CSOs

The Fight Over a Seattle Alternative Response Pilot Continues

Seattle News

Yesterday morning Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee received their long-awaited update from the Mayor’s Office regarding the development of alternative responses in Seattle.

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. CM Mosqueda is excused from this meeting.
And the news, while not surprising, was not good. The Mayor’s Office continues to drag their feet on standing up any kind of pilot for alternative response like other similar cities have already done. Indeed, other cities’ alternative response have had time to launch pilots and begin to scale up their programs in the time it has taken Seattle to…string together a lot of empty words. The Mayor’s Office said they expect SPD’s risk management report any day now, and promised to share it with City Council very quickly…which turned out to mean in August, at least a full month after its expected receipt. CM Herbold asked for this to happen at the end of July instead.
Both CM Herbold and CM Lewis pushed multiple times for more urgency in this work, although their arguments seemed to have little visible impact on Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell and Director of Public Safety Andrew Myerberg. The white paper regarding standing up a third public safety department was once again referenced as being expected “by the end of the year”, with no apparent plans for any pilot program in the meantime. CM Lewis said he’d had a pilot priced out, and it would only cost $700k-$1m, which is a drop in the bucket of Seattle’s overall budget.
Council members also pushed for CSOs (Community Service Officers) to potentially be given the task of answering certain low-acuity 911 calls, at which point we learned the hiring pipeline for CSOs is apparently having difficulty. CM Lewis cautioned against giving the CSOs work that didn’t fit with their “culture” of being a police auxiliary, but CM Herbold shared the news that this culture has shifted since last year, and there is now more diversity of opinion within the CSO unit as to what their duties should entail and perhaps even where they might best be housed. Moving the CSOs out of SPD so they are able to develop their own culture separate from SPD matches more closely to what many advocates have been asking for when it comes to alternative response.
Meanwhile, while the Mayor’s Office has promised to work together with City Council’s Central Staff on these issues, it came out that the interdepartmental team (IDT) that would include Central Staff hasn’t been active, and they’re still working to put meeting dates on the calendar. You can read more about all these issues from Will Casey at The Stranger.
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The meeting also featured a presentation on the new 988 behavioral crisis system, which launches on July 16. It is being handled by King County Behavioral Health and Crisis Connections, with opportunities for partnership with Seattle. They have a three step plan for implementing the 988 vision: first, making sure the state hotline is fielding 90% of calls by next year; next, that 80% have access to a rapid crisis response by 2025; and lastly that 80% have access to community-based crisis care by 2027. There has been some money allocated to help make this happen. However, the mobile crisis team, while in the process of being doubled, is still quite small, and one of the biggest identified gaps in the system right now is the lack of enough mental health crisis facilities, so this development of a continuum of behavioral health supports is going to take time.
Meanwhile, Initiative 135 for social housing collected enough signatures to go onto November’s ballot…hopefully. They need 26,500 signatures and were able to collect 29,000, which doesn’t give much buffer should some of those signatures prove to be invalid. Cross fingers! Unfortunately Washington State Initiative Measure No. 1922, which would have decriminalized personal drug possession and provided funding for additional prevention, treatment, and recovery services, did not collect enough signatures to make the ballot this year.
Finally, Publicola‘s Erica Barnett published an article with a gem of a headline this week: Times Columnist Wants Seattle to Have So Many Cops, They’ll Rush Across Town to Arrest IPhone Thieves.

Nationwide News

CBS released a news story this week that everyone is talking about. They reviewed US murder clearance rate statistics from the FBI and found that the rate for 2020 was at around 50%, its lowest rate in more than fifty years. Murders involving Black and Hispanic victims were much less likely to be solved than those involving white victims during this time. While the usual culprits of not enough police staffing and backlogged courts are blamed for this low rate, CBS’s story says that “police are also contending with a breakdown in trust between their officers and the communities they serve, a result of decades of tensions that spilled over during high-profile cases of police misconduct in recent years.”

Recent Headlines

The Bright Side of SPD's Staffing Shortage - The Stranger

Seattle Might Soon Defund a Promising Police Alternative - The Stranger

The King County Jail knew these bunks were a suicide risk. And still, more people died | The Seattle Times

Seattle police officers won’t march in Pride Parade, frustrated chief says | The Seattle Times

The Fight Over a Seattle Alternative Response Pilot Continues Read More »

Seattle Council Votes to Give SPD Special Treatment in the Budget

Are you ready to talk more about the budget?

