Davison

Council President Nelson Pushes Back Against Experts’ Opinions

Seattle News:

At this week’s Governance, Accountability, and Economic Development Committee meeting, Council President Sara Nelson hosted a discussion on draft legislation of an “SPD Recruitment Ordinance.” The ordinance as currently drafted would do the following: 

  • make permanent an SPD recruitment and retention program, moving 3 positions created by a previous ordinance for a recruitment manager and two recruiters into SPD
  • encourage the Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) to consider the use of the entry level police officer exam used by multiple other agencies in Puget Sound region (known as the PST test)
  • asks PSCSC to make personal contact with officer candidates within 48 hours
  • requests PSCSC increase frequency of eligibility rosters to every 2 weeks
  • add to police exams unit in HSDR a new position for more robust candidate support (a position that will be paid for in 2024 with vacancy savings in SPD recruitment and will cost $146k/year extra starting in 2025)

There appears to be a small amount of friction between city council members and the Mayor’s Office over the details of this bill, as the Mayor’s Office would like to move only 2 of the recruitment positions to SPD, with the third going to PSCSC. However, the Mayor’s Office is reportedly looking to see if they can accommodate the council members’ desire in their reorganization plans. 

Council President Nelson said that while PSCSC Director Andrea Scheele had expressed concern that switching entrance tests would lower standards, she doesn’t believe that would be the case. It is unclear why she believes this, given it is Director Scheele’s literal job to review and assess these exams.

She also said that only 5 jurisdictions within Washington State are using the test used for SPD officers-–the NTN test-–although Council Central Staff member Greg Doss later corrected her, saying 27 cities in Washington use the NTN test, as well as all the West Coast Seven cities. 

Councilmember Kettle suggested using both tests, and while Doss said three jurisdictions in Washington do use both tests, he suggested doing so would be complicated and have legal ramifications. All three jurisdictions who do so have developed a special pre-employment process to make sure using both tests remains fair. It seems likely SPD would likewise have to develop a new pre-employment process in order to use both tests.

Council President Nelson also discussed how this legislation was changed to use discretionary language when it came to the PSCSC after receiving input from the law department. However, she says she has been closely reading the City Municipal Code herself and thinks it is unclear who gets to select the test. 

There have been many stories about the new proposed SPOG contract, on which SPOG members are currently voting.

The headlines sum up the situation: the contract represents a huge raise for SPD officers (we don’t yet know the full fiscal impact on Seattle’s overall budget) and almost no accountability improvements.

Even The Seattle Times editorial board agrees the proposed contract would be a mistake, writing, “To strengthen bonds between cops and communities, Seattle leaders must ensure that any new labor agreement fully implements the city’s landmark 2017 Police Accountability Ordinance.”

An attached MOU to the proposed contract lists some duties that could, were this to be approved, be taken on by civilian employees. As The Stranger reports, “Instead of creating serious police alternatives that could save the City money and help alleviate staffing shortages at the department, the MOU outlines civilian roles that look more like personal assistants to cops and that protect cushy positions wholly unsuited for some of the City’s highest-paid employees.”

As I wrote at The Urbanist:

Noteworthy in this list is the item regarding wellness checks. The MOU with SPOG passed last year allowed the new Community Assisted Response and Engagement (CARE) team to respond to two call types: person down and wellness checks. This new MOU places additional restrictions on wellness check response, saying civilians can only respond to these calls “where the identified individual known to the caller does not have any history of or current suicidal ideations, significant health problems including mental health, history of or fighting addiction, history of or concerns of domestic abuse, or is living in one of the City’s ‘wet houses.’” Some advocates are concerned these additional parameters could mean wellness checks able to be performed by CARE civilian responders will be few and far between. Indeed, this definition appears to preclude the idea of an alternate civilian emergency response to mental health crises, a policy strongly supported by Seattleites.” 

This concerning news comes at the same time that U.S. Rep. Adam Smith has begun touting a new federal investment of $1.926 million into Seattle’s CARE program. He says, “This funding will help launch the CARE Department, which will support the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Fire Department by diverting health mental health, substance use disorders, and related wellness services calls to this new civilian-run department.” Apparently he hasn’t read the new SPOG proposal nor The Stranger’s reporting on how CARE’s dual dispatch is currently going.

Meanwhile, PubliCola reports that many city workers who just had a new contract approved, including retroactive pay raises for 2023 and 2024, won’t be receiving those payments until at least October, which would be six months after agreeing to the bargaining agreement. It is unclear whether a new contract with SPOG would face the same delay in payout.

At this week’s Public Safety committee meeting, councilmembers heard a report on the OIG’s latest use of force assessment for SPD. Some noteworthy points from the presentation:

  • The counts of force against Black, Hispanic/Latino, and other minorities increased. 
  • Unknown race for both subjects with complaints of pain and civilians subject to pointing of a firearm increased substantially in 2023.
  • 2022 and 2023 years had no Type III and no Type III use of force in response to behavioral crisis for the first time since 2015.

At the presentation, Chief Operating Officer of SPD Brian Maxey bemoaned that “the same communities that complain about over policing complain about under policing.” He said the goal is to police based on need rather than by demographics. The presenters stated that the data showing increased use of force against Black and Latino community members wasn’t enough to draw conclusions of bias in what came across as “thou doth protest too much.” The Inspector General of the OIG, Lisa Judge, said they want to do a deeper dive to better understand what is driving “that particular snapshot of use of force.” 

A female lieutenant at SPD, Lauren Truscott, has made a complaint against SPD’s Lt. John O’Neil, the head of public affairs. The OPA has opened an investigation around this complaint. 

As KUOW reported, Truscott believes SPD’s acceptance of sexual harassment and discrimination comes from the very top and has called for new leadership: ““Women are being marginalized and dismissed, and no one is listening,” Truscott said. “We should never be treating employees as though they’re disposable. They are our most valuable commodity, but especially during a staffing crisis.””

The Loudermill hearing for Officer Daniel Auderer, the SPOG VP who was caught on bodycam joking about Jaahnavi Kandula’s death, was supposed to be held on April 1, but it was delayed.

