defund SPD

Scandal Rocks SPD as City Council is Posed to Vote to Give Them More Power

Seattle News:

The new war on drugs legislation was voted out of the Public Safety and Human Services committee last week 4-1, with CM Mosqueda as the lone vote against. CM Herbold and CP Juarez agreed to expedite the legislation, which means it will receive its final Full Council vote tomorrow, Tuesday, September 19 at 2pm. There will be a chance to give public comment, and you can find scripts here and here.

I wrote more about a few of the amendments considered last week and the dangers of relying on SPD officer discretion while passing legislation that will criminalize substance abuse disorder and poverty in an op-ed at The Urbanist, and I hope you will go give it a read. 

Last week the news broke about SPD officer and SPOG vice president Daniel Auderer minimizing and laughing at the death of student Jaahvani Kandula, who was killed by SPD Officer Kevin Dave when he hit her driving 74mph in a 25mph zone without consistent use of his flashing lights and siren. Erica C. Barnett describes the body cam footage here:

“I don’t think she was thrown 40 feet either,” Auderer told Solan. “I think she went up on the hood, hit the windshield, then when he hit the brakes, she flew off the car. But she is dead.” Then Auderer laughed loudly at something Solan said. “No, it’s a regular person. Yeah.”

We have asked SPOG via email what Solan asked that made Auderer clarify that Kandula was a “regular” person, as opposed to another type of person Dave might have hit.

“Yeah, just write a check,” Auderer continued. Then he laughed again for several seconds. “Yeah, $11,000. She was 26 anyway, she had limited value.” At this point, Auderer turned off his body camera and the recording stops.

Auderer has been investigated for dozens of allegations by OPA during his twelve years at SPD.

Many local electeds have responded to the incident, and it made international news. As Naomi Ishikawa wrote in the Seattle Times: “It was bitterly ironic the recording emerged less than a week after a U.S. district judge ruled the Seattle Police Department had achieved “full, sustained and lasting compliance” with most of the requirements of a federal consent decree intended to improve biased policing and police accountability.”

Over at the Urbanist, Doug Trumm wrote a piece linking this shocking body cam footage to the many failures of public safety in Seattle, including failures of accountability.

Danny Westneat wrote about the problem posed by SPOG’s contempt for those they serve and the lack of trust of SPD. Unfortunately, he doesn’t make clear (or perhaps is unaware of) the differences between regular unions and police guilds, including the historic use of police forces for union busting. You can read more about problems with police guilds and their historic opposition to labor here, here, and here

Gennette Cordova wrote an excellent piece in the South Seattle Emerald busting the myth of police defunding here in Seattle. I suggest going to read the entire piece; here’s a teaser: “To shield police against valid criticism, their proponents often say that police have an impossible job. And, in a sense, they’re right. Data shows that police don’t solve most serious crimes, including murder, rape, burglary, and robbery — and they never have. Furthermore, they certainly aren’t addressing the root causes of crime, so how could a reliance on them ever deliver us a safe society?”

Last week the King County Prosecutor’s Office announced they would not be pursuing criminal charges against former Mayor Durkan, former SPD Chief Best, and other officials who deleted their text messages in 2020, finally closing that embarrassing chapter in Seattle history. None of these officials will be held accountable for their missing text messages.

King and Pierce Counties:

Jury selection was scheduled to begin today for the trial of the Tacoma police officers who have been charged with the murder of Manuel Ellis.

Anita Khandelwal, the director of the King County Department of Public Defense, and King County CM Girmay Zahilay wrote a piece for the Seattle Times about the impossible caseloads and severe understaffing of King County public defenders:

“Public defenders are the latest justice system employees to test their breaking points. Newly published research spotlights the unsustainable caseloads King County public defenders have been working to manage. These caseloads grow even worse daily as experienced defenders qualified to handle the most serious cases quit, leaving a smaller and smaller number of attorneys to handle those most serious cases.     

As this system teeters on the edge of collapse, there is only one path to public safety rooted in reality: focusing King County’s limited legal system capacity on the gravest allegations of illegal behavior. The current volume of prosecutions (over 40% of which are not these most serious offenses) cannot continue without a massive influx of defense attorneys who simply don’t exist in today’s labor market.”  

Recent Headlines:

Scandal Rocks SPD as City Council is Posed to Vote to Give Them More Power Read More »

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 »

The Council passed the 2021 budget.

In a budget season that seemed last to last forever in a year in which time has lost all meaning, I’m happy to inform you that today the Seattle City Council adopted a new 2021 budget. Further, Mayor Durkan has announced she does not intend to veto the budget this time around. The last few budget-related amendments were discussed this morning, and the budget and related legislation were all passed at this afternoon’s full council meeting. Live Twitter threads can be found here and here.