 

Amy Sundberg
Okay, we’re starting part 2 of this budget meeting. Should get into some interesting stuff later this afternoon.
During a multi-hour meeting yesterday that was at turns deeply dull and gut-churningly suspenseful, Seattle council members discussed amendments to the balancing package for Seattle’s 2022 budget.
The Council voted to fund the expansion of the CSOs within SPD, although with slightly less money due to expectations that it will take time to hire more CSOs. There were also three amendments on the table to restore different levels of SPD funding that were in the Mayor’s proposed budget but reduced by the balancing package. Both of CM Pedersen’s amendments in this vein were handily defeated. CM Lewis wished to add back $2.7m in order to use SPD’s estimates of hiring and attrition rather than Central Staff’s. While it is rather neat that Central Staff’s estimates for attrition and hiring equal out, it seems everyone is agreement these estimates tend to be off-base in any case. It also seems likely SPD’s estimate for hiring is on the high side and that their attrition estimate is on the low side (it doesn’t seem to take into account the probable increased attrition due to officers who choose not to get vaccinated for COVID-19, for example). Lewis’s amendment as it stood was narrowly defeated, but it’s possible he’ll walk on a new amendment on Monday that includes a proviso on these funds, which may gain him the extra needed vote.
A source of surprising controversy was CP González’s amendment that would have abrogated unfilled 101 positions from SPD. In what Kevin Schofield characterized as “an inflammatory press release,” Chief Diaz accused the Council of voting to eliminate 101 officers, which is simply not accurate. The amendment would have removed 101 of the 134 open and unfillable officer positions currently in SPD. This doesn’t affect in any way the 125 positions for which SPD is planning to aggressively hire in 2022. In fact, given their hiring pipeline, SPD will be unable to fill any of those funded yet unfilled positions until 2024 at the very earliest. And if they were suddenly able to hire more than anticipated, there would have been 33 funded and unfilled positions maintained, just in case.
Instead, CMs Herbold, Juarez, Lewis, Pedersen and Strauss chose to vote against this amendment. CM Herbold specifically called out her concern that this amendment would send the message that the right number of officers in SPD is 1256. She said this in spite of the fact that the SPD can’t possibly hire enough for that number to be higher within the next few years. Further, there is no general consensus as to what the right number of officers actually is or will be in the future, especially if dragging alternate response programs finally get resourced, stood up, or scaled up. It seems reasonable to expect the number of police officers in any given department will need to be revisited on a regular basis regardless. It’s also worth noting that no other city department is allowed to maintain such a large number of funded but unfillable positions from year to year in the budget.
For a council eager to prove—contrary to Diaz’s claims—that it is not at war with the police department, the optics of González’s amendment seemed too daunting. Instead, the council opted to rubber-stamp SPD’s budgetary sleight-of-hand, ostensibly as a peace offering to the department. SPD will enter 2022 with a larger budget and more positions than it can likely fill. The vote represents a dramatic reversal for a council that, one year ago, expressed its interest in redistributing a portion of police department’s budget to build a more diversified public safety network. The decision also underscored that SPD now has the upper hand in the messaging battle.
You have one more chance to make your voice heard about Seattle budget matters. The Council will have their last budget committee meeting on Monday morning after the usual Council Briefing, and they plan to vote on the final budget balancing package at Monday afternoon’s meeting at 2pm. There will be public comment at the afternoon meeting, and as always, you can also call and/or email your CMs to give them budget feedback.

Crosscut Opinion is no more

Katie Wilson
Well, the cat is out of the bag. @Crosscut Opinion shuts down at the end of this month. Among other things, that means no more writing from yours truly. Needless to say, I have some opinions about this! Hope to share soon. https://t.co/7WojwGTyrZ
The local media landscape has been rocked by the announcement that Crosscut will no longer be running its opinion section, one of the few alternatives to the Seattle Times in the region. Doug Trumm wrote an in-depth analysis of the current state of local media coverage that is worth your time.
This is doubtless not the last time you will see concern over local media, which has been struggling across the country for decades. We know that media plays a crucial role in democracy, both in helping the electorate remain informed on current affairs and in acting as a check to hold government officials and bodies accountable. In a marketplace in which only one large print publication has survived and in which there are no progressive local TV outlets, it is perhaps even easier to see the impact of local media on the framing and content of the civic conversation.

