budget deficit

The Debate over ShotSpotter in Seattle Continues, While King County Takes Up Juvenile Solitary Confinement

Seattle News:
Budget

A new op-ed critical of ShotSpotter being in Seattle’s 2024 budget was published this week. There will also be a webinar about ShotSpotter next Wednesday, November 8 at 5:30pm; it will live stream on YouTube and has a Facebook event page.

Speaking of ShotSpotter, at last Friday’s budget meeting, an amendment was proposed to cut $1.5 million from the Crime Prevention Pilot proposed in the Mayor’s budget (this would cut all funding associated with ShotSpotter and CCTV cameras, while leaving money for license plate readers) and instead use these funds to pay for behavioral health services at tiny home villages that have been partially defunded in the 2024 budget. These services allow tiny home villages to house folks with higher acuity needs than they’d otherwise be able to take. 

CM Herbold said she was disappointed that it didn’t appear any additional community engagement has happened over the use of ShotSpotter since last year. Apparently about a month after her request to Senior Deputy Mayor Tim Burgess for the studies he said existed to back up his claim that uniting the ShotSpotter technology with CCTV cameras improved its accuracy rate and its admissibility as evidence in court, he finally sent her some studies. Six of these studies only spoke to the potential benefits of CCTV cameras, with no mention at all of ShotSpotter acoustic gun detection technology. One final document sent was a suggestion found in a guide that one might pair the two technologies, but this didn’t include any study nor reference to a study.

CM Pedersen said we needed to fund ShotSpotter and CCTV cameras because of SPD’s low staffing levels. Perhaps he is not familiar with this study, which found: “Although the study is limited to one city, results indicate AGDS may be of little benefit to police agencies with a pre-existing high call volume. Our results indicate no reductions in serious violent crimes, yet AGDS increases demands on police resources.”

CM Nelson said, “I think there is probably evidence on both sides of the argument depending on which study you’re looking at.” She then failed to present a single study supporting the use of ShotSpotter. 

There was a marathon budget meeting to discuss all the councilmembers’ proposed amendments last Friday. Besides the one using ShotSpotter funding for behavioral health services for tiny home villages, here are some of particular note:

  • Two amendments add funding for domestic violence survivors, including one for mobile community-based survivor supports.
  • Two amendments add funding for inflationary adjustments and a 2% provider pay equity increase for ALL human services worker contracts (some of them were excluded from this in the initial proposal), although one of the sources of funding has raised some questions.
  • A State of Legislative Intent (SLI) requesting HSD and CSCC/CARE perform a gap analysis of the City’s current and priority investments in gun violence prevention as compared to the recommendations in the King County Regional Community Safety and Wellbeing (RCSWB) Plan, and identify complementary, duplicative, or gaps in services provided by the City and King County. 
  • Additional dollars for both the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) ($50k) and the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) ($222k)
  • A proviso asking SPD to resume their contract with Truleo, which provides technology to review body worn camera footage. There is a long storied history behind this one, but it seems worth mentioning ACLU WA has historically been against the use of this technology for privacy and civil rights reasons. 

CM Mosqueda also laid out her plan for discussing new progressive revenue options, as well as other budget-related legislation that isn’t required to balance the 2024 budget. Initial proposals will be discussed on Wednesday, November 15. There will be an additional budget committee meeting after the budget is passed by Full Council (theoretically on November 21) to discuss and vote on these progressive revenue proposals. That extra meeting will be on Thursday, November 30, and should any legislation pass that day, it will then move to a Full Council vote on Tuesday, December 5.

It is pressing for the Council to discuss new progressive revenue options due to the forthcoming budget deficit, which for 2025 currently sits at $251 million. Any new revenue that is passed by Council would need time to be implemented, so in order to have new revenue to fill that budget gap in 2025, legislation would need to be passed sooner rather than later.

