Compassion Seattle

Compassion Seattle is No More

It’s hard to believe it’s already September. Let’s catch up on the happenings of the last few weeks, shall we?

Election News

Perhaps the biggest news of the past few weeks involves Seattle’s charter amendment Compassion Seattle. First a judge said the charter amendment couldn’t be on the November ballot, saying it went beyond the scope of the initiative process. Then the amendment’s backers said they wouldn’t appeal this decision. Then they changed their minds and did appeal after all. And finally, the appeals court denied that motion as well. That’s all, folks. The Compassion Seattle charter amendment will officially NOT be on the ballot in November.
Also not on November’s ballot: the Sawant recall decision. The deadline for the campaign to turn in their signatures to make that ballot has passed. This most likely means a special, low turn-out election in the winter, which the proponents of the recall doubtless hope will help the recall pass.
In Seattle mayoral election news, the CPC canceled their planned mayoral candidate debate on public safety because Bruce Harrell declined to participate. This decision fails to build confidence in his ability to take police accountability seriously. Bruce Harrell also held a press conference at Green Lake last week, during which he said he’d implement many key parts of the Compassion Seattle plan if he is elected Mayor, including spending 12% of the city’s General Fund on homelessness (at only 1% more than current spending, this is certainly not enough), building 2000 shelter beds within one year, and keeping parks, sidewalks, etc clear of encampments, aka implementing sweeps:
“I just think that there has to be consequences for that kind of action,” Harrell said, referring to people who don’t accept the services or shelter they’re offered, “because many people—and I’m very close to the world of people struggling with drug and alcohol treatment, people that have challenges—many of them are in denial. Many of them do not know what they need. They just do not.”
But wait, there’s more! It came out that Bellevue school board candidate Faye Yang believes that race is linked to IQ scores, touting the debunked racist pseudoscience preached in The Bell Curveby Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. Since this information was revealed, Faye Yang has said she no longer believes this to be true, but the fact that she’s just had this realization about these racist ideas doesn’t fill one with confidence.
Washington state is also undergoing its redistricting process, which could have large ramifications on elections going forward. The commissioners expect to have their suggested maps completed by the end of September, and there will be two public meetings (Oct 5 and Oct 9) where the public will have a chance to give feedback on the proposal.

Seattle News

The scandal involving the Mayor Durkan’s texts being deleted from her phone continues, with The Seattle Times reporting that when the Mayor’s office attributed the loss of the texts to “an unknown technology issue,” they’d actually known for months why the texts were gone. Durkan’s chief of staff also appears to be involved in keeping the public in the dark about these missing texts. City Attorney Pete Holmes has said, “Someone changed the mayor’s settings from retain to delete — that is a deliberate act.”
The city employees who blew the whistle on the missing texts sued Seattle on Friday, The two employees left their jobs earlier this year. Between this lawsuit and the one filed by the Seattle Times, the new City Attorney will be kept busy cleaning up Mayor Durkan’s mess–all on the taxpayers’ dime, of course.
Mayor Durkan has instituted a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all city employees by October 18, which has set off a brouhaha with unions, including SPOG. Any city employees who do not comply could face termination, and SPOG is saying this mandate could drive a further exodus of SPD officers. At the same time, SPD has been experiencing a spike in COVID-19 infections of officers, with 29 officers testing positive during the first three weeks of August. It is unknown what percentage of SPD officers are already vaccinated at this time.
In OPA news, the officer who shot Terry Carver last year is serving a 20-day detention for failing to properly follow de-escalation practices but is not being held accountable for killing Carver. Paul Kiefer’s article on the case documents a track record of bad decision-making for the police officer in question. In addition, Director Myerberg highlighted an ongoing pattern with SPD officers killing people carrying knives; however no SPD policy changes in this area have been implemented, even though Terry Carver was killed more than a year ago, in May 2020. For more analysis of the OPA’s decision on this case, you can read the following Twitter thread:
Phil
So why is SPD investigating itself? Because SPD got the state legislature to exempt SPD from that provision so long as they are under the consent decree. The decree was supposed to be a sword to reform SPD but has been turned into a shield to protect SPD.
Finally, no Seattle City Council meeting this week, although a few committees are meeting. We’ll be back to the normal schedule starting next week, with budget season kicking off on Monday, September 27.

King County News

King County’s OLEO (the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight) concluded their investigation of the 2019 shooting of Anthony Chilchott, during which two officers shot Mr. Chilchott; one was subsequently fired, but the other one is still serving as a deputy in the department. The report criticized the Sheriff’s office for failing to learn from several past similar shootings, such as that of 17-year-old Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens in 2017, and provided a long list of policy and training recommendations.
An editorial in the South Seattle Emerald by Angélica Cházaro and Anita Khandelwal recommends that both King County and the City of Seattle adopt two new pieces of legislation to address racial disparities in law enforcement’s treatment of Black and Indigenous people. One piece of potential legislation would de-prioritize any traffic stops where the driver does not pose an imminent danger of physical harm to others, and the other would ban consent searches. Many people don’t know their rights around consent searches, ie that they’re allowed to say no, and BIPOC people in particular may feel further pressure to comply in order to keep themselves safe. You can write to your King County council member and your Seattle council members to support the introduction of this legislation.

