elections

Are $230 Million in Seattle Budget Cuts Even Possible? Budget Director Says No.

Seattle News:

This week at Seattle’s Public Safety committee meeting, the committee discussed SPD testing, recruiting, and retention. Then on Thursday night, Mayor Harrell hosted a public safety forum at the Seattle Public Library. He plans to hold more informal public safety forums by precinct in the month of April.

Fascinating things were said at both of these meetings, and I’m currently working on a longer piece analyzing them more thoroughly. More on this, hopefully next week! 

City Council is teed up to vote on a resolution at next week’s 3/19 meeting that appear to eliminate several Statements of Legislative Intent (SLI) passed by last year’s Council. One of the SLIs not appearing on the new list is the request for an evaluation of Seattle’s current gun violence prevention programs. More specifically, the SLI requested that “HSD and CSCC/CARE perform a gap analysis of the City’s current and priority investments in gun violence prevention as compared to the recommendations in the King County Regional Community Safety and Wellbeing (RCSWB) Plan, and identify complementary, duplicative, or gaps in services provided by the City and King County.” 

It is ironic that at a time when the city is trying to pressure through three concerning surveillance technologies with the justification that the city is struggling with gun violence, they are not willing to even finish a basic evaluation of already existing investments that won’t cost a penny.

Following up on the news about the City Attorney trying to disqualify Judge Vaddadi from hearing cases, the Seattle Times reports that certain defense attorneys are independently trying to find a way to fight back by having Vaddadi sign subpoenas and then arguing her signature on these documents means she shouldn’t be unilaterally removed from hearing the cases:

In an interview, Vaddadi confirmed attorneys had sent her “fewer than a hundred” subpoenas to sign, which she did, but said she was unaware of any strategy by attorneys to get her back on the calendar. She, and at least some of her colleagues, interpret the court’s rules to mean that any judge can sign any subpoena sent to them.

“I would never strategize with one party or another, that would be incredibly unethical,” she said.”

Regarding Seattle’s upcoming enormous budget deficit, Crosscut recently reported that Julie Dingley, the city’s budget director, had said they will not be able to make $230 million worth of cuts by the beginning of 2025, and has suggested they will have to come up with one-time strategies to stagger implementation of such a large amount of cuts. It’s worth noting that Seattle is required by law to have a balanced budget. 

The same article reports that Councilmember Kettle supports having JumpStart tax funds go directly to the general fund to help balance it instead of honoring the spending plan for the tax that is currently in city statute. The JumpStart tax is currently the top source of funding for affordable housing in the city, so redirecting it in such a way would have consequences to the already meager store of affordable housing. 

Election News:

Tanya Woo has officially declared her candidacy for the Seattle City Council seat that she currently holds as an interim appointee. No other candidates for the seat have yet filed.

Perennial state lawmaker Frank Chopp has announced his retirement, and Shaun Scott has announced his candidacy to take over the 43rd Legislative District seat. And he is coming out swinging! Here is the first paragraph of his press release announcing his candidacy:

“The past four years have dealt a lifetime of challenges to residents of the 43rd Legislative District. The working class has seen costs of living increase, while major corporations dominate local elections and evade taxes. Renters can’t afford rent. For young people, the reality of a permanently altered climate lingers like smoke. Students are punished for attending state universities with a life sentence of debt. Disabled and immunocompromised Washingtonians enjoy few public accommodations, and Long COVID looms as a public health emergency. While Washingtonians hope a Democrat-controlled State Legislature and Governor’s office will support staple programs such as special education funding and the resumption of free meals in public schools, MAGA Republicans in cahoots with the billionaire class have launched initiatives to rollback recent state-level wins on climate sustainability and fair taxes.”

Scott is the Policy Lead at the Statewide Poverty Action Network, which is the advocacy arm of Solid Ground, which was founded by his predecessor Chopp. He is known for his run for City Council for D4 in 2019, a race he lost to Alex Pedersen by 4 points while being wildly outspent. Scott also authored the state-level guaranteed basic income (GBI) pilot in 2022.

King County News:

The Washington State Bar Association recently passed new standards for public defenders that will reduce their caseloads. While these standards will affect the entire state, they particularly impact King County because attorneys in King County are required to follow standards that the WSBA adopts.

Publicola reported that Executive Constantine was “alarmed enough” about this possibility that he had his general counsel send a letter to the WSBA asking them not to adopt these new standards. It is likely he is concerned about how this will impact funding for public defense, given the County is currently facing a two-year $100 million budget deficit. 