New progressive revenue options you can expect to see include a proposal for a small city-wide capital gains tax and the potential repeal of an extant water fee/tax. Councilmember Sawant has proposed two amendments that would require small increases to the current JumpStart payroll tax; these amendments would fund mental health counselors for schools ($20 million) and pay increases for city workers ($40 million). CMs Herbold and Mosqueda co-sponsored both these amendments.

In addition, there has been some talk of a CEO pay ratio tax. This could be instituted as another layer of the JumpStart payroll tax, to be levied on total payroll and applying only to corporations that exceed the CEO pay ratio. It is unclear how much additional revenue this would generate.

The Affected Persons Program, originally funded in the 2023 budget, did not have its work group implemented by the OPA this year. In response, it has had its funding moved over to HSD to contract with a community-based organization to coordinate the workgroup.

SPD’s New Ruse Policy

SPD announced their new ruse policy to much fanfare this week. This policy was created in response to the infamous Proud Boy ruse during the 2020 protests, as well as another ruse by SPD in 2018 in which an officer lied to the friend of a suspect in a fender bender, saying a woman was in critical condition because of the crash. The suspect committed suicide about a month later.

The new policy outlines the circumstances in which a ruse is allowed to be conducted. They are no longer supposed to be used for the investigation of misdemeanor property crimes. Perhaps most strikingly, they are also not allowed to be broadcast over radio, social media, or any other mass media format, a rule that, had it been in place in 2020, might have prevented the Proud Boy ruse. Officers are also supposed to consult with a supervisor before instigating a ruse, although only when “reasonably practical,” which seems like a potentially large loophole.

There are also now new requirements for documenting patrol ruses, which has led to some speculation over how many ruses will actually be documented in the manner described in the policy, as well as how much extra time (and potentially overtime) this might require. The word “ruse” is required to be specifically used in these reports, which could potentially make public disclosure requests around these sorts of police actions a bit easier to implement. 

What this new policy doesn’t directly address is the lack of communication that may have led public officials such as Seattle Public Utilities’ Emergency Manager into believing and making decisions based on their belief in the Proud Boy ruse.

Black Officers Alleging Discrimination at UW Police Department

Back in 2021, five Black officers at the UW Police Department filed a claim alleging dozens of incidents of racial discrimination in their workplace. Jury selection for this trial, which involves claims of over $8 million, began last week. Apparently an outside review was done of the department in 2019, which found a “culture of fear.” And yet UW President Ana Mari Cauce expressed surprise at the lawsuit since the review didn’t mention racism as a concern. How it would have uncovered such a thing given the aforementioned culture of fear is an open question.

King County News:

Solitary Confinement for Juveniles

The King County Council is discussing a new ordinance to replace the ordinance they passed in 2017 banning solitary confinement for juveniles, with a possible vote planned for this coming Tuesday.

First, some scene setting: King County’s youth detention facility has been experiencing staffing shortages. Right now 73 detention officers are employed there, while they are funded for 91 officers. This year they have hired 20 new detention officers while 21 detention officers have left their positions, leaving the facility with a small net negative for the year in terms of staffing numbers. 

The Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention say they would like the juvenile solitary confinement ordinance changed in order to be able to provide one-on-one programming to juveniles at the facility. This would involve a change to the definition of solitary confinement.  But advocates, including ACLU Washington, the King County Department of Public Defense, and Team Child, have brought up a few concerns:

  • Due to the continued staffing shortage, advocates are worried staffing issues might become an exemption to the ban of solitary confinement for juveniles. While Councilmember Balducci’s proposed striker amendment does improve upon this, they desire to see stronger language clarifying that staffing issues won’t become an exemption to this regulation, especially in order to prevent solitary confinement being justified as needed due to a facility safety issue.
  • The ban on juvenile solitary confinement does not include any enforcement mechanism for violations. Without a means of enforcing the right to not be put into solitary confinement, the ban doesn’t necessarily protect juveniles in practice. Advocates are asking for a system that allows kids who have been illegally held in solitary confinement to be able to collect damages without having to file a lawsuit as a means of enforcement. 

