Choose 180

We’re Back to Discussing a Less Lethal Weapons Bill in Seattle

On Police Unions

I’d like to start by sharing a few key quotations from an article from The Atlantic, The Authoritarian Instincts of Police Unions:
Americans are presently engaged in a debate about how to reform police departments to prevent the unlawful killing of civilians by officers, as well as other, nonlethal abuses of power. Reining in police unions may not seem like the most urgent response to this crisis. But no reform effort can hope to succeed given their power today. As long as they exist in anything like their current form, police unions will condition their members to see themselves as soldiers at war with the public they are meant to serve, and above the laws they are meant to enforce.
This is not a system ruined by a few bad apples. This is a system that creates and protects bad apples by design. Most people who become police officers enter the profession because it is held in high esteem and because they wish to provide a public service. But individual good intentions cannot overcome a system intended to render them meaningless. Being a good cop can get you in trouble with your superiors, your fellow officers, and the union that represents you. Being a bad one can get you elected as a union rep.

This Week’s Seattle City Council Meetings

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to the Seattle Council Briefing! This morning it sounds like we’ll be talking some more about less lethal weapons and all the ways we’re supposed to be okay with tear gas.

At the King County Board of Health meeting last week, there was a discussion about the mandatory bike helmet law, which is disproportionately enforced, primarily against homeless and BIPOC individuals, and doesn’t actually lead to more helmet use. There is a push to have this law reconfigured or eliminated, as well as to distribute free helmets and provide more public education on their use.

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to the Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. So far we’ve had opening remarks, public comment, and now we’re talking about a potential appointment to the Seattle Municipal Court administrator.
At today’s Public Safety and Human Services meeting, we heard a presentation from HSD on council investments in health and crisis response, which covered the expansion of Health One (one van was added this spring and another is slated to be added this fall), the SPD crisis response team, and the mobile crisis team, including its new pilot project the Behavioral Health Response Team (costing $450k), which consists of teams of a mental health professional and two peer navigators who have lived experience.
In regards to the SPD crisis response team, CM Herbold noted that many of the police officers on this team have left or been transferred, and asked if there aren’t as many pairing opportunities because of SPD staffing issues, was this an opportunity for HSD to look at other ways to expand this important function? She clarified that she sees HSD as having a programmatic role as well as a funding role for this project, but unfortunately she received no reply from HSD. She also stated that she’s interested in a Seattle-specific designated crisis responder serving on the mobile crisis teams.
The committee also discussed their newly revised bill on SPD usage of less lethal weapons, following its review by the DoJ and Court Monitor. The basics of the bill are outlined in a Central Staff memo and an article at SCC Insight, as well as in this helpful diagram. As you can see, blast balls and flash bangs are completely banned at demonstrations, while pepperballs (using launchers), pepper spray, and tear gas do have some allowed uses during demonstrations.
Provisions of the new less lethal weapons bill
Provisions of the new less lethal weapons bill

CM Herbold said changes from the February version of this bill were due to input given by the Department of Justice and Police Monitor, and Kevin Schofield reports that the DoJ did have a verbal conversation with her about their concerns about the potential that restricting the use of certain less-lethal tools in crowd management circumstances could actually lead to officers using higher levels of force and about whether police officers would have enough time to train on any new policies. He also reports that Court Monitor Oftelie declined to offer feedback on the bill, saying: “My hope in all of this is that SC would work more directly with the Mayor’s office, SPD, and the accountability partners (OIG, OPA, CPC) to draft a comprehensive, evidence-based, and pragmatic new policy. But so far SC has chosen to work on this on their own which is disappointing.” This is interesting because CM Herbold did ask all three accountability bodies for their feedback last year and had all three as well as SPD participate in a roundtable on the subject at a public safety meeting in December. We can only assume the Court Monitor wasn’t satisfied with this effort.

Other News

The news broke that Casey Sixkiller, a candidate for Seattle Mayor, has worked as a lobbyist for such clients as private prison companies, oil and gas firms, and weapons makers. Meanwhile, the Seattle Times ran an article about what mayoral candidates are looking for in the City’s next Police Chief. And Erica Barnett reports on where the money is coming from for upcoming city-wide elections.
A community report on Choose 180, a nonprofit offering restorative justice diversion options to teenagers and young adults, was released this week. Choose 180 has a partnership with the City Attorney’s office for a diversion program for 16-24-year olds that “offers young people the opportunity to participate in a 4-hour CHOOSE 180 Young Adult Workshop instead of being processed through the traditional criminal legal system.” I highly recommend reading the report to see one example of a currently working diversion program.
At the latest CPC (Community Police Commission) meeting, members were divided as to whether to go forward with plans to host a general election forum in partnership with a community organization such as Choose 180 or Community Passageways. Some members believe that hosting such a forum is beyond the scope of the CPC’s responsibilities or mission, while others think holding a candidate forum will help inform the community about the candidates’ different viewpoints on police accountability. It is unclear if the forum will proceed as planned, although we can expect updates on this at tomorrow morning’s CPC meeting. Also on the meeting agenda is an update from the OIG on the Sentinel Event Review of last summer’s protests.