The bulk of this morning’s meetings consisted of heated debate on one last minute amendment proffered by CM Mosqueda. Based on the receipt of new data received from the SPD on Friday that their attrition was higher than expected in 2020 and might also be in 2021, the amendment sought to reclaim a further $2m of anticipated payroll savings via proviso to go toward participatory budgeting. The Mayor did not want this amendment passed, saying the SPD might be able to hire more than the anticipated 114 new hires and further that the SPD would need this money for overtime to potentially backfill patrol positions and for separation pay. There was concern this amendment might be seen as a hiring freeze, which it is not, or a fulfillment of the demand of #NoNewCops, which it also is not, but ultimately it was passed as being in keeping with previous budget actions, with only CM Pedersen voting against it.

The Council went on to pass the main budget bill with all CMs voting in favor except for CM Sawant’s protest vote against what she calls a harsh austerity budget. According to CM Sawant, this budget represents an 8.2% decrease in the police budget, not including the transfer of units outside the department. It represents about a 20% cut including those transfers. You can read more about the details in my previous post.

Neither extreme of the political spectrum will be pleased with this budget and how it shrinks the SPD. The Right will be upset because they want ever-increasing investments in the police force in order to perpetuate this country’s racist policing and incarceral system and to defund social investments in things like housing, transportation, and education. The Left thinks this budget falls far short of earlier promises to defund the SPD by 50% (or abolishing the police altogether) and was hoping to institute a hiring freeze at the very least.

Instead this budget represents a compromise that should mollify the more moderate among us. It acknowledges the racism inherent in policing and the criminal justice system and takes measured steps to begin addressing this through increased investment in community-led alternatives while giving these alternatives time to scale up and begin to take on some of the work now being done by police. It doesn’t drastically reduce the size of the force—which would result in widespread media hysteria, if nothing else—while suggesting ongoing work to ultimately right-size it.

The importance of this work is undeniable. Seattle is one of the only cities in the country still pursuing the project of reimagining the police at this scale (I believe the other city to check out is Austin, Texas). A 20% cut, while not the size that activists hoped for, is still significant. If the work does continue, Seattle could become a model for the nation of what divestment and reinvestment looks like. But opponents will be looking for any chance to place barriers in the way and declare the efforts to be a failure, thus nullifying the entire experiment.

In the months to come, it will be critical to remain informed about the Seattle City Council’s continued actions in this matter and to create a bulwark against the inevitable backsliding, which we’ve already seen this last month in CM Pedersen’s statements. The SPOG contract negotiation will inform what is possible, as will any legislation passed by the Washington State legislature in its upcoming session. A potential expanded role for Seattle’s parking enforcement officers could be negotiated, and a new 911 dispatch system will be stood up. The participatory budgeting process will direct the investment of millions of dollars into community-led alternatives to policing, while other investments into those alternatives will begin to be dispersed early next year.

If there is one thing this last five months have taught me, it is the importance of local awareness and action. We have the chance here in Seattle to lead a better way forward: to create increased equity and more safety for our BIPOC neighbors and to continue the work of decriminalizing poverty, divesting in racist policing, and reinvesting in community services that will lead to better outcomes for everybody. The decrease of 20% from the police department’s budget shows us concretely that our engagement with these issues does matter. I hope we can all take heart, dig in, and prepare to continue the work.

Until next time, friends.

The Council passed the 2021 budget. 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 Council shows where they might be leaning, SPD budget-wise

Time for another report on the Seattle 2021 budget front! This week the Council have been discussing their Form Bs, each of which requires three CMs to co-sponsor. However, CMs do not yet need to identify how the City will pay for these proposals. So a word of caution: all of what we are about to discuss is preliminary and likely to change at least somewhat during the next few weeks.

With that caveat, first we have a thread covering the Council Briefing on Monday, October 26.


There’s been a fair amount of news coverage of CM Herbold’s proposal of legislation that would create new defenses for misdemeanor crimes in Seattle. The purpose of this legislation is to decriminalize poverty, mental illness, and addiction, and give judges and juries more room to consider these circumstances. CP Gonzalez had several reasons for thinking this legislation wasn’t best considered during the budget process, so it is unlikely to be included in any budget package. However, look for a similar proposal to come to the Council, probably through the Public Safety Committee, sometime after Thanksgiving.

Twitter avatar for @amysundberg

Amy Sundberg @amysundberg
I’m listening to the Council’s discussion on CM Herbold’s legislative proposal for changing the legal definition of “duress.” This legislation is meant to decriminalize crimes of poverty.

