Real Change Reporting Reveals Federal Monitor Oftelie Getting Cozy with SPD

Seattle News

In a fascinating piece of reporting in Real Change, Glen Stellmacher wrote about how SPD and the City of Seattle controlled the media narrative around the 2020 protests and the Defund Movement. I highly recommend reading the entire article, but here are some key points:

  • In a June 19, 2020 survey, SPD leadership recommended at least 12 areas of service within SPD that would be better with civilian employees.
  • In the face of defund demands, SPD claimed they would have to cut the SW precinct, SWAT, or traffic enforcement if cuts went too far. However, this narrative was shown to be false by both the June 19, 2020 and June 27, 2020 surveys of SPD leadership.
  • By August 2020, SPD and the City were aware that 45% of SPD patrol service hours didn’t require an officer. However, Mayor Durkan requested a second IDT; the results, not available until June 2021, also said nearly half of calls could be handled by a civilian response. At that point, you may remember SPD insisted on a risk managed demand report, which wasn’t completed until September 2022.
  • SPD played with the numbers to make the loss of diversity in the force, should there be layoffs, seem as bad as possible.
  • It appears then-SPD Chief Strategy Officer Chris Fischer may have ghost-written a Crosscut op-ed for Antonio Oftelie; Crosscut says they didn’t know SPD was involved and has since removed the op-ed from their site. Two days after publication, SPD’s Executive Director of Legal Affairs was pushing for Oftelie to be named the new Monitor of the consent decree. He was named the new Monitor the next month, beating out several qualified candidates. 

This Sunday, July 23 from 12-7pm in Othello Park, there will be a Participatory Budgeting cookout to launch the idea collection phase of participatory budgeting. You can also submit a proposal here.

In a court ruling this week, a judge ruled the City of Seattle has been using an overbroad definition of “obstruction” to justify its sweeps activity, writing that it constitutes “cruel punishment.” The definition was expanded in 2017, increasing obstruction removals in the City. The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in September.

On Tuesday, an SPD officer shot a man downtown. SPD is supposed to release video footage of what happened within 72 hours.

The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) is investigating the incident of the mock tombstone of a man killed by SPD police displayed in an SPD breakroom. Chief Diaz has ordered inspections of precinct HQs for other potential inappropriate displays. At a CPC meeting this week, Chief Diaz had very little information to share.

And finally, it’s supplemental budget time! The proposed supplemental budget includes around $815k in additional funding for SPD, including increasing overtime to pay for more downtown emphasis patrols, paying for additional online crime reporting, and hiring six civilian positions, including four new public disclosure officers. It also adds an additional $19 million for the City to pay for lawsuits, many of which are related to police misconduct. The City already added $11 million to the 2023 for lawsuits last year, but apparently that wasn’t enough.

In addition, the supplemental budget funds a graffiti clean-up team, and because the contracts have already been executed, the Mayor’s Office has potentially forced the Council’s hand into cutting other Seattle Public Utilities programs to pay for this. More money is also being requested for the CSCC for its dual dispatch pilot and updating its call center technology and for OIG to take over the consent decree’s Monitor duties. 

There is a vote scheduled on the supplemental budget on the morning of August 2. 

Recent Headlines

Real Change Reporting Reveals Federal Monitor Oftelie Getting Cozy with SPD 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 »

Seattle City Council Unlikely to Release SPD Provisos Just Yet

Seattle Public Safety and HSD Meeting


Let’s start with Tuesday’s Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, shall we? The meeting had two agenda items. The first, regarding moving the 911 call center and parking enforcement officers out of SPD and into the new Community Safety and Communications Center, had disagreement because the management of the PEOs believe they should instead be moved to SDOT, while the rank and file parking enforcement officers prefer a move to the new Center. The CMs passed the bill with a divided report, meaning its discussion and vote in full Council is delayed until May 24, in the hopes the two sides of the issue might reach some consensus by then.