Recent Headlines

King County’s rise in gun violence doesn’t have an easy explanation | Crosscut

This City Went From ‘Defund’ to Planning a Massive New Police Fantasyland

Compassion Seattle is No More Read More »

Important Public Safety Amendment on the Table Tomorrow for Discussion and Possible Vote

SPD Budget Amendment Vote Tomorrow

Tomorrow at Seattle’s Housing and Finance committee meeting, the SPD’s proposed spending plan for the ~$15m in salary savings for 2021 will be discussed and voted on through an amendment to the supplemental budget. New amendments to this public safety amendment have just been added today, so it is still an evolving situation. You can view the revised amendment here, as well as two amendments to the amendment. (Now there’s a mouthful!)
These amendments will fund most of what SPD asked for in their proposed spending plan, including civilian positions within SPD, the Work Scheduling Timekeeping Project, the NICJR Contract, the SPD Mental Health Provider Program, contract background services, separation pay, deferred compensation, and paid parental leave. It also authorizes $5.4m for new investments: $340k acquisition of a protocol system for the CSCC 911 dispatchers; $3m to HSD for the Community Safety Capacity Building RFP; $500k to HSD for the King County Regional Peacekeepers Collective; $700k to the CSCC to implement a new specialized triage response that will provide an alternative model for some non-criminal 9-1-1 calls and reduce the need for a sworn officer response for some calls; $500k to FAS to address SPD evidence storage capacity issues by leasing additional space; $50K to Seattle IT for a PDR position to perform e-mail searches for SPD; and $50k to SPD for a PDR position in OPA.
The original amendment gave the SPD leeway to spend an additional $3.3m however they saw fit; however, amendment 1 to amendment 8 takes $2.25m of that money to allocate specifically to “Technology Updates” within SPD.
Is this a win for those who are proponents of the divest and reinvest strategy when it comes to policing in Seattle? Not really, but it could be worse. Some of the new investments are promising, but less than $5m of the total $15m of savings is being allocated for projects that could be considered alternates to public safety. It is worth noting the proposed hiring bonuses for new police officers are not approved by this legislation and will require separate action, so that’s something we’ll be looking for in upcoming months.
There will be time for public comment on this amendment tomorrow morning at 9:30am, or you can email your CMs. The final vote on the supplemental budget (including this amendment) won’t be until mid-September because of the summer recess.

Today’s Seattle Council Briefing

Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing! This is the last one before the summer recess.
At this afternoon’s Seattle Council meeting, the Council had votes scheduled on the bill moving parking enforcement officers from SPD to SDOT and the bill putting limitation on use of less lethal weapons (this second had been put on hold waiting for the consent decree hearing last week, at which the Judge chose not to weigh in on the matter). Last week the Council voted to lift the proviso to allow the $30m spending plan for the Mayor’s Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force (a name I have to look up every time to get correct) to move forward.
This was the last City Council meeting before the summer recess. Because the City Council meeting on September 7 was cancelled due to Rosh Hashanah, the next Council Briefing and Council Meeting will be on Monday, September 13.
CM Mosqueda has announced the dates of this budget season’s three public hearings: October 12 and November 10 in the evening and November 18 in the morning. The Mayor will be bringing her proposed 2022 budget to present to Council on September 27, which is when budget season officially begins. At that point, all other committee meetings are suspended for the duration.

Compassion Seattle Challenged in Court

Last week the ACLU and two advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the Compassionate Seattle ballot initiative. There will have to be a quick ruling as this initiative is set to be on the ballot in November. Opinions are mixed about the merits of the suit and whether it is likely to succeed.

Seattle Election News

Lastly, in some embarrassing local election news, the top local Trump donor, George Petrie, is also a top donor to an independent expenditure campaign supporting Bruce Harrell for Seattle mayor, as well as a max contributor to Harrell’s campaign. As of July, George Petrie was also one of the top two donors to the Compassion Seattle charter amendment, having donated $50k. This isn’t a great look for either Bruce Harrell or the Compassion Seattle campaign, but it’s a good reminder that following the money continues to be a worthwhile practice.

Recent Headlines

King County’s response to an especially violent year isn’t enough | Crosscut

Suicide is Washington state’s biggest gun violence problem | Crosscut

Important Public Safety Amendment on the Table Tomorrow for Discussion and Possible Vote Read More »

Seattle News Salad

I was on vacation last week, and quite a lot happened! Get ready because this newsletter is a bit on the long side.

East Precinct Abandonment Last Summer

Yes, we finally found out what happened on June 8, 2020 when the SPD abandoned the East Precinct on Capitol Hill, thanks to KUOW’s investigative report. It turns out Assistant Chief Tom Mahaffey, the incident commander, was the one who made the call, without the knowledge of Chief Best or the Mayor’s office. The OPA’s report on this incident is expected shortly.