Publicola said: “According to DPD director Anita Khandelwal, that means the county must either hire enough attorneys—along with support staff like paralegals, social workers, and investigators—to meet the new standards or invest in alternatives to prosecution and incarceration, reducing caseloads by reducing the number of cases.” But Khandelwal argues it doesn’t have to be a budget question, as the County has three years to potentially ramp up alternative programming that would reduce their dependence on the traditional criminal legal system.

Recent Headlines:

 

Are $230 Million in Seattle Budget Cuts Even Possible? Budget Director Says No. Read More »

A Mixed Seattle Budget, While a $221 Million Deficit Still Looms

Seattle News:

This week the Seattle City Council voted on all the amendments for the 2024 budget. Votes of particular note are as follows:

  • The funding for ShotSpotter remains in the budget, with CMs Strauss, Lewis, Juarez, Pedersen, and Nelson voting in favor. (This is in spite of a press release from City Council PR talking about how bad ShotSpotter is.) This also means services for tiny house villages will be cut in 2024. The next step to implement ShotSpotter in Seattle will be a surveillance impact report (SIR), which includes a racial equity toolkit.
  • The Council increased the JumpStart tax a small amount to generate $20m in order to fund mental health supports for Seattle’s students. Voting in favor were Mosqueda, Sawant, Herbold, Morales, and Juarez. The Stranger covered this vote as well.
  • A proviso telling SPD to re-initiate a contract with Truleo was passed, in spite of objections from ACLU Washington.
  • Both amendments offering additional resources for domestic violence victims were passed.
  • The $4.5 million for SPD special events bonuses to support the MOU with SPOG was included in the budget, taken from planning reserves. The vote on the actual MOU will take place at Full Council sometime in December. 
  • All human service workers, including those working under Continuum of Care contracts, received their 2% raise.
  • Funds were added to increase food security and violence prevention programs, and a SLI was requested to evaluate current gun violence prevention programs.
  • Money was removed from SPD for the Affected Persons Program, and money was added to HSD ($100k) for the same, to be contracted out to a community-based organization.

You can also read a budget wrap-up at Publicola.

Some light was also shed on the new progressive revenue sources conversation. As previously mentioned, the JumpStart tax will be increased to generate an additional $20m. CM Pedersen would like to repeal a water fee and use a 2% city-wide capital gains tax (with a $250k standard deduction) to make up the lost revenue. Projections show such a capital gains tax might generate $38 million, although it comes from a small pool of taxpayers and has an unusually high degree of uncertainty, due to market volatility and the ability for taxpayers to potentially avoid the tax by declaring a permanent home outside Seattle. CM Pedersen’s hope is that the repeal of the water fee and passage of the capital gains tax would be revenue neutral. The Council could, however, choose to pass only the capital gains tax in order to try to begin to address the 2025 budget deficit.

As for the CEO high pay ratio tax that we’ve been hearing about, we learned bad news. The original plan was to build this tax as another level of the JumpStart tax, which would make it easier to implement. However, doing it in this fashion would only generate about $7.5 million annually, which is much lower than expected. There are potentially other ways to implement a tax like this that don’t use JumpStart as a vehicle and might collect significantly more revenue, but the work has not been done by the City to enable this at present.

If the Council’s budget passes next week without substantial changes, the revenue deficit the city will be facing in 2025 stands at $221 million. The Budget Committee will vote on the final budget package on Monday, November 20, with a Full Council final budget vote on Tuesday, November 21. There will be one additional budget meeting on Thursday, November 30 for CMs to vote on the capital gains tax and water fee as well as various budget processes and transparency legislation. These further budget-related matters will receive a Full Council vote in December.

We also learned a bit more about the MOU with SPOG. First, the special event bonuses will expire at the beginning of 2026 and will not be automatically included as a line item in the full SPOG contract currently being negotiated. Second, the MOU will allow SPD officers to clear the scene for the new CARE responders without being physically present if they so choose. And third, the $225 bonuses were calculated to basically provide SPD officers performing a special events shift with double time pay (normal overtime is time and a half) at their current pay rate. However, when their pay rate goes up in the next SPOG contract, the bonus will remain at the same amount. You can read more about this at The Stranger.

The plan is for this MOU to be voted on at Full Council on Tuesday, December 5 at 2pm. There will be an opportunity to give public comment at this meeting.