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Seattle Council Votes to Give SPD Special Treatment in the Budget Read More »

A Clearer Picture of Seattle’s Proposed Budget Begins to Emerge

Seattle Budget Season News:

This week the Seattle City Council has been meeting to be briefed upon the Mayor’s proposed 2022 budget. Here is the live tweet thread and slide deck for the general budget overview held on Wednesday morning, as well as the proposed budget in total:

Good morning, and welcome to this season’s first select budget committee meeting! There are budget meetings all day today, tomorrow, and Friday.
And here is the live tweet thread for Thursday afternoon’s briefing on Community Safety and Community Led Investments and the Seattle Police Department.
Amy Sundberg
Good afternoon, and welcome to Seattle’s select budget committer, where we’ll be hearing presentations on community safety and community-led investments and the Seattle Police Department.
We’re beginning to see a few points of contention emerging in regards to the budget. One of them is about alternate emergency response: while SPD and the NICJR report supposedly agreed on 12% of 911 calls that don’t require a response from law enforcement, the only additional emergency response funded in the proposed budget, Triage One, is designed to answer a fraction of those calls. Chris Fisher from SPD says he wishes to do risk assessment for every type of call, including the 28 call types upon which there was agreement. When pressed, he said it might be possible to expedite the process for those 28. Meanwhile, there’s no movement whatsoever on the information provided by NICJR that 49% of calls don’t require law enforcement involvement and an even larger percentage still don’t require law enforcement to lead the response. The Mayor’s office is also pushing for any alternative emergency response to consist of city employees, which is different from the Cahoots and Star models that have been so heavily discussed.
There is also the question of the Community Safety Officers. The proposed budget adds another unit of CSOs, and there is disagreement as to where they should be housed: within SPD itself or within the new CSCC. There are labor issues involved here, as well as resistance from within SPD itself, which doesn’t want to relinquish its control over the CSOs. There was a suggestion of possibly even adding more CSOs, but both where they would be housed and current lack of data as to how much time they save sworn officers make that proposal uncertain.
The SPD presentation didn’t make clear how much salary savings was anticipated in 2022 (when asked, Director Socchi said $18-19m) or where it was all being spent, so that information should be forthcoming. CM Herbold also discovered an unintentional error, with $4m of funding for community safety hubs being overlooked, but Director Noble said they could probably fill that funding gap.
There was also an allusion to the possibility of Ann Davison winning the City Attorney race, with CM Lewis suggesting the Council make a pre-filing diversion program for young adults a permanent fixture of the City Attorney’s Office.
Meanwhile, certain CMs expressed their disappointment in the Mayor’s use of the JumpStart funds:
Mosqueda said “it was disheartening to see the mayor’s proposed budget not only use those funds in ways that do not align 100% with what the JumpStart investment was for, but then to also propose legislation” that essentially allows future mayors to use JumpStart funds however they’d like.
Another issue with this decision appears to be the hope that the one-time federal relief dollars would be additive in terms of investments in affordable housing etc instead of merely hitting the original JumpStart spending goals.
Aside from the regular business of calling, emailing, and meeting with your CMs, the next chance to get involved with the 2022 budget will be the week of October 11. The first public hearing about the 2022 proposed budget will be on Tuesday, October 12 starting at 5:30pm, to be followed by three days of budget meetings on October 13-15, which will also have short public comment periods each day at 9:30am.

WA State Redistricting

 

The public hearings related to Washington State’s once-a-decade redistricting effort are coming up next week. Opportunity to give public comment on redistricting regarding STATE legislative maps will be on Tuesday, October 5 from 7-10pm, and opportunity to give public comment on redistricting regarding proposed Congressional maps will be on Saturday, October 9 from 10am-1pm. You can read more about what’s at stake during this redistricting process here.
Right now there are four proposed maps drawn by commissioners, two of whom are Democrat (Sims and Walkinshaw) and two of whom are Republican (Fain and Graves). Unfortunately there are some problems with the Republican maps, namely:
  • greater deviation in district population
  • both split Hispanic/Latino communities in the Yakima Valley
  • neither honored the Chehalis Tribe’s request to remain split between the 19th and the 20th
  • Fain’s map splits Spokane Valley into 3 LDs in spite of community asking to remain in 1 LD
  • Fain’s map in particular further divided many majority-POC cities
  • the Democrats’ maps reduced city splits while one Republican map increased these significantly and the other increased these by a small amount
Why are these maps important? Because they will determine the political future of Washington State on both the state and national levels. Please consider providing public testimony or submitting written comments. At least three commissioners must agree on a final plan by November 15, or the decision moves to the state Supreme Court.