More on the 6 SPD Officers at “Stop the Steal”

There have been a flurry of articles about the findings of the OPA’s investigation of the six SPD officers who were in Washington DC for the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6. A key point of contention being discussed is whether simply attending the rally constitutes protected speech for police officers (meaning speech protected by the first amendment), which would determine whether the four officers not found to have behaved illegally should also be disciplined.
CM Lisa Herbold had this to say:
Whether they were “directly involved” in the insurrection, or if they attended with the intent to passively support the unlawful insurrection and violent assault of our nation’s Capitol, neither act is an example of protected free speech nor should our support of free speech shield accountability for these acts.
If public employees knowingly travelled to a location in support of people whom they knew were intending to attempt an insurrection, even if their participation was as a passive observer, that is a ‘clear connection between conduct and duties or…responsibilities’ and is an offense that merits termination. I will review the OPA investigation with an eye towards whether questions were asked of the four officers without sustained findings, and whether evidence was sought, to determine the advance knowledge they had of the planned violent events at the Capitol insurrection of January 6.
CP González has said the remaining four officers should be disciplined. You can also find out what other current candidates think about the case.
Another interesting aspect of this case is the way it highlights the limitations placed on the OPA by not having the ability to subpoena SPD officers, especially since SPOG has filed a grievance against the OPA for instead ordering the officers to give them personal documents related to their activities in DC. OPA Director Myerberg said:
In practice, we’re very limited in how we can obtain information and documents from officers…but we’ve been told repeatedly that we don’t need subpoena power because we can just order officers to turn over records. And obviously, given the union’s objections to the order we issued, that’s not really the case.
Next up, there will be a due process hearing on August 5 for the two officers with sustained complains against them, after which Chief Diaz will decide whether to terminate their employment. They will then have the opportunity to appeal his decision through arbitration. There is an open OPA case about one of the other officers who refused to provide his personal records when ordered to do so; there may also be another OPA case addressing the fact that the two officers with sustained findings against them appear to have lied during the original OPA investigation.

OPA and OIG News

The South Seattle Emerald has obtained several additional OIG partial certifications on OPA investigations, after reporting on the one for the protest at SPOG HQ last September. Of six completed investigations that received only a partial certification, all six were certified “not thorough” and one was also certified “not objective.” Four of these cases were protest-related. The “thoroughness” issues tend to involve insufficient questioning, overlooked witnesses, and ignoring certain parts of cases.
Meanwhile, the OPA investigation of Officer Ron Willis, the officer who made $414,543.06 in 2019 while working several 90-hour weeks and more than one greater than 24-hour day, has been completed. He was suspended for one day without pay. Meanwhile, SPD’s system of tracking overtime has still yet to be overhauled, and the new promised automated timekeeping system has yet to go live, five years after an audit that called attention to these problems.

Election News

How do the endorsements of The Stranger and The Seattle Times stack up?
Seattle Mayor: M. Lorena González vs. Bruce Harrell
King County Executive: Joe Nguyen vs. Dow Constantine
SCC Position 8: Teresa Mosqueda vs No Endorsement
SCC Position 9: Nikkita Oliver vs. Sara Nelson
Seattle City Attorney: Nicole Thomas-Kennedy vs. Ann Davison
King County Council #3: Sarah Perry vs. Kathy Lambert
King County Council #7: Saudia J. Abdullah vs. Pete von Reichbauer
King County Council #9: Chris Franco vs. Reagan Dunn
We also have some new polls! In the race for Seattle City Attorney, Pete Holmes is coming in at 16% and his opponents Nicole Thomas Kennedy and Ann Davison are both coming in at 14%, with 53% undecided. For an incumbent who won by a large margin last time, this is a surprisingly weak showing for Holmes. And in the Seattle mayor’s race, Bruce Harrell is coming in with 20%, M. Lorena González with 12%, and Colleen Echohawk with 10%, with 32% undecided.
Meanwhile, this poll (it’s important to note the polling size is only 524) asked respondents who they would vote for in different head-to-head Seattle mayor’s races:
Echohawk 51% vs Harrell 49%
Harrell 65% vs González 35%
Echohawk 69% vs González 31 %
Washington Research Group, who conducted the poll, had this to say about the upcoming race:
WaResrchGrp
There are two major factors driving this election:
1) Extreme voter anger – targeted at the Seattle City Council.
2) ONE ISSUE (next tweet).
I’ve been fielding and reading polls for 30 years and I’ve never seen people this pissed. 1994 wasn’t this bad. https://t.co/Xz7sZjite4

The one issue referenced above? Homelessness.