In other labor news, the office of Mayor Harrell sent a condescending email to city workers with tips about spending less money. The reason these workers are struggling financially? Because they are not being given raises commensurate with inflation. Classy move.

In election news, it looks like the Seattle City Council will move further towards the center, a movement that has been ongoing as is exemplified by votes this year for the drug criminalization bill and ShotSpotter, among others.

Housekeeping:

As I don’t expect much to change with Seattle’s budget at this point, and due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll be taking the rest of November off. There’ll be another edition of the newsletter published the first week of December.

Recent Headlines:

A Mixed Seattle Budget, While a $221 Million Deficit Still Looms Read More »

Will Seattle Pay SPOG a Premium to Let Others Help SPD with its Staffing Woes?

Seattle News

Most of this week has been elections, elections, elections. As of this writing, a few Seattle councilmember races are still too close to call, but we’re seeing a definitive shift to the right.

It looks like CM Mosqueda will be moving over to the King County Council next year, and she has announced she intends to step down from Seattle City Council at the beginning of next year, when the new Council will be able to appoint a replacement. In the meantime, she’ll be busy getting the 2024 budget passed as well as finishing up other budget work.

SPD Detective Cookie Boudin has followed up her spring tort claim by suing the City. She is seeking an unspecified amount of damages, saying she’s spent her whole career dealing with a pattern of racist harrassment. The trial date has been set for November 4, 2024. 

KUOW reported that a cooking show/class at PCC hosted by SPD Chief Diaz and special guest former Chief Best cost the city $2000 in overtime this past Saturday, as five other SPD employees were paid to attend: two bodyguards, a community outreach officer, a patrol officer, and an executive assistant. Four more similar events have been scheduled and in total could cost more than $9000 in overtime. “Current numbers show the department will be between $1.5 to $4.6 million over budget by year end, Jamie Housen, spokesperson with the mayor’s office, wrote by email. He said overtime costs were mostly to blame.”

The Firefighters have reached a tentative contract with the city that isn’t good news for workers. It gives minimum annual wage increases of 2-4%, as well as a 4.5% raise in 2022 and a 5.5% raise in 2023. Given these rates don’t keep up with the rates of inflation during those same years, this represents a wage cut in real terms. This could bode poorly for the Coalition of City Unions, who have currently been offered a 2.5% wage increase. As Erica C. Barnett writes:In contrast, Seattle police officers received a 17 percent pay increase after their last contract negotiation, with retroactive pay increases between 3 and 4 percent a year for the years they worked without a contract. The city council approved hiring bonuses of up to $30,000 for police last year.”

Seattle Budget and the SPOG MOU 

Seattle’s Budget Committee will be meeting on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week to discuss budget-related legislation and councilmember amendments. Votes on amendments are expected on Tuesday 11/14, with Wednesday’s meeting most likely to consist of discussion of budget proposals and progressive revenue options that aren’t needed to balance the 2024 budget.

There will be an opportunity to give public comment on Monday, November 13 at both 10am and at the public hearing at 5pm. Solidarity Budget will be hosting a budget rally outside City Hall on Monday starting at 4pm. Suggested talking points for public comment and emails are available here.

Solidarity Budget co-hosted a webinar on Wednesday with ACLU Washington on the problems with the ShotSpotter surveillance technology that is currently being given funding in the 2024 budget. You can watch the webinar here, look at the slides, and find more talking points about ShotSpotter here. One of the amendments slated to be voted on next week will require a racial equity toolkit be done on this technology whenever it is moved to a new neighborhood, as opposed to the original plans announced by Senior Deputy Mayor Burgess to only require an omnibus Surveillance Impact Report (SIR). Another amendment would take the $1.5 million currently allocated for this technology and instead spend it on mental health services for tiny house villages, which are currently funded at significantly lower levels in 2024 than they were in 2023.

This week the city also announced a proposal for a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). You can read the Central Staff memorandum on the MOU on page 42 and the full text of the MOU on page 51 of this packet.

The MOU accomplishes three things:

  • It would allow the city flexibility to sometimes use parking enforcement officers to staff special events.
  • It would allow the city to implement its dual dispatch emergency alternative response program. In spite of all the hype around the launch of this pilot, it turns out that until and unless this MOU is agreed upon, police can actively request CARE members only after they’ve arrived at and secured a site for Wellness Check and Person Down Calls, meaning it’s not even a true dual dispatch yet.
  • It would allow the city to use park rangers at parks outside of the downtown area.