The second agenda item was the substituted bill that originally was regarding a $5.4m cut to the SPD for overspending in 2020. It’s worth noting current estimates say there will be $13m of SPD salary savings due to attrition this year, and if attrition rates remain the same as they have been the first four months of the year, that figure could increase. However, after the Federal Monitor sent a letter to Council opposed to any cuts whatsoever, CM Herbold introduced an amendment she hoped would appease him and the Court, releasing a different SPD proviso of $2.5m regarding out-of-order layoffs to lay off SPD officers on the Brady list. The Council has determined that because of existing state law and current SPD hiring policies (they hire laid-off officers first and are currently hiring), out-of-order layoffs are not feasible at this time. This amendment passed with a 3-2 vote (Herbold, Lewis, and González yes, Morales and Sawant no) and was added to the bill.

The amended bill was brought to a vote, and CMs Morales, Sawant, and González all opposed it, although for slightly different reasons. The bill is moving to full Council on May 24 with a recommendation not to pass. If the bill doesn’t pass, the status quo would be maintained regarding the budget passed last November, and these provisos could be revisited later in the year.
For those keeping track, that means the full Council meeting on May 24 will include a vote on moving the 911 call center and PEOs to the Community Safety and Communications Center; a vote on whether to lift these $5.4m and $2.5m SPD provisos; and potentially the vote on releasing the participatory budgeting funds. It’s definitely a date to mark on your calendars!

Election News


Hacks & Wonks continues their electoral interview series with an interview with candidate for Seattle City Council, Position 9, Sara Nelson. In the interview, Nelson says she opposes the Jumpstart tax and wants to focus on jobs and helping struggling small businesses, but then was unaware that the Jumpstart recovery package includes $18m in small business recovery investments. When discussing public safety, she says, “Yeah. I think that we need to bring back the Crisis Intervention Team. Because – that – that, you know – I think his name was Derek – that was a situation that was tragic.” I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions here.
We also have yet another Seattle mayoral candidate, Art Langlie, whose main qualification for the job appears to be that his grandfather was once the governor of Washington. As the Seattle Times reports, “State Public Disclosure Commission filings show he has donated to incumbent Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, as well as the late Republican state Sen. Andy Hill of Redmond, and GOP candidate Jinyoung Englund, who lost a 2017 race for Hill’s seat.”
Finally, Publicola reported SPOG asked its members to participate in signature-gathering events for the Recall Sawant campaign last weekend. If we weren’t clear about whose interests are served by this campaign, this news might elucidate the issue.

Other News of Note


Campaign Zero and Tableau have released police department scorecards for municipal and county law enforcement offices across the country, based on the following data: “We submitted public records requests to local police departments and combined the data obtained from these departments with federal databases tracking crime, arrests, financial and personnel records from thousands of municipal and county governments.”
Of ranked Washington state counties, King County has the worst ranking at 36%. Seattle has the worst score of all ranked Washington state cities at 33%. A few key findings for Seattle: SPD has more police funding per capita than 89% of departments. 50% of all arrests made from 2013-19 were for low-level, non-violent offenses. A Black person was 5.7x as likely and a Latinx person was 2.2x as likely to be killed by police than a White person in Seattle from 2013-20. You can dig through the site to find further illuminating statistics.
Interested in some of the problems that have been plaguing implementation of Seattle’s participatory budgeting process? KUOW did an in-depth piece highlighting some of the issues:
The city employee said the issues currently surrounding participatory budgeting implementation aren’t unique.
“This is fundamentally a sort of a pattern that the city has engaged in when it comes to communities of color: not having viable conversations and putting the community in the space of being stuck between the mayor’s office and the council whenever there’s a conflict. And holding up resources that ought to be moving forward.”
Meanwhile, SPD Chief Diaz overturned the OPA’s decision about the pink umbrella protest clash of last summer, deciding not to discipline the officer in question. Unfortunately this decision is likely to continue to erode community trust in the police department and the accountability system that is currently in place.
The saga of Mayor Durkan’s missing text messages continues, as it has been revealed one of her phones was set to delete text messages after 30 days, the quickest delete setting possible.

