East Precinct abandonment

Hunger Games in the King County budget?

It has been a very eventful week in local news, but unfortunately, I have sprained my hand and am unable to type at any length. So until it’s healed, I will be providing a list of links to help keep you informed of the latest developments.

Particular points of interest:

  • King County is facing a budget shortage that could result in cutting many crucial upstream programs including gun violence prevention, public health drug prevention and treatment programs, adult and juvenile jail diversion programs, youth programming and job training, public health disease tracking and prevention, and more. Part of this budget gap could be alleviated if the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services levy, which will be on the ballot in August, is increased from $0.10 per $1,000 of property value to $0.12. The King County Council is scheduled to vote on what level to include in the final ballot measure early next week.
  • The Washington State legislative session is over, and the legislature failed to pass a new drug law dealing with the Blake decision. The stop gap law expires in July, and there is talk of a special session happening before then to try to come to some kind of compromise. In the meantime, Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison, along with Seattle CMs Nelson and Pederson, have suggested a new drug law for Seattle, but CM Herbold has said she wants to wait to see what might come from a special session first.
  • This week the Urbanist published an article exposing yet more lies that were told around the abandonment of the East Precinct in the summer of 2020.

Resources & Commentary:

Our Full Polling Results on Community Safety Departments

Bail Reform: What to Know and Where to Go for More

“Real public safety problems”

Chicago Victory

The Law Won’t Save Us


“Please Stop on the Teams Chat”: New Records Expose Mayor Durkan’s Role and Others in Abandonment of East Precinct

Proposal to Make Public Drug Use a Misdemeanor Unlikely to Have Much Visible Impact

New public drug use, possession legislation proposed in Seattle

Central Staff memo on new legislation amending the crime of Obstructing a Public Officer to include obstruction of Seattle Fire Department (SFD) firefighters and other fire department personnel.

Annual financial disclosures for Seattle elected officials

The Battle for the Seattle City Council, Part 1: The Incumbents

The Battle for Seattle City Council, Part 2: D1 and D3 Free-for-All

The Battle for Seattle City Council, Part 3: D4 and D5 Scramble

Essential Workers Protest Harrell’s “Insulting” 1 Percent Pay Increase Offer

Here’s why the Lavender Rights Project, county officials, and Seattle’s mayor think this Capitol Hill apartment building is the right place to start a new approach to creating supportive housing and putting a real dent in the homelessness crisis

Edmonds Police Arrested Two Senior Seattle Cops for DUI

King County:

King County crisis center measure leads at first vote drop

King County voters approve crisis care centers levy

King County asking for community input on budget cuts after state’s failure to fix county’s broken tax system

Will Voter Approval of Crisis Centers Spur a More Ambitious Vets and Human Services Levy?

WA State Legislature:

Olympia Shatters Plan to Reboot Its War on Drugs

WA Legislature fails to pass new drug law; special session likely

No Clear Path Toward Criminalizing Drugs in Washington

How the implosion of WA’s drug possession law could spell disaster for addiction support services

Washington to invest more in 988 mental health crisis line

The bills that survived Washington’s 2023 legislative session

Washington Legislature unveils $69.2B two-year state budget

Hunger Games in the King County budget? Read More »

The WA State Legislature session is heating up

WA State Legislature News

There are lots of bills that you can support this week! Hopefully having them listed all in one place will make your life a little bit easier.
First, HB 1756 (solitary confinement) has a hearing in the House Appropriations committee on tomorrow at 3:30pm.
Next is SB 5919, which would expand the use of high-speed vehicular pursuits, lower the expectations for officer de-escalation, and expand the use of physical force by officers. Fun times! People Power Washington – Police Accountability opposes this bill.
Next is SB 5485, which would end traffic stops for certain low-level violations. It has a hearing in the Senate Transportation committee on Thursday, February 3 at 4pm. It is a bit late in the session to get this bill through, but it’s still important to signal support.
Lastly, HB 1788 and HB 2037 are scheduled for an executive session in the House Public Safety Committee on Thursday, February 3rd at 10am. HB 1788 lowers the threshold for when officers can engage in high-speed vehicular chases, and HB 2037 would allow officers to use force anytime someone is fleeing from a Terry stop. People Power Washington – Police Accountability opposes these bills, as does the Washington Coalition of Police Accountability. You can email the members of the Public Safety committee to urge them to NOT to pass these two bills out of committee. Email addresses and a script are available here.
There is also a rally against all these rollbacks planned for Thursday, February 3 at the Capitol building in Olympia at 11am.