News Tidbits

The Seattle City Council finally passed their new less lethal weapons bill out of committee. However, it won’t be voted on by the Full Council until after a consent decree status conference with Judge Robart on August 10.
Seattle City Council’s Central Staff wrote a memo analyzing how much the Compassion Seattle proposed charter amendment might cost. As Kevin Schofield writes, “…The answer is complicated, because there are varied interpretations of vague language in the bill. At the low end: $30 million up-front capital costs, and $40 million annually in ongoing operational costs. At the high end: $839 million in capital costs and $97 million annually for operations.” This is a huge spread, of course, which shows how widely the amendment can be interpreted.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of the families of people killed by police officers, restoring reforms to the inquest process in King County that have been on hold for the last few years.
King County is looking at two finalists to become the new Director of OLEO (Office of Law Enforcement Oversight): Eddie Aubrey and Tamer Abouzaid. Both are similar in their outlook for the organization, although only Abouzaid said he’d support a state law prohibiting police unions from negotiating on issues of oversight.
The City of Seattle has filed a countersuit against The Seattle Times. If you’ll remember, the Times filed a suit against the City because of mishandled public record requests, including Mayor Durkan’s missing text messages. It’s also worth noting the City’s legal strategy for this matter is decided by City Attorney Pete Holmes, who is up for re-election.
Remember Mayor Durkan’s pot of $30m in this year’s budget for the Equitable Communities Initiative? Well, she has asked the Seattle City Council to lift the proviso on those funds, unveiling her spending plan proposal based on recommendations from the task force. Most of the funds will be dispersed through the RFP process. This legislation will be discussed at the Finance and Housing committee meeting on July 20.

Recent Headlines and Tweets

Paul Faruq Kiefer
Some stats from this report: Native people are nine times more likely to be stopped by SPD than white people (and Black people are five times more likely), but white people were more likely to be carrying a weapon when they were stopped. https://t.co/LnHZTDL8Nm

Seattle News Salad Read More »

Will anything be done about a biased and incomplete OPA investigation?

Between the excruciating heat and no SCC committee meetings this week (due to it being a rare week 5 in the month), this has been a relatively slow news week. You can catch up on this week’s Seattle City Council Briefing here:
Amy Sundberg
Good morning. May this Seattle Council Briefing divert you from the miserable heat.

OIG finds deficiencies in OPA investigation

Once again, Carolyn Bick has published an excellent piece of investigative journalism, this time about a partial certification memo from the OIG about the OPA investigation of a protest outside SPOG headquarters last September. The OIG memo states: “OIG cannot certify the investigation as thorough or objective, but OIG does certify the investigation as timely. Per 3.29.260 F, no further investigation is being directed at this time because OIG finds that the deficiencies of the investigation with respect to thoroughness and objectivity cannot be remedied.” You can read the full OIG memo here.
It is worth reading the article in full to get all the details of the investigation’s flaws, but perhaps the most damning quotation is as follows:
In other words, the OIG memo is saying that the OPA’s investigative report appears to be specifically designed to support the officers’ actions and their narrative, rather than approach the situation as a neutral body.
When we see a partial certification like this, where no further investigation is being directed even though the original OPA investigation was not found to be either thorough or objective, we see clear evidence of how the accountability system is failing the residents of Seattle.
The OPA has not released the CCS for this case but says they intend to do so soon, at which point Director Andrew Myerberg will be able to comment.

Election News

If you’re interested in this year’s elections in South King County, the South Seattle Emerald has you covered:

Today the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission voted unanimously to release mayoral candidate Andrew Grant Houston from the democracy voucher program’s $400K primary-election spending cap, due to Bruce Harrell’s campaign hitting the cap.

The commission has agreed (6-0 vote) to release Houston from the $400,000 cap. https://t.co/NBq37k6OjV

Also today, Compassion Seattle announced they have collected enough signatures to get their measure on the ballot, and it looks like they’ll hit the deadline to be on the November ballot, which is what they wanted from a strategy perspective (November will have a much higher turn-out of voters).

Erica C. Barnett
Compassion Seattle just sent out an email saying they’ve collected more than 64,000 signatures to get their initiative, which would require the city to fund shelter by diverting funds from other purposes in order to “clear” encampments. That’s about twice what they need.
Meanwhile, The Stranger published a story about mayoral candidate Colleen Echohawk’s change of heart over Compassion Seattle. She began by supporting it, but no longer does so.

Seattle Police Officers’ Guild News

Illustrating the continued erosion of public mores, SPOG tweeted this week, taunting the community with news of a fatal shooting, implying the small amount cut from SPD recently caused this outcome. To be clear, there have still yet to be ANY police officer layoffs from SPD and their staffing plan was fully funded in the 2021 budget.

Seattle Police Officers Guild
It’s also worth noting that after a long pause, there is a new batch of appeals from SPD officers over disciplinary decisions being processed by the City Attorney’s office. To put this into context, Paul Kiefer writes:
But the latest group of appeals reached the city attorney’s office as the next election for SPOG’s presidency looms on the horizon, as does the beginning of the next round of contract negotiations between the union and the city.
And that’s all for now. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Recent Headlines

Will anything be done about a biased and incomplete OPA investigation? Read More »