Recent Headlines


King County Council delays vote on facial recognition ban | The Seattle Times

Seattle 911 response times climbed in summer 2020. Now, police and activists debate what comes next. | The Seattle Times

Seattle City Council Unlikely to Release SPD Provisos Just Yet Read More »

Seattle City Council’s 2021 Draft Budget

Today CM Mosqueda presented the City Council’s 2021 draft budget. No big surprises here, but let’s dig right in. You can take a look at the presentation slide deck yourself, and you can read the live tweet threads here and here.

Proponents of the Solidarity Budget and large-scale change and divestment in SPD might be disappointed by this proposal, which falls far short of requests to defund from SPD by 50%, maintain the SPD hiring freeze, and make large-scale investments into community. In her opening remarks on public safety in Seattle, CM Mosqueda suggested she thinks the City is on the right path but has not yet reached a turning point. She emphasized this was the first year the Council had not increased SPD’s budget, and referenced the roadblocks they have faced. Her goal appears to be to introduce measured steps towards divestment in police and reinvestment in community resources and organizations, giving those organizations time to scale up and build capacity.

The main danger with this approach is perhaps the possibility that the political will to make this large-scale change in how the City approaches public safety will diminish as time passes. Indeed, we already saw CM Pedersen today distancing himself from the quite modest cuts to SPD represented in this proposed budget in spite of lots of assurances in past weeks that he stands against systemic racism. CM Juarez, on the other hand, was much more supportive of this plan than she was of the summer plan. At its best, this plan could cause further divestment from SPD to be more successful, with community organizations being better prepared to step in and serve their communities after 2021’s round of investments.

Interestingly, in a press release yesterday the Mayor signaled tentative approval of this new budget proposal. In spite of her $100m BIPOC communities investment being significantly shrunk (more on that in a moment), she has to be pleased that the Council is not attempting to downsize the police force any further than they committed to this past summer. It seems possible the Mayor might not feel the need to veto this budget. Opponents will say this means the budget didn’t go far enough, but on the bright side, this increases the likelihood that investments this budget makes will actually be spent.

Public Safety/Community Investments

  • The Mayor’s $100m investment into BIPOC communities, otherwise known as the Equitable Communities Initiative, will be shrunk to $30m, with a proviso: “The Council intends that these funds should be allocated towards investments that reflect alignment between the Task Force’s recommendations and recommendations from the Participatory Budgeting process.”
  • $30m will be restored to the Strategic Investment Fund
  • $18m will be allocated to the participatory budget process, in addition to $12m for this process obtained through SPD cuts, for a total of $30m
  • the $10m promised in the summer’s rebalancing will be allocated to community-led public safety investments
  • $1.08m will be restored for the Office of Civil Rights to provide funding for community organizations providing alternatives to or alleviating harm caused by the criminal justice system

SPD Changes/Alternatives to Policing

  • oh so many reports! The Council is asking for all the reports they asked for in the summer, as well as reports on SPD overtime use, monthly reports on police staffing, a traffic stops report, a report on using PEOs for special events, and a report on 911 response times.
  • Creation of the new Community Safety and Communications Center
  • a Statement of Legislative Intent about the new 911 Call Center
  • annualizing various SPD budget cuts from travel, training, and discretionary purchases from the summer
  • abrogating 93 vacant police officer positions
  • moving mental health providers to HSD and hiring eleven additional
  • cut $6.1m from SPD for vacancy savings and $3.7m from SPD for overtime savings; also proviso $5m for potential salary savings
  • Proviso for out-of-order layoffs for 35 officers (this is a carry-over from summer)
  • Health One expansion
  • a consulting nurse and crisis counselor for SFD’s dispatch
  • $550k for a DEEL restorative justice pilot program and a few other small expenditures

Other Budget Points of Note

The Council’s proposal refills the City emergency funds to almost $40m, which is in contrast to the Mayor’s proposal, which drained them, leaving them practically empty. It also continues work towards figuring out a replacement for the Navigation Team. I believe the cuts to the SPD still amount to around 17%, most of which is achieved through moving units outside the force.