Seattle News

Even more information about what was going on behind the scenes during the summer 2020 protests was revealed by the Seattle Times this weekend. As the article states: “The summer of 2020 was an impactful period, yet many City Hall deliberations — such as work on a potential East Precinct transfer — happened behind closed doors, leaving journalists and residents in the dark.”
Apparently there was talk in the Mayor’s Office of transferring the East Precinct building to Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County. A draft resolution to make this happen was prepared for Mayor Durkan’s review. There is some disagreement as to whether FAS drafted the resolution independently due to its director’s “can-do spirit” or whether the Durkan administration contacted FAS to outline the process of transferring the property. Of course, in the end, SPD moved back into the East Precinct on July 1, but the fact that details of that time period keep coming to light more than a year and a half later is very disturbing and speaks to a pervasive lack of transparency between local government and Seattle residents.

Recent Headlines

Seattle's 2022 election season is already heating up | Crosscut

Redmond officer who killed woman had been fired from another law-enforcement agency | The Seattle Times

Behind the scenes in the race for King County prosecutor | Roegner | Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber

Much of America wants policing to change. But these self-proclaimed experts tell officers they’re doing just fine.

The WA State Legislature session is heating up Read More »

Law enforcement officers and the COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Need a little break from budget talk? This is the issue for you!

Vaccine Mandate and the KCSO and SPD

In order to be fully vaccinated by the date mandated, law enforcement officers needed to get their second shot by yesterday, Monday, October 5. There has been a lot of speculation as to how many officers will refuse to get vaccinated.
At this morning’s King County Law & Justice meeting, Councilmember Dunn said 50-100 KCSCO officers may leave as a result of the vaccine mandate.
Paul Faruq Kiefer
Per councilmember Dunn, some 50-100 KCSO officers may leave the department in response to the county’s vaccine mandate; he says that police departments in his district have received applications from some of those officers.
But wait, there’s more! Carolyn Bick reported on a lengthy email sent yesterday by Sergeant Lefler to the entire King County Sheriff’s Department offering to “lead the charge” against the vaccine mandate and claiming there are thousands who have requested exemptions. To be clear, KCSO employs about 750 deputies.
Meanwhile, over in Seattle, reporter Brandi Kruse of FOX13 says SPD has told her that as of today, 354 sworn officers haven’t yet submitted proof of vaccination. Paul Kiefer breaks down next steps in the tweet thread below:
Paul Faruq Kiefer
In theory, the at-risk letter for city employees goes out tomorrow – and the letter going to SPOG members will be unlike the letter sent to other employees. In less than two weeks, the city will have the option to implement the mandate without reaching an agreement with SPOG. https://t.co/KH1grAzwQ6

OPA News

Yesterday the OPA released its report on the abandonment of the East Precinct that took place in June 2020, leading to the creation of CHOP/CHAZ. It did not find that either former Chief Best or Assistant Chief Mahaffey neglected their duty nor that the department should be found at fault for waiting as long as it did to reoccupy the East Precinct.
What does come across in the OPA report is the complete chaos and mess involved in the abandonment of the East Precinct. From an interview with a witness:
“Upon arriving at the East Precinct, WO#1 described a “gut-wrenching situation” as officers in an “absolute panic” were “ripping open lockers” and “kicking in doors in the offices” in order to secure weapons, computers, and hard drives. WO#1 stated that he organized the supervisors to get them to “take a breath” and approach the situation in a “methodical manner.” The overall effect on the officers was “hugely demoralizing,” according to WO#1. WO#1 described seeing “a lot of officers […] crying” that day and that the situation was “one of the more difficult events that I’ve been though in my life.””
There is also a lack of clarity as to whether then Chief Best (NE#1) was aware of the plan to abandon the precinct, or whether it was entirely Assistant Chief’ Mahffey’s (NE#@2) decision:
“Ultimately, the evidence is conflicting as to whether NE#1 explicitly approved the plan to evacuate the East Precinct, or if NE#2 made this decision independently. OPA believes it much more likely that this ambiguity was the result of a number of complicated decisions being made during a highly stressful, rapidly evolving situation. However, regardless of this dispute of fact, the evidence is clear—predominantly based on NE#1’s statement—that, even if NE#2 decided independently to evacuate the East Precinct, he had full discretionary authority to make that decision.”
The OPA’s only policy recommendation is regarding improvement of external communications, which seems like an obvious place to focus. However, the OPA refrains from offering any guidance on creating guidelines for when and how SPD should evacuate precincts in future. As Kevin Schofield writes:
But what is perhaps more unsettling is the lack of any recommendations for how decisions should be made around SPD’s potential abandonment of facilities, regardless of whether the emergency is a riot, a fire, an earthquake, or some other form of natural or man-made event. Crisis-response experts make clear that as much as possible planning and decision-matrices should be done in advance, when the pressure of the moment isn’t clouding judgement. In this case, it’s clear that SPD did not (and probably still does not) have clear criteria for when (or how) to evacuate a precinct building, and how to do so in a manner that minimizes impacts and maintains public safety and police services. If that isn’t fixed, then the city will have truly learned nothing from last summer’s events.
In related news, OPA Director Andrew Myerberg is interviewing for a job in Phoenix, Arizona so he’s actively looking for other opportunities.
Amy Sundberg
Hmm, Andrew Myerberg is interviewing elsewhere. Interesting. https://t.co/goqu029k8j

