elections

“Stealth Jail Expansion”: The Fight Over the SCORE Jail Contract Continues

Let’s take a moment to celebrate that the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the capital gains tax!

Seattle News

On Tuesday the City of Seattle and the Department of Justice filed a request to replace the 2012 Consent Decree with a new “Agreement on Sustained Compliance” that would focus on SPD’s use of force particularly related to crowd control and accountability. Among other measures, SPD would need to adopt a revised crowd management policy, and the City would need to hire a consultant to make recommendations about the accountability system. In addition, Mike Carter reports the city also acknowledges that it must address racial disparities that have shown up in reviews of both police use of force and investigative stops.” 

Mayor Harrell’s office has calculated the consent decree, lasting 11 years thus far, has cost the city $200m. The motion asks Judge Robart to find the SPD has reached “substantial compliance” with most of the original consent decree requirements. As Erica C. Barnett reports, ongoing labor negotiations with SPOG, including whether important accountability advances agreed upon in the recent SPMA contract are included in the next SPOG contract, play an important role as to whether the city will be able to be found in compliance with the accountability piece of either the original consent decree or any new agreement.

This new “agreement on sustained compliance” would be anticipated to be completed in about a year, and unlike the original consent decree, it wouldn’t require a two-year sustainment period before exit, which would give Mayor Harrell his coveted exit before the end of his term. The next step in this process is for Judge Robart to schedule a hearing.

Advocates in Seatle have often had mixed feelings about the consent decree in recent years. In the last three years in particular, it has often been seen as a barrier to more systemic change and a way to potentially apply a veneer of respectability to the SPD while maintaining the status quo. The SPD’s budget has grown substantially from when Seattle entered into the consent decree, from $252.2m in 2012 to its present size of $374.3m. 

Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting on Tuesday had a surprise addition to the agenda: a project update on SPD’s recruitment and retention. While the council members received a memo on March 14 detailing current progress with the hiring incentives passed last year, none of this information was presented at the meeting, with Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell saying “it’s too early to draw a definitive conclusion.” 

In 2021 SPD hired one officer for every 12 applicants; these figures aren’t yet available for 2022. In spite of all its new hiring, recruiting, and retention efforts, the department is still struggling to maintain its size: as of 3/16, SPD’s hiring numbers are at -6, a number that was amusingly omitted from the presentation. SPD has hired 19 officers and experienced 25 separations since the beginning of the year. 

No mention was made at the meeting of the difficulties of retention given the recent suit filed by Cookie Bouldin alleging racial and gender discrimination or last year’s lawsuit in which an SPD officer was awarded $1.325m in damages due to getting carbon monoxide poisoning on the job.

The team presenting to the CMs announced their goal of 30% of officers being female by 2030 with no mention of the Bouldin lawsuit. CM Nelson also stated the importance of “having a positive place to work at” without addressing the implications of these suits.

When considering SPD’s attrition rate, it’s important to remember some people leave the department because they’re under investigation for less than savory reasons. For example, the OPA released a report last week about the case of Officer Cleades Robinson. As DivestSPD reported: “OPA found there was more than enough evidence to show that Robinson committed at least two gross misdemeanors: patronizing a prostitute and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.” Robinson resigned before final discipline was handed down in January. Another SPD Captain was arrested in November 2019 for trying to buy sex and retired before the investigation was completed. 

Once Mayor Harrell took the helm of the city at the beginning of 2022, sweeps of homeless people substantially increased, Guy Oron reports. The City of Seattle performed 943 sweeps in 2022, which means sweeps were happening on average twice or more every day. Of these sweeps, 771 sweeps–almost 82%–were obstruction sweeps, meaning the City wasn’t required to give notice to those being swept. To get an idea of how much sweeps have increased, there were 158 sweeps in 2022 where notice was given, whereas in 2021 there were 53 sweeps done with notice, meaning the rate of sweeps with notice has TRIPLED. Many locations were swept multiple times, including 66 sweeps in Occidental Park, 53 sweeps near the Ballard Library, and 18 sweeps at the Ballard Commons.

By comparison, there were 1,192 sweeps in 2019, meaning we’re seeing the return of an old status quo that was interrupted by the pandemic and a temporary acknowledgement due to the George Floyd protests that just maybe we should treat people more humanely.