Next Steps

After the CMs turn in their Form Cs by Thursday evening, the Council will discuss amendments on November 18 and 19, and vote on the final budget on Monday, November 23. There will be public comment at the beginning of each of these meetings.

Seattle City Council’s 2021 Draft Budget Read More »

The Mayor released her proposed 2021 budget today.

Budget season has officially begun!

First, here’s the thread on this morning’s Council Briefing.

The rest of this week’s schedule is as follows:

Wednesday 9/30:

9:30am-12pm Overview of the Budget process

2-4:30pm Overview of

Sustainability & Environment, Economic Development

5:30-7:30pm District 1 Town Hall with CM Herbold, discussing public safety and the West Seattle Bridge

6:30pm Rainier Beach Action Coalition Town Hall with CM Morales, State Senator Saldaña, and King County CM Zahilay

Thursday 10/1:

9:30am-1pm Overview of the SPD Budget

2pm-5pm: Overview of Public Safety and the Municipal Courts

Friday 10/2:

9:30am-1pm Overview of Homelessness Response and Office of Housing

2-5:30pm Overview of Transportation and Parks

There will be a half hour of public comment every morning this week at 9:30am if you’d like to share your thoughts about the proposed budget (more on budget details below). There is also a District 4 town hall coming up with CM Pedersen next week on Thursday 10/8 6-7:30pm.

Mayor’s Proposed 2021 Budget

The Mayor released a pre-recorded message on her budget, complete with cheesy music and multiple backdrops, which was heavy on discussing her past successes and light on details.

Twitter avatar for @amysundberg

Amy Sundberg @amysundberg
Mayor Durkan is speaking about systemic racism and saying we’re living through one of the most consequential times of our lives. Needs growing while revenues shrink.

But let’s dig into the actual budget, shall we? You can find the budget executive summary here and the SPD Department Overview here. The Budget Office will be presenting on the details of the budget over the next few days, but I can give you a little preview now, and then we can revisit at the end of the week with more details and signals from the CMs as to how they’re receiving the proposal.

Overview of proposed 2021 SPD and Public Safety Budget

  1. Calls for 1400 sworn officers instead of the 1422 in 2020’s budget (Note: this seems to completely overlook the provisos in the revised 2020 budget calling for the layoff of 100 sworn officers. In addition, it seems to ignore the attrition already experienced in 2020 alone, which could mean hiring new officers to reach this level. Expect more details about this later this week.)
  2. Parking Enforcement and 120 employees moved to SDOT
  3. Office of Emergency Management becomes independent
  4. 911 Communications Center becomes independent stand-alone unit and is renamed the Seattle Emergency Communications Center.
  5. Victim Advocacy Team transferred to HSD (comprising of 11 FTES and a $1.25m budget)
  6. Expands capacity of the OPA and OIG, specifically by adding a civilian investigator supervisor to OPA and funding a study about coordination of resources between the OPA, OIG, and CPC.
  7. Seattle Municipal Court (SMC) reorganizes probation services by reducing in-person day reporting and moving to collaborative Community Court model.
  8. SMC reduces traditional post-sentence supervision to focus on higher-risk charges. (#7-8 reduce SMC budget by $1.4m & cuts probation staff by 13 positions, a 25% staffing cut, while adding $100k for a non-profit case manager to make referrals to community-based agencies supporting clients to achieve self-sufficiency outside the court system.)
  9. The City and County are working on an agreement to redirect some resources now spent on jail operations toward community-based supports, which would reduce jail use.

The 2021 proposed SPD budget (~$360m) represents a 12% cut compared to the 2020 SPD budget (~$409m). However, once the simple transfers of units (and their budgets) outside SPD ($38m) are factored in, the proposed cut is ~2.7%, or around $11m.