Oakland’s police department budget increases in spite of misleading reporting

Seattle Election Strategy

This week Seattle mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell published an op-ed in The Stranger, in which she takes shots at both Bruce Harrell and Lorena González for having voted for the current SPOG contract in 2018 that failed to enforce the Accountability Ordinance of 2017. This is more interesting as positioning strategy than anything else, as it was Farrell’s campaign that released an early poll a few weeks ago showing Harrell and González as the two frontrunners, with Farrell in a tie for third place. By attacking both of them in the same op-ed, she is attempting to show her viability as a candidate.
Farrell’s campaign is also interesting in that in many respects she is positioning herself as a progressive, urbanist candidate while at the same time supporting the Compassion Seattle initiative. Some observers believe that support for Compassion Seattle acts as a dogwhistle showing which candidates are positioning themselves into the right track of the race…which would also usually be the candidate endorsed by The Seattle Times. It appears Jessyn Farrell might be trying to position herself in the middle, running both sides, so it will be interesting to see if this is a strategy that has any legs in Seattle in the current political climate.
In other election news, The Urbanist has run a questionnaire for Seattle City Council Pos. 9 candidates with a few heavy-hitting questions about SPD’s budget and police accountability measures: you can read answers from Nikkita Oliver and Brianna Thomas.

Meanwhile, in Oakland….

 

The city of Oakland, California has been going through their own reckoning with their police budget, and their City Council made an important vote this week. The local TV news reported on this with the headline “Oakland City Council votes to divert millions from police funding.” In fascinating fashion, you can read the entire article without learning the basics of what happened: that the Oakland Police Department’s budget will still be larger in 2022 than it was in 2021, growing by $9m. Why the fuss then? Oakland’s mayor had proposed an even larger increase of $27m, and the Oakland City Council decided to make a smaller increase and use the difference to fund policing alternatives.
Similar to Seattle, in 2020 the Oakland City Council agreed on a policy goal of cutting the police budget by 50%. And similar to Seattle, this goal has since been cut back significantly, while a task force to “reimagine” policing has been formed.
Over the past year, as the reimagining task force did its work and the council considered policing alternatives, many people made the point that it’s probably impossible to fund non-police alternatives at the scale necessary to have any positive impact without reducing police spending, which is the single largest departmental outlay for Oakland.
The lazy reporting on display in the TV news report above is yet another example of why it’s important to support quality local journalism. The South Seattle Emerald is one excellent Seattle-area example.

SPD K-9 Problems

Publicola reports that a woman attacked by a police dog during a training exercise in 2020 has filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle. The article reviews several missteps by SPD’s K-9 units in recent years; the OPA has investigated 10 allegations of excessive force involving dog bites since 2015:
While SPD later adjusted its K-9 policies, a 2020 audit by Seattle’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that the department’s policy revisions included notable flaws, including ambiguity about whether officers can use police dogs at protests.

Drug Decriminalization in Oregon

Last fall Oregon voters passed Measure 110, the drug decriminalization bill, which says if you possess a small amount of the drugs it covers, you will be punished by a civil citation and a $100 fine. You can have the fine waived if you get a health screening from a recovery hotline. Washington State is looking into a similar decriminalization effort, the urgency of which has been increased by the Washington Supreme Court’s recent Blake decision.
The concern in Oregon right now is that there isn’t a robust and comprehensive enough health care/treatment system in place to help people seeking treatment, especially as that number increases. While Portugal saw large successes after decriminalizing drug use in 2001, with dramatic drops in problematic drug use, drug overdoses, and drug-related crime, they paired decriminalization with access to treatment and harm reduction services, as well as encouraging a cultural shift in how society viewed drugs and drug use. Washington State will face a similar issue of needing to scale up drug treatment services in the next few years in order to support the effort to decriminalize drug use.

Recent Headlines

The hard work to uplift Black lives is far from done | The Seattle Times

UW’s Black campus police officers file multimillion-dollar claims over ‘unbearable’ racism | The Seattle Times

Oakland’s police department budget increases in spite of misleading reporting Read More »

ACLU WA comes out against the Compassion Seattle initiative

Seattle City Council Meetings

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to the Seattle Council Briefing!
This week’s Seattle Council Briefing didn’t cover much about policing or investments into public safety, but CM Lewis did introduce a letter in support of decriminalizing psychedelic drugs. All CMs signed onto the letter except CM Strauss, who was absent, and CM Pedersen, who said he needed more time to review the letter. The Stranger reports:
Lewis said he will “almost certainly” drop an ordinance to make psychedelics the lowest-level enforcement priority for law enforcement at the city level after the task force releases its recommendations, but both he and Herbold stressed the opportunity here for state-level action.
CM Mosqueda also mentioned the possibility of using psychedelic drugs as a treatment for TBIs (traumatic brain injuries), otherwise known as concussions, a subject area where I have a personal interest, having suffered from a concussion for quite some time myself without receiving any real recommendations for treatment.
Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting!

This morning’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting included a Crisis Response Continuum Roundtable with representatives present from SFD and Health One, Crisis Connections, Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), LEAD and REACH, and the SPD crisis response unit. All these providers agree they don’t have enough capacity to meet the high demand for their services, and they don’t have enough service providers either. They also briefly discussed the new 988 system that comes online in July 2022, for which funding has been provided by the state legislature, which will make a better response possible, although they expect a much higher demand as well. CM Lewis said they need to consider LEAD as an indispensable leg of the stool of overall public safety and treat it as a standing budget priority.