Before we dive into SPD proposals, here are a few other relevant highlights from this week’s budget meetings. Please note that CM Mosqueda is co-sponsoring very little at this juncture due to her position as Budget Chair.

CM Herbold proposed a cut of $10 million from the FG for the Equitable Communities Initiative and an addition of $10 million to HSD for community-led public safety investments. This would ensure the remaining $10m allocated by the Council this summer for the ramp-up of community-led public safety organizations would be funded by taking the money from the $100m the Mayor promised to BIPOC communities. Co-sponsors are CP Gonzalez and CMs Sawant, Lewis, and Morales.

CM Sawant proposed adding $30m to ensure the Strategic Investment Fund to Address Displacement (established by the sale of the Mercer Mega Block) remains funded. Co-sponsoring were CP Gonzalez and CMs Lewis, Morales, and Herbold.

CM Mosqueda proposed an additional expansion to Health One, which was co-sponsored by everyone but CM Herbold. She also proposed adding $2.13m to restore several positions proposed for budgetary layoffs, which was co-sponsored by everyone but CM Juarez.


Onto the SPD and related proposals! You can see the agenda here, and warning, the Twitter thread breaks a few times because Twitter was being buggy this afternoon.

To begin with, it’s worth noting there aren’t any huge across-the-board cuts to the SPD being proposed. The Council and the Mayor are on the same page about wanting to move a lot of units out from under SPD’s umbrella, although they have different ideas about where specifically these units should be moved. CM Herbold is proposing a new Community Safety and Communications Center, which would be a more comprehensive center than the Mayor’s suggestion of the Seattle Emergency Communications Center.

In addition to many proposals requesting reports from SPD, some of which have already been asked for, the main proposals boil down to recapturing some funds from the SPD budget in the following ways:

  1. Cut $6.1m in vacancy savings. These are currently funded police officer positions that the SPD projects they will be unable to fill in 2021.
  2. Cut $3.7m in overtime savings. This is assuming special events etc. will remain at the same level as in 2020 due to COVID.
  3. Impose a proviso of $5m in potential attrition savings. Apparently the police department has historically been very bad at predicting their levels of attrition and tend to under-predict. This proviso will capture any funds saved from additional attrition.
  4. Enact 35 out-of-order layoffs of sworn officers. These layoffs, when combined with attrition, will complete eliminating the 100 sworn officer positions the Council said they would in the revised 2020 budget.
  5. Cut $475k from the travel/training and supplies portions of the SPD budget, while maintaining all training necessary under the consent decree.
  6. Abrogate 70 officer positions in the SPD. These are mostly unfunded and vacant positions, so this doesn’t realize any savings but does mean the SPD would have to go to Council to get any new positions added should they ever want to expand.
  7. Ensure all savings realized from SPD cuts is used for the participatory budgeting process (up to $1m) and for allocation by the PBP into community investments into public safety. (This amendment was walked on by CM Morales at the beginning of the meetings today.)
  8. Move the mental health professionals who are part of the SPD’s Crisis Response Unit to HSD and add an additional 11 mental health professionals to do the same work.

As you see analyses begin to spread across the internet, it is important to keep in mind that the transferral of many units (such as the 911 call center, the parking enforcement workers, etc.) will account for much of the drop in the 2021 SPD budget and the lower number of positions. We also aren’t sure yet which proposals will definitely be incorporated into the Council’s budget package. That being said, Kevin Scholfield did some preliminary math and says we’re looking at around a 17.3% decrease in the SPD budget from the original (pre-COVID) 2020 budget.

These aren’t the sweeping changes that many activists might have hoped to see, but in a note of optimism (what? in 2020?) it does set a trend for further changes going forward. As many of you may remember, in the summer I was hammering home how important it was to allocate funds this year to begin ramping up community organizations in public safety. Although these funds were passed by Council, unfortunately most of them will not be seen by community organizations this year, meaning they haven’t yet been able to expand. This delay is slowing the whole process down. In addition, participatory budgeting takes a significant amount of time. But it is encouraging to see that so far at least the Council doesn’t seem to be backtracking on their position at the end of summer.


What’s next? We get next week off from budget meetings, although we will be getting a presentation on the state legislative lobbying agenda during Council Briefing. We’re also waiting for the revised revenue projection from the City Budget Office. Then CM Mosqueda will introduce her balancing package on November 10, and the CMs will put together their Form Cs, which they will discuss the following week.

Meanwhile, some people are already asking if the Mayor will veto whatever budget the Council passes. Exciting times!

Happy Halloween! Have a wonderful and safe weekend!