The Mayor’s $100m to BIPOC communities controversy:

Since the summer, the Mayor has been promising $100m invested in BIPOC communities in 2021 (although this may have started out as a promise of investment into Black communities). Although she has been cagey about where she’d get this money during the revenue shortfall caused by COVID-19, PubliCola broke the news that this money would be taken from the already allocated Jumpstart payroll tax passed this summer:

“Under the council’s plan, payroll tax revenues would be used in the short term to fund rent relief, non-congregate shelter beds, immigrant and refugee relief programs, grocery vouchers, and direct assistance to child care centers and other small businesses. In the long term, the tax is supposed to provide $214 million a year for low-income and affordable housing, equitable development, small business support, and Green New Deal projects.”

Many of these projects were advocated for and will directly impact BIPOC communities. Mayor Durkan’s actions in this regard will once again cause BIPOC communities to scramble and fight against each other to get much-needed funding. In addition, Mayor Durkan is putting together an appointed task force to allocate this $100m, even though community has been asking for a robust participatory budgeting process. As a result, more than one respected community member has refused to serve on the task force, including Sean Goode, who wrote an op-ed about the problems inherent in this plan.

What about defunding by 50%?

The Mayor’s proposal doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting King County Equity Now’s demands for defunding the police department by 50%. Even accounting for the $38m needed to fund units transferred outside SPD, a 50% defund would provide community with around $166.5m in funds to re-invest every year. While not even shrinking the police department as much as would be accounted for by normal levels of attrition, Mayor Durkan is proposing giving 60% as much funding, which won’t be determined by participatory budgeting, won’t be for only public safety-related needs, and will be taken away from other already allocated purposes that the community needs and has advocated for.

In conclusion, King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle are not going to be happy about this proposed budget. Neither are some CMs. We’ll have to wait and see how the conversation progresses over the next several weeks. The budget season is scheduled to run until November 23.

The Mayor released her proposed 2021 budget today. Read More »

We finally get to discuss the SPD-related amendments

What’s going on with the ACLU/BLM court case:

The court has determined this requires an evidentiary hearing, and a trial has been set to take place August 26-September 1. Audio access will be available to the public. You can read more about it here.

Differences in coverage:

An article in the Seattle Times entitled “Seattle police say explosives were found in van at protests over weekend” ran earlier this week. Among other things it says: “Police later impounded the van and, after obtaining a search warrant, discovered firework pyrotechnics, smoke bombs, stun guns, bear and pepper spray, makeshift spike strips and gas masks, Best said.” The article quotes Mayor Durkan, Chief Best, Chief Scoggins, and Police Sgt. James Lee, giving a narrative point of view entirely from the establishment’s side.

Meanwhile, over on Twitter, we have a breakdown of what was actually in that van, where such items can be obtained, and what they are used for:

Twitter avatar for @spekulation

Spek the Lawless @spekulation
Mayor Durkan and Chief Best held a press conference to talk about the objects found in a van at the protest this past weekend. As usual, it’s a whole lot of commonplace items, none of which comes close to what SPD used indiscriminately on crowds for hours. Let’s have a look…

It’s worth reading through the Twitter thread because I think this is an excellent example of a problem facing all of us these days: the mainstream media often reports on police statements and reports as unalloyed truth, which, given the corruption we know exists within police departments, along with their understandable self interest to present themselves in the best possible light, doesn’t seem like the smartest policy.

Friday’s budget meeting, the SPD-related portion:

My twitter thread starts here, but I’m afraid there are several breaks in the thread this time. Sorry about that!

Today the meeting covered an initial draft of a resolution establishing the Council’s intent to create a civilian led department of community safety and violence prevention. CM Lewis says it creates a road map for the Council’s future commitment to create a new system of public safety. It goes over various types of legislation the Council wants to introduce in the coming months, as well as suggesting modifications to current practices to Chief Best. It also suggests a timeline for future Council actions in an effort to create accountability. The intent is to discuss this resolution, revise it, and vote on it on August 10th.

CM Juarez had many concerns about the resolution, saying that it includes divisive language and isn’t bringing us together as a city. She was worried about some issues of legality pertaining to out-of-order layoffs, seeming to have a different understanding of what those entail than that of CM Herbold. She seemed frustrated about the Council considering such monumental change without enough time for robust discussion, wanted to know the CPC’s thoughts, and thinks her fellow CMs have been making false promises regarding the 50% number. (If you’ve read my previous reports, you know I’ve been skeptical about that number as well.) CM Pedersen, on the other hand, supports this resolution, and in particular said he was glad that it mentions no specific percentage goal in terms of defunding.