There are several problematic aspects of the MOU. Perhaps the biggest one is the agreement to give officers who volunteer to staff special events an additional $225 bonus for each shift worked (in addition to any relevant overtime pay). This bonus is projected to cost $8 million in additional funds through the end of 2025. So here we have a situation in which firefighters are taking a pay cut in real terms if they accept their proposed contract while police officers are getting further bonuses beyond overtime for working special events, increasing SPD’s budget bloat even further at the expense of other core city services.

The rationale behind this odd choice is that right now SPD can only staff these special events through mandatory overtime, which is putting a strain on their workforce. But SPOG is only willing to give these officers relief by allowing other people to do some of the special events work if their officers get paid an extra bonus. Meanwhile, SPD once again went significantly over their overtime budget this year and yet are still willing to spend $2000 in overtime for a cooking class, as mentioned above. 

I’ll also note that once a new section involving extra pay is added to police guild contracts, it tends to be very, very difficult to remove later. Not to mention that this doesn’t appear to show particularly good negotiating tactics on the part of the city, who are still working with SPOG to agree upon a new contract almost three years after its expiration.

Another problematic aspect of the MOU has to do with the new dual dispatch pilot. This MOU restricts the number of responders that can be hired by CARE to 24 FTEs, meaning SPOG gets to determine the size of the pilot. It restricts the call types to which they can respond to only Person Down and Welfare Check calls, hence the Director’s reluctance to suggest response to any other call types. In addition, according to the MOU, dispatching CARE responders is not to affect the number of police dispatched to any given call. And CARE responders will be required to write a report that is available to SPD officers, which could potentially dissuade people who are already wary of the police from being willing to use this new program.

The budget amendment funding this MOU will be voted on next week and provide $4.5 million of funding to cover SPD special event bonuses for October thru December of this year and 2024. It is unclear how this extra expenditure will be balanced in the budget. The legislation related to the MOU will be on the Introduction & Referral calendar on November 21 and is expected to be voted on at Full Council sometime during the first half of December.

Recent Headlines:

Will Seattle Pay SPOG a Premium to Let Others Help SPD with its Staffing Woes? Read More »

Budget Amendments are Coming!

Seattle News

Budget

In budget news, Budget Chair Mosqueda released her balancing package late last week. Yes, ShotSpotter is still in there, and I encourage you to continue to tell your councilmembers about all the problems with it

Councilmembers had to turn in their budget amendments by noon on Tuesday. We will hear all about them at the budget meeting on Friday 10/27, with a chance to give public comment at 10am. 

I will be giving a virtual budget workshop with journalist extraordinaire Ryan Packer, sponsored by The Urbanist, on Monday, October 30 from 7-8:30pm, where we’ll fill you in on everything going on with those amendments, answer questions about the budget process, and more. Sign up for your free ticket here.

Elections

Money is pouring into the Seattle city councilmember races, with real estate companies and other business interests outspending labor 4 to 1, supporting the more conservative candidate in each race. Amazon tried a similar spending strategy back in 2019 only to have most of their preferred candidates lose, but it remains to be seen whether Seattle voters will be equally savvy this year. If big business wins out this year, The Stranger has shared some insights of what we can expect.

Dual Dispatch

CARE’s new dual dispatch alternative response program has officially launched. I have already covered this program in depth, but I will note the pilot is initially focusing on downtown, including the CID and SODO.

New Drug Law

The ordinance criminalizing public drug use went into effect last Friday, and SPD was ready. On Friday afternoon they targeted 12th Ave S and Jackson St in the CID and 3rd and Pine downtown and arrested about two dozen people, ten of whom went to jail. Chief Diaz says he intends to run similar operations on a weekly basis. This would seem to lend credence to the capacity concerns around the LEAD diversion program.

Other Seattle News 

The King County Prosecutors’ Office has hired an independent investigator to look into the death of Jaahnavi Kandula due to a potential conflict of interest of having SPOG being involved in the initial investigation. The work is supposed to be completed sometime in November.

The South Seattle Emerald did a great write-up of the new, very promising Guaranteed Basic Income program being run by Hummingbird Indigenous Family Services. This is the first GBI program in the country focusing exclusively on Indigenous communities. Their director, Patanjali de la Rocha, was one of the panelists for Solidarity Budget’s GBI panel earlier this month. 

