Carmen Best

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 »

SPD Responsible for 1 out of 10 Killings in Seattle, Data Scientist Says

Seattle News

First up, I wrote an article for The Urbanist about the proposed drug legislation being voted on in Seattle next week. If you’d like to email your councilmembers and/or give public comment at the City Council meeting next Tuesday June 5, you can find a quick email submission here, and scripts here and here. It looks like the vote will be a close one.

Late last week, City Attorney Davison informed the Seattle Municipal Court she will no longer be participating in their community court, effectively shutting it down. Those people on the High Utilizers Initiative list were already barred from using community court, which was a court for people who had committed certain low-level crimes. This step is likely to significantly add to the caseload of the City Attorney’s prosecutors. It will be interesting to see how the office’s case clearance rate, rate of dismissals, and attrition rate will be impacted by this change in the months to come. CM Lewis has been vocal in defense of community court, tweeting, “Misinformation about Seattle Community Court success rates is circling in the media, so let’s get a few things straight. Approximately 75% of people who enter Community Court complete the program, and 80% of them go on to commit no new criminal law violations.” 

It has come to light that during the 2020 George Floyd protests, SPD called for help from at least 23 different law enforcement agencies. Officers from these agencies were not ruled by SPD policy relating to use of force, reporting, and accountability, and used weapons such as “Stinger” rubber pellet blast grenades, 12-gauge beanbag “shotgun” rounds, military style SAF smoke, HC smoke, and Aerial Flash-Bang devices. As Glen Stellmacher reports:

If SPD holds a backdoor policy that allows for the use of these weapons, that policy is not available to the public, nor are the conditions for the use of these specific weapons. If SPD solely relied on communication with these agencies to prevent the use of certain types of weapons, that dialogue appeared chaotic and indecisive.”

There were at least 547 uses of force by these other agencies during the 2020 protests, and it doesn’t look like any of them were investigated by the OPA. The OIG is performing an audit about SPD use of “mutual aid,” but no results of this audit have yet been made available to the public. It also appears that SPD orchestrated their infamous Proud Boy “ruse” because they didn’t know how to deal with crowd control without their mutual aid partners.

Meanwhile, Seattle has spent a whopping $20.1 million on outside legal fees for four lawsuits related to the 2020 protests.

The 2020 protests are also haunting Bob Ferguson, who launched an exploratory campaign for governor at the beginning of May. He announced the endorsement of former SPD Chief Carmen Best on Twitter this week. His base in Seattle didn’t take kindly to this news, as Best admitted to deleting text messages and was in charge of SPD during the tear gassing of Seattle neighborhoods during the 2020 protests. 

On the Consent Decree

This week, Judge Robart held a hearing in response to the DOJ and City of Seattle’s request for reduced oversight and an imminent end to the consent decree that has been in place for over eleven years. While it is unclear when the judge will issue a ruling, he signaled he will be rewriting parts of the proposed order but that overall he is proud of the work SPD has done under the consent decree. Not everyone agrees with this assessment:

“Ultimately, Seattle’s experience shows consent decrees to be a trap — one that results in more expensive police departments, but which leaves untouched the violence at the heart of policing. Consent decrees first offer communities validation for the harm police have caused them, along with a promise of someone else coming in and “fixing” the police. In practice, they cut off community voices, inflate police budgets at the expense of everything else, and legitimize the very police force that continues to harm the community.” 

Meanwhile, data scientist Dr. Sherry Towers wrote to the judge before the hearing to share some alarming findings, saying, “During my examination of police shooting and homicide data from 2015 to 2021[*] in my research, I found that the rates of police killings per homicide in Seattle were significantly higher than in other areas of the US (nationwide around 3% to 4% of all homicides were due to police killings, whereas in Seattle during that time period that number was 11%, well over twice the national average – to put this in perspective, one out of ten people killed in Seattle since 2015 was killed by a police officer).” 

She went on to say, “I found that by all measures I examined, fatal police violence and racial disparities in police shootings became worse after the consent decree, both in total number and per homicide.  In addition, significantly more police officers were involved in each shooting incident after the consent decree (2.5 on average), compared to before (1.5 on average), and police shootings became significantly more likely to be fatal.” 

Finally, a particular wrinkle of police union contract bargaining was discussed at the hearing. In general, if the negotiations between the City and the police union reach an impasse, the next step is to go to interest arbitration. However, the only issues that are allowed to go to interest arbitration are those that were included in the list of contract issues to be bargained that is created at the start of negotiations. So if a new issue comes up in the middle of negotiation, that can’t be forced into interest arbitration. This had huge implications for the 2017 police accountability ordinance, which hadn’t been included on the list of contract issues for the SPOG contract that was approved in 2018. 