The City Attorney’s Office finally filed a complaint against Seattle Municipal Court Judge Pooja Vaddadi for a case in which an assistant city attorney was disqualified from a case. A Superior Court judge found that Judge Vaddadi had acted properly. Nevertheless, the City Attorney’s Office is still continuing to prevent Judge Vaddadi from presiding over criminal cases.

Lisa Daugaard, Co-Executive Chair at Purpose Dignity Action, tweeted that the program CoLEAD, which provides lodging for unhoused people with behavioral health issues, has “shrunk from 250 rooms to 130 and a year from now will likely be down to 60.”

PubliCola published an update on how things are going with the new Seattle drug ordinance criminalizing public drug use and possession, saying that it doesn’t seem to have made more than superficial changes to the level of drug use. And there are other problems: “According to municipal court records, the average time between an arrest under the new drug law and when the city attorney files charges is about 70 days; more than half of the people charged under the new law had to wait 90 days or more for Davison’s office to file charges. This is in sharp contrast to Davison’s promise, in 2022, to decide whether to file charges in all criminal cases within five business days after her office receives a referral from the police department.”

The entire article is well worth the read.

Other News:

The Renton City Council has increased the hiring bonus for lateral police hires for the Renton Police Department. Formerly lateral hires received $10k upon hire and $10k after completing a one-year probation period. Now they will receive $20k upon hire and $20k after completing a one-year probation period, for a total of $40k per lateral hire.

Gun sales in Washington, which increased last year as the legislature passed new gun control laws, have plummeted so far in 2024. As measured by background checks, gun sales in January and February were cut in half this year compared to last year, and March gun sales were down 70%. You can read more about gun sales in the state here.

King County officials are considering whether they can begin their own corrections officer training program, with Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion asking Attorney General Bob Ferguson whether counties have the legal authority to do so. The state Criminal Justice Training Center does not support this idea. 

A man who died at the ICE facility in Tacoma last month had been held in solitary confinement for nearly all of his 4-year internment there. He spent nearly a decade in solitary confinement in state prisons before being transferred, so all together he spent more than 13 years in solitary confinement. ICE said he was in solitary confinement for “disciplinary reasons.” The Department of Correction reports 8 people have been held for over 500 days in the most severe restrictive housing. 

The Seattle Times reports: “The agency’s disclosure about Daniel’s time in state custody calls attention to the broad use of solitary confinement, not just by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And it raises more questions about whether Daniel’s prolonged periods of solitary contributed to his March 7 death at the Northwest ICE Processing Center.”

Recent Headlines:

 

Council President Nelson Pushes Back Against Experts’ Opinions Read More »

All Kinds of Power Struggles in Seattle This Week

Seattle News:

This week there are some interesting follow-ups on developing stories we’ve discussed in the past.

First, Publicola reported that CM Nelson plans to propose legislation that would require the Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) to switch police officer tests to the Public Safety test. The current National Testing Network test is more rigorous and was developed with the City of Seattle’s consent decree in mind. The Public Safety test, on the other hand, has a 90% pass rate on the first try. Contrary to what Nelson said in the previous public safety committee meeting on the topic, this seems likely to in fact compromise the standards for police officers in Seattle.

But the plot thickens! The PSCSC has sole authority over developing and holding testing, and changing this would require a law change. From the Publicola article: “Courts have upheld the PSCSC’s authority in the past, Scheele notes. “The last time the Council passed an ordinance undercutting the commission’s independence it had to be repealed,” she said, after a state appeals court ruled that the city council acted outside its authority when it passed a law moving many of the PSCSC’s “substantive” duties, including officer testing, to the city’s Human Resources Department.” So a court case regarding this issue may be in our future. 

Meanwhile, hiring new officers has become difficult across the country and is much more likely to be related to the fact that perceptions of being a police officer have shifted and people aren’t as interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement. 

Relatedly, SPD issued a tepid and disingenuous defense of their treatment of female officers. On the same day, KUOW published an investigative report on sexism and harassment within the department that emphasized how scared these female officers were to even speak to the press: “These women started talking with each other and agreed to speak with KUOW on condition of anonymity, because they feared retaliation. Floyd was the only one to let KUOW identify her. The women said that if found out, they could be investigated for speaking to the press without permission. One woman shook through her interview with KUOW. Five women declined to speak with KUOW, saying through intermediaries that they were scared of retaliation.”

In other news, City Attorney Ann Davison charged the six protesters at a City Council meeting in February with gross misdemeanors for trespassing. And we also got some more information about why Davison might have made the decision to disqualify Judge Pooja Vaddadi from all criminal cases at Seattle Municipal Court. The Stranger reported that Davison asked a higher court to review Vaddadi’s decision to disqualify an assistant city attorney from prosecuting a case. The day after this decision of Vaddadi’s was the day then-Criminal Division Chief Natalie Walton-Anderson sent out the infamous memo that I covered here, announcing the new policy of disqualifying the judge from all future criminal cases.

The Stranger published an in-depth piece on the problems currently faced by Seattle’s dual dispatch program, aka the “alternative” emergency response program that doesn’t follow the best practices of such programs run elsewhere. Ashley Nerbovig reports that the program is currently underutilized and mostly getting referrals from SPD instead of from 911 dispatch. Here is a particularly pertinent quote from the article:

Right now, Smith acknowledges the City is watching whether this program can exist without pissing off either the police or fire union. Police union president Mike Solan has expressed a distaste for police alternatives, appearing to view them as an insult to SPD officers. The City’s contract with SPOG prevents it from shifting any work from sworn-officers to civilians without negotiations. Given how much leverage the City has already given away in the MOU, and given the repeated emphasis from the Mayor and the council on hiring more police officers as the only solution to public safety concerns, it seems unlikely that they’ll push hard to take lower-priority work off the plates of officers who constantly complain about having all this low-priority work on their plates. The other lingering question is whether the City plans to actually fund the program long-term.” 