Quick News Bullet Points

  • This week’s Seattle Council Briefing was blessedly short!
Amy Sundberg
Good morning! Welcome to today’s Seattle Council Briefing. The Council has a few days executive sessions this morning so with any luck this meeting will be on the brief side this time. 😂
  • An opinion piece in Crosscut by Katie Wilson opines that in the current redistricting process, it might be best if the partisan commissioners cannot reach agreement by November 15, as the State Supreme Court could then hire an independent expert who would draw the maps based on constitutional standards instead of political considerations. The piece also gives a good summary of some of the issues currently at play in this process.
  • The King County Public Safety Advisory Committee has released their report with recommendations for hiring a new sheriff and improving public safety at the county level. You can read it yourself here!
  • Another tidbit from today’s King County Law & Justice meeting: the new director of OLEO reported that the King County Sheriff’s Office has not moved forward on the majority of OLEO recommendations for policy and procedural changes. He also mentioned the need to remove barriers for oversight from collective bargaining.
Paul Faruq Kiefer
Another note from Dir. Abouzeid (as part of OLEO’s annual report): KCSO has not moved forward with the vast majority of policy/procedure changes recommended by OLEO.
There’s a steeply declining curve starting at a one minute reporting delay after a crime that predicts whether or not a rapid response will directly lead to an arrest. At five minutes, a rapid response is no more effective than one taking an hour.
Out of 274,000 911 calls in 2019, just about 3,200 were classified as “In Progress / Just Occurred” (“IPJO”) on the public SPD crime dashboard. Some of them weren’t crimes (such as risk of suicide or injury accident, where “someone with a gun” might not really be the optimal responder). So on the order of 1% of 911 calls are cases where a rapid response by an armed officer is highly likely to lead to an arrest as a result.
This is particularly relevant during the current SPD budget discussions since 911 call response times are generally held up as a compelling reason why SPD staffing numbers should be maintained/increased versus being shrunk.

Recent Headlines

Police killings of civilians in the US have been undercounted by more than half in official statistics

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Understanding the Mayor's Proposed 2022 Budget, Part III: Expenses

Law enforcement officers and the COVID-19 vaccine mandate Read More »

Seattle News Salad

I was on vacation last week, and quite a lot happened! Get ready because this newsletter is a bit on the long side.

East Precinct Abandonment Last Summer

Yes, we finally found out what happened on June 8, 2020 when the SPD abandoned the East Precinct on Capitol Hill, thanks to KUOW’s investigative report. It turns out Assistant Chief Tom Mahaffey, the incident commander, was the one who made the call, without the knowledge of Chief Best or the Mayor’s office. The OPA’s report on this incident is expected shortly.

More on the 6 SPD Officers at “Stop the Steal”

There have been a flurry of articles about the findings of the OPA’s investigation of the six SPD officers who were in Washington DC for the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6. A key point of contention being discussed is whether simply attending the rally constitutes protected speech for police officers (meaning speech protected by the first amendment), which would determine whether the four officers not found to have behaved illegally should also be disciplined.
CM Lisa Herbold had this to say:
Whether they were “directly involved” in the insurrection, or if they attended with the intent to passively support the unlawful insurrection and violent assault of our nation’s Capitol, neither act is an example of protected free speech nor should our support of free speech shield accountability for these acts.
If public employees knowingly travelled to a location in support of people whom they knew were intending to attempt an insurrection, even if their participation was as a passive observer, that is a ‘clear connection between conduct and duties or…responsibilities’ and is an offense that merits termination. I will review the OPA investigation with an eye towards whether questions were asked of the four officers without sustained findings, and whether evidence was sought, to determine the advance knowledge they had of the planned violent events at the Capitol insurrection of January 6.
CP González has said the remaining four officers should be disciplined. You can also find out what other current candidates think about the case.
Another interesting aspect of this case is the way it highlights the limitations placed on the OPA by not having the ability to subpoena SPD officers, especially since SPOG has filed a grievance against the OPA for instead ordering the officers to give them personal documents related to their activities in DC. OPA Director Myerberg said:
In practice, we’re very limited in how we can obtain information and documents from officers…but we’ve been told repeatedly that we don’t need subpoena power because we can just order officers to turn over records. And obviously, given the union’s objections to the order we issued, that’s not really the case.
Next up, there will be a due process hearing on August 5 for the two officers with sustained complains against them, after which Chief Diaz will decide whether to terminate their employment. They will then have the opportunity to appeal his decision through arbitration. There is an open OPA case about one of the other officers who refused to provide his personal records when ordered to do so; there may also be another OPA case addressing the fact that the two officers with sustained findings against them appear to have lied during the original OPA investigation.