Matthew Mitnick, currently running for Seattle CM for District 4, has been accused by former supporters of breaking child labor laws, wage theft, and creating a toxic work environment

King County News

The King County Council postponed their vote on the SCORE jail contract for the second time this Tuesday. They are working on a variety of amendments (discussed last week) that would limit the size and scope of the transfers from the King County Jail and require various reporting and Council approvals. Unfortunately, none of these amendments would stop the SCORE contract outright; this contract would cause what opponents are calling a stealth expansion of King County’s system of incarceration. 

The sense of urgency around this SCORE contract is interesting given it’s been almost three years since Executive Constantine said he wanted to eventually shut down the “decrepit” King County Jail. In the intervening time, the death and suicide rates in the jail have gone up and the staffing numbers have been in continuous decline, not to mention it was without potable water for a month last fall. However, it’s only since the ACLU of Washington filed a suit against the County due to the appalling conditions within the jail that the County’s message has shifted to sudden action without the necessary time to build a good plan that would not expand incarceration in the County.

To weigh in on the SCORE contract, you can email or call your King County CMs and/or give public comment at the next King County Council meeting on Tuesday, April 4 at 1:30pm. Talking points will be updated at tinyurl.com/TellKCC.

In addition, sources say the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD) is planning to move 50 additional people from the King County Jail to the Maleng Regional Justice Center (MRJC) in Kent this weekend (April 1-2). The DAJD already moved 50 people from the KJC the weekend of March 11-12, a move that has resulted in consequences: those 50 inmates are being double-bunked in cells in which the toilets can only be flushed twice an hour, resulting in unsanitary conditions. And Erica C. Barnett reports on another problem as well:

“Folk says the jail guards’ union has filed a demand to bargain over the decision to move 50 people to the RJC, noting that the 1:104 ratio of guards to inmates is far below the usual “direct supervision” standard of one guard for every residents. Haglund told PubliCola previously that although 1:104 isn’t ideal, the unit will be safe with just one guard because no more than 64 people will be out in the unit’s common area at one time. Folk disagrees, telling PubliCola, “The staffing ratio for this is just not safe.””

Meanwhile, King County reported that as of last week there have been 296 King County residents who have died due to drug or alcohol poisoning since the beginning of the year, a number that exceeds the total number of overdose deaths in 2012. 

Recent Headlines

“Stealth Jail Expansion”: The Fight Over the SCORE Jail Contract Continues Read More »

Community Outcry against King County’s Potential SCORE Jail Contract

King County Jail News:

On Tuesday morning, a 58-year-old woman died in the King County Jail. She had been booked into the jail on Friday with a charge of burglary. We don’t yet know her cause of death. 

On Tuesday afternoon, the King County Council met to discuss, amongst other things, the $3.5m SCORE contract that would allow them to transfer 50 people (to start) from the King County Jail to the SCORE facility in Des Moines. While this is being sold as a “short-term” solution to run until the end of 2024, there is already discussion of expanding the number of inmates transferred to SCORE. 33 people gave public comment asking the CMs to vote no on this new contract. There have been several lawsuits brought against SCORE by family members of people who died in the jail, alleging the facility failed to provide adequate medical care. Being transferred to SCORE might also impact the quality of inmates’ defenses. You can see my live tweets of the CMs’ discussion here

At the briefing, CM McDermott stated that booking restrictions haven’t changed and asked for the reason for the growth of the King County Jail population in 2022. Analyst Leah Krekel-Zoppi said that pre-pandemic, the average daily population of the jail was 1900, which dropped to 1300 due to the pandemic. The average daily population now is 1500-1600. She refused to answer the CM’s question about why it’s higher now.

One possible explanation for this increase is, as Erica C. Barnett suggests, the Seattle City Attorney’s High Utilizer program, which skirts the current jail booking restrictions for misdemeanors: “In January and February 2022, before the high utilizer initiative went into effect,  the average daily population at the downtown jail was 910; for the same period this year, it was 1,220. The increase is the result of a complex mix of factors, but jailing 142 people for low-level misdemeanors is undoubtedly among them.” She also found that on average, each one of these “high utilizers” served 117 days in jail in 2022, so they each spent significant time in the jail.

Another possible factor is people in the jail waiting for competency services. As Ashely Nervobig reports: “A February 7 report from the King County Prosecutor’s office showed about 80 people waiting for competency restoration services, with the state failing to provide treatment to some of the people in the jail for more than a year, according to Casey McNerthney, spokesperson for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.” 