Recent Headlines

 

SPD Responsible for 1 out of 10 Killings in Seattle, Data Scientist Says 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 »

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 »

American Police Still Kill an Average of Three People per Day

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. It is a natural time to reflect on what progress has been made to address the systemic racism that is part of the foundation of the United States, and in particular how we are addressing policing and criminal justice in this country, which currently disproportionately impacts Black and Brown people. It’s worth noting that American police are still killing an average of three people per day. We still have a lot of work to do.

Seattle Council Briefing & Public Safety Meeting

Amy Sundberg
It’s time for the Seattle Council Briefing!
On Monday CM Morales asked to add the finished legislation around the participatory budgeting process to the introduction and referral calendar. This would allow the Council to skip the usual committee vote and have the legislation go directly to the full Council meeting on June 1.
CM Herbold introduced an amendment that allowed the Council to go forward with the transfer of the 911 call center to the new safety center while giving the PEOs until September 1 to try to find agreement between their two unions as to whether to move to the new center or to SDOT.
Meanwhile, Kevin Schofield reported that the reason the legislation to cut the SPD budget (originally by $5.4m, now by ~$2m) didn’t appear on this week’s agenda after all was because:
The problem, it appears, is that only seven of the nine Council members were present today, with Gonzalez and Juarez having excused absences. A bill requires five votes to pass the full Council, and with Sawant and Morales already on the record as hard “no” votes, that left no room for error: Herbold needed all five of the remaining Councilmembers on her side. Rather than play those odds, she apparently decided to wait a week (or perhaps more) until all nine Councilmembers are in attendance.
It is unclear whether even with full attendance, CM Herbold will have enough votes to pass this legislation, which many feel no longer holds the SPD accountable for going over budget last year. Complicating matters, the Police Monitor is on the record as opposing even a $2m budget cut. If the legislation doesn’t pass, the proviso will remain in place and the status quo of the budget will be maintained.
Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to the Seattle Public Safety and HSD committee meeting. CM Pedersen is attending in place of CP González today.
This week’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting heard the 2020 annual report from the OPA (slide deck here). CM Herbold opened the meeting by talking about the swinging pendulum of racial justice and her fear that City Hall is losing its sense of urgency. She directly stated her belief that the consent decree is a barrier, while also going over the last year’s achievements.
The OPA annual report shows us that 40% of sworn SPD officers received at least one complaint in 2020, with professionalism, use of force, and bias being the three most common complaints. Use of force complaints rose dramatically. 18% of OPA investigations resulted in sustained findings, and disciplinary appeals decreased 70% from 2019.
Director Myerberg reported on his progress with the investigation into the six SPD officers present in Washington DC on January 6 during the insurrection. He expects to issue his findings in the case in early July. The Terry Carver case is also completed but the findings haven’t been issued; he expects an update there within 30 days.
Director Myerberg also talked about his efforts to change state law in order to reform the objective reasonableness standard in his investigations, which is extremely preferential to police officers; this reform was not enacted by the state but could be worth some energy to pass in a future session. There was also some discussion of how the SPOG contract prevents the OPA from hiring more than two civilian investigators; some experts believe having at least 50% civilian investigators could lead to better accountability. He called out the enacted state decertification bill, saying it could be a sea change on police accountability. He closed by saying Seattle is using the best existing model for accountability systems and cautioning against change that isn’t driven by research and data.
The new board will have powers beyond this: It will be able to investigate police misconduct — and, to complete its work, will be able to subpoena documents and compel the release of evidence, witness testimony, and the cooperation of sworn officers. Rather than recommend discipline, the board will impose it itself — it will even be able to fire officers, including those found to have lied when presenting evidence or testimony during the course of the inquiry.
And the new board will have the ability to make policy; should the department reject a rule created by the board, that rule will automatically be sent to the city council for a vote, and the council could vote to institute it.
However, the new board has already, unsurprisingly, hit some snags. Still, it is expected to be running in a year and a half. It will be interesting to see if it can overcome the hurdles to its implementation and perhaps set a new “best existing model” for police accountability in the nation.