 

 

The Council shows where they might be leaning, SPD budget-wise Read More »

SPD and Community Safety Issue Identification

We have a lot to cover this time! This week the City Council’s budget meetings consisted of presentations from Central Staff including issue identification, along with statements from CMs about their Form As. Form As are a preliminary way for CMs to mark their interest in and support of various topics during the budget process. Form Bs, due tomorrow, are the next step in this process, each requiring sponsorship by at least 3 CMs.


SPD Issue Identification and Form As

You can also reference the meeting’s slide deck and related memo.

First, a reminder of where we are. 81% of SPD’s budget goes to personnel and overtime. The Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget changes the following: 1. 1,497 sworn positions reduced/ abrogated to 1,450 sworn positions, only 1400 of which are actually funded, along with associated salary reductions; 2. parking enforcement, 911 call center, and office of emergency management transferred out of SPD, along with some back office support monies; 3. a new OPA inspector supervisor position is funded; and 4. funding for more automated traffic enforcement.

SPD Identified Issues:

Staffing: The Mayor’s plan tries to maintain the status quo on staffing issues, with staffing returning to 2019 levels by the end of 2022. If instead the hiring freeze were to be maintained through the end of 2021, that would result in 1213 fully trained sworn officers in 2022, compared to 1329 in the Mayor’s proposal, which is a significant difference. The Council’s options include: 1. maintaining the hiring freeze and shrinking the force in this manner; 2. reduce SPD budget to capture the savings from unfilled positions/attrition; 3. reduce SPD budget to reflect a target of shrinking the force that involves retirement incentives and buyouts; 4. proviso the SPD budget to reflect layoffs in 2021, potentially specifying out-of-order layoffs.

There was also discussion about Chief Diaz’s redeployment of more officers into patrol, how to decide the proper size of the police force, and how all response times to 911 calls aren’t equal (in that calls vary, most are not criminal, and not all require a fast response). They also discussed Chief Diaz’s intention to continue to prioritize patrol over specialty units should the number of officers continue to decrease, which would potentially mean no change to 911 call response times but less detective and investigative work.

Overtime reductions: The Mayor’s proposal has a small overtime reduction of $2.7m because of fewer special events due to COVID and the elimination of emphasis patrols. The Council needs to decide whether to decrease the overtime budget further and whether to reinstate emphasis patrols.

Consistency with the 2020 revised budget: The Council needs to decide whether to annualize changes in staffing, command staff pay cuts, and travel and professional services budget cuts to carry forward into 2021.

The last two issues are trying to consolidate different dispatch services for economy of scale and fixing some small issues related to moving the Office of Emergency Management outside SPD.

SPD Form As:

The CMs submitted 19 Form As related to the SPD, although one is actually about the fire department. CM Pedersen submitted four asking for various reports. CM Morales submitted one to reduce staffing and use participatory budgeting to invest the savings in BIPOC communities. CM Sawant submitted one to straight out defund the SPD by 50%, as well as one to transfer the CSO program to the Department of Neighborhoods and one that will place more rules around moving encampments in order to reduce harm.

CP Gonzalez is interested in making sure the OIG doesn’t need more resources given all the units moving out of SPD, ensuring officers receive training on how to appropriately engage with sex workers, capturing the spending of any unfilled SPD staffing, and transferring SPD’s Performance, Analytics, and Research unit, at least partially, to the OIG. CM Herbold submitted several Form As: to rename the Seattle Emergency Communications Center and add parking enforcement officers to it; to get monthly reports on SPD overtime spending (she also expressed interest in reducing the budget for OT spending); a similar funds capturing from unfilled positions as CP Gonzalez; potentially transferring some functions of Harbor Patrol to the SFD, although it sounded like there were complications here; and annualizing the changes made in the 2020 revised budget.


Community Safety & Violence Prevention Issue Identification and Form As:

Twitter avatar for @amysundberg

Amy Sundberg @amysundberg
Good morning, everyone! It’s almost time for the Seattle City Council budget meeting on community safety and violence prevention issue identification!

You can also reference the meeting’s slide deck and related memo.

This presentation looked at public safety programs that take place before or in place of law enforcement involvement, as well as harm reduction strategies within law enforcement, primarily crisis intervention teams comprised of a mental health professional and an officer. We also briefly went over the complicated structure the Mayor is proposing to reimagine public safety, which involves a work group, a task force, and three IDTs. There’s also a small amount of money that has an unclear purpose and might be available for other expenditures.

Identified Issues:

The City’s Community Safety and Violence Prevention Response: Basically the Council needs to decide how much to invest in each different type of response. Their options include community services that decrease opportunities for law enforcement (CSOs, call-in nurses, crime prevention programs) ; non-law enforcement government response instead of law enforcement response (Health One and similar); and law enforcement response that is paired with crisis response (crisis response units).