Recent Headlines

Few Cops We Found Using Force on George Floyd Protesters Are Known to Have Faced Discipline — ProPublica

Stop police false narratives about officer-involved deaths | by Deborah Jacobs | Jun, 2021 | Medium

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Participatory Budgeting Could be a Seed that Brings Lasting Change

The Latest on Participatory Budgeting

Amy Sundberg
The Seattle Community Economic Development committee meeting has begun, and they are currently hearing comments.
The Community Economic Development committee finally heard an agenda item about participatory budgeting this week. Because the draft legislation hasn’t yet finished going through legal, CM Morales is hoping to vote on it at a special committee meeting on June 3, to be followed by a vote of the full Council. The legislation would release about $1m to the Department of Civil Rights to hire three staff members and start the process, including by issuing an RFP to hire a third-party administrator for the program, as well as releasing further funds (although not all of them) for the process.
Sean Goode from Choose 180 was present at the meeting and spoke eloquently in support of participatory budgeting. He sees the program as an opportunity to construct something new for the community that seeds lasting change and also spoke in favor of equity over expediency. His entire speech (about ten minutes) is worth listening to and can be found here starting at the 1:40:00.
The timeline on participatory budgeting has been moved back, with CM Morales expecting the Office of Civil Rights to hire a third-party organization by the end of the year and hopefully voting to begin around next summer.

Police Contract Bargaining and Accountability

 

Carolyn Bick has released the second part of her investigative series on OLEO and the experiences of its former Director Jacobs, the middle section of which will be of particular interest to those of you following the obstructions inherent with including accountability provisions as working conditions at the police contract bargaining table. Similar to what has happened in Seattle with the OPA, OLEO was granted oversight authority that it then had to bargain for, essentially maintaining the appearance of accountability without the power to provide actual accountability. I am going to quote extensively from the relevant section:

Much of the Guild’s alleged initial treatment of Jacobs appears to have stemmed, at least in part, from Jacobs attempting to bargain with the KCPOG for the oversight rights voters had already afforded OLEO in 2015 via ballot measure. Jacobs said that she had to work with Bob Railton, KCOLR’s deputy director and labor negotiator, who Jacobs said constantly made her feel as though she was a troublemaker and a nuisance and who routinely talked down to her in a sexist and demeaning manner.
This collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was not finalized and signed until April 2020. Its language has made it retroactive from Jan. 1, 2017, but it will expire in December of this year. It was necessary for OLEO to bargain for the rights voters had already afforded the oversight entity, because state law requires bargaining for anything considered “mandatory,” including wages, hours, and working conditions. OLEO’s oversight duties fall into this category.
“The Office of Labor Relations bargainer’s main concern was getting a bargain and not going to arbitration. That did not align with OLEO’s interest of having the voters’ will brought to fruition with the implementation of independent investigations conducted by OLEO,” Jacobs wrote in her email. “There was constant pressure on me to compromise, and some of it was manipulative and, to my mind, unethical.”
Topaz said that Jacobs’ recollection of the dynamic at the bargaining table tracks with what he remembers. Topaz worked as a labor negotiator with the KCOLR from 2014–2020 and was briefly assigned to help negotiate the CBA. Topaz said that from his point of view, for the period of time he worked to help bargain the contract, OLEO was little more than “a political thing that the [King] County Council did that they never really gave the support and authority needed to be successful.
“They created something, gave it limited resources and limited authority, and then expected it to produce something that I am assuming would have given them cover for people to complain about,” Topaz said.
“I don’t think [the Council] really backed [Jacobs] up very well to get done what she needed to,” Topaz continued. “Honestly, I think they have more or less set up anybody who would be in that role [of OLEO director] for failure.”

Other News of Note

 

The MLK Labor Council held a Seattle mayoral forum last night, ushering us into election debate season, and it seems like there were at least a few illuminating (and entertaining) moments, including a rapid-fire Yes/No round in which Bruce Harrell felt the need to quibble with the definition of “sweeps”.

Joe Mizrahi
Live tweeting here @MLKLabor mayoral forum starting now. It’s also on Facebook live. But that won’t have my color commentary so I recommend you stay here
Meanwhile, Crosscut reported on the SPD’s court-mandated (because of the consent decree) early intervention system, designed to predict bad behavior among police officers. “Despite near-universal acknowledgment of its failings, the system remains, largely because a federal judge has not given the green light to ditch it.”
A new system is currently under development, one that focuses on recognizing and addressing past trauma in an attempt to prevent future misconduct rooted in that trauma, which sounds interesting. However, because of the consent decree mandate for the prior ineffective system, both systems will have to run concurrently, meaning both will need to be funded and money will be wasted.
Thank you for your continued support, and I hope you enjoy the end of the week!

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