CPC

Seattle Homicides Down in 2024 in Spite of SPD Staffing “Crisis”

Seattle News:

PubliCola broke the news this weekend that SPD knew while he was still in training that Officer Kevin Dave, the officer who killed Jaahnavi Kandula last year, had a “checkered history” at the Tucson Police Department, which fired him in 2013. As a lateral hire, Dave received one of the controversial $7500 hiring bonuses from Seattle. His history in Tucson included a possible drunk driving incident and a “preventable collision,” and he was the subject of five other investigations in his 18 months there, including one for violating general standards of conduct. 

As of the end of March, homicides have decreased in Seattle by 36%, Axios has reported. In hard numbers, there were 9 homicides in the first three months of this year that took place in Seattle, as compared to 14 that took place during the same period last year. And Axios further reported that “Detective Brian Pritchard, a spokesperson for the Seattle Police Department, told Axios that as of April 9, there have been 12 homicides in the city this year, compared to 19 in the same period in 2023.” Axios also said “at this pace, the homicide rate in the U.S. could match its level in 2014, when many cities saw 30-year lows in violent crime and homicides.”

This backs up local journalist Guy Oron’s numbers finding that SPD staffing and crime rates don’t correlate at all.

Mayor Bruce Harrell has announced he has submitted emergency legislation to amend Seattle’s Fire Code and allow the fire department to order and execute demolition of vacant buildings that present a fire hazard. There were 130 fires in vacant buildings in Seattle last year. The legislation will be co-sponsored by CM Bob Kettle and CM Tammy Morales and will go through the public safety committee.

City Attorney Ann Davison has hired Fred C. Wist II to fill the Criminal Division Chief position. Wist comes from the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, where as PubliCola reported, he came under fire for investigating a special drugs investigations unit, several members of whom later sued him, another deputy prosecutor, and several sheriff’s department officials. Wist uses a sheriff’s badge with a “thin blue line” mourning band as his profile picture on Facebook.

The Criminal Division Chief at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office was previously held by Natalie Walton-Anderson, who notably wrote the memo outlining the strategy for the office to file affidavits of prejudice in all criminal cases against Seattle Municipal Court Judge Pooja Vaddadi. Walton-Anderson resigned soon after the hung jury in the case the office brought to trial against a Stop the Sweeps protester. 

Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) Director Andrea Scheele attended a Community Police Commission (CPC) meeting this week, where she pushed back against several assertions made by Council President Sara Nelson. She said Seattle using the NTN test instead of the PST test in the past has never been a deterrent for applicants, that the PSCSC already has regular contact with applicants as soon as they apply, and that customizing the PST test would not take 8 weeks as Council President Nelson suggested but more likely 6-12 months. 

The CPC will be holding a community meeting on Tuesday, April 23 from 5:30-7:45pm at Van Asselt Community Center on 2820 S Myrtle to discuss the recent proposed SPOG contract in a “guided conversation.” And there will be light snacks!

Recent Headlines:

 

Seattle Homicides Down in 2024 in Spite of SPD Staffing “Crisis” Read More »

Court Ruling Yet Another Example of SPD’s Racial Bias in Action

Personal News:

We’ll dive into the news of the week in just a moment, but I did want to take the opportunity to mention I had a book come out last week! I was supposed to write about it in last week’s newsletter, but I was so distracted by learning that the new drug criminalization legislation was almost exactly the same as the previous version that I forgot to include it.

Book cover of TO TRAVEL THE STARS with a couple dancing in close embrace with a starry space background

TO TRAVEL THE STARS is a Young Adult science fiction novel that is a retelling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE in space. If that sounds appealing either to yourself or a teenager in your life, I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy.

Seattle News:

The Seattle Times reports: “A federal judge has found evidence Seattle police stopped and detained a Black delivery driver at gunpoint because of his race, then illegally searched his trunk in a 2020 incident detailed in a civil rights lawsuit now headed for trial.” Incidentally, SPD doesn’t have a policy for what is known as a “high-risk vehicle stop” as took place in this incident, and when the OPA suggested SPD develop one, Chief Diaz refused. This ruling means the City has been found liable for the illegal search, and the trial would determine the amount of damages owed.

Captain Brown, one of the officers named in the case and the new acting commander of the South Precinct, recently wrote a letter of his expectations to his officers and supervisors. Erica C. Barnett at Publicola reported that this letter “included an exhortation to “take care of our own” by handling “minor misconduct” internally, rather than reporting it to the Office of Police Accountability. The letter also said officers should view themselves as forces of “good” whose job is to “intervene and stop evil” in the world.” When questioned about the letter, Brown said he didn’t intend to disparage the OPA. 

Brown has been the subject of 14 complaints since 2015. The OPA investigated the case involving the Black delivery driver detailed above and dismissed the racial bias complaint against Brown as unfounded, a decision the federal judge obviously disagreed with. This discrepancy between the OPA’s findings and the Judge’s ruling is another blow to the legitimacy of Seattle’s accountability system.

Seattle’s three accountability bodies all sent representatives to the joint Public Safety and Human Services committee and the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) public hearing on Tuesday night about expectations around a new Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) contract. The purpose of the meeting is for the LRPC to consider the public’s input before establishing bargaining parameters. The old SPMA contract expires at the end of this year, and a public hearing must be held at least 90 days before the City and the SPMA enter negotiations.