Health One expansion: The Mayor’s proposed budget expands this program to add a second team. The Council needs to decide whether to proviso this money until dispatch is adjusted, set it aside and wait for community input, or go ahead with this.

Lack of RSJI Lens and Duplicating Community Efforts: This is the biggest issue before Council in this area. Basically it is not clear that the Mayor’s plan has gone through a racial equity analysis. The worry is that since this analysis has not been done (or at least not been made public), it might (possibly unknowingly) further perpetuate racism in the city. This also covers the concerns about the lack of consistency around money allocated for purposes that disproportionately benefit BIPOC groups now being taken away to be given back in a different form to BIPOC groups.

Suggestions to deal with this issue include putting a proviso on some of these funds (probably on the $100m at the very least) until a racial equity analysis is done and made public; do not allocate these funds at all and instead spend them elsewhere; restore $1.08m to the Office of Civil Rights for criminal legal system alternatives (the issue here is the money in 2020 isn’t being sent out until December, so theoretically that money won’t be spent until 2021, meaning they can resume this funding in 2022 without an actual funding gap); and restore the $30m of the Strategic Investment Fund that we talked about last week that was supposed to go to equitable development and affordable housing from the sale of the Mercer Mega Block.

Another issue discussed is the conflict of interest of having the Office of Civil Rights not being independent. Their purpose is to speak truth to power, and yet their jobs are under the purview of the Executive, so that’s a problem.

Community Safety Form As:

Both CM Mosqueda and CM Lewis are potentially interested in expanding Health One beyond the Mayor’s planned expansion. CM Lewis is also interested in adding funding for a reentry program for the Native community, for a case manager for Native women facing domestic violence and sexual assault, and to SFD 911 dispatch for a consulting nurse. CM Juarez is interested in adding funding for Aurora Commons, which provides commercial sexual exploitation services. CM Herbold is interested in a report about needed funding for LEAD and in legislation that would help decriminalize poverty. CM Sawant is interested in getting draft legislation from legal about forming an elected Community Oversight Board that would have full powers over police accountability.


What does this all mean?

We’ll know more when we see the Form Bs, but we’re seeing a lot of friction play out between the Mayor’s vision and the Council’s vision. In terms of public safety, the Mayor is advocating for a mostly status quo budget while all her planning groups do stuff over the next year or two (some of which seems duplicative), and at the same time she’s moving money around in interesting ways. The Council has been taking a more hands-on approach since the summer and have their own ideas of how to proceed.

Certain CMs are not going to want to fund the Mayor’s promised $100m investment into BIPOC communities with its appointed task force, disregard for participatory budgeting, and her $30m Strategic Investment fund cut that allocated funds for similar purposes (not to mention the concern of where these funds will come from in future years, when JumpStart tax revenues have already been allocated to investments in things like affordable housing). There is a real concern about the lack of a racial equity analysis and an inconsistency of approach here. The Mayor hasn’t presented a plan that inspires a lot of confidence, and we’re seeing a lot of political maneuvering as a result.

CMs might try to capture some savings from the SPD budget to give to BIPOC communities instead, probably through a participatory budgeting process, and possibly less than $100m in order to retain the $30m in the strategic investment fund (and maybe also to fund the $13m gap in the balanced budget because of investments to community organizations for public safety that were supposed to be made this year).

Of course, enacting their own plan could cause more animosity between the Mayor’s office and the Council. Will it spill over and up-end their recent new deal regarding how to replace the Navigation Team, negotiated by CM Lewis? It’s hard to say how strong a commitment the Mayor has to this new plan.

One interesting point to reiterate is that with Chief Diaz’s priority of patrol staffing, a gradual shrinkage of the SPD wouldn’t necessarily impact 911 call response times all that much. Instead it would impact specialty units. This is noteworthy because so much of the public discourse on the subject of downsizing the police department has been focused on call response times.


Next week there is another evening public hearing on the budget on Tuesday, October 27 starting at 5:30pm, with signups beginning at 3:30pm. If you’d like to tell the Council your thoughts about the 2021 budget, this is a great time to share them! The rest of the week will entail budget meetings presenting CM budget actions and statements of legislative intent.

SPD and Community Safety Issue Identification Read More »

Public hearing on the budget tomorrow

Very short Council Briefing today! We were through everything in half an hour.

Public Hearing

There is a public hearing on budget-related matters tomorrow, Tuesday, October 6, starting at 5:30pm. Signups begin at 3:30pm. This is one of two hearings in the evening hours if you’d like to comment and can’t make the normal public comment windows during business hours.