Also at this morning’s meeting, Carlos Lugo of Central Staff presented his report entitled “Realigning Seattle’s Criminal Legal System through a Public Health Approach.” This report, reflecting two years of work, represents the academic piece of the conversation, while a community task force also worked on recommendations that will be presented at a later meeting. The report suggests shifting our criminal legal system from being punitive to using a public health model, using the RNR model to understand factors of why violence occurs and what prevents violence, followed by implementing interventions and monitoring their impact. He also used the sequential intercept model that we’ve seen before in Council meetings during the last year. The intercept model looks at points where it’s possible to divert people from the criminal justice system to alternatives.

My takeaway from his presentation? He suggests investing in programs that reduce criminogenic needs and ACEs (adverse childhood events), possibly through participatory budgeting and possibly using money saved by negotiating to reduce jail services purchased from King County. When asked specifically by CM Morales, he said they should absolutely use funds diverted from SPD as well, calling out as an example the fact that if you use summons instead of arrests for misdemeanor crimes, that would save a lot of officer time.

Other News

Charter Amendment 29 (CA-29) would enshrine Seattle’s current ineffective and harmful practice of sweeping unhoused residents and their homes from public places into the City’s Charter, while doing nothing to meaningfully address homelessness. The criminalization of poverty is not only unconstitutional, but an inappropriate way to address the long-standing and intersecting issues of housing affordability, Seattle’s racial wealth divide and community displacement, and the history of structural inequity in housing.
A reminder: mayoral candidates Bruce Harrell and Jessyn Farrell are on the record as supporting this charter amendment, and Casey Sixkiller has said he supports continued homeless sweeps. And speaking of the mayoral candidates, you can read how they would address structural racism if they are elected to office.
Meanwhile, SPD has the largest new officer class in 20 years. They are trying to increase hiring to as fast a rate as possible to keep up with their high rate of attrition.
Carolyn Bick finished their excellent series on OLEO and its former director’s troubled relationship with the KCSO and KCPOG. The article includes a discussion of the recent police scorecard data released, where the King County Sheriff’s Office got an unimpressive 39% out of 100. Its police accountability score was 10%.OLEO

Recent Headlines

A lesson from my losses: We cannot afford to completely dismantle the police | The Seattle Times

ACLU WA comes out against the Compassion Seattle initiative Read More »

Big Seattle City Council meeting on Tuesday June 1!

Seattle News

We have a big Seattle City Council meeting coming up on Tuesday, June 1. Both the bill moving forward participatory budgeting and the bill that will lift some provisos on SPD’s budget this year, giving over $10m of additional spending power to SPD and an additional $2m to participatory budgeting, are on the agenda. Now is a good time to contact your council members about these bills and consider making public comment at the June 1 meeting; comment starts at 2pm, with sign-ups at noon. #DefendtheDefund is arranging a campaign to read first person accounts of SPD violence that are currently part of the ACLU lawsuit against SPD into the record during public comment at this meeting on Tuesday; you can sign up to be a part of that effort here.
SPD Chief Diaz followed through on the pink umbrella case by demoting Assistant Chief Hirjak to Captain. He also clarified that there was no additional evidence in the case, but, in his words, that “my assessment included more broadly concerns raised by OPA in management action recommendations stemming from related cases, on-going analyses generated through the Office of Inspector General’s Sentinel Event Review, and my consideration of the totality of the events beginning on May 29th, 2020, when the Chinatown/International District was the target of destructive protests, and continuing over the days thereafter.” 
DivestSPD, a Twitter watchdog account, made a public disclosure request for the Incident Action Plan for June 8, the day the SPD abandoned the East Precinct. This plan seems to contradict former Chief Best’s recent interviews about how events unfolded on the day in question. You can see the plan yourself here.
Students at UW and Seattle University have been organizing to change how policing works on their campuses. So far, UW has cut its police department staff by 20%, launched a new online reporting system, and begun a new campus safety responder team. Students are now pressing for more significant changes.
Crosscut has an excellent article reviewing where we are with Seattle’s consent decree and the police reform process, saying:
At a time of tremendous grassroots organizing for change, the consent decree is heavy from the top down. The decree, a preferred tool of former President Barack Obama and possibly President Joe Biden, has a singular goal: to ensure that local policing is constitutional. But it doesn’t go deep enough to meet the demands of people advocating systemic change.

Election News

If you’re curious what an abolitionist City Attorney would look like, you might want to take a look at The Stranger‘s recent interview with candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy.
The Seattle mayor’s race is heating up, with the Daily Kos speculating whether Andrew Grant Houston, as the furthest left candidate, might be well positioned to get The Stranger’s endorsement and make it to the final two candidates. Meanwhile, Jessyn Farrell’s campaign has released news of a poll showing Bruce Harrell as the frontrunner of the race, while Lorena González’s campaign says their polling shows a frontrunner tie between Harrell and González. Each of these polls has a margin of error of more than 4 percent.
And Compassion Seattle, the homelessness initiative that many opponents are saying would codify sweeps, has been claiming endorsements from organizations that have not in fact endorsed it. The campaign listed FIVE organizations on its website as endorsers who have since confirmed they haven’t endorsed it. Oops!