Next the meeting began reviewing proposed amendments. The amendments reviewed today, #16-39, were almost all co-sponsored by CMs Mosqueda, Morales, Gonzalez, and Herbold. Many of the amendments, 16-25 and 29-31, were provisos suggesting lay-offs in various units. It’s important to understand that these are suggestions, but that ultimately Chief Best gets to decide where the layoffs come from. These layoffs would have to be bargained, and the optimistic estimate for when that bargaining could be finished is the end of October, meaning a possibility of recovering two months worth of funds for 2020 from the eliminated positions. However, since the timing is uncertain, none of those funds have currently been allocated for spending.

Other amendments dealt with accounting practices and moving the data-driven policing positions and Victim Advocates and Victim Support Team Coordinator out of the SPD and into other city departments.

Finally, we went over the Mosqueda-Morales-Gonzalez-Herbold spending package, covered by Amendments 32-39. These amendments provide immediate funding as follows: $3m for community-led research; $4m for HSD’s Seattle Community Safety Initiative, which will work to scale up gun-violence intervention and prevention; and $10m to invest in community-led organizations. This adds up to a total of $17m in community investment. You may remember that I was expecting $20m-30m of investment, and this is in that ballpark, if a bit low.

Where is the money coming from, you may ask? Well, amendments 35-39 tell us: $886k from cuts to the SPD; $12.8m from the Revenue Stabilization Fund (aka Seattle’s rainy day fund, aka the fund that’s already super low on money because of COVID relief efforts); and $3.3m from a reduction to COVID Relief Bill administration costs. The good news is that all of this money is potentially available immediately.

The other CMs have many concerns, chief among them a reluctance to use the rest of the money in the rainy day fund. The amendment sponsors have said that while this was a hard decision, they believe the rainy day fund can be replenished by cuts to the SPD during the fall budget process. CM Mosqueda added that the violence against Black and Brown communities is a public health crisis and therefore they are justified in spending the emergency funds. CM Lewis is very uneasy about using the rest of the already-depleted rainy day funds. CM Juarez had similar concerns, saying “This is what happens when you write a check you can’t cash.” CM Sawant says these amendments barely defund the SPD at all, and she was also upset that the funding for community investment was coming mostly from the rainy day fund instead of directly from defunding the SPD.

On Monday morning we’ll hear the rest of the amendments, including Sawant’s entire package that is much more aggressive about defunding the police (and also much less likely to pass). My impressions at the end of today’s meeting were that a revised resolution and many of the proviso amendments about layoffs are likely to pass. They are easier for the CMs to support because they don’t really require much commitment since all the layoffs need to be bargained anyway. The investment amendment package is going to be a tougher sell, which is unfortunate because I think it’s probably the most important part of the plan. Without any advance community investment, the overall plan to divest from the police is more likely to fail, and an unwillingness to invest dollars shows less of an overall commitment to the process.

That being said, CM Sawant will probably vote in favor of the package, albeit with objections, if she can’t garner support for her own package, meaning there will be 5 CMs in favor. That’s enough to pass, if barely, but it is not veto-proof. If the Council can’t sway either CM Strauss (who didn’t indicate his opinion either way) or CM Lewis (who has reservations), they may not be able to obtain the funds for significant community investment.

Be that as it may, we’ll know more next week. The CMs will have time to study the proposed amendments and the resolution over the weekend, and then the remainder of the amendments will be discussed on Monday morning after the Council Briefing, aiming for a vote on Wednesday. Then the final vote can proceed on Monday, August 10th. CM Mosqueda said there will be opportunities for public comment next week on Monday morning at 10am, Monday afternoon at 2pm, and Wednesday morning at 11am.

We finally get to discuss the SPD-related amendments Read More »