King County Equity Now’s Response to the Mayor’s Proposed Budget

KCEN continues to call for defunding the police department by at least 50%. In addition they are asking that the JumpStart spending plan remain the same, and that the Mayor doesn’t touch that money to make good on her promise of the $100m investment into BIPOC communities. They are still calling for a true participatory budgeting process as opposed to a task force, stating on Twitter that “@mayorjenny‘s hand-picked task-force is a tried & true tactic to halt Black progress. But our communities will not accept these anti-Black practices any longer.”

Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda weighs in on the budget process and about the JumpStart revenue package and 2021 spending package with an op-ed at the South Seattle Emerald.


Other News of Note

Washington state ballots are mailed on October 16.

If you’re into podcasts, the latest episode of Crystal Fincher’s Hacks & Wonks podcast is worth a listen. She and guest host Heather Weiner provide an excellent overview of recent Seattle news, the importance of the SPOG contract, and an analysis of Mayor Durkan’s recent actions as well as news around R-90 (the state-level referendum about sex health education), which has some very interesting bankrollers as the Republican party in Washington state attempts to do some list-building and galvanize their supporters to vote. You can read more about it in The Stranger as well.

You can read more about how important the SPOG contract is, as well as how damaging the 2017 contract has been, in Crosscut.

In legal news, the City of Seattle petitioned the court to convert its temporary restraining order regarding the SPD’s use of crowd control weapons into a preliminary injunction. They plan to invoke the the provisions of the Consent Decree in order to change policies, and have stated they want to review and potentially change crowd-control, use-of-force, and crisis intervention policies.

Finally, I know you all know this, but yes, you should be taking precautions against catching COVID-19, including wearing masks, practicing social distancing, doing any socializing out-of-doors, and staying at home. If you catch this disease, you will not in fact feel better than you did twenty years ago, especially given the long-term adverse health effects that are still in the process of being studied.

Stay safe out there!

Public hearing on the budget tomorrow Read More »

On the Budget Meeting Overviews

Are you ready to talk about budget meetings?

First, the relevant Twitter threads.

This Twitter thread covers the budget overview presented on Wednesday morning.

This Twitter thread covers the SPD budget presentation this morning.

And this Twitter thread covers the Reimagining Public Safety presentation and Seattle Municipal Court presentation.


SPD Staffing Levels

My report on SPD sworn officers from the last newsletter was not completely accurate, so I want to go over the numbers now. The original 2020 budget included 1497 sworn officer positions but only funded 1422 of these positions, leaving the remainder unfunded and vacant. The proposed 2021 budget includes 1450 sworn officer positions but only funds 1400 of these positions, leaving the remaining 50 positions unfunded and vacant. Hence the confusion about whether the Mayor’s proposed budget includes the layoff of 100 officers called for in the Council’s revised 2020 budget. It doesn’t in practice, but the numbers aren’t straightforward.

SPD says that in order to maintain its current level of service and response times, it needs a minimum of 1400 sworn officers. It is important to note this number represents staffing needed if there is no decrease in the police scope of work. There is disagreement between the Council and SPD as to which staffing models should be used and potentially the timing of the shift of functions. SPD also wants to halt the current hiring freeze and start recruitment and hiring again in 2021 in order to maintain this staffing level. Otherwise with expected attrition they will fall below 1400 officers, and in addition, it takes some time to begin recruitment and training so needs to be planned ahead.

It’s also worth noting, in regards to the revised 2020 budget, the Mayor has asked the Council to reconsider the command staff pay cuts and has noted that the $200k cut to legally obligated hiring bonuses needs to be revisited, as it violates the City charter. You can read more here about the Mayor’s take on implementing the revised 2020 budget, including copies of the three recent letters on this subject from the Mayor’s office.


The Mayor’s Plan to Reimagine Public Safety

In an excellent example of the Seattle process, the Mayor is forming the Community Safety Work Group and the Functional IDT. The work group will formulate policy around reimagining public safety based on data and analysis, and the IDT serves the research and analysis function, as well as hopefully presenting an idea of what community wants from SPD. The Mayor presented a timeline for this work; going through the end of 2021, it is vague and repetitive and doesn’t present a very clear picture of what will be happening when.