Also in Seattle

Paul Kiefer reports that Inspector General Lisa Judge recently sent a recommendation to Interim Chief Diaz “asking him to start phasing out traffic stops for “civil and non-dangerous violations”—violations that, unlike DUI or reckless driving, do not endanger the public.” He also reports on continuing concerns over the Chief’s overturn of the OPA’s misconduct finding in the pink umbrella case.
Meanwhile, former Police Chief Carmen Best appeared on a podcast talking more extensively about the decision (or lack thereof) to abandon the East Precinct last summer, prompting the Seattle Times to interview her again as well.
And with the filing deadline passed for Seattle election candidates, we now know the full slate running in the primary in August. Fifteen candidates have filed to run for Seattle mayor, and incumbent City Attorney Pete Holmes has two challengers, Ann Davison and abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy. The open Council Seat 9 has three leading fundraising candidates, and for Council Seat 8, incumbent CM Mosqueda has attracted ten challengers, none of whom have raised any sizable contributions.

American Police Still Kill an Average of Three People per Day Read More »

The final pieces of the SPD-related legislation passed today.

Police Chief Best Announced Her Retirement

Chief Carmen Best was the first black woman to lead the SPD. Her last day will be September 2, and Mayor Durkan has appointed Deputy Chief Diaz to serve as interim chief, with no plans to search for a new chief until next year at the earliest. Chief Best said at the press conference announcing her retirement that she’d made the decision to retire because she couldn’t bring herself to make any layoffs and because of the lack of respect for officers. She also felt targeted personally by the Council and therefore felt it would be better to get fresh eyes on the problem.

Here’s a balanced summary of various reactions to this news. There have been debates over whether it was about the money; the Council had discussed reducing Best’s salary and ultimately reduced it from $294k to $275k, although Best herself says it wasn’t about the money. Some people feel the Council drove Chief Best out. I have a lot of compassion for Chief Best, who I think was in an impossible position, and for the people who are suffering because of this situation.

I do think it’s important to be clear that the City Council is bound by bureaucracy to not engage in discussion with department heads (of which Best is one) during budget season. That being said, while preparing the 2020 revised budget, they did consult with other members of the command staff at the SPD more than once; I know that to be true because I watched them do it. One can argue that this is a bad policy that should be changed; I have no opinion on this because I don’t know the reasoning behind the policy. But the Council was in fact just abiding by rules agreed upon by everyone beforehand. For Mayor Durkan to repeatedly slam them for following these rules seems like a misrepresentation of the facts.

Today’s Special Meeting:

Twitter avatar for @amysundberg

Amy Sundberg @amysundberg
The special meeting of the City Council has begun!

This afternoon’s special Council meeting was full of political posturing and hedging as the Council discussed the COVID relief bill that was vetoed by the Mayor. The division between the Executive and the City Council is particularly rancorous right now, and the slamming the Council has been taking in the press this week hasn’t helped. From all the rhetoric, it sounds like the Council was trying to find a compromise and make a deal with the Mayor regarding this legislation, but that the Mayor refused to come to any compromise unless the Council first sustained her veto. CMs Pedersen and Lewis were willing to do this, but the other council members were not. (CM Juarez was absent today.) Therefore the Council was able to override the veto, although only by a 2/3 majority. The lack of a 3/4 majority meant the parts of the bill related to appropriations were no longer valid. However, the Council then passed, with a 7-1 vote, an amended version of the bill that reduced its appropriations from $83m to $57m, reflecting the additional revenue shortfall for 2020 that had been reported on Monday.

Also passed was a bill appropriating $3m from the COVID relief bill to be used for community research and a participatory budget process related to public safety, a bill requiring precincts to be disaggregated in SPD budget reports, and a bill authorizing the interfund loan that will be financing much of the investments into community organizations working on public safety. With these passages, I believe the Council’s public safety package is complete…depending on whether the Mayor chooses to veto once again.

The Public Safety and Policing Resolution Passed Monday

The revised text to this resolution is now available, and as it lays out the Council’s promises and future work program related to public safety, I think it’s important to go over the details.

  1. The Council states their intent to create a civilian-led Office of Community Safety & Violence Prevention by the fourth quarter of 2021.
  2. By the end of November 2020, they will move the following units away from the SPD and into other departments: 911 communications functions; the Office of Emergency Managment; Harbor Patrol; and Parking Enforcement.
  3. By the end of November 2020 they will have also provided sufficient appropriations for a community-led research and participatory budgeting effort and funded new appropriations through phased reductions to the SPD’s budget
  4. They suggest to the Chief how to prioritize 911 calls during this transition, as well as requesting a work plan related to addressing biased policing in the SPD.
  5. They ask that for SPD cuts, the Chief consider out-of-order layoffs based on sustained complaint history and that the Chief establish a police misconduct registry for all SPD officers that is accessible to the public.
  6. They ask the SPD for a report by 10/15/20 on how patrols would function after proposed layoffs, covering general redeployment and response times by precinct.
  7. The Council promises not to support any budget amendments that increase the SPD budget to offset overtime expenditures above funds budgeted in 2020 or 2021.