If you would like to weigh in on this issue, you can email or call your King County councilmembers and/or give public comment in person or remotely at the committee meeting on Tuesday, November 7 at 9:30am.

Drugs in King County Jail

According to an indictment, a former King County Jail guard allegedly accepted bribes to bring methamphetamine and fentanyl into the King County Jail for two inmates. 

In response, Executive Constantine released the following statement

“The charges alleged in this indictment represent not just a breach of public safety, but a disdain for the trust placed in those we count on to serve and protect. I want to make clear – the charges against this former employee and his co-conspirators tarnish the work that our corrections officers do every day to serve their community with professionalism and the highest standards of care.

The public can count on King County to continue doing everything we can to stop fentanyl and other contraband from entering our correctional facilities.”

Once again, this calls into question the intentions behind Seattle’s drug criminalization bill passed earlier this fall, given some of the people arrested due to this bill will end up in a jail in which illegal drugs are potentially circulating.

WA State News:

Finally, a small tidbit of what is to come during the next state legislative session beginning in January 2024:

Meanwhile, more help will be sought to fill the ranks of law enforcement agencies. The Association of Washington Cities wants the Legislature to update the local Public Safety Sales Tax to allow councils to use the funds to boost officer pay and increase behavioral health resources. It’s also asking the state to offer more classes at the Basic Law Enforcement Academy and expand regional academies.”

Recent Headlines:

Will ShotSpotter CCTV Cameras Roam Seattle’s Streets Next Year?

Seattle Budget News

Budget-Associated Events

If you’re interested in learning more about Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI), you can view the presentation and panel of local experts from this week here. If you’d like to contact your councilmembers in support of a publicly funded GBI program in Seattle, you can find talking points here.

If you’d like to read talking points from the Seattle Solidarity Budget, you can read them here. These should be updated to reflect new information learned during issue identification by the end of the day Monday.

Seattle Solidarity Budget is also hosting a virtual public comment workshop on Monday, October 16 from 6-7:30pm. An overview of Solidarity Budget’s call to action will be provided, as well as help writing up and giving public comment. You can register here.

There are two chances to give public comment related to the budget next week. A public hearing for public comment will be held on Wednesday, October 18 at 5pm. CM Nelson also pushed strongly for a public comment period to be added to the budget meeting on Monday, October 16 at 10am. As always, you can also email or call your councilmembers and share your budget priorities and concerns with them.

Investments associated with the New War on Drugs Bill

I finally have a breakdown on the plan for the $7 million for capital costs and $1.4 million for services that Mayor Harrell promised during the discussion of the New War on Drugs bill. 

The $7 million will be spent on two facilities; we’ve already spoken about the post-overdose site at some length, but the other facility will be an outpatient treatment center for individuals with opioid use disorder and/or other drug dependencies that will offer low-barrier access.

As for the $1.4 million, it will be spent for the following:

  • $470k for existing programs for drug user health and harm reduction
  • $325k for 2 new positions at Health One as well as relevant supplies
  • $582k one-time investment to support service delivery at the post-overdose stabilization center
  • $516k for ongoing costs at the post-overdose stabilization center
  • $164k administrative costs
  • $164k for a planning & development specialist to oversee the work supported by these monies

It is unclear where the money needed to operate the low-barrier access outpatient treatment center will come from.

CM Nelson objected to the use of the funds for harm reduction programs.

Meanwhile, SPD has estimated the requirements from this new legislation will result in it making 700-800 new diversion referrals every year. Right now LEAD is funded with $9.9 million, which allows it to serve 750 program participants. HSD believes this funding level will be sufficient, but how this can be the case when LEAD might not even have enough funding to serve all the new SPD drug referrals, let alone their normal caseload, is something of a mystery at present. Pre-filing diversion programs are also not receiving any increase in funding. 