The public meeting was sparsely attended, with many commenters noting the insufficient amount of notice they received that the meeting was taking place and one commenter suggesting the hearing was “performative and pointless.” The Community Police Commission (CPC) had a few requests for the Council to consider, including details around the 180-day clock for OPA investigations, how long and in what situations personnel files should be preserved, and reform to secondary employment of officers, while also noting their concern about the biased culture prevalent within SPD. 

Still centered in conversation was the 2017 police accountability ordinance that has never been fully implemented due to conflicts with the SPMA and SPOG contracts. Unfortunately this failure has sometimes meant a continued focus over the past several years on trying to implement this ordinance instead of pushing for greater gains or other ways in which public safety in Seattle might become more equitable.

There will be a special meeting of the Public Safety and Human Services committee on Monday, August 14th at 2pm to discuss the new drug criminalization legislation. Now is the perfect time to email your councilmembers or plan to give public comment. I’ve already written at length about some of the problems with this legislation the last time it was introduced in early June. BJ Last has a new op-ed in The Stranger about some of the budgetary concerns with this bill.

The bill won’t be voted on in Full Council until sometime in September after the City Council’s two-week summer recess from August 21 to September 4.

The Revenue Stabilization Workgroup has issued a final report on options for further City revenue and will be delivering a presentation on Thursday, August 10th to the Finance and Housing committee. Among the options identified for revenue are increasing the Jumpstart payroll tax, instituting a city-level capital gains tax, and instituting a high CEO pay ratio tax. 

I particularly recommend you check out the Transit Riders Union’s Revenue Options Report, which outlines 26 different revenue options and how to make them more progressive. For example, the City could institute a flat 1% income tax, which would not be inherently progressive, but by pairing this tax with tax credits, rebates, or a basic income program, it could be made more progressive.

The mid-year supplemental budget passed out of Full Council yesterday. The package includes $1 million to expand opioid addiction treatment in Pioneer Square and $1.6 million to the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC) to hire new staff for their dual dispatch pilot.

A state appeals court issued a stay that will allow Seattle to continue its practice of no-notice sweeps–for now.

The Public Safety and Human Services committee met this week and heard reports from the Seattle Community Safety Initiative (SCSI) and the King County Regional Approach to Gun Violence. The Regional Peacekeepers Collective (RPCK) is expanding into Skyway, as well as adding service hubs in Kent and Burien.

Recent Headlines:

Court Ruling Yet Another Example of SPD’s Racial Bias in Action Read More »

Another Egregious Example of SPD Culture in Action

Seattle News:

Some shenanigans late last week in Seattle in preparation for All star week, as reported by Ashley Nerbovig:

“Meanwhile, the City so highly prioritized the removal of unhoused people around the stadium that on Friday morning SPD had two detectives from the department’s Special Victims Unit—one of whom investigates domestic violence cases—standing around waiting for one man to pack up his tent and move along. A police lieutenant with SPD’s Directed Outreach Unit, which typically works with the City’s Unified Care Team, stood around waiting as well.”

And what’s going on with Seattle’s drug criminalization task force? Well, it’s been broken into three different groups (court system issues, treatment, and enforcement), and only the court issues group has met so far. The group appears to have agreed that the best course forward involves expanding the Vital program and LEAD, since the Seattle Municipal Court has no additional capacity for more cases and the King County Jail would be unable to increase bookings. Erica C. Barnett with Publicola reports:

 “Lewis said that now that the work groups are meeting to discuss the best way to respond to public drug use, the legislation making public use a gross misdemeanor in Seattle is “almost a Macguffin”—a device that gets the plot going, but isn’t particularly significant in itself.”

On Wednesday, Mike Carter at the Seattle Times broke the story that in January of 2021, a breakroom in the SPD’s East Precinct featured a mock tombstone marking the death of Damarius Butts, who was killed by SPD officers on April 20, 2017. The breakroom was also decorated with a Trump 2020 flag and a protestor’s sign saying “Stop Killing Us.” SPD has so far refused to apologize to Damarius Butts’s family. As Mike Carter reports:

“Ann Butts, the young man’s mother, said his family misses him every day. “I can’t express how hurtful it was to learn that SPD endorsed joking about the killing of my son by displaying a fake tombstone with his name on it,” she said in a statement through her attorney, former King County public defender La Rond Baker. “I didn’t think SPD could take more from me,” she said. “I was wrong.””

At Tuesday’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, the three accountability bodies–the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and the Community Police Commission (CPC)–gave their mid-year accountability presentation. Of particular note, thus far in 2023 there has been a 46% increased in cases sustained by the OPA, from 13% sustained in 2022 to 19% sustained in 2023. Allegations of use of force have increased slightly in 2023. And if you were wondering what ever happened in response to the infamous Proud Boy ruse of 2020? OIG recommended a new SPD ruse policy in October of 2022, and the draft was submitted to SPOG for review in December 2022. Seven months later…nothing has moved forward. 

There was also a discussion about the CPC’s recent move to no longer allow public comment at its twice-a-month meetings. Co-chair Reverend Harriet Walden said this change was made because she feels threatened by the presence of public commenters, and she referenced their loud voices. She said the commenters are not interested in building the CPC, which seems to imply a resistance on the CPC’s part to hearing criticism from the community. She also said she will call SPD the next time the commenters come to a meeting if she feels threatened; one of the regular commenters is Castill Hightower, the sister of a man who was killed by an SPD officer during a mental health crisis, who could suffer additional trauma if forced to interact with the police in this way. 