Potential Issues

  • Although the General Fund is one big pot and can therefore be confusing to assess, it seems clear the $100m for BIPOC communities is coming from the new JumpStart tax revenue that had already been allocated to other purposes, mostly COVID relief in 2021. There is a lot of confusion around this, and lots of numbers being thrown around. There is concern this is taking money away from BIPOC groups that advocated for various JumpStart spending, therefore pitting BIPOC community members against one another. In response to this, community released a statement entitled “Towards a Solidarity Budget.”
  • Of the $14m the Council allocated for community organization ramp-up and gun violence prevention, $4m will be dispersed this year to organizations with already existing city contracts. Because she believes the rest cannot be spent by the end of the year, the Mayor has decided not to execute the interfund loan that was the major source of most of these funds, which the Council intended to repay next year, either with further SPD cuts or with JumpStart tax revenue. However, the Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget has already allocated all JumpStart tax revenue while ignoring this obligation and has also already allocated any savings from SPD, so the Council will be forced to figure out how to pay for the remaining $10m.
  • A task force is being put together of BIPOC community members to recommend priorities for the $100m worth of investment into BIPOC communities. There is concern that this task force won’t truly be representative of the BIPOC community and doesn’t answer the demands for a true participatory budget process. The counter argument is that a participatory budget process takes about a year, and the Mayor wishes to get these funds out the door sooner, potentially by mid-2021.
  • There is concern about having several parallel processes within the BIPOC community, one through this Equitable Communities task force of the Mayor’s, one through the research/PBP led by King County Equity Now funded by the Council, and potentially one led by the IDT for reimagining public safety. It is not known whether these processes will be complimentary, and how they could work together has not been determined. It is possible that a lot of work might be duplicated, or that work could be done at cross purposes.
  • There is concern that the Mayor’s various efforts divorce divestment (aka defunding the police) from the process of investment. Investment without divestment won’t lead to the same systemic changes overall and therefore will have a greatly reduced impact. In addition, this separation could cause various additional sources of confusion.
  • The Mayor says disbanding the Navigation Team could potentially violate the law as interpreted in the Hooper case and moves the SPD in the wrong direction by expanding its sworn officer duties for what should be services provided by civilians. The Council stated its intentions this summer that the money provided by disbanding the Navigation Team should go to community partners providing homelessness services, but it is unclear whether this investment is reflected in the Mayor’s proposed budget. At her town hall last night, CM Herbold said she was concerned because there was no plan to get this money out the door. This might become more clear at the overview on homelessness response presentation tomorrow morning (although I won’t be covering that myself.)

The Seattle Municipal Court Reforms

The Seattle Municipal Court is enacting various reforms that they think will help address current racial inequity:

  • Ending in-person day reporting
  • Moving to a collaborative Community Court model
  • Eliminating various discretionary court fees
  • Decreasing their Probation Services budget by 25%
  • Adding a contract social worker to help with the new Community Court and service referrals
  • Participating in a 3-year bail project

It will be interesting to see how these conversations develop! In the meantime, there will be a public hearing next Tuesday, October 6 at 5:30pm where you can sign up to give public comment on any issues related to the budget, including reimagining public safety. After the final budget overviews tomorrow, the next scheduled budget meeting currently on the calendar isn’t until October 15, when the Council begins their Issue Identification process. Of course, as always, that is subject to change.

Until next time!

On the Budget Meeting Overviews 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 »

The decisions being made in Seattle over the next week are potentially groundbreaking.

All right, let’s dive right into today’s City Council briefing and budget meetings.

We started out with a presentation about an upcoming bill prohibiting the questioning of juveniles by police unless legal counsel is present. This bill sounds solid and important; a similar bill was passed in San Francisco last year, and it sounds like it’s gone very well there. The San Francisco DA speaks highly of it. Hopefully this bill can be voted upon in the next few weeks.

CM Morales was the only council member who commented on the incidents of the weekend, in which the Every Day March went to try to visit Police Chief Best at one of her homes in Snohomish. (Apparently she also has an apartment in Ballard?) Chief Best’s neighbors were armed and chased away the protesters, preventing them from practicing their first amendment rights, and Chief Best wrote to the Council asking them to call for an end to such protester tactics. (Apparently she hasn’t been keeping up with the news since the Council did distance themselves from these tactics last week.) CM Morales says that while they’ve condemned certain tactics, we also have an obligation to understand where the protesters are coming from, and she took exception to the police chief’s response celebrating the protesters meeting with a response from armed neighbors.

Onto the remainder of the amendments!

The Council discussed the last 15 amendments today. Amongst them was CM Sawant’s package of amendments, ten in all (although she withdrew one), that defund the police department by 50% for the rest of this year. Because of labor issues and especially SPOG’s particular level of power, her amendments calling for quick police layoffs are unlikely to be supported by the other CMs. That leaves three of CM Sawant’s amendments that have a chance of passing. Amendment 48 caps SPD combined pay and overtime to $150,000, and CMs seemed amenable to this if certain exceptions were put into place (for example, for the Police Chief), as it has the potential to forcibly reduce overtime. Amendment 52 is a proviso not allowing SPD budget money to be spent to support the prosecution of individuals participating in George Floyd protests except as required by court order, which CM Sawant said was possibly the most important amendment in her package and which other CMs seemed favorable towards given the language is first changed slightly. Amendment 53 immediately moves the 911 call center from the SPD to the FAS, thereby removing SPD’s financial control over 911 response.