Their proposed timeline is as follows:

Aug-Nov 2020: The Council and Mayor consider: reducing SPD budget, funding a community-led research process; removing specified functions from SPD; working to identify police practices with disproportionate impact on BIPOC communities

Aug 2020-Jul 2021: Community-led organizations should: conduct research; have a participatory budgeting process; recommend structure and functions for the new department; present recommendations

April 2021-July 2021: The Council, Mayor, and City Attorney should: develop draft legislation for public review; identify necessary city charter amendments; develop ballot language for charter amendments if necessary and submit it to King County Elections for a November 2021 vote

Sept 2021-Nov 2021 (during the 2022 budget process): The Council and Mayor should: introduce, consider, and act on proposed legislation creating the new department of public safety and making associated budget changes.

The last Council Briefing and City Council meeting before the summer recess are this coming Monday.

The final pieces of the SPD-related legislation passed today. Read More »

Victory for the Defund Movement and the Mayor has a hard weekend

It has been an eventful few days, and with such a storm of activity comes the understandable confusion and inevitable misinformation as people scramble to keep up. I’m going to do my best to bring you up-to-date now. Take a deep breath and let’s dive in.

Let’s start with last Thursday, July 9, when journalist Andrew Buncombe published his story of being arrested by the SPD while trying to report on the ongoing protests, giving us insight into what happens once protestors are arrested and brought to a precinct for booking while also showing a shocking disregard for the freedom of the press.

Twitter avatar for @Lisa_Herbold

Lisa Herbold @Lisa_Herbold
herbold.seattle.gov/wp-content/upl…. The Constitution and Municipal Code protections for the press, and observers, do not exist for the convenience of government, to be cast aside whenever they happen to be inconvenient to government.” @Omarisal @AndrewBuncombe

The next day, Friday July 10, seven out of nine Seattle council members came out in support of defunding the SPD by 50% and reinvesting the money in community needs. This is noteworthy because this is a veto-proof majority of CMs, meaning they can pass an amended budget without the Mayor’s approval. The two hold-outs? CM Juarez and CM Pedersen, no surprises there; neither of them were likely to support this plan. The CMs who waited to announce their support until Friday were CM Herbold, CM Lewis, and CM Strauss; these are the CMs that need the most ongoing support/pressure to stick with their position. CM Strauss in particular has publicly asked for continued public pressure to hold the Council accountable, including protests, public testimony, calls, and emails. These will all need to be kept up till the beginning of August at minimum, and then probably again later in September.

Deputy Mayor Fong and Police Chief Best were upset about the council members’ commitment, to say the least. Meanwhile, the SPD took to Twitter to share that lay-offs in the department would mean a large decrease in BIPOC officers.

That being said, CM Herbold suggests there’s a way to avoid this problem:

Twitter avatar for @Lisa_Herbold

Lisa Herbold @Lisa_Herbold
@Masters131 @NikkitaOliver Layoff out of order. PSCSC ED “may grant permission for layoff out of the regular order, upon showing by the appointing authority (Chief Best) of the department of a necessity therefore in the interest of efficient operation of his or her department…”

Also on Friday, a King County Superior Court Judge approved a petition for an election to recall Mayor Durkan. Okay, what does this mean? Well, there were originally two petitions to recall the Mayor filed; I’m not sure what happened to the other one. With this one, the Judge allowed one charge to stand, which was that Mayor Durkan allowed tear gas and other crowd control weapons to be used during the pandemic. The Mayor is allowed to appeal this ruling; otherwise, the next step is to collect around 55-56k signatures of registered Seattle voters. If the requisite number of signatures are collected within six months, then the Mayor would be recalled. While that might sound like a high number of signatures, proponents of the Tax Amazon campaign collected around 30k signatures in six to eight weeks during Phase 1 of the pandemic (see the responses to this tweet for the full information).

Twitter avatar for @daeshikjr

Dae the Lawless @daeshikjr
FYI @eyesonthestorm reminded me that the tax amazon campaign collected 30k signatures in like a month. 56k signatures in 6 months is nothing with the way Durkan has endangering the lives of her constituents. We can have a new Mayor by the start of 2021.