Other Seattle News

SPD released a letter today from Chief Diaz to SPD employees, telling them that Monday, October 4 is the last day for them to get their second Pfizer or Moderna shot in order to be fully vaccinated by the vaccine mandate deadline. He says, “At the moment – we have to assume we have hundreds of unvaccinated individuals based on the information submitted.” HUNDREDS.
District 3 of Seattle will be voting on whether to recall CM Sawant during a special election on December 7. The election will cost around $300k of City funds to administer.
In Seattle’s mayoral race, both candidates have raised a large amount of money. One of Harrell’s largest PACs is financed by large real estate interests, while one of González’s largest is financed by labor. The two candidates attended a debate on homelessness sponsored by the Seattle Times on Wednesday, with Bruce Harrell making what can only be characterized as a callous gaffe, saying, “We shouldn’t have to look at the human suffering of other people, and that’s my attitude going in, that I will bring into the mayor’s office: We don’t have to see it, and we’re going to lead with love, and we will make sure that people can enjoy their parks and have a quality of life that they deserve.”

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A Clearer Picture of Seattle’s Proposed Budget Begins to Emerge Read More »

A Time of Big Change for Seattle

As always, there’s a lot going on! Let’s dive right in.

Primary Results

Aligning with the conventional wisdom that more progressive votes tend to be in the later vote counts, the progressives on the ballot have benefited from a boost in numbers as we get closer to a complete ballot count. And in big news, Seattle City Attorney incumbent Pete Holmes conceded.
The numbers as of yesterday morning:
Seattle CC Position 8: CM Mosqueda has 59.39% of the vote.
Seattle CC Position 9: Nikkita Oliver has 40.16% and Sara Nelson has 39.5% of the vote.
Seattle City Attorney: Nicole Thomas-Kennedy has 36.35% and Ann Davison has 32.72% of the vote.
Seattle Mayor: Bruce Harrell has 34.05% and M. Lorena González has 32.1% of the vote.
King County Executive: Dow Constantine has 51.92% and Joe Nguyen has 32.53% of the vote.
Ballot Drop Update: Abolitionist Nikkita Oliver Now Leads Citywide City Council Race - Slog - The Stranger

Seattle Meetings

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing! They are getting a bit of a late start today.
At this week’s Seattle Council Briefing, CM Morales said the Office of Civil Rights has created a new Community Investments division from which to run participatory budgeting. They now have a PB page on their website and they’ve posted to hire three new staff members for this division. CM Morales hopes the City begins doing participatory budgeting as a matter of course as a normal part of their budgeting season.
Also remember that next Tuesday, August 17 at 9:30am, the Finance and Housing committee will meet to vote on the supplemental budget, which will include some amendments related to SPD’s budget. There will be time at the beginning of the meeting to give public comment. I’ll write more about these amendments once they become available.
Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. CM Sawant won’t be attending; CP González, CM Lewis, CM Morales, CM Herbold are present. CM Mosqueda is also present.
This week’s Public Safety committee meeting was a long one! The CMs voted legislation out of committee that will move the parking enforcement officers out of SPD and into SDOT. You may remember there was an open question as to whether they would be moved to SDOT or the new CSCC. The rank and file PEOs wanted to be moved to the CSCC, while the supervisors and the Mayor wanted them to be moved to SDOT. Apparently the supervisors and Mayor won this argument. This will receive a final vote by the Full Council next week.
HSD then gave a presentation on the recent RFP process for allocating the $12m in community safety capacity building. You can see the presentation here. CM Morales pointed out this is only one time funding and said she’s interested in working on developing more sustainable programming in this vein.
Finally the Q2 SPD Budgeting and Staffing report was given by Central Staff and two members of SPD. CM Herbold pressed SPD more than once on why they are spending money in areas the Council hasn’t yet authorized. SPD presented their budget proposal for spending the $15.3m in estimated salary savings for the year. Some of this proposal will probably show up in the previously mentioned supplemental budget amendments being discussed next week. One area of disagreement was about the CSOs; CMs seem interested in the idea of moving the CSOs from SPD into the CSCC, while SPD wants to retain the CSOs and credits the success of the unit to their relationship with the sworn officers.
SPD anticipates another 60 separations by the end of the year, meaning there would be 160 separations total in 2021. There are also 108 officers who aren’t currently deployable. They spent some time discussing the morale issue at SPD, with several CMs thanking the police officers who have stayed for their service. CP González asked some pointed questions about specific retention strategies currently being discussed, and expressed that the lack of SPD’s ability to retain their officers is a management problem and something the Executive’s office hasn’t spent enough time addressing. You can read more about her exchange with SPD’s Dr. Fisher here.
It also came out that the new automated time keeping system, originally meant to be rolled out in Q2, was placed “on hold” after Seattle IT determined it hadn’t been sufficiently tested. They are scheduled to have a kick-off “soon” to determine where they left off and establish a new timeline, which begs the question why they put it on hold in the first place instead of continuing to move forward. This new technology is not scoped for tracking off-duty work, although it could theoretically do so, something CM Herbold indicated interest in.