Other possible factors for the difference in the jail population between 2021 and 2022 include an increase in SPD arrest reports–there were 10,601 such reports in 2022 versus 9165 in 2021–and the possibility the police are overcharging; that is, the practice of either adding charges or using a higher initial charge when such charges may not be able to be proven. This practice would be another way of getting around the King County Jail’s current booking restrictions. 

CM Zahilay asked two questions that remained outstanding and that the CMs resolved to discuss during their (confidential) executive session: 

  1. There is ambiguity over which type of booking restrictions can be mandated by a County Executive. Some say these restrictions can only apply to misdemeanor charges, but there are also some counties in Washington that may have restrictions relating to certain felonies.
  2. Is the County legally allowed to pay people’s bail? In the past (pre-pandemic) King County gave a $400k contract to the Northwest Bail Fund, but it’s not clear if any of this money was ever directly used to pay bail. It sounds like it was used to fund wraparound services that helped people qualify for bail. Data from that program showed the number of people able to post bail increased significantly during its adoption in 2019-2020. CMs were very interested to learn how many people are housed in King County’s jails because of being unable to pay bail.

If the CMs do not approve this new contract with SCORE, it would be incumbent upon them to decrease the population of the King County Jail in other ways, hence the importance of the above questions. The Shut Down King County Jail coalition is asking for the CMs to do exactly this and reduce the jail population by ceasing imprisonment of those experiencing mental health crises and stopping imposing bail, which has the impact of holding poor people in this facility while those with more resources are allowed to go free. However, some CMs signaled more interest in putting additional definitions and limitations around the SCORE contract as opposed to searching for ways to decrease the County’s jailed population in any meaningful way. 

The vote on this legislation was delayed until the next King County Council meeting on Tuesday, March 28. In the meantime, you may write or call your King County CMs and/or plan to give public comment on the 28th.

Seattle News:

SPD detective Cookie Bouldin has filed a $10m tort claim against SPD, claiming racial and gender discrimination and retaliation for whistleblowing. She says she has faced gender and racial discrimination for the entirety of her 40-year career, which began in 1980, when she was one of only two Black female officers in SPD. She is known for reaching out to communities of color and running a youth chess club, both of which she says have made her a target. The claim states: “​​She notes that the hostile work environment she has been subjected to has increased dramatically in recent years.”

In an analysis of Ann Davison’s first year as Seattle City Attorney, Guy Oron writes:

“​​The King County Department of Public Defense (DPD) has denounced the CAO’s approach to prosecution during Davison’s tenure, setting up a Twitter account at @CourtWatchSMC called “Seattle Municipal Court Watch” to monitor cases when the CAO has filed charges against poor residents and people experiencing mental health illnesses. Notable cases that the DPD has highlighted include prosecution of people for stealing paper towels, selling cigarettes without proper licensing, sleeping under a tarp in a business parking lot and staying in a building slated for demolition to stay warm. These selected anecdotes seem to align with the data, which shows that the vast majority of SMC defendants rely on public defense.”

Election News:

King County Executive Dow Constantine has announced he will not be running for governor in 2024. This was after the Northwest Progressive Institute released poll results showing Attorney General Bob Ferguson as the leading Democratic candidate in a potential 2024 governor’s race, assuming current Governor Inslee chooses not to run for a fourth term. Bob Ferguson polled at 21%, whereas another possible Democratic candidate, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, polled at 7%.

Recent Headlines:

Community Outcry against King County’s Potential SCORE Jail Contract Read More »

Alternative Response in Seattle is Behind…Again

Seattle News

There’s a lot to catch up on, so let’s start off with the big news that the Social Housing Initiative 135 has passed! Next steps include bringing together a board of directors and seeking funding.

Mayor Harrell gave his State of the City speech last week. Apparently the white paper about a third public safety department that was supposed to be completed last year is still forthcoming. As this was supposed to be the main tangible step forward in 2022, the failure to deliver this white paper in a timely fashion is disappointing to say the least. But at least the new department has a name now, which obviously took many hours of painstaking work: CARE, the Civilian Assisted Response and Engagement Department. Apparently we’ll also be hearing more about police officer hiring this year, which is hardly a surprise, although given the difficulty police departments across the country are having hiring, these are conversations that seem unlikely to deliver the desired results.