Given the widespread anger about Mayor Durkan’s handling of the protests, this recall does seem possible, although it’s hard to predict its potential success rate with any certitude. Meanwhile, several protesters have filed suit against the city, county, and state, claiming excessive police force.

Which brings us to this morning, when Mayor Durkan and Chief Best held a press conference. You can find my live tweet stream here.

First let’s recap. The City Council has a veto-proof majority of members committed to defunding the police by 50% and a Judge has ruled that the recall petition for the Mayor may continue. The Mayor is not in the good position right now. In addition, the role she played in the consent decree that Seattle entered into back in 2012 means its perceived failure casts doubt on her as a leader. As Kevin Schofield wrote: “Her legacy, not to mention much of her political credibility, is tied to her work on negotiating the consent decree. For her to abandon it, this close to the perceived finish line, would probably sink her future political ambitions.”

Given all this, it’s not a big surprise that at the press conference this morning, Mayor Durkan came out swinging. Her very political survival is at stake. She is very adamant about her commitment to reimagine the police (you could play a drinking game with her use of the word “reimagine”), but her timeline for accomplishing this is less certain. The sense I got from her comments is that she wishes to reorganize the police department, and she’s basically on board with the idea of removing the 911 emergency response unit from under the auspices of the SPD. In addition to continuing a hiring freeze and cutting back on overtime (probably that related to events), she’s estimating cutting $60m from the SPD budget in 2021; that money will still be spent on the same purposes, just not under the SPD umbrella.

What she doesn’t seem to support are any lay-offs to the actual police force or the subsequent re-investment of those funds into community organizations. This is where her plan and the demands of community organizations, which the City Council is responding to, vastly differ. She attacked the City Council repeatedly, saying things they’ve done almost no analysis on the SPD budget, that they haven’t met with Police Chief Best, that they don’t have a plan, that you can’t govern by Twitter or bumper sticker, and that she hopes after consideration the Council will change their minds. She said if the Council doesn’t change their plan, she will veto (an empty threat as long as they can hold onto their veto-proof majority).

There is also an open question as to how many community organizations the Mayor has actually been meeting with, in spite of her public claims:

Twitter avatar for @NikkitaOliver

Nikkita Oliver @NikkitaOliver
.@MayorJenny your community engagement is inauthentic and disingenuous. And in some instances, you are straight up lying. https://t.co/jUPTrOjlgZ
Twitter avatar for @Omarisal

Omari Salisbury @Omarisal

#UPDATE – I asked @MayorJenny who she has been meeting with in the Black Community in her efforts to Reimagine Seattle. Her office responded with this list of people and organizations. According to her office all meetings were official and available through freedom of info. https://t.co/DRPAOjKUlq

I want to respond directly to the Mayor’s attack on the City Council that they don’t have a plan and are behaving irresponsibly, because from what I’ve seen, this isn’t a fair characterization of what’s been happening. I saw the CMs commitment to a 50% divest and re-invest goal as a public statement that they are taking the demands of the community seriously and that they aren’t going to be simply paying lip service to the idea of transforming public safety, but rather have a serious intent toward change. While it is true they don’t yet have a plan for achieving this, Central Staff is already hard at work at developing a plan, and this is exactly what the next few weeks have been allocated to do. It seems clear the Mayor wants to erode support for the Council’s general commitment to defunding and scare the public before the Council has had a chance to finish developing their plan. Now, if it’s a bad plan, then yes, we have a problem, but we need to wait to see the plan before passing judgment.

CM Herbold responded to the Mayor’s accusations at the press conference here:

Twitter avatar for @Lisa_Herbold

Lisa Herbold @Lisa_Herbold
I want to thank my Council colleagues for their words supporting our efforts to defund SPD so that we can reinvest in evidence-based public safety community interventions by reducing the kinds of 911 calls officers respond to. THREAD:

In addition, the Seattle Times reports the following response: “González described Durkan’s remarks as spin, while Strauss said council members understand a transition period will be needed as Seattle builds a setup that can send people other than police officers to more 911 calls.” I’ve heard various community groups also emphasize that they’ll need time to scale up, so I think everyone involved is aware of this constraint.

And with that, I think we’ve covered all the major developments of the past five days. I’ll be covering the City Council’s budget meetings on Wednesday. There will be more budget meetings the next few weeks, and if all goes as planned, the Council will vote on the revised 2020 budget on August 3.

 

 

Victory for the Defund Movement and the Mayor has a hard weekend Read More »