OPA and OIG News

The South Seattle Emerald has obtained several additional OIG partial certifications on OPA investigations, after reporting on the one for the protest at SPOG HQ last September. Of six completed investigations that received only a partial certification, all six were certified “not thorough” and one was also certified “not objective.” Four of these cases were protest-related. The “thoroughness” issues tend to involve insufficient questioning, overlooked witnesses, and ignoring certain parts of cases.
Meanwhile, the OPA investigation of Officer Ron Willis, the officer who made $414,543.06 in 2019 while working several 90-hour weeks and more than one greater than 24-hour day, has been completed. He was suspended for one day without pay. Meanwhile, SPD’s system of tracking overtime has still yet to be overhauled, and the new promised automated timekeeping system has yet to go live, five years after an audit that called attention to these problems.

Election News

How do the endorsements of The Stranger and The Seattle Times stack up?
Seattle Mayor: M. Lorena González vs. Bruce Harrell
King County Executive: Joe Nguyen vs. Dow Constantine
SCC Position 8: Teresa Mosqueda vs No Endorsement
SCC Position 9: Nikkita Oliver vs. Sara Nelson
Seattle City Attorney: Nicole Thomas-Kennedy vs. Ann Davison
King County Council #3: Sarah Perry vs. Kathy Lambert
King County Council #7: Saudia J. Abdullah vs. Pete von Reichbauer
King County Council #9: Chris Franco vs. Reagan Dunn
We also have some new polls! In the race for Seattle City Attorney, Pete Holmes is coming in at 16% and his opponents Nicole Thomas Kennedy and Ann Davison are both coming in at 14%, with 53% undecided. For an incumbent who won by a large margin last time, this is a surprisingly weak showing for Holmes. And in the Seattle mayor’s race, Bruce Harrell is coming in with 20%, M. Lorena González with 12%, and Colleen Echohawk with 10%, with 32% undecided.
Meanwhile, this poll (it’s important to note the polling size is only 524) asked respondents who they would vote for in different head-to-head Seattle mayor’s races:
Echohawk 51% vs Harrell 49%
Harrell 65% vs González 35%
Echohawk 69% vs González 31 %
Washington Research Group, who conducted the poll, had this to say about the upcoming race:
There are two major factors driving this election:
1) Extreme voter anger – targeted at the Seattle City Council.
2) ONE ISSUE (next tweet).
I’ve been fielding and reading polls for 30 years and I’ve never seen people this pissed. 1994 wasn’t this bad. https://t.co/Xz7sZjite4

The one issue referenced above? Homelessness.

News Tidbits

The Seattle City Council finally passed their new less lethal weapons bill out of committee. However, it won’t be voted on by the Full Council until after a consent decree status conference with Judge Robart on August 10.
Seattle City Council’s Central Staff wrote a memo analyzing how much the Compassion Seattle proposed charter amendment might cost. As Kevin Schofield writes, “…The answer is complicated, because there are varied interpretations of vague language in the bill. At the low end: $30 million up-front capital costs, and $40 million annually in ongoing operational costs. At the high end: $839 million in capital costs and $97 million annually for operations.” This is a huge spread, of course, which shows how widely the amendment can be interpreted.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of the families of people killed by police officers, restoring reforms to the inquest process in King County that have been on hold for the last few years.
King County is looking at two finalists to become the new Director of OLEO (Office of Law Enforcement Oversight): Eddie Aubrey and Tamer Abouzaid. Both are similar in their outlook for the organization, although only Abouzaid said he’d support a state law prohibiting police unions from negotiating on issues of oversight.
The City of Seattle has filed a countersuit against The Seattle Times. If you’ll remember, the Times filed a suit against the City because of mishandled public record requests, including Mayor Durkan’s missing text messages. It’s also worth noting the City’s legal strategy for this matter is decided by City Attorney Pete Holmes, who is up for re-election.
Remember Mayor Durkan’s pot of $30m in this year’s budget for the Equitable Communities Initiative? Well, she has asked the Seattle City Council to lift the proviso on those funds, unveiling her spending plan proposal based on recommendations from the task force. Most of the funds will be dispersed through the RFP process. This legislation will be discussed at the Finance and Housing committee meeting on July 20.

Recent Headlines and Tweets

Paul Faruq Kiefer
Some stats from this report: Native people are nine times more likely to be stopped by SPD than white people (and Black people are five times more likely), but white people were more likely to be carrying a weapon when they were stopped. https://t.co/LnHZTDL8Nm

Seattle News Salad Read More »