Finally, Publicola reported on two smaller stories. First, the City Council are having embarrassing budget conversations in which they call out problems of efficiency with the budget that do not in fact exist. And second, CM Bob Kettle exposed City Hall to COVID when he knew he’d been exposed but did not choose to work from home until he got a positive test. For those who are unaware, it is in fact possible to spread COVID before you test positive. 

Jail News:

The Seattle Times reported about a 24-year-old who hung himself while in the Klickitat County Jail last year while withdrawing from fentanyl, which highlights how underprepared many Washington jails find themselves for dealing with the current fentanyl crisis. The article says, “As of 2019, Washington’s county jails had among the highest death rates in the nation. Suicide has been the leading cause of death in the state’s jails and in jails nationally.”

And Publicola reported on the death of a woman in the SCORE jail last year. She died of dehydration, malnutrition, low electrolyte levels and renal failure. 4 people died in the SCORE jail last year, which is a very high number given its population. About the fatality report, Publicola had this to say: “The report said Majoor was well-known to staff at SCORE and implied that this may have led to inadequate care: “Over familiarity with the decedent and previous detox experiences were discussed as possible issues.””

At the King County Law and Justice committee meeting this past week, councilmembers discussed the plan to close the County’s juvenile detention facility. In 2020 Executive Dow Constantine promised to close the facility by 2025, but that date has been recently pushed out until 2028, and judging by the committee discussion, is likely to be pushed out even further. Indeed, some councilmembers did not seem convinced that actual achievement of zero youth detention will ever be possible.  

The main points of contention appear to be whether the newly proposed respite and receiving centers for youth would feature locked doors and what the differences might be between security and safety. 

Councilmember Jorge Barón spoke eloquently about the problem, saying, “It strikes me as a failure of our society that we have people at a young age engaged in harm-causing behavior, including very serious criminal behavior. We need to really reflect on that. What kind of society are we creating and how do we change that?” He spoke about how the current system contributes to harm-causing behavior rather than reducing it. 

The County will start public engagement on the Care & Closure plan soon, as well as releasing recommendations for improvements that can be made to the existing facility that can be included in Constantine’s budget proposal this fall. Meanwhile, the advisory committee will continue to meet to hash out the question of security vs. safety.

Recent Headlines:

All Kinds of Power Struggles in Seattle This Week Read More »

The Seattle City Attorney Has Been Busy

Personal News:

I had a novel come out this week! My Stars Shine Darkly is a YA science fiction novel and a dystopian romance. 

Book cover of My Stars Shine Darkly by Amy Sundberg, showing a teenage girl in a fancy dress and a golden Venetian mask

“In a story awash with Shakespearean intrigue and hijinks, join our intrepid heroine as she struggles against the dystopian patriarchy of her world.”

You can purchase it here or request it from your local library.

Seattle News:

Soon after I hit publish on my issue last Friday, the news dropped that the Seattle City Attorney’s Office would be filing an affidavit of prejudice on Seattle Municipal Court Judge Pooja Vaddadi on all criminal cases going forward. I dug more deeply into the issue with my story at the Urbanist. Perhaps most concerning is how this decision undermines the independence of the court from other branches of government.

Meanwhile the court is also in turmoil because of the rollout of a new case management system this week that has been bumpy at best. As The Seattle Times reports: “Court hearings have been exceedingly slow. Where it previously took a half a day to work through first appearances, when a judge sets bail, it’s now taking a full day, meaning some people are spending longer in jail than they otherwise would.

Yesterday at the State of Downtown event hosted by the Downtown Seattle Association, City Attorney Ann Davison said shesupports setting a limit on the number of times a person is allowed to overdose in public before they’re arrested and booked into jail.” While this law would supposedly only go into effect if a person refused treatment after an overdose, in practice treatment is often unavailable.

The City Attorney’s Office also announced they would be charging SPD Officer Kevin Dave, the officer who struck and killed Jaahnavi Kandula, with what amounts to a traffic ticket. Publicola reported that Dave received a hiring bonus of $15k after being hired in November of 2019: “Dave was previously an officer in Tucson, Arizona, but was fired from that previous position in 2013 after failing to meet minimum standards during his 18-month probation period.”

Daniel Auderer, the SPOG vice president who got caught in a recording laughing at Kandula’s death, was scheduled to have his disciplinary hearing with Chief Diaz this past Tuesday. Auderer has not yet had his pre-termination or “Loudermill” hearing, which would be required before he could be fired.

In other news, Publicola reported that SPD is continuing to operate under a crowd control policy that is against the law. SPD ignored the city’s new less-lethal weapons law (passed in 2021) for a few years before finally submitting a proposal in December 2023:

“Accompanying the policy: A memo from SPD denouncing their own proposal as “dangerous” and unworkable and asking the court to instead approve the department’s existing “interim” crowd control policy, which does not ban or substantially restrict the use of a single less-lethal weapon.”

The article goes on to state, “Antonio Oftelie, the court monitor overseeing the consent decree, told PubliCola that his office and the DOJ have decided to step back and see if SPD, working with the mayor and new city council, can come up with a policy in the first quarter of this year that complies with the consent decree and is something all sides can live with.

One example of SPD ignoring the new law was back in February when they dispersed a Pro-Palestine rally with pepper balls, which wouldn’t have been available for use if SPD had a policy in line with the existing legislation.

Mayor Harrell announced a new contract with the Coalition of City Unions with the following specifications:

“The proposed contracts include a 5% Annual Wage Increase (AWI) retroactively applied for 2023 and a 4.5% AWI for 2024, totaling a two-year 9.7% adjustment. The 2025 AWI will be based on a two-year average of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue-area with a 2% floor and a 4% cap. The 2026 AWI will be calculated similarly but then be increased by 1% with a 3% floor and a 5% cap.”

The contract has already been approved by union members and will now go for a final vote before City Council. It is currently unclear to me whether this increase in wages has already been calculated into the city’s looming deficit for 2025. According to Publicola, city departments are preparing plans to lay off employees (while already operating under a hiring freeze).