CM Lewis said getting rid of public comment altogether goes further than what is generally expected of government practice and suggested the CPC instead develop new policies and procedures to protect commissioners as necessary.

The bill changing certain aspects of the governance of the CPC was also up for discussion and vote. It was confirmed that adding a new Deputy Director position would require an additional $191k to be allocated to the CPC beginning in 2024. Activists oppose passage of this bill without a public forum on its impacts and an audit of the CPC; they are also calling for the CPC to divest itself of involvement in the new Affected Persons Program. The bill passed out of committee with an unanimous vote, with CM Mosqueda being absent, and will be voted on in Full Council on July 18. 

Finally, People Power Washington has released their Voting Guide for the Seattle City Council primaries. Check it out!

King County News:

On Monday, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs released its annual crime report. As Amanda Zhou from the Seattle Times reports: “In King County, officials saw most violent crime slowly trend downward the first half of 2023, dropping from a high point during the height of the pandemic. But the county’s homicide rate was relatively steady through the first quarter of 2023, with a slight rise compared with the same period last year.”

Washington State

The Office of Independent Investigations, a new state agency, is now ready to begin reviewing past cases where police officers used deadly force. Members of the public can submit previous cases for review here. The office has not yet started investigating new incidents of deadly force.

Recent Headlines:

Another Egregious Example of SPD Culture in Action Read More »

Seattle to Launch “War on Health”

Seattle News

Mayor Harrell has announced the formation of a 24-member Fentanyl Systems Work Group to work on addressing the opioid crisis, using the baffling tag phrase “war on health”. He expressed his support of passing a city ordinance to allow the City Attorney to prosecute drug possession and drug use in public while also providing more treatment and diversion options. The timeline for the work group to come up with a plan is tight, with the goal to be finished by July 1, the date that the new state law goes into effect. To be clear, if the City were to miss this deadline, nothing particularly catastrophic would happen; Seattle never moved to adopt the State’s temporary new drug law passed in 2021 into the municipal code. It will be interesting to see what agreements the 24 people in this work group will be able to reach in only a few weeks, or if they instead end up blowing past the deadline.

CM Lewis is talking about the possibility of a new therapeutic court, which could potentially replace the recently ended community court. Meanwhile the City Attorney’s Office will be dismissing around another 1,000 misdemeanor cases filed before 2022

SPD has referred the case of Officer Kevin Dave, who hit and killed pedestrian Jaahnavi Kandula this January, to the King County Prosecutor, who will decide whether to charge Dave. It is unclear whether SPD referred the case because they believe Dave may have committed a crime or because they were required by law to do so. 

More lawsuits related to the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020 have been filed: Molly Moon’s ice cream shop and Hugo’s Properties LLC are both suing the City. The family of Antonio Mays Jr., who was killed near the CHOP in the summer of 2020, are also suing the City, former Mayor Durkan, and CM Sawant. The missing text messages will almost certainly be relevant in all these cases.

CM Pedersen has proposed a capital gains tax for Seattle. The 2% tax would replace a current tax on water bills, a move some opponents have criticized because low income households are eligible for a 50% discount on their water bills, meaning removal of the water tax might mostly serve as a subsidy to well-off homeowners. However, the implementation of a capital gains tax and the removal of the water tax are being moved through Seattle City Council as two separate ordinances, opening the possibility that the capital gains tax may be passed without repealing the water tax.

A US District Court has issued an injunction against Seattle enforcing its ordinance banning graffiti, saying it is likely too broad and might violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. From The Stranger:

In response to the order, SPD released a statement saying cops could do nothing about property damage. Of course, SPD failed to mention the reason for the order—SPD officers blatantly abusing their power to arrest as a way to discourage free speech. In any case, the City Attorney’s office clarified that the order only applies to the part of the ordinance that describes damage done by writing, painting, or drawing on property. People can still complain that the judge decriminalized graffiti.”

The Community Police Commission (CPC) has requested changes be made to the 2017 accountability ordinance, all of which are directly concerned with the CPC’s operations, including adding additional stipends, adding constraints to stipends, changing the CPC’s ability to remove commissioners, and deleting the phrase “to help ensure public confidence in the effectiveness and professionalism of SPD” from the description of the CPC’s role. Some of the changes appear to be reflective of some of the recent struggles the CPC has been undergoing.

Meanwhile Castill Hightower, sister of Herbert Hightower Jr, who was killed by an SPD officer, has said the CPC is continuing tosilence, undermine, belittle, mock and now threaten with violence the very communities they were initially created to center.” She asks that they stop their interference with creation of the Affected Persons program and relinquish control over the complainant appeals process, among other demands. The CPC was originally supposed to create such an appeals process, but after years of delay, that duty was transferred to the group working on developing the Affected Persons program. You can read her full letter here.

Recent Headlines

 

Seattle to Launch “War on Health” Read More »

We’re Going to Go Tougher on Drugs Because No One Cares about Evidence of What Actually Works

Seattle News:

In the latest in the ongoing saga of the missing text messages, the City of Seattle has agreed to pay a $2.3 million settlement to the two whistleblowers who revealed that former Mayor Durkan’s text messages had been deleted. When combined with legal fees, this lawsuit has cost Seattle taxpayers more than $3 million. One of the employees, Stacy Irwin, is quoted as saying, “There’s been no accountability. These officials basically got away with it and the taxpayers are paying.”