Elsewhere in Washington State

 

National News

In discouraging news, nearly seven out of 10 Black Americans say police treatment has gotten worse in the past year. Just four out of 10 Black Americans say they have favorable views of police and law enforcement, while 75% of white respondents say they have favorable views.
Meanwhile, The Root reported that according to a review of pledges of corporations to donate money to social justice organizations, less than ONE PERCENT of that money was actually donated. Support of Black Lives Matter has also plunged since last summer, with Republicans and white people actually being LESS supportive now than they were before George Floyd was murdered. A lot of the talk about fighting against racial inequity last year was unfortunately just that–a lot of talk with little substance. All the more reason for us to step up!
And Simon Balto writes in the Guardian:
It strikes me that we are now living in an era defined not so much by “racial reckoning” but more so by the desperate, gasping grasps at reclaiming white innocence from the perils of such a reckoning. Do not teach us or our children honestly about our past or our present, the opponents of racial justice demand. Do not question our allegiance to an openly white supremacist political leader. Do not impugn the institutions that uphold white supremacy and do violence to those not like us. But most of all, they ask that we absolve them of their sins for having made all those demands. Affirm our innocence, they ask. We are not racist, men like Arnold Schlei demand we understand in spite of the evidence.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for staying engaged and committed to making a difference. Thanks so much for reading, and have a great weekend.

Big Seattle City Council meeting on Tuesday June 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 »

A grab bag of news (and a couple actions) to lead us into the weekend!

Lots of news to report on this week! But first, a little housekeeping….

Changes to this newsletter

It’s hard to believe that I started this newsletter over nine months ago now. I’m pleased to say this is the 55th issue! This is also the first issue at Notes from an Emerald City‘s new home at Revue. While it was not an easy task to weigh the ethical problems with Twitter against the ethical problems with Substack, I have ultimately come to the conclusion that for now I am more comfortable working on the Revue platform. Hopefully this change won’t affect you, the reader, at all; I’ve already ported my email subscription list over to this new platform. You will receive one last notification email from the old Substack newsletter, and then we will carry on here at Revue.
At the suggestion of a few readers, I have also added a paid subscription option to this newsletter. I think it’s important the news and information I discuss here be free and available to all, so I won’t be locking any posts for only paid subscribers. Instead this is a chance for you support the work I’m doing if you find it valuable and can afford to do so. You can give via a monthly subscription here.

WA State legislature news

In the Washington State legislature, both HB 1054, which deals with use of force, and SB 5051, which deals with the decertification process, have passed both Houses. HB 1310, which deals with de-escalation, is still in the Senate Rules committee. You can email the Chair of the committee, Karen Keiser, to ask her to pass this bill out of committee.
In other state legislature news, Governor Inslee signed the bill restoring voting rights to those who have committed felonies upon their release from prison. He also just signed SB 5055 today, which reforms arbitration but is fairly weak.

In Seattle

On Monday at their full council meeting, the Seattle City Council will be voting on whether to appropriate additional money for the SPD to fund civilian Bias Crime Prevention Coordinators. The Massage Parlor Outreach Project (MPOP), a grassroots group providing outreach support for Asian immigrant massage workers in Chinatown-ID, has condemned this action, saying, “Despite the Executive’s insistence that this position will be undertaken by a non-uniformed, civilian position within SPD, we fully reject any attempts to conflate the police department with any attempts to address community safety and issues related to anti-Asian violence.” You can email your CMs to urge them to vote against this additional expenditure, or you can sign up for public comment at the meeting on Monday, April 12 at 2pm (sign-ups begin at 12pm).
The critique on the proposed charter amendment on homelessness continues. Main arguments against the amendment are its lack of naming a funding source or providing additional funding to achieve its goals and the ambiguous language that could mean a return to a city policy of more aggressive sweeps. Dr. LaMont Green of the Lived Experience Coalition said, “”You know this is all setting the stage for aggressive encampment sweeping.”
It’s clear that a great deal of power over how to enact such an amendment would rest with the Mayor. Accordingly The Stranger‘s Nathalie Graham asked mayoral candidates what they thought of the amendment. Andrew Grant Houston came out against the amendment, while Bruce Harrell supports it. Colleen Echohawk says she is hopeful about it, and Lorena González says it’s a good start while criticizing its lack of funding. Jessyn Farrell says what I’m thinking, which is, “This policy is really only going to be as good as the next mayor.” But the charter amendment would exist in perpetuity, which means it will also only be as good as the mayor after that, and the mayor after that.
Meanwhile, the appeals court upheld the termination of Officer Shepherd from the SPD for excessive use of force, although SPOG will be appealing this decision to the state Supreme Court. This case is interesting because, as Kevin Schofield reminds us, “It does remind us that arbitration, a right guaranteed to police officers under state law, is a far from perfect process that is still overdue for reform.”