Recent Headlines

Budget Amendments are Coming! Read More »

The Seattle War on Drugs Redux

Seattle News:

Everyone is talking about the primary results, with some commentators claiming a progressive victory and other publications saying November looks dire for progressives. As always, a strong push to turn out the vote is likely to favor progressives, who will also need to keep fundraising to match the big business dollars pouring into their moderate opponents’ coffers.

Mayor Harrell has announced new “War on Drugs” legislation. As Erica C. Barnett in Publicola reports (bold-faced mine):

So what does the bill actually do? Exactly what an earlier version of the bill, which the council rejected 5-4, would have done: Empower City Attorney Ann Davison to prosecute people for simple drug possession or for using drugs, except alcohol and marijuana, in public. The substantive portion of the bill, which comes after nearly six pages of nonbinding whereas clauses and statements of fact, is identical to the previous proposal.”

CM Lewis, who voted against the earlier, very similar bill back in June, has said he now plans to co-sponsor it. You can’t make stuff like this up.

He told The Stranger “his time on the Mayor’s workgroup assured him the City intends to front-load treatment rather than send people to jail.” However, the new legislation would not require front-loading treatment, and much of how the system would work in practice would be up to the discretion of the City Attorney–the same City Attorney who unilaterally shut down Community Court only a few short months ago. As The Stranger reported:

“King County Public Defenders Union President Molly Gilbert wanted to empower Seattle Municipal Court judges to divert cases when cops arrest someone, but instead the bill leaves all the power to dismiss charges in the hands of the City Attorney.”

Much of the reporting on this legislation has emphasized the Mayor’s $27 million dollar plan. Not only are none of these new dollars, it is critical to emphasize $20 million of this amount is expected from an opioid lawsuit settlement that will be paid over the next 18 years, a detail that demands scrutiny. Calling this a $27 million plan seems to be a rhetorical hat trick bordering dangerously close to dishonesty, given it will only result in an additional investment of $1.15 million per year for programming.

According to the press release, the remaining $7 million will go “toward capital investments in facilities to provide services such as post-overdose care, opioid medication delivery, health hub services, long-term care management, and drop-in support.”

CM Herbold has said she will hear this legislation in the Public Safety and Human Services committee before the summer recess (August 21 – September 4), which would mean it would have to be on the agenda next Tuesday, August 8.

Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee and the Select Labor Committee is having a special hearing at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, August 8 to hear an introduction to collective bargaining with the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA), followed by a period of public comment. The SPMA represents fewer than 100 SPD lieutenants and captains, making it much smaller than the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). The latest SPMA contract was approved last June and lasts through the end of 2023. The City is required to provide a public hearing at least 90 days before opening negotiations with the SPMA to allow the public to weigh in on what should be included in the new contract. 

The SPMA contract is often considered to set the stage for what is possible in the SPOG contract, as SPOG tends to take a more hardline approach to contract negotiations. One unfortunate aspect of both of these contracts is that they tend to linger for years after their expiration before a new contract is agreed upon, creating the necessity for a large dollar amount going towards back pay. While most labor unions do negotiate for back pay should their negotiations run long, this would normally only be for a relatively short period of time (for example, six months). Compare this to the more than two and half years of back pay in play within the SPOG contract currently being negotiated, a number that could easily grow to three or even three and a half years. The evergreen nature of these police guild contracts doesn’t incentivize the guilds to come to an agreement with the City.

On the morning of Thursday, August 10 at the Finance and Housing committee meeting, the Progressive Revenue Stabilization Workgroup will issue its recommendations. Given the $200 million gap between 2025’s projected revenue and expenditures, it behooves the City to consider any options presented very seriously indeed.

King County News:

A fight involving eight kids broke out at King County’s youth jail last week, leading to more room time for kids in the jail this past weekend. Executive Constantine has committed to closing this jail by 2025, but while the daily average population had dropped to 15 in 2021, that number started to creep back up in 2022 and is now up to 34.7. The population the day of the fight was 41. The average length of stay per kid has also increased. The King County Executive Spokesperson Chase Gallagher says the plan to close the jail remains on schedule.

Recent Headlines:

The Seattle War on Drugs Redux Read More »

75% Approval of Unarmed Emergency Response in Seattle

Seattle News:

The Seattle Times printed the results of an interesting poll they conducted with Suffolk University. It was conducted by phone, so adjust your opinions about it accordingly.