Crosscut published an interesting investigation on Seattle’s bike cops:

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney and executive director of the Center for Protest Law & Litigation, said police violence and misconduct are going to occur regardless of the vehicle or weapon. 

“There was some thinking t”hat bicycle units are somehow going to be better because it seems softer,” she said. “But we have seen bicycle units act with extreme violence, attacking en masse, throwing their bikes down and charging crowds of people.”

Police bicycle tactics are concerning because in spite of their violence, the use of bicycles to, for example, push protesters, was not a reportable use of force during the protests of 2020. Another issue at play is cost, with a fully equipped Volcanic police bike model now costing around $2,495. SPD also formed the Community Response Group in October 2020, requiring all team members to be bike-trained, which expanded their ranks of deployable bike officers, meaning this is not an issue that is going away any time soon.

Given the Blake compromise law just passed by the state legislature (more on this below), CMs Nelson and Pedersen are introducing a new version of their legislation to criminalize public drug use. This legislation would be necessary for public drug use and drug possession to be charged by the Seattle City Attorney; right now drug possession is handled by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

A correction from last week: the appointment of Anthony Gaedcke to the CPC fulfills the requirement of the CPC to have two officers on the commission, one from SPOG and one from the SPMA. In the documentation, these two appointments count as appointments by the CPC, as opposed to by the Mayor’s Office or the City Council.

Election News:

The filing deadline for candidates for this election cycle is this Friday, May 19. The primary election will be on August 1.

We’ve had a few late declaring candidates, including Jorge Barón for King County Council District 4, Tyesha Reed in Seattle District 5, and Olga Sagan in Seattle District 7.

After last week’s MLK Labor Council’s candidate forum, the Council has endorsed Maren Costa in Seattle’s District 1.

WA State Legislature News:

The legislature’s special session lasted a single day on Tuesday. The Stranger’s Ashley Nerbovig gave a succinct summary of the downsides of the compromise legislation, which is centered around criminal penalties and coercive treatment instead of a harm reduction approach:

The legislation increases criminal penalties for drug possession, creates a new criminal offense for public drug use, gives prosecutors more power to direct people to jail rather than to diversion programs, allows cities and counties to ban harm reduction services, and adds barriers to siting drug treatment facilities. 

Drug possession and a new offense of public drug use are now defined as gross misdemeanors, but with a maximum sentence of 180 days for the first two convictions (instead of 364 days). This is in spite of many studies showing the criminal legal system is ineffective when addressing addiction.

The bill also includes $62.9 million, an increase of $19.6 million from previous versions of the bill, for an array of supportive services.

Ironically, seven people incarcerated in the Snohomish County Jail overdosed on fentanyl this week, belying legislators’ confidence in jails being an effective place to treat addiction problems. And don’t forget that this new drug legislation will probably also impact the population of the already overcrowded King County Jail.

Recent Headlines:

We’re Going to Go Tougher on Drugs Because No One Cares about Evidence of What Actually Works Read More »

Another Officer on the CPC?

Thus far, it’s been a relatively slow news week for local public safety news, although quite exciting in other news! My hand is also healing in a rather slow fashion, so I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue to rest.

Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee did have a meeting this week. During the meeting, they heard about a new proposed appointment to the CPC: Anthony Gaedcke, who is a lieutenant with SPD. It is interesting that another officer is being added to an organization purported to be for the community, and he is taking one of the the nomination spots of the CPC itself, but perhaps this is not surprising, given the Mayor was pushing the CPC to become an informal additional PR branch for SPD.

The legislation we discussed last week that would expand the existing law against “obstructing” police officers to include Fire Department personnel received a vote in full council this week and passed unanimously.

Resources & Commentary:

Texas, Guns, and Stats

Homeless Man Says Off-Duty SPD Officer Pointed Gun, Threatened to ‘Slaughter’ Him

Austin voters embrace civilian police oversight

May 9 Criminal justice updates and commentary roundup

Seattle City Council District 4: Flirting with Disaster, Hoping for Deliverance

WA lands commissioner Hilary Franz announces run for governor, vying with AG Ferguson

Another Officer on the CPC? Read More »

Alternative Response in Seattle is Behind…Again

Seattle News

There’s a lot to catch up on, so let’s start off with the big news that the Social Housing Initiative 135 has passed! Next steps include bringing together a board of directors and seeking funding.

Mayor Harrell gave his State of the City speech last week. Apparently the white paper about a third public safety department that was supposed to be completed last year is still forthcoming. As this was supposed to be the main tangible step forward in 2022, the failure to deliver this white paper in a timely fashion is disappointing to say the least. But at least the new department has a name now, which obviously took many hours of painstaking work: CARE, the Civilian Assisted Response and Engagement Department. Apparently we’ll also be hearing more about police officer hiring this year, which is hardly a surprise, although given the difficulty police departments across the country are having hiring, these are conversations that seem unlikely to deliver the desired results.