Last week the Adley Shepherd case was dismissed by a U.S. District Court Judge. Adley Shepherd is a former SPD officer who was fired after punching a handcuffed woman in the back of a squad car. His case has been filtering through arbitration and courts ever since, most recently as a suit brought by him against the City of Seattle.

The City of Seattle settled the CHOP lawsuit for $3.65m, $600k of which was due to the missing texts of former Mayor Durkan, former SPD Chief Best, and others. This money, as well as additional costs of defending the lawsuit, comes from taxpayer dollars.

At this week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, the CSCC presented on their 911 Protocols Software that would enable them to dispatch calls to responders other than the police. Right now the plan is to implement dual dispatch including SPD, although CM Herbold was quick to remind us that dual dispatch doesn’t necessarily mean a police officer will be on the scene in every instance, but rather in some cases SPD would simply be situationally aware of the dispatch of a civilian responder. That being said, it was made clear at the meeting that the nature of the dual dispatch model has yet to be determined

Shocking no one, given we’ve been holding our breath for a particular white paper since December, all the work on alternative response appears to be behind schedule. None of the deliverables outlined on the term sheet regarding developing alternative response between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff appear to be complete. Some of this delay was attributed to the hiring and on-boarding of the new interim Director of the CSCC, Rebecca Gonzales, although of course everyone already knew when deliverable dates were set that a new director would need to be found. CM Lewis was frustrated enough to say that if more progress isn’t forthcoming in future briefings, the Council might need to take a more assertive role in this work. Given Seattle has been waiting two and a half years for alternative response with nothing to show for it, this reaction seems quite measured.

The protocols and work flow of the new triaging dispatch system also won’t be complete until late this year. CM Herbold called out that we continue to be told of reasons why we can’t move forward on implementation of alternate response: SPD’s RMD analysis, the overdue white paper from the Mayor’s Office outlining the new third public safety department, and now this triage dispatch system. She expressed her hopes that launching an alternate response pilot for person down and wellness checks won’t depend on the dispatch system being complete. CM Lewis pointed out other cities with alternative response have triage systems that dispatch to fully civilian responses, not just dual dispatch. And so the slog to push alternative response continues sluggishly forward as Seattle continues to fall behind many other cities who have been able to do this work.

Due to objections from SPOG, SPD discontinued use of Truleo software that analyzed police body-cam footage to look for potential police misconduct. Unfortunately, SPD’s use of several other surveillance technologies was approved by the Seattle City Council earlier this week, including “cell phone and laptop extraction tools, a geospatial analysis technology called GeoTime, remotely operated vehicles, crash retrieval forensics and hidden GPS trackers and cameras.” Seattle has its own Surveillance Advisory Working Group, and the CMs failed to implement many of this work group’s recommendations relating to the use of these technologies.

A recent report shows that Seattle’s automated traffic cameras disproportionately target Communities of Color. In fact, 65% of automated traffic cameras are placed in neighborhoods with relatively more people of color and immigrants; Seattle’s most dangerous roads tend to be in these communities because of displacement. In 2022, Seattle’s automated cameras issued almost 200,000 traffic tickets, which is almost fifty times more than the number given by police. It’s also worth noting that these camera-generated tickets currently require review by police, meaning such a large volume requires additional resources given to SPD in order to review them; to do otherwise would require a law change. An op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald by Ethan C. Campbell and Nura Ahmed outlines several ways to address issues of equity surrounding traffic cameras in Seattle. 

CM Herbold wrote the following about violent crime in Seattle in 2022:

Although, over the entire year, the data shows violent crime higher than it’s been for years, the SPD Crime Dashboard shows that there were 363 violent crimes reported in December 2022; this is the lowest number of violent crimes reported for a month since February 2021, when 329 violent crimes were reported. The December 2022 figure is lower than the 403 violent crimes reported in December 2019 (before COVID-19, before the murder of George Floyd, and before 500 officers left SPD).

A further review of the SPD dashboard shows that moving into 2023 (the report only covers 2022), 371 reported violent crimes in January, slightly lower than January 2020, with 373 reported violent crimes.

Shots fired, while higher overall in 2022, are also dramatically declining, according to the Chief.”

When discussing violent crime in 2022, it would be remiss not to reiterate the increasing violence experienced by unsheltered people.