First of interest is that 75% of respondents support shifting emergency calls away from police to workers who aren’t armed. Only 18% oppose this change. This is a huge majority, reflecting how popular the idea of alternate response has become while underscoring the absurdity that Seattle continues to only pursue dual dispatch.

The other response I found interesting was that 61% of responders said the statement “The Seattle police generally do a good job and treat people of different races fairly, even if there are a few bad apples on the force” comes closer to their views than the opposite. This shows a key area ripe for further political education, as recent data from SPD itself shows 1 out of 20 of its Terry stops are unconstitutional, 1 out of 7 of its frisks are unconstitutional, and Black and Indigenous people are 5-7 times as likely to be stopped as white people. Meanwhile, the idea that any problem with American policing is because of “a few bad apples” has been repeatedly challenged; a few examples are here, here, and here.

Meanwhile, command staff at SPD has been undergoing changes, with a new deputy chief role and a “Relational Policing Innovation Team.” Two assistant chiefs who had applied for the Police Chief job were demoted to captain. Going forward there will be five bureaus instead of six. And perhaps of most interest, a new Chief of Staff position was added for former TV news anchor Jamie Tompkins who started at SPD just a few months ago as head of Communications: your tax dollars hard at work.

And there’s a little election scandal in the ongoing City Council races: 26 out of 40 ARTS staff wrote a letter complaining about the leadership shown by Maritza Rivera–who is running for the open seat in D4–and her boss, royal alley-barnes. The letter complained that leadership “disregarded City policies, created a toxic work environment, and hindered staff’s ability to do its work and deliver for the community.” Rivera has denied the letter’s claims, but several workers have “recalled a pattern of defensive, hostile, and condescending interactions with Rivera” and the department had (and continues to have) a high rate of turnover. Half the people who had left at the time of the letter were people of color.

Recent Headlines:

 

75% Approval of Unarmed Emergency Response in Seattle Read More »

SPD Responsible for 1 out of 10 Killings in Seattle, Data Scientist Says

Seattle News

First up, I wrote an article for The Urbanist about the proposed drug legislation being voted on in Seattle next week. If you’d like to email your councilmembers and/or give public comment at the City Council meeting next Tuesday June 5, you can find a quick email submission here, and scripts here and here. It looks like the vote will be a close one.

Late last week, City Attorney Davison informed the Seattle Municipal Court she will no longer be participating in their community court, effectively shutting it down. Those people on the High Utilizers Initiative list were already barred from using community court, which was a court for people who had committed certain low-level crimes. This step is likely to significantly add to the caseload of the City Attorney’s prosecutors. It will be interesting to see how the office’s case clearance rate, rate of dismissals, and attrition rate will be impacted by this change in the months to come. CM Lewis has been vocal in defense of community court, tweeting, “Misinformation about Seattle Community Court success rates is circling in the media, so let’s get a few things straight. Approximately 75% of people who enter Community Court complete the program, and 80% of them go on to commit no new criminal law violations.” 

It has come to light that during the 2020 George Floyd protests, SPD called for help from at least 23 different law enforcement agencies. Officers from these agencies were not ruled by SPD policy relating to use of force, reporting, and accountability, and used weapons such as “Stinger” rubber pellet blast grenades, 12-gauge beanbag “shotgun” rounds, military style SAF smoke, HC smoke, and Aerial Flash-Bang devices. As Glen Stellmacher reports:

If SPD holds a backdoor policy that allows for the use of these weapons, that policy is not available to the public, nor are the conditions for the use of these specific weapons. If SPD solely relied on communication with these agencies to prevent the use of certain types of weapons, that dialogue appeared chaotic and indecisive.”

There were at least 547 uses of force by these other agencies during the 2020 protests, and it doesn’t look like any of them were investigated by the OPA. The OIG is performing an audit about SPD use of “mutual aid,” but no results of this audit have yet been made available to the public. It also appears that SPD orchestrated their infamous Proud Boy “ruse” because they didn’t know how to deal with crowd control without their mutual aid partners.

Meanwhile, Seattle has spent a whopping $20.1 million on outside legal fees for four lawsuits related to the 2020 protests.

The 2020 protests are also haunting Bob Ferguson, who launched an exploratory campaign for governor at the beginning of May. He announced the endorsement of former SPD Chief Carmen Best on Twitter this week. His base in Seattle didn’t take kindly to this news, as Best admitted to deleting text messages and was in charge of SPD during the tear gassing of Seattle neighborhoods during the 2020 protests. 