Last week the Adley Shepherd case was dismissed by a U.S. District Court Judge. Adley Shepherd is a former SPD officer who was fired after punching a handcuffed woman in the back of a squad car. His case has been filtering through arbitration and courts ever since, most recently as a suit brought by him against the City of Seattle.

The City of Seattle settled the CHOP lawsuit for $3.65m, $600k of which was due to the missing texts of former Mayor Durkan, former SPD Chief Best, and others. This money, as well as additional costs of defending the lawsuit, comes from taxpayer dollars.

At this week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, the CSCC presented on their 911 Protocols Software that would enable them to dispatch calls to responders other than the police. Right now the plan is to implement dual dispatch including SPD, although CM Herbold was quick to remind us that dual dispatch doesn’t necessarily mean a police officer will be on the scene in every instance, but rather in some cases SPD would simply be situationally aware of the dispatch of a civilian responder. That being said, it was made clear at the meeting that the nature of the dual dispatch model has yet to be determined

Shocking no one, given we’ve been holding our breath for a particular white paper since December, all the work on alternative response appears to be behind schedule. None of the deliverables outlined on the term sheet regarding developing alternative response between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff appear to be complete. Some of this delay was attributed to the hiring and on-boarding of the new interim Director of the CSCC, Rebecca Gonzales, although of course everyone already knew when deliverable dates were set that a new director would need to be found. CM Lewis was frustrated enough to say that if more progress isn’t forthcoming in future briefings, the Council might need to take a more assertive role in this work. Given Seattle has been waiting two and a half years for alternative response with nothing to show for it, this reaction seems quite measured.

The protocols and work flow of the new triaging dispatch system also won’t be complete until late this year. CM Herbold called out that we continue to be told of reasons why we can’t move forward on implementation of alternate response: SPD’s RMD analysis, the overdue white paper from the Mayor’s Office outlining the new third public safety department, and now this triage dispatch system. She expressed her hopes that launching an alternate response pilot for person down and wellness checks won’t depend on the dispatch system being complete. CM Lewis pointed out other cities with alternative response have triage systems that dispatch to fully civilian responses, not just dual dispatch. And so the slog to push alternative response continues sluggishly forward as Seattle continues to fall behind many other cities who have been able to do this work.

Due to objections from SPOG, SPD discontinued use of Truleo software that analyzed police body-cam footage to look for potential police misconduct. Unfortunately, SPD’s use of several other surveillance technologies was approved by the Seattle City Council earlier this week, including “cell phone and laptop extraction tools, a geospatial analysis technology called GeoTime, remotely operated vehicles, crash retrieval forensics and hidden GPS trackers and cameras.” Seattle has its own Surveillance Advisory Working Group, and the CMs failed to implement many of this work group’s recommendations relating to the use of these technologies.

A recent report shows that Seattle’s automated traffic cameras disproportionately target Communities of Color. In fact, 65% of automated traffic cameras are placed in neighborhoods with relatively more people of color and immigrants; Seattle’s most dangerous roads tend to be in these communities because of displacement. In 2022, Seattle’s automated cameras issued almost 200,000 traffic tickets, which is almost fifty times more than the number given by police. It’s also worth noting that these camera-generated tickets currently require review by police, meaning such a large volume requires additional resources given to SPD in order to review them; to do otherwise would require a law change. An op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald by Ethan C. Campbell and Nura Ahmed outlines several ways to address issues of equity surrounding traffic cameras in Seattle. 

CM Herbold wrote the following about violent crime in Seattle in 2022:

Although, over the entire year, the data shows violent crime higher than it’s been for years, the SPD Crime Dashboard shows that there were 363 violent crimes reported in December 2022; this is the lowest number of violent crimes reported for a month since February 2021, when 329 violent crimes were reported. The December 2022 figure is lower than the 403 violent crimes reported in December 2019 (before COVID-19, before the murder of George Floyd, and before 500 officers left SPD).

A further review of the SPD dashboard shows that moving into 2023 (the report only covers 2022), 371 reported violent crimes in January, slightly lower than January 2020, with 373 reported violent crimes.

Shots fired, while higher overall in 2022, are also dramatically declining, according to the Chief.”

When discussing violent crime in 2022, it would be remiss not to reiterate the increasing violence experienced by unsheltered people.

The turmoil at the Seattle Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the Community Police Commission (CPC) continues. Two more SHRC commissioners have recently resigned as commissioners continue to receive legal threats from the City Attorney’s Office about trying to seek amicus status in the consent decree, and the CPC Executive Director Brandy Grant resigned on February 10. Cali Ellis has been named as the interim director. After events at a CPC community engagement meeting on February 14 and the CPC’s regular meeting on February 15, both Castile Hightower and Howard Gale have filed complaints with the OPA about SPD Officer Mullens, who also sits on the CPC. 

King County News

The ACLU of Washington filed a lawsuit on Friday against King County and Executive Constantine arguing they are in breach of a settlement agreement regarding the King County Jail mandating certain staffing levels and inmate access to medical care and court hearings. Advocates held a press conference and rally outside the jail on Monday morning.

Election News

Becka Johnson Pope, who has spent the last three years managing King County’s budget, announced her run for the King County Council seat for District 4. Sarah Reyneveld has already announced her run for the same seat.

Seattle CM Dan Strauss has announced his intentions to run for re-election in District 6.

ChrisTiana Obeysumner has declared their candidacy in District 5. They are one of six filed candidates so far for the district.