The turmoil at the Seattle Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the Community Police Commission (CPC) continues. Two more SHRC commissioners have recently resigned as commissioners continue to receive legal threats from the City Attorney’s Office about trying to seek amicus status in the consent decree, and the CPC Executive Director Brandy Grant resigned on February 10. Cali Ellis has been named as the interim director. After events at a CPC community engagement meeting on February 14 and the CPC’s regular meeting on February 15, both Castile Hightower and Howard Gale have filed complaints with the OPA about SPD Officer Mullens, who also sits on the CPC. 

King County News

The ACLU of Washington filed a lawsuit on Friday against King County and Executive Constantine arguing they are in breach of a settlement agreement regarding the King County Jail mandating certain staffing levels and inmate access to medical care and court hearings. Advocates held a press conference and rally outside the jail on Monday morning.

Election News

Becka Johnson Pope, who has spent the last three years managing King County’s budget, announced her run for the King County Council seat for District 4. Sarah Reyneveld has already announced her run for the same seat.

Seattle CM Dan Strauss has announced his intentions to run for re-election in District 6.

ChrisTiana Obeysumner has declared their candidacy in District 5. They are one of six filed candidates so far for the district.

WA State Legislature

Sadly, the bill banning solitary confinement has died again this year. The new drug possession bill also doesn’t look promising.

HB 1513 (traffic stops), HB 1025 (qualified immunity), HB 1579 (independent prosecutor), and HB 1445 (AG investigations & reform) are all headed for floor votes. March 8 is the cut-off date for bills to be voted out of their house of origin. 

Recent Headlines

Alternative Response in Seattle is Behind…Again Read More »

SPD Continues to Answer a Large Number of Non-Criminal Calls

Seattle News

SPD’s 2022 Crime Report was released this week and will be discussed at the next meeting of Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee on Tuesday. While one of the report’s pull quotes is “the violent crime rate reached a 15-year high in 2022,” it is important to remember not only that crime data provided by police departments is not inherently reliable, but that violent crime in Seattle began to drop in the fall of 2022, and December 2022 had the fewest number of violent crimes reported since March of 2020. 

As an article in today’s Seattle Times states: “Overall Seattle crime is down 28% in the past five months, and violent crime is down 30% compared to earlier in 2022, which Diaz said translated to 1,000 fewer police reports filed last month than in January 2022.” Regarding gun violence, it states: “Manion, who’s planning a gun violence prevention summit next month, noted the last quarter of 2022 was also the fourth consecutive quarter where the number of people age 18 to 24 injured or killed in shootings had declined. She thinks the decrease among that demographic is likely a result of intervention work being done by community groups and Harborview social workers, as well as the return to in-person schooling.Unfortunately injury and fatalities from gun violence in the 30-to-39 year old age group have continued to increase, showing where more intervention may be needed.

Other information of note in the SPD’s 2022 Crime Report:

  • The top five categories of 911 call types answered by SPD in 2022 were non-criminal in nature: traffic, suspicious circumstances, disturbance, assist public, and premise checks.
  • Community-generated calls remained at the same level in 2022 as 2021.
  • Bias crimes against unhoused people increased in 2022.

Several surveillance technologies currently in use by SPD were discussed at the Economic Development, Technology, and City Light Committee meeting this past Wednesday. You can read more about the ACLU Washington’s take on Seattle’s use of these technologies here.

A crowd of bystanders gathered near 12th and Mercer on Wednesday night to intervene with a police response to an unarmed person in crisis. One officer had aimed his rifle at the person in crisis and commanded them to drop any weapons and get on the ground. Bystanders yelled that the person in question didn’t have a gun and began filming the scene, eventually persuading the police to disengage and protecting the person in question from a potentially violent police response.

Election News

Seattle CM Mosqueda has confirmed her run for King County City Council Seat 8, and she already has a huge number of endorsements, including from Seattle Mayor Harrell and his opponent former Seattle Council President Lorena González, Executive Constantine, and the more progressive Seattle and King County CMs.

CM Lewis has his first announced opponent for Seattle CM in District 7 in Ryan Krumbholz.

And of course, ballots for Initiative 135 for social housing in Seattle are due on Tuesday, February 14.

WA State Legislature News

Senator Dhingra introduced her drug decriminalization bill that follows SURSAC recommendations, SB 5624, which had a hearing on Monday. The bill had also been scheduled for an executive session for later in the week, but this hearing was later canceled. Senator Robinson’s bill SB 5536 appears to be the preferred vehicle moving forward. This bill makes drug possession a felony while inserting the word “knowingly” to address the Blake decision, and it encourages the use of diversion programs.