Other Seattle News

In yet another blow to the integrity of Seattle’s police accountability system, an OIG auditor resigned as investigations supervisor, making a formal ethics complaint to the City alleging that the OIG is failing to provide independent oversight of the OPA, as well as having a pattern of concealing the truth and avoiding public disclosure request requirements. The letter also references a personal relationship between Deputy IG Amy Tsai at the OIG and OPA Director Myerberg as the source for the OIG’s reluctance to push back against the OPA . This story was broken by Carolyn Bick in the South Seattle Emerald and is well worth the read. At this week’s Council Briefing, CM Herbold said she was going to consult with the Ethics and Elections Commission and Seattle HR as to how to review these concerns.
As Kevin Schofield writes, at yesterday’s consent decree hearing, Judge Robart “wasted little time in eviscerating” the CPC’s attorney Edgar Sargent, turning down the CPC’s request to have the Police Monitor become more involved in the SPOG contract negotiations and OPA investigations. Robart also “noted the big changes underway: elections for Mayor, City Attorney (“candidates from left and right”), City Council; collective bargaining underway; a police department budget “threatened with abolition and different levels of cuts”; and a Mayor who doesn’t want to tie the hands of the next mayor and thus is postponing significant decisions — including hiring a new permanent police chief.” It is a big time of change for Seattle, and November’s election will play a prominent role in deciding how things proceed.
Pete Holmes reported that SPMA negotiations are quite far along, with the parties in mediation over some issues, and that for SPOG negotiations, the Labor Relations Policy Committee is close to finalizing the bargaining parameters. It’s worth noting that even if the parameters are finalized soon, most of the SPOG negotiation will be presided over by a different Mayor and City Attorney.
ACLU Washington recently released a blog post analyzing Seattle’s consent decree and concluding that it doesn’t block Seattle from engaging in a divest and reinvest strategy. “An analysis of the original consent decree documents demonstrates there is no explicit prohibition on making significant changes to the SPD budget. The consent decree does not make any part of the budget untouchable nor does it mandate particular staffing or the existence of certain units and there is nothing in the Consent Decree to indicate that the units must be SPD units.” It doesn’t seem Judge Robart is in complete agreement with this; although he supports scaling up Health One and alternate 911 response, he also wants the City to continue to improve SPD, assumedly by investing its dollars into it.
Chief Diaz terminated the two SPD officers who were present at the DC insurrection on January 6. They are allowed to appeal this termination. The other four SPD officers who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally aren’t receiving any discipline.
SPOG is objecting to the new COVID vaccine mandate for city employees, saying the adoption date won’t allow sufficient time to bargain the impacts of it (for example, bargaining for payment for receiving the vaccine, getting paid time off for any vaccine side effects, etc.) SPOG further says this mandate might drive more officers to leave the department.

Meanwhile, in Washington State….

Melissa Santos recently published an investigation in Crosscut finding that at least 22 police officers in Washington state who have landed on the Brady list have still been able to secure employment in law enforcement at other departments. There is some disagreement whether new laws passed this year in the state legislature apply retroactively. The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, which licenses police officers, told Crosscut “it does not plan to go back in time to try to suspend or revoke officers’ certifications for past offenses. Commission spokesperson Megan Saunders wrote in an email that the state attorney general’s office has advised that the new law should not apply retroactively.”

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