King County News:

This week Executive Constantine announced a five-prong strategy for addressing the fentanyl crisis and preventing overdoses. The five prongs are as follows:

  1. Treatment: launching a 24/7 buprenorphine prescribing line; increasing staffing for both the youth and adult mobile crisis programs; hiring 6 new community navigators to connect people with treatment
  2. Behavioral health beds: partnering with Pioneer Health Services to open 16-bed residential treatment program for people with both mental health and substance abuse disorders; re-opening a 24/7 SUD sobering center; opening post-overdose recovery center
  3. Overdose reversal meds and fentanyl testing: distributing more naloxone kits and test strips; testing drug samples; increasing number of fire depts providing leave-behind naloxone
  4. Behavioral health workforce: adding 100 apprenticeships statewide with half in King County
  5. Reduce disproportionality in overdose: investing $2 million in disproportionately impacted populations

KUOW reported that no new money is being allocated for this project, and when exactly any of this will happen is unknown. Neither Executive Constantine nor anyone else at the press conference would specify a timeline. Clint Jordan of Pioneer Human Services, however, did comment on when a 16-bed residential treatment program could open.

“We’re targeting a six month open,” Jordan said. “I think that puts us in October, November, somewhere in there.””

WA State Legislature News:

Initiative 2113, which changes the state-wide policy on vehicular pursuits, was passed in the state legislature on Monday. Unlike the reform on pursuits passed in 2021 and then weakened in 2023, this initiative doesn’t restrict pursuit based on type of violation in any way. Opponents say this change will almost certainly cause collateral damage, likely leading to more deaths and injuries. As Publicola reported, “Going back to 2015, Morris found that of 379 people killed by police in Washington state, 26 percent involved vehicular pursuits. Of the 32 deaths in Washington caused by collisions during pursuits, more than half were bystanders, passengers, or officers.”

Crosscut reported on two new gun control laws that are likely to make it through this year’s legislative session: one on reporting stolen guns and another on gun dealer security measures. 

Speaking of, this year’s legislative session is officially over. The WA State Standard reported that “Republicans had a pretty good year” and “big progressive priorities flared out.” 

Recent Headlines:

The Seattle City Attorney Has Been Busy Read More »

Mayor Harrell Has Been Saying Some Interesting Things at SPD Roll Calls

The news didn’t slow down THAT much at the end of August, so let’s dive in and get caught up!

Seattle News

There will be a public Q&A session for the top three candidates for SPD police chief on the evening of Thursday, September 15. You can submit questions for the event here and you can watch it on the Seattle Channel.
Andrew Myerberg was removed from his position as Director of Public Safety for Seattle. He is now “Special Projects Director” and is apparently still working on “safety related legal work, police chief search, accountability issues, etc.” Publicola reports that “Harrell said removing Myerberg from his position was just part of a six-month evaluation that involved “moving people around,” but declined to say more about what Myerberg will do in his new role.” The Mayor’s Office appears to be searching for a replacement for the Public Safety Director position.
Social Housing Initiative 135 qualified to be on the ballot in February 2023.
In MyNorthwest.com, Jason Rantz wrote about how Mayor Harrell has been visiting police precinct roll calls and speaking candidly about his thoughts on Seattle: “I don’t think anyone has a right to sleep in a public space. I don’t think anyone has a right to sleep on a sidewalk and I don’t think anyone has the right to sleep in the park.” Now there’s a quote that gets people to sit up and take notice.
There’s a lot more going on in this article though. It confirms Mayor Harrell’s commitment to ending the consent decree, and it’s the first time I’ve heard the possibility floated that the new SPOG contract negotiations could be done by the end of the year. In addition, the Mayor seems to have indicated he’s getting involved with the City Council races next year, when 7 of the 9 council members will be up for election. Hannah Krieg at The Stranger did some digging and found that Seattle’s big business faction is recruiting candidates to challenge Lisa Herbold in District 1 and Tammy Morales in District 2. Lisa Herbold currently serves as the Chair of the Public Safety and Human Resources committee, and Tammy Morales is one of the most progressive members of the Council. The Mayor also seems to be taking shots at the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (to which Seattle provides a large amount of funding) and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), which has been shown to reduce recidivism.
Lastly, Jason Rantz reports that, talking to SPD officers, “many question the mayor’s recruitment and retention plan. They do not think sign-up bonuses will make a difference and they believe the only thing to retain officers would be a fair contract.” It seems not even SPD officers agree with the Mayor’s recruitment bonus plan, legislation for which passed in August.
In other news, now’s your chance to become more informed about an important race that Seattle residents will vote on in November, for Seattle Municipal Court Judge. There are two judicial positions coming to the ballot this year, and The Stranger ran profiles last week on the race between incumbent Adam Eisenberg and challenger Pooja Vaddadi:
It’s Eisenberg’s day-to-day administration of his courtroom and perceived friendliness towards prosecutors, not his work on diversion programs, that attracted an unusually well-funded opponent in this November’s general election.
In a recent survey, Eisenberg was rated lowest for impartiality amongst all his judicial colleagues. He is known for leading the development of the Domestic Violence Intervention Project, which takes a less court-focused and more rehabilitative approach to those accused of domestic violence.
Pooja Vaddadi has her own plans when it comes to supporting diversion programs from the bench:
If she does prevail in November, Vaddadi says she wants to use the relationships she’s built with elected officials on the campaign trail to advocate for more funding for diversion programs so that more low-income people can access them. She also plans to push for expanding diversion programs that prove successful at the King County Superior Court level so that people in Seattle Municipal Court can benefit from them as well.
For Vaddadi, her focus on diversion programs stems from her belief that no one is beyond help, and from a recognition that the criminal legal system creates much of the harm its proponents say they want it to prevent.
Meanwhile, cases at Seattle Community Court are surging as a result of City Attorney Davison’s policy to prosecute more cases than Pete Holmes. Low-level misdemeanors that are eligible for community court are automatically sent there, and in Q2 2022 cases sent to community court have doubled compared to Q2 of 2021. As Josh Cohen in Crosscut writes:
Though court reformers see community court as a more humane alternative to booking people into jail, they don’t necessarily see the increase in community court referrals as positive. Instead, many want to see more cases diverted into alternatives that provide social services and support before they enter the court system. According to city attorney office data, pre-filing diversions and pre-trial diversions are both down significantly compared to years before the pandemic and prior to the creation of Seattle Community Court.