Bills are moving along as we draw closer to the committee cutoff date of February 17, a week from today. HB 1513 regarding traffic stops and safety had an executive hearing on Thursday. HB 1363 unrolling the important high speed pursuit bill of 2021 has a tentative executive hearing next week, SB 5533, which would study high speed pursuits and collect more data, is scheduled for a hearing in the Ways & Means committee on Tuesday.

HB 1024 providing minimum wage in prisons has an executive session in the Committee on Appropriations on Monday, as does HB 1087 regarding solitary confinement. SB 5383 to decriminalize jaywalking has its first hearing in the Transportation committee on Monday. HB 1579 to establish an independent prosecutor had an executive session on Thursday. HB 1025 concerning civil liability for police had an executive session on Friday, and HB 1445, the AG investigative and reform bill, was referred to Appropriations. 

Housekeeping

I’ll be keeping a general eye on events but will be on vacation for the next two weeks, so unless something monumental happens, you can expect more Notes from the Emerald City in early March.

Recent Headlines

SPD Continues to Answer a Large Number of Non-Criminal Calls Read More »

The Cycle of Police Violence Continues Unabated

National News

Front of mind is the recent video footage release of the Memphis police killing Tyre Nichols. 

I was particularly struck by something Courtney Milan, writer and lawyer, shared on Twitter:

“We’re threatened with random, stochastic crimes by faceless criminals to justify the senseless violence that is being dealt by officers of the state. It keeps happening, and we keep doing the same thing. It’s not just that we should defund the police and fund social services. It’s that funding social services—things that could house the unhoused, really treat addiction, etc etc—would remove the visible markets that are used to keep us in fear.

So many people have died in pain and the only thing that happened was that the backlash to people saying “we should not do this, let’s stop” meant that police got even more money.”

The cycle of police violence is very apparent, and it will continue unabated until enough people work together to stop it.

I will leave you with a quote from journalist Derecka Purnell in the Guardian:

“I immediately noticed that almost all of the reforms that liberals suggest will save Black lives were present in Tyre’s death. Diversity was not an issue: the five cops who killed him are all Black. The body cameras strapped to their chests did not deter their fists from delivering blow after blow. Memphis has about 2,000 cops, and if this were a “few bad apples” in the department issue, then maybe they all happened to be working on the same shift. Cops did not shoot Tyre; they opted for a less deadlier force: they beat him for three minutes, shocked him and pepper-sprayed him.

In fact, Memphis police department boasts that they have met all of the features of Campaign Zero’s #8CantWait campaign, which includes a requirement for officers to intervene when other officers are using excessive force and a requirement to de-escalate encounters with civilians. The department has been under a consent decree for decades. MPD hired its first Black woman police chief in 2021 and holds Black History Knowledge bowls and basketball programs to “build trust” and relationships with local teenagers.”

Other relevant articles:

Seattle News

The officer who killed Jaahnavi Kundala, a graduate student who was in a crosswalk when hit by his SUV, has been identified as one Kevin Austin Dave. The watchdog group DivestSPD was the first to release this name, which was later corroborated by SPD. There are still many unknowns outstanding about this incident, including how fast Dave was driving and whether he stopped after hitting Kundala.

My colleague at People Power Washington, Dr. Shannon Cheng, appeared on Hacks & Wonks this week to discuss the SPOG contract: why it’s important, bargaining challenges past and present, and what to look for in the next contract.

Carolyn Bick at the South Seattle Emerald has uncovered evidence suggesting former Mayor Durkan and her office were interfering in Seattle’s police accountability process by trying to either delay or prevent the OPA from investigating then-Chief of Police Carmen Best for her role in handling the 2020 protests.

Will Casey, who has been doing an excellent job covering the “Criminal Justice” beat at The Stranger, has unfortunately left the paper. While I look forward to the work of his replacement, whoever that may be, this is another loss for local news coverage in the Puget Sound area. While the importance of media coverage is widely understood, journalists often receive relatively low pay and work long hours, making it difficult to retain them and provide quality local news coverage. Consider this your regular reminder to contribute to local publications the South Seattle Emerald and Publicola if you are able.

Election News

We’ve made it to February, and there’s so much election news!

