyn Farrell are going for the right lane, and Lorena González, Andrew Grant Houston, and Colleen Echohawk are going for the left lane. He goes into a lot more detail in the interview. He also mentions Jessyn Farrell, while she might be aiming for the right lane, would still be a more progressive mayor than Mayor Durkan.

The Mayor’s office has released two recommendations for the participatory budgeting process here in Seattle. One hews fairly closely to the Black Brilliance Project’s recommendations by hiring an outside administrator who would hire the 25-person steering committee. This option would take 11-18 months and would use $7.475m in overhead to administer the process. The other option would be mostly run by the Department of Neighbors, involving the hiring of a 15-person steering committee, and would take 9-14 months and use $2.630m in overhead to administer the process. The letter also raises various logistical and legal issues that need to be settled in order for the Council to release the proviso on the $30m and get the process started. You can read the recommendation letter here. Kevin Schofield has written a detailed breakdown of the letter and points that need to be addressed.

Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Equitable Taskforce looks to be aiming to make its draft recommendations on investments for its $30m by mid-April. The minutes of its latest meeting are available to view online.


In state legislative news, EHB 1090 was voted out of the Senate this week and is being sent to the Governor for his signature. This bill bans private, for-profit prison companies that contract with local, state, and federal agencies such as ICE. One effect, should the bill be signed and survive legal challenges, would be that the ICE detention center in Tacoma would shut down in 2025 once its current contract expires.

State legislators are still grappling with how to address the Washington State Supreme Court ruling decriminalizing drug possession. There are several rival bills currently being considered, including HB 1558 and SB 5475, both introduced by Republicans, and SB 5476, introduced by a Democrat. HB 1558 and SB 5476 are both discussed further here, but there is clearly still work to be done to get the votes necessary to pass anything at all.

And that’s what I have for you today! As always, thanks for reading.

 

Mike McGinn has thoughts to share on the upcoming police contract, mayoral election, and reform roadblocks Read More »

Two Calls to Action and Two Possible Timelines for Upcoming SPOG Negotiations

Happy rainy Thursday! First up, a few opportunities for action.

In WA state: ESSB5226, which would end debt-based license suspension, has a hearing in the House on Monday. Because it needs an amendment to truly end debt-based license suspension, submitting written testimony or testifying live are highly recommended, but you can also sign in to note your support. Sample scripts for comments are available for your use here, but you’ll need to scroll down until you reach the ESSB5226 section on that page.

In Seattle: The Seattle Public Safety and Human Resources committee meets on Tuesday 3/23 at 9:30am to discuss whether they will cut $5.4m from the SPD’s 2021 budget. The Seattle City Council agreed unanimously to cut this money last December (via Resolution 31962) to effectively pay for the SPD’s overspending in 2020 using SPD’s 2021 budget. But now the CMs are wavering on this commitment.

Where would this $5.4m go? The CMs decided last year it would go to participatory budgeting. The reality is, participatory budgeting is expensive, and Seattle’s process could use the extra funds to pay the people serving on its steering committee and various workgroups. These are people who are often not paid a commiserate amount for their time and labor, instead being expected to work for free or a pittance. The goal is to pay them a reasonable fee for their work,while maintaining as much money as possible to allocate to different public safety projects.

You can contact your CMs to encourage them to stand firm on their commitment from last year to hold the SPD accountable for its spending. All the information you’ll need to email, call, or give public comment is available here.


In election news, we have two new mayoral candidates in Seattle.

Bruce Harrell served for many years on the Seattle City Council as well as serving as interim Mayor for less than a week back in 2017. He failed to call for then-Mayor Ed Murray to step down on serial child rape allegations and in fact defended him for months, unlike the majority of his colleagues in public service, which doesn’t exactly build confidence in his ability to lead an entire city.

Jessyn Farrell served in the WA state legislature for four years and previously ran for Mayor in 2017, coming in fourth place in the primary. She seems to have a similar stance on public safety to current Mayor Jenny Durkan and is positioning herself as a kind of outsider.


There have been conflicting reports of when the City of Seattle’s contract negotiations with SPOG are likely to begin. At the CPC meeting yesterday morning, the Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said the next round of bargaining will probably start sometime next year after this year’s elections. He went on to say that sometime in early January we’re going to inaugurate a brand new mayor, and the city will be negotiating a new contract and just starting to set parameters for that new contract.

However, the Mayor’s office does not agree with this assessment. They say that once the LPRC has set the parameters of negotiations, the City will begin bargaining with SPOG, and that they expect this to occur “well before November.”

In practice, this means we have two different possible timelines the SPOG negotiations might take. Holmes’s assessment is based on historical precedent, but there is additional urgency this year that might add pressure to speed up the timeline of the negotiations.


Finally, Washington State is making national news for the progressive decisions coming out of its Supreme Court. This article explains the recent decisions wiping the state’s existing drug possession law off the books entirely and forbidding mandatory sentencing of life without parole to offenders under age 21, both of which have sweeping ramifications to the criminal justice system here in Washington State. It’s worth a read to greater understand how much influence the courts, and specifically judge appointments, wield in which laws are allowed and how they are enforced.

Thank you for reading, and I’m wishing you all a Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day and a Happy Nowruz!

Two Calls to Action and Two Possible Timelines for Upcoming SPOG Negotiations Read More »

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!

Seattle’s Participatory Budgeting Process Moving Forward Read More »