SPD Budget Issues

The budget issue identification pertaining to SPD was discussed by City Council on Friday afternoon. You can see the presentation and the associated memo

Between January and September of 2023, SPD missed its hiring goals by 36, only hiring 46 officers and only 6 of those being lateral hires (meaning those officers are experienced and can be deployed quickly). They had 77 officer separations during that same time period (the projection was 72). Therefore, they experienced a net decrease of officers of 27.

At best, SPD’s staffing will remain flat for 2024, but this depends on an ambitious plan to hire 120 officers next year, with a full 30 being lateral hires. Unless something changes vastly in the next few months, this projection appears to be removed from reality. Iin 2024, SPD is proposing to fund 1,131 sworn FTEs.

SPD expects to exceed their overtime budget by $9.3 million for 2023, reaching a total of $40.6 million for overtime. The total number of events worked by SPD in 2023 was greater than that in 2019 before the pandemic began. Interestingly, Chief Diaz reported the department uses a combination of sworn officers and parking enforcement officers (PEOs) to staff events. 

SPD has been having trouble staying ahead of attrition while hiring new parking enforcement officers (PEOs) this year, so there might be as much as $1.5 million in PEO salary savings to help plug this overtime spending gap. Yes, now that the PEOs have moved back to SPD, it gets to use PEO salary savings as well as sworn officer salary savings. There are 22 open PEO positions right now, and these are planned to be filled by April 2024. 

Finally there was much discussion of the crime prevention pilot, for which the Mayor is asking for a $1.8 million investment that is being paid for by salary savings (the rest of the $8.1 million in projected salary savings for 2024 is being proposed to be spent on additional SPD overtime). $280k would be spent on additional automatic license plate reader technology. The remainder, $1.5 million, would be spent on deploying CCTV cameras with acoustic gunshot locator capabilities (aka ShotSpotter with cameras). 

The Mayor’s Office has chosen the 3rd Avenue corridor, Belltown, and/or Aurora Ave N as potential locations to deploy this new technology, although they are not yet sure how many locations they will be able to cover with the money available. These locations were chosen from SPD data, looking for places where gun violence, human trafficking, and high felony crime concentration are present. There is also no information available on what a scaled up version of this pilot might look like or how much it would cost. 

The Mayor has suggested this new technology would be deployable by March of 2024, even though it would first need to undergo a surveillance technology review and a racial equity analysis. 

A particularly disturbing detail of the plan is the desire to develop an omnibus surveillance policy. This policy would allow any CCTV cameras in the pilot to be moved around the city at will, without having to undergo any oversight from the City Council. The Mayor has said he will engage with each community to which the cameras are moved, but given some of the community engagement efforts we’ve seen in the past from this administration, this loose commitment doesn’t exactly ease fears of potential issues with this policy.

Several councilmembers, including CMs Nelson, Pedersen, Lewis, and Strauss signaled their potential support for this Shotspotter CCTV pilot. 

I will try to cover the new CARE department budgetary issues next week, but in the meantime, you can see their presentation and memo.

Overall Budget Issue

The critical conversation about potential new progressive revenue sources for 2025 and beyond has yet to truly begin, but Pubicola reports the Mayor’s proposed 2024 budget increases the projected 2025 deficit from $212 million to $247 million. 

And what about the JumpStart tax revenues?Harrell’s budget transfers $27 million from the Jumpstart tax fund to the general fund, an ongoing practice that the council has approved every year for the past several years to keep COVID-era programs going. Much of that includes new spending beyond what the council approved last year in the “endorsed” 2024 budget.”

Other News

The City of Seattle settled with the estate of Derek Hayden, a man killed by SPD in January of 2022. To resolve this wrongful death claim, they paid $1.5 million

The trial of the police who killed Manuel Ellis continues in Tacoma. Before she testified on Monday, Ellis’s mother says she found an AirTag tracking device on her car, as well as having her tires slashed earlier on the weekend. As a result, Ellis’s sister alleged witness intimidation.

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