WA State Legislature

Sadly, the bill banning solitary confinement has died again this year. The new drug possession bill also doesn’t look promising.

HB 1513 (traffic stops), HB 1025 (qualified immunity), HB 1579 (independent prosecutor), and HB 1445 (AG investigations & reform) are all headed for floor votes. March 8 is the cut-off date for bills to be voted out of their house of origin. 

Recent Headlines

Alternative Response in Seattle is Behind…Again Read More »

Mayor Asks for CPC’s Assistance in Bringing Cops Back into Seattle Schools

Seattle News

Mayor Harrell announced his choice for the next SPD police chief on Tuesday: interim Chief Adrian Diaz. Publicola analyzed this choice succinctly:
This approach, like the choice of Diaz itself, represents a commitment to the status quo: Reform, not a radical rethinking of the relationship between police and the communities they serve. Aggressive hiring, rather than redistributing some duties to non-police responders. More and better officer training, rather than example-setting discipline for cops who abuse their power. Even Diaz’s characterization of the 2020 protests outside the East Precinct, which he repeatedly referred to as “riots” both yesterday and during his Seattle Channel interview, represents a pre-2020 perspective in which police are the only bulwark against everything from violent crime to people protesting against police violence.
At the press conference, Mayor Harrell promised that in his proposed budget being delivered next Tuesday, we will see investments in his strategy of a whole “third way of policing”, although he wasn’t immediately familiar with the term sheet and related work the Public Safety committee discussed last week. He also mentioned that he sees employees such as park rangers and MID-funded ambassadors downtown as alternative public safety responses.
There has been recent controversy around the idea of hiring more park rangers (potentially expanding their numbers from 2 to 26), who some activists think are police officers by another name. While park rangers do not carry guns, they are able to give citations and exclusion orders, which are traditionally duties associated with police officers, and community members have complained about the two existing park rangers treating homeless people poorly during sweeps.
The Seattle Parks funding plan will receive a final vote right after the 2pm Full Council meeting on Tuesday, September 27th. The current proposal funds the new park rangers but includes a spending restriction stating that no park district funds will be used for park rangers to participate in clearing encampments, and that park rangers will continue to issue trespass warrants as per a specific park rule.
The Full Council voted to confirm the appointment of Gino Betts as the new Director of the OPA yesterday 8-1, with CM Sawant casting the sole “nay” vote, stating that her vote is more a statement about the broken state of the current accountability system in Seattle and not about the qualifications of the candidate. She called for an elected community oversight board.
Current Seattle Municipal Court Judge Adam Eisenberg, who is currently running for re-election against Pooja Vaddadi, published a book in 2009 entitled “A Different Shade of Blue” about women police officers. It received favorable (although not many total) reviews on Amazon, but James Barker, deputy general counsel for Bungie and Pooja Vaddadi’s husband, took to Twitter to share some literary criticism:
JAMS
I won’t hide the ball.
Far from highlighting their struggles, this book fetishizes, objectifies, and demeans the police officers it purports to elevate. It’s rife with casual racism, sexism, voyeuristic poverty-porn, white-saviorism, and it denigrates Seattle’s communities.
3/

Cops Back in Seattle Schools?

During an August 17 meeting between Mayor Harrell and the CPC (Community Police Commission), CPC Commissioner and Officer Mark Mullens said during our “defunding,” we removed resource officers from our schools and that this was an overreach of what defunding is. Mayor Harrell responded that they needed to earn the trust and the right to go back into the schools and that he is working with Superintendent Dr. Jones and Chairman Brandon Hersey to build those relationships to get officers back in schools. He suggested the CPC could be an invaluable asset in this space. No mention was made of how this would reestablish the school to prison pipeline or be detrimental to students’ health and safety.
At the same meeting, Mayor Harrell also suggested the CPC help him recruit new officers for SPD. The idea that the CPC, which states as part of its mission that it “listens to, amplifies, and builds common ground among communities affected by policing in Seattle,” is now being encouraged to take on the dual role of SPD PR and SPD HR is disturbing, to say the least.

Police Union Contracts

People Power Washington sent a letter to Seattle city leaders today outlining their recommendations for the SPOG contract currently being negotiated. Full disclosure, I signed this letter myself, along with my co-chair Camille Baldwin-Bonney. We recently heard contract negotiations could be wrapping up as soon as the end of the year, and we believe it is incumbent upon us to let city leaders know what we would like to see while the contract is still in the process of being negotiated, instead of treating the contract as a fait accompli once it is presented to the public. We also hope this letter helps educate community members on how police union contracts can act as impediments to accountability and equitable public safety.
The Seattle Times reported that the president of the King County Police Officers Guild said he’s hopeful they would agree to a new contract in coming weeks. This police union contract pertains to officers at the King County Sheriff’s Office.

King County Budget

On Monday Executive Dow Constantine announced a list of public safety proposals he wants to fund in King County’s 2023 budget. Publicola has provided a handy list:
$2.4 million for Vital, a program that targets “high utilizers” of the criminal justice system by providing case management and wraparound services;
$7.3 million for Restorative Community Pathways, a pre-filing diversion program for youth who commit certain first-time felonies;
$5 million for body-worn cameras, which every deputy would be required to wear by the end of 2025;
$21 million to hire 140 new security officers for King County Metro buses, transit centers, and stops.
The amount of money spent on body cameras seems disappointing, given that the program won’t be fully deployed until the end of 2025 and that the evidence of the efficacy of body camera programs is mixed at best, while they do expand police surveillance powers. You can read more about concerns about body camera programs, including discussion of a few key studies, over at the ACLU Washington’s blog.
Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall said the Sheriff’s Office has hired 50 new deputies so far this year, and they hope to hire 70 more over the next two years.