King County News

There will be a forum on Thursday, September 8 at 7pm discussing the role of the King County prosecutor in the criminal punishment system and particularly, how much discretion prosecutors have. This is timely given King County will be electing a new prosecutor in November’s election. You can register for the forum here or watch it live on the League of Women Voters Youtube page.
Speaking of the King County Prosecutor, current prosecutor Dan Satterberg has asked King County Sheriff Cole-Tindall to investigate the deletion of text messages of Seattle city leaders in 2020, including then-Mayor Durkan, then-SPD Chief Best, and SFD Chief Scoggins. While this response seems a bit delayed, to say the least, it is possible Satterberg felt more able to act given his term as prosecutor will be ending shortly. You can read more about it at Axios.
Sydney Brownstone over at The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle jail (run by King County) has had an extreme suicide rate over the past year.
“It’s astronomical,” said Frances Abderhalden, an expert on jail suicides and an assistant professor of criminal justice at California State University, Los Angeles. “It begs the question to me: Why this facility? That’s a lot of death in general in one facility per year.”
In July of 2020, Executive Constantine promised to close this jail, but it is unclear what the timeline of such a closure would be, or if the promise will be kept now that the narrative around the criminal legal system has shifted due to a backlash that, if allowed to prevail, handily protects the status quo.

National News

President Biden has a new crime plan called the “Safer America” plan. Ah, does he finally intend to crack down on gun control, a problem that we know how to solve given the large number of countries that have in fact solved it? No, no, why do the obvious thing to make the US safer when you can hire more police officers instead? The plan consists of hiring 100,000 more police officers and allocating at least an additional $13 billion to America’s police budgets, which are already the largest in the world by far.
Here is Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing, on the plan:

And as Eric Reinhart starts out his piece in Time Magazine:

The “war on crime” is the highest-casualty, most expensive, and longest-lasting war in American history. This coordinated assault on the nation’s poorest communities has led to tens of millions of individuals locked up in cages with deadly long-term health consequences, at least 31,000 people killed directly by police, and trillions of dollars spent on pointless punishment. For over 50 years, repeated increases to public spending on police and prisons have continually bankrolled this war while failing to ensure safety, leaving the U.S. one of the least safe countries among all wealthy nations.

Recent Headlines

What's in a Movement? Understanding Resistance, Justice & Allies

Texas Bail Reform Reduced Jail Time and Crime, New Study Says - Bloomberg

We Probably Do Not Need Cops Directing Traffic at Sports Games - The Stranger

Seattle Fire Department staff shortage forces extreme hours, $37.7M of OT | The Seattle Times

Seattle police has big backlog of open requests for public records; slow responses persist - Axios Seattle

For some, community court reduces jail bookings by 87% | Crosscut

The role WA courts play in mental health care when someone is in crisis | The Seattle Times

'We are the alternative': A growing movement aims to disrupt violence by connecting incarcerated youth with mentors | CNN

5 agencies create task force to target violent, gun-related crimes in Snohomish County

NYC's Rise of Low-Level Arrests Worry Critics of 'Broken Windows' Era - Bloomberg

Mayor Harrell Has Been Saying Some Interesting Things at SPD Roll Calls Read More »

Continued Institutional Resistance to a Civilian Alternate Response Service in Seattle

Seattle Public Safety Committee Meeting

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting! Everyone is here, and we’ll be hearing about the 911 call type for civilian response report status, CM Nelson’s resolution re SPD hiring incentives and CM Herbold’s related legislation.

We had a doozy of a Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting yesterday morning.

911 Call Types and Risk Management Status Report

First the committee members listened to a presentation on the status of SPD’s 911 call analysis/risk analysis, attempting to determine which calls could be answered by a civilian response. Present for this report were Director of Public Safety Andrew Myerberg and SPD’s Brian Maxey and Loren Atherley. As you may recall, last year a NICJR report on this subject found that almost 50% of 911 calls could be eligible for a non-officer response. At that time SPD agreed on 12% of calls that could benefit from this type of response, a consensus that led to the proposal of the (now probably defunct before it even started) Triage One program.
Now, however, SPD is walking back from even that low 12% number, saying it was simply a rough estimate and that the analysis they’re doing now is much more sophisticated. So sophisticated, in fact, that instead of classifying call types into 300 call types like NICJR, they’ve broken them into 41,900 types. No, those zeroes aren’t typos. Unfortunately, SPD’s highly technical presentation was not made available to the public ahead of time and is still unavailable at the time of this publication.
This presentation raised a few salient points. First, SPD has already been working on this analysis for quite some time, and they’re still not finished. They hope to have a populated risk matrix to present to the Council in July. Meanwhile, in spite of council member encouragement to stage the work (most of the CMs seem eager to move forward after two years of unmet promises to community), Andrew Myerberg sounds reluctant to push forward with much of the work until the SPD report is entirely finished…which may be July or even later. He mentioned he might be able to provide a timeline of when the City will stand up related work groups (not, you may notice, when they might be able to launch an actual pilot program).
Second, CM Lewis brought up the excellent point that several other cities have managed to stand up successful alternate response programs without doing this complex risk analysis: most notably, the STAR program in Denver, a comparably-sized city that has had such success with STAR they’re in the process of greatly expanding it. CM Pedersen also referenced a similar pilot that launched in Oakland, CA last month. CM Lewis asked why we weren’t visiting Denver and other relevant cities and learning from the work already done there.
The answers were revealing, to say the least. Andrew Myerberg’s response was that they had been studying such programs but wanted to wait until the data analysis and risk mitigation work was done. SPD’s Brian Maxey said he’d met with Denver’s STAR and that they’d developed call center protocols for triaging calls but hadn’t done a risk assessment like SPD is doing now.
However, Brian Maxey had two reasons to offer as to why Denver’s success wasn’t relevant to Seattle. First, he said in Denver there was an organic group that said they were interested in providing such an alternate response service. To this, CM Lewis said he was aware of several such groups in Seattle and would be happy to coordinate connections in this regard. Second, Brian Maxey said STAR mostly responds to calls that police didn’t historically respond to. CM Lewis rebutted this false claim, saying that of 2700 calls answered in the STAR pilot, 2294 of those calls would have in fact been responded to by the police. For those not wanting to do the math, that’s almost 85% of the total calls answered by STAR.
Over the course of the meeting, it became increasingly clear that SPD is going to continue dragging their feet and throwing up whatever obstacles come to mind to delay or prevent any meaningful non-police alternate response from being stood up in our city. It is popular to blame the city council members for such failures, but in this case it will ultimately be up to Mayor Harrell as to whether we push through this resistance and stand up an alternate response pilot program on a reasonable timeline.