Other WA State News

Meanwhile, across the lake in Bellevue, an outside consultant has completed their use of force policy review for the Bellevue Police Department and will be presenting their recommendations at the Belleuve City Council meeting on Monday, April 12 at 6pm. You can take a look at the report here, which ends with a whopping 47 recommendations for changes to the policy. The Bellevue Police Chief is scheduled to brief the Council on this report at a future meeting.
In King County, the calls for the King County Sheriff to resign are continuing. If Sheriff Johanknect were to resign, the timing would matter; before a certain date and there would have to be a special election for a new Sheriff for only a short period of time before the office becomes an appointed one, whereas if she resigns after May 15 she’d be replaced by an interim sheriff.
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely weekend!

Other Articles of Interest

DAJD Could Do More to Prevent Deaths in Jails, Disciplines With Racial Bias, Report Finds | South Seattle Emerald

Nearly 200 cops with credibility issues still working in Washington state | Crosscut

Decriminalizing Drugs Is Popular in Washington - Slog - The Stranger

A grab bag of news (and a couple actions) to lead us into the weekend! Read More »

Disagreement abounds on whether the new proposed charter amendment on homelessness would reinstitute the sweeps

Time for some early April news!

First off, you can read my live-tweeting of this morning’s Council Briefing here.

CM Herbold mentioned that she had a meeting last week with the DoJ and the Monitor about the draft bill on less lethal weapons, and that they will have additional questions for the SPD and the City’s Central Staff, so that is continuing to move forward. The next public safety committee meeting isn’t until next week, and we don’t yet have word on the agenda.


Meanwhile, Seattle is busy discussing the new proposed charter amendment from Compassionate Seattle, led by former CM Tim Burgess, that would create a new Article in Seattle’s city charter called “Provision of Homeless Services.” This proposal is unprecedented in that it attempts to use the city charter to dictate specific policy and budget priorities, while charter amendments in the past have stuck to causing governance changes. The purpose of this amendment appears to be to cause the City to stand up 1,000 new units of “emergency or permanent housing with services” in 2022, stating the City must allocate 12% of its general fund annually to a separate Human Services fund.

More controversially, the proposed amendment also contains the following language: “As emergency and permanent housing are available, the City shall ensure that City parks, playgrounds, sports fields, public spaces and sidewalks and streets (“public spaces”) remain open and clear of encampments. The City also may require individuals to shift their belongings and any structures to ensure accessibility and to accommodate use of public spaces.” Given the initiative’s major financial backer is the Downtown Seattle Association, this section shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

There are several different interpretations of what that language might mean, and it is disturbing that a major initiative on which the public may be expected to vote is so ambiguous:

  • Kevin Schofield of SCC Insight says: “This does not appear to be bringing back “sweeps.” The text of the proposed amendment makes clear that parks and public spaces should be cleaned up and restored “as emergency and permanent housing are available.”
  • Marcus Harrison Greene of the South Seattle Emerald says in an interview on Hacks & Wonks: “Other than, as you were saying, people essentially just don’t want to see any type of blight on their fair city or what have you. And are trying to essentially make it more and more of a hardship on people who are unhoused to be in areas that are “public spaces” or public amenities. And so for me, I mean, this just seems like an extremely – just extremely callous potential initiative that is couched in this language of compassion and love.” Crystal Fincher then responds, “I think the question is – the mandate in here to ensure that parks and public spaces are open and clear of encampments, is a clear direction and clear indication to return to aggressive sweeps. And to return to just default, I see someone in public – call the police, get them out.”
  • Erica C. Barnett of Publicola reports: “Supporters of the amendment say the mandate to ensure that parks and public spaces are “open and clear” of encampments does not mean a return to aggressive encampment sweeps, although that provision will be open to interpretation if the amendment passes.”

In one further wrinkle, one of the members of the coalition supporting this amendment is Chief Seattle Club, the executive director of which is Colleen Echohawk. In her statement on this initiative, she says it “prohibits sweeps unless there is a place for people to go.” However, a prohibition doesn’t seem clear from the actual language of the amendment. How her support of this amendment might affect her chances in the mayoral election is anyone’s guess, but it does seem to pull her into a more center position and align her clearly with the interests of Seattle’s business community. Of course, this could also easily weaken her prospects with more progressive voters concerned about the possibility of renewed sweeps.

In order for this city charter amendment to appear on the ballot in November, it will need to collect 33,000 signatures from Seattle voters, to be filed by early August.


The other big piece of news in Seattle is the Court’s ruling that the recall of CM Sawant can proceed. The recall campaign will now begin collecting signatures; they need 10,000 signatures from District 3 voters and have 180 days to collect them. Depending on when these signatures are turned in, this recall might be voted on during the November election or there might need to be a special election at a later date. So far CM Sawant has out-fundraised the recall campaign.


Finally, you can attend free virtual bystander intervention trainings to stop anti-Asian/American and xenophobic harassment. Hosted by Hollaback! and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, you can sign up for a training here. There is still one available training in April and several in May, and if you finish this first training, there is also a conflict de-escalation training workshop available.

Thanks for reading!

Disagreement abounds on whether the new proposed charter amendment on homelessness would reinstitute the sweeps Read More »