Other amendments discussed:

Two amendments were presented that overlap with previously discussed amendments from Friday providing funding to research a new 911 response system and a participatory budgeting process that they’ll probably incorporate together in some fashion.

CM Strauss introduced two amendments (46 and 47) that would require the mayor to submit a report and plan on which SPD departments can be civilianized and would require greater fiscal transparency of the SPD, including fiscal reports every two weeks, reporting of expenses related to defending claims against the SPD (including tracking if there’s any pattern of legal claims against officers), and disclosing all weapon and equipment expenditures. This would also allow them to flag excessive overtime spending. These amendments were both very popular with the CMs.

And finally, CM Morales submitted amendment 40 to defund the Navigation Team and use the money to expand and maintain homelessness outreach and engagement. This one is now co-sponsored by four CMs, and I’m not sure if it will pass, although it definitely has a chance.

What does this all mean?

There are two competing plans being presented here. The one that we went over on Friday from four CMs (Morales, Herbold, Gonzalez, and Mosqueda) potentially defunds the SPD by around 41% in 2021 (although this would have to be hammered out in the 2021 budget process this fall) while not defunding by much this year, supplementing some small SPD cuts with the remainder of the rainy day fund and some of the COVID relief package money to fund community investment in 2020. You can view the blueprint of potential 2021 cuts for this plan, which I think of as the compromise plan. CM Sawant’s plan defunds the SPD by 50% for the rest of this year and reinvests that money into community but potentially runs into labor difficulties that she insists are surmountable. Whether they are or not, she hasn’t garnered support from the other CMs for her plan, making it unlikely to pass in spite of widespread community support for the idea of immediate 50% cuts.

The next budget meeting is on Wednesday, August 5 at 10am (this is a change in schedule), where the CMs will discuss these amendments further and then potentially vote on them. This meeting on Wednesday is probably the most important one in terms of what will be discussed and decided, so now is the time to get in touch with your CMs. The final vote on the amended 2020 budget is scheduled for Monday, August 10. You can sign up for public comment at both of these meetings; signups begin at 8am on Wednesday and at noon on Monday.

My best guess (although I could be wrong) is that some version of the compromise plan will pass on Wednesday, and then the revised 2020 budget and the resolution about the new department of public safety will both pass on Monday. A lot of the details of the amendments are still up in the air, to be hammered out between now and Wednesday, and there is also the question of whether the budget will pass by a veto-proof majority, which would require at least six CMs in support. (Given the Mayor just vetoed the COVID relief bill on Friday night and her general resistance to the Council’s plans regarding the SPD, it’s a real possibility she will also veto this revised 2020 budget.)

The main sticking point on supporting this version of the budget with the compromise SPD amendment plan seems to be the reluctance to spend down the rainy day fund to $0 this year, given the likely revenue shortfalls the city will be facing in 2021 and possibly beyond. (It’s worth noting there is only $12m left in the fund right now, which is a fairly small amount in the grand scheme of a city’s overall budget.) Unfortunately, this money is needed to invest in the community organizations now to give them time to ramp up before shrinking the SPD further in 2021. There is a solid block of support for spending the rainy day fund from CMs Gonzalez, Morales, Herbold, and Mosqueda, who have some confidence they’ll be able to replace the money next year with further SPD cuts, and CM Sawant will likely support their plan as being better than nothing. CM Lewis has reservations, and I still don’t know how CM Strauss feels about it. CM Juarez and Pedersen are less likely to support this expenditure.

Finally, a reminder about a technical aspect of all this, namely, that the Council authorizes spending but can’t force the Mayor to spend. However, there is a way to perhaps get around this by placing provisos on money the Mayor does want to spend and tying it to money she might not otherwise want to spend. How’s that for some fancy bureaucratic juggling?

Twitter avatar for @michaeljmaddux

Michael Maddux (↙️↙️↙️) @michaeljmaddux
This is an important part of the conversation. Many @SeattleCouncil Central Staff ACTIVELY oppose provisos. However, a proviso on something the mayor wants is the only way to ensure families and small biz are helped. Keep that in mind when you call, write, and testify.
Twitter avatar for @SCC_Insight

SCC Insight @SCC_Insight

However, all the Council can do is authorize the spending; they can’t directly force the Mayor to actually spend it. Though they sort-of can indirectly; they can put a proviso on money that Durkan wants to spend that locks it up until she spends the money she doesn’t want to.

I know this is all complicated, so thanks for bearing with me. The Wednesday meetings will be very interesting indeed!

The decisions being made in Seattle over the next week are potentially groundbreaking. Read More »