On the Consent Decree

This week, Judge Robart held a hearing in response to the DOJ and City of Seattle’s request for reduced oversight and an imminent end to the consent decree that has been in place for over eleven years. While it is unclear when the judge will issue a ruling, he signaled he will be rewriting parts of the proposed order but that overall he is proud of the work SPD has done under the consent decree. Not everyone agrees with this assessment:

“Ultimately, Seattle’s experience shows consent decrees to be a trap — one that results in more expensive police departments, but which leaves untouched the violence at the heart of policing. Consent decrees first offer communities validation for the harm police have caused them, along with a promise of someone else coming in and “fixing” the police. In practice, they cut off community voices, inflate police budgets at the expense of everything else, and legitimize the very police force that continues to harm the community.” 

Meanwhile, data scientist Dr. Sherry Towers wrote to the judge before the hearing to share some alarming findings, saying, “During my examination of police shooting and homicide data from 2015 to 2021[*] in my research, I found that the rates of police killings per homicide in Seattle were significantly higher than in other areas of the US (nationwide around 3% to 4% of all homicides were due to police killings, whereas in Seattle during that time period that number was 11%, well over twice the national average – to put this in perspective, one out of ten people killed in Seattle since 2015 was killed by a police officer).” 

She went on to say, “I found that by all measures I examined, fatal police violence and racial disparities in police shootings became worse after the consent decree, both in total number and per homicide.  In addition, significantly more police officers were involved in each shooting incident after the consent decree (2.5 on average), compared to before (1.5 on average), and police shootings became significantly more likely to be fatal.” 

Finally, a particular wrinkle of police union contract bargaining was discussed at the hearing. In general, if the negotiations between the City and the police union reach an impasse, the next step is to go to interest arbitration. However, the only issues that are allowed to go to interest arbitration are those that were included in the list of contract issues to be bargained that is created at the start of negotiations. So if a new issue comes up in the middle of negotiation, that can’t be forced into interest arbitration. This had huge implications for the 2017 police accountability ordinance, which hadn’t been included on the list of contract issues for the SPOG contract that was approved in 2018. 

Recent Headlines

 

SPD Responsible for 1 out of 10 Killings in Seattle, Data Scientist Says Read More »

We’re Going to Go Tougher on Drugs Because No One Cares about Evidence of What Actually Works

Seattle News:

In the latest in the ongoing saga of the missing text messages, the City of Seattle has agreed to pay a $2.3 million settlement to the two whistleblowers who revealed that former Mayor Durkan’s text messages had been deleted. When combined with legal fees, this lawsuit has cost Seattle taxpayers more than $3 million. One of the employees, Stacy Irwin, is quoted as saying, “There’s been no accountability. These officials basically got away with it and the taxpayers are paying.”

Crosscut published an interesting investigation on Seattle’s bike cops:

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney and executive director of the Center for Protest Law & Litigation, said police violence and misconduct are going to occur regardless of the vehicle or weapon. 

“There was some thinking t”hat bicycle units are somehow going to be better because it seems softer,” she said. “But we have seen bicycle units act with extreme violence, attacking en masse, throwing their bikes down and charging crowds of people.”

Police bicycle tactics are concerning because in spite of their violence, the use of bicycles to, for example, push protesters, was not a reportable use of force during the protests of 2020. Another issue at play is cost, with a fully equipped Volcanic police bike model now costing around $2,495. SPD also formed the Community Response Group in October 2020, requiring all team members to be bike-trained, which expanded their ranks of deployable bike officers, meaning this is not an issue that is going away any time soon.

Given the Blake compromise law just passed by the state legislature (more on this below), CMs Nelson and Pedersen are introducing a new version of their legislation to criminalize public drug use. This legislation would be necessary for public drug use and drug possession to be charged by the Seattle City Attorney; right now drug possession is handled by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

A correction from last week: the appointment of Anthony Gaedcke to the CPC fulfills the requirement of the CPC to have two officers on the commission, one from SPOG and one from the SPMA. In the documentation, these two appointments count as appointments by the CPC, as opposed to by the Mayor’s Office or the City Council.

Election News:

The filing deadline for candidates for this election cycle is this Friday, May 19. The primary election will be on August 1.

We’ve had a few late declaring candidates, including Jorge Barón for King County Council District 4, Tyesha Reed in Seattle District 5, and Olga Sagan in Seattle District 7.

