Dow Constantine

Innocent Bystanders are the Losers in this Week’s WA Senate Shenanigans

Seattle News:

Erica C. Barnett has uncovered additional information about the call to which Officer Dave was allegedly responding when he hit and killed student Jaahnavi Kandula. The call was not an opiate overdose as has been implied; instead it was a “suspected overdose” responded to by a single aid car as the caller was lucid at the time of the call, and was finished within 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, this incident appears to have reignited a dispute between SPD and SFD about who should respond to medical emergencies. An SFD union leader wrote to Mayor Harrell objecting to SPD officers being trained as EMTs and then being deployed to medical emergencies, while former SFD assistant chief A.D. Vickery “said he’s heard alarming reports about police officers “racing to the scene, putting everybody at risk, so they can be the first one to the patient.””

Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee has released their 2023 work plan.

King County News:

At this week’s Law, Justice, Health, and Human Services committee meeting, King County council members agreed to move up to 150 male inmates from the King County Jail to the regionally owned SCORE jail in Des Moines. The council plans to work out the details to adopt this plan by the end of March, with the goal of moving 50 male inmates beginning in April. This move would require defense attorneys to visit a third jail to see their clients, and SCORE only has one booth where attorneys can pass documents and the like back and forth with their clients. SCORE also doesn’t allow in-person visitation of inmates except with their attorneys.

A new report about JustCARE, completed in January of this year, shows the program has markedly increased its effectiveness: 

“The dramatic increase in the share of JustCARE participants who secured permanent housing at the time of exit appears to reflect three main developments: The shift to longer-term funding for JustCARE from the KCRHA and City of Seattle, which made longer term arrangements possible; The increased availability of affordable, low-barrier permanent housing resources in King County, and Effective coordination by the Public Defender Association and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) that ensures that JustCARE participants are able to access those resources.”

Executive Constantine gave his State of the County address this week, in which he said there will be cuts to essential services as soon as this fall without help from state lawmakers, as property taxes, one of the County’s main sources of revenue, are capped at a 1% increase per year, which is being far outpaced by the current rate of inflation. He also spoke about the King County Jail, as reported by Kate Stone:

“Constantine did emphasize the need to address the behavioral health system with regards to the jail. State law says when a person charged with a crime is deemed not competent to stand trial, the state has seven days to transfer them out of jail and provide the person with mental health services until they are found competent. According to Constantine, that’s not happening in King County.

“Through a lack of funding, a lack of capacity, or a lack of political will, the backlog has left hundreds of people around our state waiting in a jail cell for the help they need. For King County, there are around 100 people languishing in our custody on any given day … some for up to 10 months,” he told the county council. He said only action from the state would be sufficient to address that problem.” 

WA State Legislature News:

This past Wednesday was the cutoff for bills to be passed out of their house of origin, leading to a flood of bill deaths. The following bills are no longer active for this session:

  • HB 1513 regarding traffic stops
  • HB 1024 regarding minimum wage for inmates
  • SB 5383 regarding decriminalizing jaywalking
  • HB 1025, regarding civil liability for police
  • HB 1445, regarding giving the state’s Attorney General powers of investigation & reform 

HB 1579 for an independent prosecutor passed the House and is now being considered in the Senate. The middle housing bill also passed the House. 

The Senate passed a drug possession bill requiring coercive treatment as well as failing to decriminalize drug possession. This will now be considered in the House.

In alarming news, the Senate passed a bill rolling back limitations on high-speed vehicular pursuits, even though the new limitations have been shown to be saving lives, including those of innocent bystanders. Senator Dhingra had refused to give this bill a hearing during committee meetings earlier in the session, but the Senate suspended the rules in order to push this bill to the floor on the last possible day for its consideration. It would lower the standard for police to begin a chase from probable cause to reasonable suspicion. Disappointingly, several Democrats voted in favor of this rollback. 

Recent Headlines:

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The Ongoing Crisis at the King County Jail

King County News

News broke a few weeks ago about Michael Rowland, a Black homeless man experiencing a mental health crisis who died in the King County Jail on April 19th of last year after being put into the prone position twice, once by SPD officers when they arrested him and again by corrections officers at the jail. There is research showing that using the prone position can be dangerous, for example by increasing the chances of cardiac arrest. As Sydney Brownstone and Greg Kim write:

Rowland’s death probably should have been classified as a homicide, according to Maastricht University professor of forensic medicine Dr. Michael Freeman, who reviewed the autopsy report at the request of The Seattle Times.

Also exposed in this article is the fact that two days after Rowland’s death, Tim Burgess, the director of strategic initiatives for the Mayor’s Office, complained that the jail was refusing to book people whose medical issues could be handled in the jail: 

“I’m fearful,” Burgess wrote, “that I will hear next that an arrestee has a hangnail and is declined.”

The King County Jail has been dodged by problems in recent months. The jail has experienced an extremely high rate of suicide since 2020, along with severe understaffing. Nor was it following a 2021 state law requiring it to publicly post analyses of unexpected jail deaths within 120 days until a Seattle Times article revealed this failure. It was also without potable water for a month last fall. 

In the summer of 2020, Executive Dow Constantine said the following in his State of the County address:

 

Completed in 1986, the King County Correctional Center is decrepit and expensive to operate, and its physical layout does not lend itself to behavioral health and other care…We must reimagine King County’s downtown Seattle campus in light of the realities today. And the old jail must at some point come down. As we prepare the budget later this year,  I intend to propose a phased closing of the King County Correctional Center after the pandemic.

WA State News


The 2023 state legislative session begins next week! Possibly on the docket include bills that would ban solitary confinement, reduce stops for low-level traffic violations, establish an independent prosecutor for the state, allow the Attorney General to investigate and sue police departments illustrating patterns of misconduct, remove qualified immunity, and eliminate the jaywalking law. We will also see legislators continue to grapple with addressing the Blake decision; at least two bills will be introduced for this purpose, one of which will focus on decriminalizing drug possession as well as providing treatment.

A few upcoming dates: Friday, February 17 is the policy committee cutoff; a bill must be passed from its policy committee by this date. Friday, February 24 is the fiscal committee cutoff, when a bill must be passed through any necessary financial committee. And Wednesday, March 8 is the deadline for bills passing out of their house of origin. Legislative sessions in Washington alternate between long and short sessions, and this year we have a long one, so that means there will be continuing action in Olympia until April 24.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson released his office’s legal opinions of questions relating to 2021’s bills 1310 and 1054, both of which have generated controversy in spite of being fairly mild. 1054 banned police use of chokeholds and neck restraints, while 1310 required de-escalation if possible and limited officer use of force in some situations. 1310 was partially rolled back last year after pushback from police departments and police unions. Ferguson prefaces his remarks on the legal interpretation of the laws by stating: 

As we noted in our previous Opinion addressing the first three questions, the answers to your questions are extremely difficult because reasonable minds disagree about the correct legal conclusions. We provide legal answers for them here, but must acknowledge that these answers are debatable and uncertain.

Tina Podlodowski is stepping down as Chair of the WA State Democrats, and Shasti Conrad, a two-term Chair of the King County Democrats,  has announced her candidacy.

Seattle News

This week has been a relatively slow news week for Seattle, but there are a few items of note. First, the City Council finally confirmed Adrian Diaz as SPD’s Chief. He has been serving as Interim Chief since Carmen Best resigned in 2020.

And second, CM Pedersen has announced he will not be running for a second term, making him the third councilmember with intentions of leaving at the end of the year, along with CM Herbold and CP Juarez. The remaining four councilmembers whose terms end this year have not yet announced their plans.

Recent Headlines

 

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