SPD Hiring Incentives/Strategies Resolution and Legislation

The Public Safety committee then moved onto discuss CM Nelson’s resolution on hiring incentives and CM Herbold’s legislation lifting a proviso on $650k of salary savings to pay for another SPD recruiter and moving expenses, primarily for lateral hires, at least to start.
Both of these ended up with amendments. The language of CM Nelson’s resolution was amended to signal intent to release only the amount necessary to fund the incentive program, acknowledging some salary savings could be used to address 2023 budget challenges. CM Herbold’s legislation was amended to release more money from the proviso (for a total of $1.15m) in order to pay for a national search for a new police chief and a national officer hiring campaign.
Both passed out of committee with CM Mosqueda being the sole “No” vote, and because the vote was divided, they will come before Full Council for a vote on Tuesday, May 24. If nothing changes in the interim, we can expect both to pass, potentially with a 6-3 vote. It doesn’t seem like these measures will lead to much of an increase in SPD hiring but are instead passing on the merits of “doing something.” CM Nelson in particular repeated that she doesn’t care about the details as long as they’re doing something right now.

Other News

The City of Seattle settled the Seattle Times lawsuit over former Mayor Durkan and former Chief Best’s missing text messages, agreeing to pay a sum of $199,855 (that is taxpayer money, to be clear), and follow the rules/laws they were supposed to follow in the first place. Not a very satisfying conclusion to a betrayal of the public trust.
At the end of last week the Seattle Municipal Court voted to accommodate City Attorney Davison and exclude her “high utilizers” from using community court. An analysis by the King County Department of Public Defense shows that most of these high utilizers are either unsheltered or experiencing extreme behavioral health issues, neither of which are successfully addressed by a year in the County jail.
Will Casey reported this week on a new public database put together by the American Equity and Justice Group that contains all of Washington State’s adult felony convictions from 2000-2020. Obtaining reliable data about our criminal legal system tends to be dodgy at best, so this is a valuable resource for lawmakers and activists alike. AEJG plans to expand and improve upon their database; if you are a software engineer interested in volunteering your time, you can attend their launch event on May 17.
Finally, Kevin Schofield, lately of SCC Insight, is back with a new site, Seattle Paper TrailHis most recent piece is a breakdown of the 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey conducted by Seattle University. While I always take this survey with a grain of salt, given its troubling weaknesses, he does draw some interesting conclusions from the flawed data:
First, it continues to be the case that the city’s Black neighborhoods are largely not the ones where fear of crime is high, even though they tend to be over-policed to the detriment of Black residents; they have some of the lowest levels of social disorganization in the city, and also some of the lowest fear of crime. Second, police legitimacy dropped across the board, with only a handful of exceptions in places where fear of crime also rose (though most of the places where fear of crime rose did not see an increase in police legitimacy; it seems to be necessary but not sufficient). Third, social disorganization also decreased nearly across the board, for reasons that are unclear though perhaps related to COVID and more people spending increased time working from home and populating their own neighborhood around the clock.

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Continued Institutional Resistance to a Civilian Alternate Response Service in Seattle Read More »

Arguments Flare Over SPD Hiring Incentives

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to today’s Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. Public comments are just wrapping up now.
Fireworks exploded at Tuesday’s Seattle Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting when CM Nelson clashed with Chair Herbold on how the meeting ought to be run. The conflict took place during a discussion on CM Nelson’s resolution regarding hiring incentives for the SPD. Surprising almost no one, SPD is once again having more officer attrition than predicted and less hiring than hoped, leading to the anticipation of between $4. 1m-$4.5m in salary savings for 2022.
CM Herbold introduced draft legislation that would lift a proviso on $650k of that salary savings for SPD to use for moving expenses for recruits and a new recruiter. CM Nelson became visibly upset about this legislation, saying that she’d offered for CM Herbold to co-sponsor her resolution, and after that offer was declined, hadn’t heard anything else. She asked for her own rival draft legislation to be introduced, but as the conversation had already run well over its scheduled time, CM Herbold insisted on closing debate and moving to the next agenda item.
This issue is scheduled for a possible vote on Tuesday, May 10 at 9:30am, when we can see how much further acrimony might be on display. We can expect to see arguments on one side about how incentives haven’t proven to be effective (and indeed, the Mayor has not requested such incentives to be funded) and how we need to spend our money wisely given next year’s anticipated budgetary shortfall versus arguments that most police departments have hiring incentives so they must work and what else would we do with the $4m anyway? (The obvious answer to the latter is, we could in fact do quite a lot with that $4m.)
Perhaps one of the most telling moments of this discussion was when CM Pedersen asked if the City of Seattle has any alternate emergency responses ready to go today. He must have already known the answer, of course, which was a resounding no when it comes to the policing side of things (Health One is on the fire side and responds primarily to non-emergency medical calls.) SPD is slated to present their findings of their 911 call analysis on May 10, a report for which I’m already bracing myself. It is important to remember that much of the power for setting up any such alternate response rests with the Mayor’s Office, which is why so little has been accomplished in this vein thus far due to former Mayor Durkan’s lackluster interest.
Also discussed at the meeting was the case backlog at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, which I’ve previously covered here. The office only has one last position left to fill in its criminal division, but it still has several pre-filing diversion positions to fill. They expect it to take the rest of the year to review the backlog cases that aren’t being dismissed (almost 2000 are being dismissed) and will be asking for extra money to do so.
As Erica Barnett reports, this week City Attorney Ann Davison also asked the Seattle Municipal Court to allow her to deny “high utilizers” of the criminal legal system access to community court, overruling Judge Damon Shadid, who currently presides over said court. This policy change would result in previous criminal history impacting a person’s eligibility to use community court.
King County Department of Public Defense (DPD) director Anita Khandelwal says Davison’s letter “mischaracterizes Judge Shadid’s statements in the meetings,” which Khandelwal has attended, and “causes me concern about the possibility for good faith negotiations with the City Attorney’s Office given the inaccuracies in their statements.”
This issue is both complex and important enough that I recommend reading the complete article in Publicola when you get a chance.
Meanwhile, gotta love this headline:

Other News

I’ve been receiving a lot of questions lately about the new 988 crisis hotline, set to debut this summer, and how it will affect crisis response in Seattle and throughout the state. The answer, for now, appears to be that we’re not sure yet. There seems to be some confusion as to how this system is going to roll out, but it sounds like the launch of the 988 number is being seen as merely the first step in creating a behavioral health system that can provide appropriate and adequate crisis care. You can read more about it in Esmy Jimenez’s article in The Seattle Times.
Also in The Seattle Times recently was Mike Carter’s article on how much money taxpayers in Washington state are forking out because of police misconduct. The article has been rightfully criticized for not mentioning any specific misconduct cases in Seattle:
DivestSPD
Putting aside the fact that *we live in Seattle*, SPD accounted for $~4.5m of the $34.3m in 2021 suits (13%) referenced in the article, and at least that much in 2020.

So it’s odd, to say the least, that SPD is totally absent from this piece. https://t.co/C4subOhvrQ

Minneapolis has made the news recently when the Minnesota Department of Human Rights released a report detailing their investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. As Steve Karnowski and Mohamed Ibrahim report:
The report said police department data “demonstrates significant racial disparities with respect to officers’ use of force, traffic stops, searches, citations, and arrests.” And it said officers “used covert social media to surveil Black individuals and Black organizations, unrelated to criminal activity, and maintain an organizational culture where some officers and supervisors use racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language with impunity.”
As a result of this report, Minneapolis will be entering into a consent decree to address the problems detailed.
Finally, I have two newsletters to recommend. First is Chloe Cockburn’s Just Impact. You can read her latest here, and I particularly suggest checking out the “Solutions and Progress” section if your spirits are in need of some lifting. Second is the new newsletter of Olayemi Olurin, who is a public defender in NYC. His first piece, “America’s Hypocrisy on Violence: The Case of Police Brutality,” is definitely worth a read.

Recent Headlines

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Arguments Flare Over SPD Hiring Incentives Read More »

A Grab Bag of Public Safety News

WA State Legislative News

I wrote last week that both 2037 and 5919 would be sent to the Governor to be signed, and in this case I am happy to be wrong! 5919 was killed at the last minute during concurrence in the Senate. The bill was moved for concurrence by Republicans three separate times, and each time the motion was voted down. Both Senator Pedersen and Senator Dhingra were instrumental in halting this legislation.
Therefore only 2037 (the bill pertaining to Terry stops) has proceeded to the Governor’s desk. The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability has sent Governor Inslee a comprehensive letter asking him to veto section 3 of the bill. If you’d like information to help you send your own letter, you can find it here.
While it was disappointing that we could not make further strides towards equitable public safety during this session, it is noteworthy that of several harmful bills that would have rolled previous reforms back, only one made it through the entire session.

Seattle News

Carolyn Bick broke the news on Twitter late last week that OIG Deputy Inspector General Amy Tsai is leaving the OIG to take a job with the City of Redmond. Tsai was involved in aspects of the whistleblower complaint in OIG, and it’s interesting that both she and Andrew Myerberg left their positions within a couple months of one another. Now Seattle will be replacing two senior positions within its police accountability system this year.
The CPC continues to struggle to reach quorum at their meetings, hampering their ability to conduct business. Interestingly, CP Juarez has been sending a representative from her office to CPC meetings since her election as Council President. The OPA has no response to the CPC on the letter they wrote regarding the Proud Boys “ruse” incident and says any response will be completely SPD-driven.
The Seattle Times had an article last week with the following headline that says it all: “Harrell says he ‘inherited a mess,’ will solve crime issues by putting arrests first, social services second.” In spite of the fact that Harrell was on the City Council from 2007 to 2019, including as Council President for the last four years (and interim Mayor to boot!), so far his political strategy of passing the buck (and all the blame) for today’s problems, many of which were being addressed during his tenure, onto Mayor Durkan seems to be working.
City Attorney Davison announced a new initiative this week to address 118 repeat offenders, to either book them in jail or refer them to mental health or addiction treatment services. She has made a deal with the King County Jail to book these individuals even if they are arrested for a non-violent offense (in COVID times the jail no longer books routinely for these kinds of cases). However, this plan might run into a roadblock since service providers probably lack the necessary capacity to take on so many new cases.
SPD had a plan to crack down on “disorderly conduct” near transit stops along Third Avenue, but Mayor Harrell put it on hold on Wednesday before it took effect. The cause of this delay is not entirely clear, although a spokesperson for the Mayor, Jamie Housen, said it was “to allow more time to reset norms and to evaluate what enforcement strategy is most appropriate and effective.”
Meanwhile, City of Seattle employees are beginning to return to the office right as case numbers are rising significantly in Europe, which often presages a COVID wave in the United States. But don’t worry, they’ve installed protective barriers for workers who deal with the public. Apparently they haven’t yet received the memo that COVID is airborne….