After last week’s MLK Labor Council’s candidate forum, the Council has endorsed Maren Costa in Seattle’s District 1.

WA State Legislature News:

The legislature’s special session lasted a single day on Tuesday. The Stranger’s Ashley Nerbovig gave a succinct summary of the downsides of the compromise legislation, which is centered around criminal penalties and coercive treatment instead of a harm reduction approach:

The legislation increases criminal penalties for drug possession, creates a new criminal offense for public drug use, gives prosecutors more power to direct people to jail rather than to diversion programs, allows cities and counties to ban harm reduction services, and adds barriers to siting drug treatment facilities. 

Drug possession and a new offense of public drug use are now defined as gross misdemeanors, but with a maximum sentence of 180 days for the first two convictions (instead of 364 days). This is in spite of many studies showing the criminal legal system is ineffective when addressing addiction.

The bill also includes $62.9 million, an increase of $19.6 million from previous versions of the bill, for an array of supportive services.

Ironically, seven people incarcerated in the Snohomish County Jail overdosed on fentanyl this week, belying legislators’ confidence in jails being an effective place to treat addiction problems. And don’t forget that this new drug legislation will probably also impact the population of the already overcrowded King County Jail.

Recent Headlines:

We’re Going to Go Tougher on Drugs Because No One Cares about Evidence of What Actually Works Read More »

Another Officer on the CPC?

Thus far, it’s been a relatively slow news week for local public safety news, although quite exciting in other news! My hand is also healing in a rather slow fashion, so I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue to rest.

Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee did have a meeting this week. During the meeting, they heard about a new proposed appointment to the CPC: Anthony Gaedcke, who is a lieutenant with SPD. It is interesting that another officer is being added to an organization purported to be for the community, and he is taking one of the the nomination spots of the CPC itself, but perhaps this is not surprising, given the Mayor was pushing the CPC to become an informal additional PR branch for SPD.

The legislation we discussed last week that would expand the existing law against “obstructing” police officers to include Fire Department personnel received a vote in full council this week and passed unanimously.

Resources & Commentary:

Texas, Guns, and Stats

Homeless Man Says Off-Duty SPD Officer Pointed Gun, Threatened to ‘Slaughter’ Him

Austin voters embrace civilian police oversight

May 9 Criminal justice updates and commentary roundup

Seattle City Council District 4: Flirting with Disaster, Hoping for Deliverance

WA lands commissioner Hilary Franz announces run for governor, vying with AG Ferguson

Another Officer on the CPC? Read More »

New Drug Law Negotiations Still Messy

Once again, we have a more bare bones edition this week while my hand takes its time healing and I am still unable to type normally. These headlines should give you a sense of what’s been going on this week.

Seattle:

As a Firefighter, I Oppose Criminalizing “Interference” with Seattle Fire Department Personnel

Seattle City Council will vote on this legislation on Tuesday. For more information, read this.

Seattle to settle lawsuit by employees who blew whistle on mayor’s missing texts

Seattle Cop Mocks Trans People, Blames Jan. 6 Riots on Pelosi; County Council Plays It Safe by Proposing Flat Levy Renewal

Seattle-Based Seabold Group Investigated Fmr. SPD Chief Best — Unclear Where Investigation Stands

Maren Costa Builds Council Run on West Seattle Roots and Climate Organizing

King County:

King County councilmembers seek evaluation of jail population reduction programs

King County Council approves sending renewal of Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services levy to ballots

They decided not to ask for an increase in the tax rate.

Washington State:

Progressive Democrats Want to Compromise on a New Drug Law

Inslee calls WA Legislature special session to address drug possession

Criminalizing Drug Possession Is a Mistake We Must Not Make Again

New Police Pursuit Law Requires Less Evidence to Give Chase

Here’s What Happened in Olympia

Heroes and Zeroes of the 2023 Washington State Legislature

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says he won’t run for a fourth term

Slog AM: Ferguson Exploring Run for Governor, Durkan’s Whistleblower Settlement, Biden Agrees to Debt Ceiling Talks

Sen. Patty Kuderer Announces Run for Insurance Commissioner

Resources & Commentary

Our Media Is Fueling Vigilantism Against Homeless People

Three Things To Read This Week: Baltimore’s “Community Violence Intervention Program Is Helping To Drop The Homicide Rate.”

 

 

New Drug Law Negotiations Still Messy Read More »