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People Still Don’t Want to Work for SPD

Seattle Public Safety Committee Meeting

Amy Sundberg
Good morning and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. Four are present (CM Mosqueda absent).
Yesterday morning Seattle had its last Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting before the summer break. The Mayor’s proposed new Director of the OPA, Gino Betts, was present for a drive-by introduction, and he will be back before the committee for a Q&A and committee vote on his appointment on September 13, which would potentially tee up the Full Council vote on his appointment for September 20, conveniently right before the madness of budget season is upon us. You can read his appointment packet here.
But the real interest of yesterday’s meeting was Greg Doss’s quarterly update on SPD’s staffing, finances, and call response times. Surprising nobody who has been paying attention, there have been 109 separations of sworn officers from SPD in the first six months of 2022, at odds with SPD’s previous projection that there would be 94 separations for the ENTIRE YEAR. Yes, you read that right. There have been 30 hires so far in the first six months of 2022, which doesn’t exactly put SPD on track for reaching their hiring projection of 125 for the year either.
These numbers mean there will be significantly more salary savings for 2022 than anticipated. However, SPD thinks they will burn through all this extra salary savings and might need even more money by the end of the year, primarily because of overtime spending, although also because of the costs of the hiring incentives bill the committee discussed at this meeting.
In a particular feisty moment, CM Lewis agreed that we don’t have the capacity to stand up alternative responses in the next few months because we should have taken the actions other cities took two years ago, a fairly safe political shot at now departed Mayor Durkan. The Council’s continued frustration at the lack of alternatives is palpable, although CM Herbold reported the joint workgroup on the subject between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff has finally begun, and it sounds like the Mayor’s Office may be softening towards the idea of trying one or more alternative response pilots, an idea that has been memorialized in the latest consent decree filing.
As for the hiring incentives legislation being discussed, it was more of the same as has already been discussed this year, offering hiring bonuses for new recruits and lateral hires as well as providing money for more HR staff/support for SPD, more marketing, and the police chief search. It’s just now a slightly higher amount than previously discussed. One cannot help remembering CM Nelson’s comments earlier this year that it didn’t matter what the money was spent on as long as they did something, and this bill definitely feels more like a performative “Look! We’re doing something!” than a tangible, data-backed plan to actually improve public safety in Seattle. Indeed, rumors have been circulating that hiring bonuses or no, it could easily take ten years to return to pre-pandemic SPD staffing levels, meaning alternative plans are going to be needed to address public safety regardless of where on the defund spectrum any particular elected official may fall.
The legislation passed 4-1 with CM Mosqueda casting the only nay vote. In order to display “urgency,” the legislation will probably be voted on next week at Full Council on August 16 even though it would normally be delayed due to the split vote (otherwise the vote wouldn’t be until September because of the Summer Recess). You can read another account of the meeting here.

Other Seattle News

CE Bick
Tonight’s @SeaCPC Community Engagement Meeting in which incoming @SeattleOPA Dir. Gino Betts starts in a few minutes. I’ll be live-tweeting the meeting on this thread. 🧵
Last night the CPC held a “community conversation” with proposed Director of the OPA Gino Betts, which you can read about in more detail in the Twitter thread above. Why did I put community conversation in quotations? Because partway through the meeting, Felicia Cross, the Community Outreach Manager at the CPC, said the purpose of the meeting was actually to welcome Mr. Betts to Seattle as opposed to giving community a chance to ask him substantive questions, an assertion that showed a lack of respect for all the community members who took time from their busy schedules for what had been advertised as a conversation. To give a bit of flavor, earlier in the meeting, a retired SPD officer appeared to suggest the public needs to participate in training so as to avoid being harmed or killed by the police, and an impacted family member of someone killed by SPD was told the only way to get things done (read: possibly slightly improve things) was to agree to sit down with Betts at a later date, even though they had already clearly articulated the actions they wished to see. All in all, not the most successful meeting.
The contract for Seattle’s participatory budgeting project was finally signed last week, with a community vote on potential proposals projected for March-April of 2023.
There are two more community conversations about the new SPD police chief scheduled for this week:
Will Casey at The Stranger wrote an analysis of the Seattle City Attorney Office’s High Utilizer Initiative (HUI), finding more than half of the prolific offenders targeted by this program have a history of mental illness that means they are ineligible for misdemeanor prosecution. The initiative also replicates the criminal legal system’s racial disparities. Oops. Casey suggests a potential alternate course of action for the City Attorney’s Office:
On a systemic level, the City Attorney’s Office could use its influence within Seattle’s public safety debate to make the case that the city, the state, and the federal government needs to spend more money to build more supportive housing and to expand behavioral health services now.
Those investments would take time to change the daily conditions on Seattle’s streets, but they would also make clear for the public that the people who should be “held accountable” for our public safety crisis are the politicians at every level of government who have repeatedly defunded our social safety net since the Reagan administration.
Last week the Seattle Redistricting Commission did indeed agree on a final proposed map, which follows the proposal given by the Redistricting Justice for Washington coalition fairly closely. You can read more analysis on the new proposed map here and here. There will be two more public forums coming up to give feedback on the map.
Finally, Carolyn Bick published a retrospective of the last year of their work on problems with Seattle’s police accountability system, which is a great review and resource.