A Grab Bag of Public Safety News Read More »

The Obligatory Election Results Discussion

Budget meetings continue in Seattle

Yes, yes, we’re going to talk about the election, but first, believe it or not, we still have two weeks left in Seattle’s budget season. This week, Budget Chair Mosqueda’s proposed balancing package will be presented to the public on Wednesday morning at 9am. There will be no public comment at this meeting, but there will be an entire public hearing later on Wednesday at 5:30pm. Sign ups for public comment start at 3:30pm. I will be live tweeting the morning presentation in case you want to take a peek at what’s in the new proposed budget so you can tailor your comments accordingly.
There will be another budget meeting on Friday starting at 9:30am to discuss the new proposed budget in more detail.
Also of note, the Council received an updated revenue forecast for Seattle, and it wasn’t a great one: the expected revenue dropped $20m from the last forecast. The Council will need to make up this difference in their balanced budget.
You can read more about CM Strauss’s proposal to increase funding for the Mobile Crisis Team to respond to mental health calls here. You can read a summary of some of the previous budget meetings here. And here is today’s Twitter thread of the Seattle Council Briefing:
Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing. Presiding this morning is Council President Pro Tem Dan Strauss. He wishes CM Juarez either a happy early or belated birthday. And now we have the Grand Street Alley Vacation briefing, which I’m not going to tweet.

Election News

Let’s start with this thread of good election news, shall we?

Kamau
a 🧵of good results in WA races:

let’s start in seattle since so many people are down on the results. first, the fact that Oliver, NTK, & Gonzalez got tens of thousands to vote for a bold progressive vision can’t be understated.

notably, we won the school board decicively https://t.co/yQdP6hTlzv

In Seattle, progressive Teresa Mosqueda was able to hold onto her Council seat, while Bruce Harrell won for Mayor, Sara Nelson won for Council Seat 9, and Ann Davison won for City Attorney. All three represent business interests and beat out their more progressive opponents.
So how is this going to affect police accountability in Seattle and what should we be looking for in upcoming months?
Next year the Mayor will need to appoint a new Chief of Police for SPD. One key decision will be whether to appoint Interim Chief Diaz or look for a candidate outside the department. Whoever is chosen as Chief will have a lot of influence on any potential changes within SPD. The Mayor will also play a large role in bargaining with SPOG, a process that is currently ongoing and that has huge impacts on police accountability. The Mayor is also the chief administrative officer of Seattle, and in the case of Mayor Durkan, we’ve seen how she used this role to act as a road block to certain policy changes and expenditures approved by the Council, while also failing to set a culture of accountability for her office and the offices beneath her.
As pertains to Bruce Harrell, he has spoken in favor of continued sweeps of the homeless, including punishment for those who refuse offers of shelter, and in favor of maintaining or possibly growing the police department. He seems to be a proponent of dashboards and studies. You might remember that he suggested having every SPD officer watch the murder of George Floyd and then sign a pledge. In good news, he supports continued investment in alternate response to crisis calls.
In very simple terms, with Sara Nelson taking a seat, the City Council will now be divided between 3 moderates and 6 progressives. (Obviously there is a lot more nuance involved here, with each council member having their own individual views and representing different district interests.) Most legislation needs to pass by a simple majority, meaning in some ways there won’t be much of a change. If CM Sawant loses her recall election next month, the Council would appoint someone to fill her seat.
However, budget legislation requires a ¾ majority, which the more progressive members no longer have. (Remember, this won’t apply to the current budget process, but it will come into play next year.) This new balance will affect what budget proposals are feasible. In addition, overturning a Mayor’s veto generally requires a 2/3 vote, meaning only a single more progressive CM would need to waiver to prevent an overturn. Another aspect to watch is the new assignments for committee chairs and Council President.
Ann Davison, who will be our new City Attorney, may cause the biggest change in the status quo. There is concern she will begin prosecuting more low-level misdemeanors and more aggressively criminalize poverty. She must defend the City against lawsuits, which includes lawsuits against the JumpStart tax and other legislation passed by Council, and we don’t know what her skill or interest level will be in defending these cases. The City Attorney also plays a role in the consent decree. It is unclear at this time what legislation and provisos the City Council may adopt before the end of the year to try to mandate a continuation of existing diversion programs within the City Attorney’s office, but we should know more on this front soon.

Other News

Former SPD Chief Carmen Best is reportedly up for consideration to be the Chief of Police for NYPD. And she has a new book out! A big month for her.
Meanwhile, Pierce County is not only struggling with their Sheriff Ed Troyer, who is now facing criminal charges, but the highest ranking Black women in the Sheriff Department’s history are now suing the county:
Kari Plog
The highest-ranking Black women in Pierce County Sheriff’s Department history are suing the county, alleging decades of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Suit says the “top echelons” of the department “participated in and ignored” the behavior. https://t.co/3GkrIKGKJq
Right before the election, Mayor Durkan issued an emergency order authorizing hiring bonuses for police officers and 911 call dispatchers, with bonuses of up to $25k for experienced lateral hires and $10k for new recruits. These bonuses are both higher and cover more personnel than Mayor Durkan’s similar proposal in her 2022 budget, meaning the Council would need to find additional funding in next year’s budget to cover the difference. CM Sawant has proposed legislation to modify this order to cover hiring bonuses for only 911 call dispatchers and not police officers, and said CP González indicated to her this legislation would come to a vote on Monday, November 22, which is the same meeting at which the CMs will vote on the overall budget.
Meanwhile, Chief Diaz has reservations about the Council’s latest crowd control weapons ordinance as well as to certain of OIG’s recommendations based on their review of the 2020 protests. It looks like the Federal Monitor Dr. Oftelie is now getting drawn into the fray:
Paul Faruq Kiefer
This saga continues today with a letter from Chief Diaz to consent decree monitor Dr. Antonio Oftelie doubling down on the chief’s criticisms of the crowd control weapons ordinance. https://t.co/67m5vw7GdE

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The Obligatory Election Results Discussion Read More »