Recent Headlines

Recent criminal justice news and commentary 8.8.22

CE Bick
INBOX: From @kcexec Dow Constantine’s office, a media statement regarding a person who died in custody. This statement says that the person’s death was announced this week and that King County jail staff are investigating this death — which, again, occurred under KC jail’s watch. https://t.co/Mc252xfdSi
Mistaken detention of Black Seattle driver prompts lawsuit | The Seattle Times

People Still Don’t Want to Work for SPD Read More »

More on data and disparity in Seattle’s policing and criminal legal systems

Seattle News

Guy Oron reports that data from the Seattle Municipal Court shows the City Attorney’s Office has disproportionately prosecuted Black and Indigenous people during the first three months of 2022. 31.7% of the people charged were Black during these months, compared to 7.1% of the total Seattle population.
Speaking of the City Attorney’s Office, it sounds like it is struggling to deal with a large number of misdemeanor cases, leading to this week’s announcement that they are dismissing 2,000 misdemeanor cases. They will be making the argument to City Council that they need more funding in the mid-year supplemental budget to hire more staff to address the backlog of cases, starting with a presentation discussing the backlog at next week’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting.
Also scheduled for the Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting on Tuesday, April 26 at 9:30am will be the continued discussion about hiring incentives for police officers. There will be an opportunity at the beginning of this meeting for public comment or you can call or email your council members to give them your feedback about this proposal.
At this week’s Council Briefing, CM Herbold reported on the finding in the Court Monitor’s recent use of force assessment, saying that SPD had looked into the matter of officers failing to report subjects’ race and discovered a technical error was responsible for the lack of data, which the officers actually had been reporting. SPD expects to correct the error. The assessment relies completely on SPD-reported data to come to its conclusions.
The CPC released a statement yesterday stating its concerns over this data error, saying “Concerns about data validity underscore larger issues, namely that SPD manages its own data and conducts its own self-reporting, as well as how the Federal Monitor has been overly dependent on SPD data.” They went on to recommend an independent data management body to increase transparency and trust with the community and are calling for a special meeting with the Monitor and SPD about the data malfunction. In regards to the ongoing consent decree, they say:
By painting an inaccurate picture of the realities of communities who are disproportionately impacted by policing, the Monitor and SPD are losing sight of a key goal of police accountability. Further, by relying on inaccurate race data and while prematurely pushing end the Consent Decree, the Federal Monitor and SPD are dismissing the real harm and impact of Seattle policing on communities of color.
The OIG recently released a report finding the OPA routinely dismissed public complaints about SPD officers not wearing masks as required, finding this noncompliance was a “cultural problem” within the department. As Erica Barnett reported, the OPA didn’t sustain any of the 98 complaints about officers not following the mask mandate, and supervisors rarely disciplined officers even after their fourth or fifth violations of the mask mandate. The report itself says:
“Director Myerberg stated that no one in headquarters wore masks and related that someone had sent OPA a photo of multiple lieutenants, captains, and chiefs celebrating an event at headquarters without any masks. Director Myerberg explained that he perceived the mask non-compliance as indicative of a serious culture issue within SPD and stated that it was not sustainable for OPA to be the ‘thought police’ of the Department.”
Erica Barnett attempted to get a statement from Andrew Myerberg, but: “a spokesman for Harrell’s office referred questions about Myerberg’s role in dismissing mask complaints to the OPA, saying, “Public Safety Director Myerberg does not comment on his past role and previous OPA work.””
If you would like to sign up to participate in dialogues between community and police that are being conducted by Seattle University through their Micro-Community Policing Plan Research Team, you can do so here.
If you’re interested in getting some additional insight about media coverage and how reporting tends to dehumanize and criminalize people who are houseless, struggling with mental illness and/or addiction, Tobias Coughlin-Bogue wrote a piece about recent local coverage in Real Change that you may want to check out.
Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about what happened at this week’s CPC meeting, CE Bick linked to a video recording and did a Twitter thread, which starts here:
CE Bick
I was unable to attend yesterday’s @SeaCPC meeting, but I wanted to create a thread about it in light of yesterday’s press release (QT below). 🧵 1/ https://t.co/ZE1WzEV72d

King County News

This week King County held its two public forums with the three final candidates for King County Sheriff. At this morning’s forum, eyebrows were raised when candidate Charles Kimble, Police Chief from Killeen, Texas, suggested that an innovation for King County to consider might be a program that would provide bumper stickers for people to be able to inform police they have a mental illness. Of course, these stickers also proclaim that same information to the general public. One wonders if support of such a problematic program might lower Charles Kimble’s chances of receiving the final offer.

Erica C. Barnett
I’ve been watching the King County Sheriff candidate forums (#2 is happening now) and nothing much jumped out until one of the finalists, Killeen Police Chief Charles Kimble, touted a program that provides bumper stickers for people to inform police they have a mental illness.

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More on data and disparity in Seattle’s policing and criminal legal systems Read More »