CM Morales has announced she will be seeking re-election in Seattle’s District 2. She is only the second Seattle CM to decide to run again, and now we’re waiting for CM Strauss to have a complete picture of which seats are open.

In District 1, Maren Costa has announced her candidacy, meaning there are now three declared candidates. District 3 has five announced candidates thus far, and in District 4, in addition to early announcer Matthew Mitnick we now have Kenneth Wilson, who ran against Teresa Mosqueda for a city-wide seat last year, and urbanist Ron Davis, who comes into the race with a slate of endorsements and after publishing several op-eds over the last few months.

Meanwhile, in the King County Council races, Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld has declared her candidacy for District 4, and there are rumors CM Mosqueda is considering a run for the District 8 spot. If she were to be elected to the King County Council, the two years remaining in her Seattle City Council term would be served by someone appointed by the Council, a body that will be largely reshaped by the elections this November.

The King County Council voted to put the new crisis center levy on the ballot, and residents will vote on this initiative this April (April 25, to be precise). This property tax levy would go into effect in 2024, and over a nine year period it could raise as much as $1.25b to fund the construction of five much-needed walk-in crisis centers that would be open twenty-four hours.

And don’t forget Initiative 135 for social housing! The ballots have been mailed, and the deadline for voting is February 14.

WA State Legislature News

HB 1579 to establish an independent prosecutor had its first hearing in the House on Tuesday, and HB 1513 regarding traffic stops had its first hearing in the House on Monday. HB 1024 regarding minimum wage for prison labor had a hearing in the Appropriations Committee on Monday afternoon. HB 1045, the basic income bill, was referred to Appropriations. SB 5383 regarding jaywalking still hasn’t had its first committee hearing. 

HB 1087 to end solitary confinement has a hearing in the Appropriations Committee tomorrow afternoon. You can sign in PRO here or find a script to email the committee members here.

As for a new bill to address the Blake decision on drug possession, while a bill has been introduced by Senator Dhingra based on the recommendations of SURSAC that would decriminalize most “personal amounts” of drugs, she has said she doesn’t have the votes to pass it. Instead what is likely to pass is a bill re-criminalizing drug possession but encouraging diversion programs.

Recent Headlines

The Cycle of Police Violence Continues Unabated Read More »

Budget Decisions Come Home to Roost

 Seattle News

 

A recent article in My Northwest reported that money is not the reason SPD officers are leaving the department. In fact, in exit interviews 60% of departing officers stated their salary was competitive, and around another 20% stated their salary would have been sufficient if not for the “additional hurdles” of being a cop in Seattle. With 60% of the analyzed exit interviews being because of retirement as opposed to resignations, and given the trend of lower staffing in police departments across the country, it appears another factor in SPD’s current staffing trends might be demographic: there are simply a lot of officers who have reached retirement age.

In tragic news, an officer driving a patrol SUV struck and killed a twenty-three-year-old woman on Monday evening. SPD’s account of what took place is unclear, but it sounds like it’s possible the officer didn’t stop after hitting the woman, as the SPD Blotter states, “Just after 08:00 p.m., officers arrived and located the 23-year-old female victim with life-threatening injuries.” Erica C. Barnett reported on Twitter that the intersection where this fatal crash took place was the site of a long-planned protected intersection that the Mayor and SDOT put on hold last year.

I bring up that last point because it’s important to remember that budget decisions have real-world consequences. It’s easy to get caught up in the weeds of process and politics and forget to link the process to its later impacts. But the reality is, the 2023 budget prioritizes items like hiring incentives for police officers and sweeping those who are houseless while defunding pedestrian and biker safety projects and food assistance programs. 

Meanwhile, Seattle city election news continues apace as more candidates for City Council announce their runs. We have more new candidates running in D3 along with Joy Hollingsworth, who is shaping up to be the business candidate: first-time candidate Ry Armstrong and Andrew Ashifou, a Black immigrant with experience being homeless who intends to run from a renter’s perspective. On Ashifou’s views on public safety, The Stranger reports:

Ashiofu envisions a public safety system that offloads police responsibilities to unarmed responders. To fund those programs, he’d funnel money out of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) budget and into alternatives such as REACH and other social worker nonprofits. 

Meanwhile, there’s talk of a potential socialist slate to run for the seven open City Council seats, but it’s still early days in this election season, and it’s too soon to say how the various races will shape up.

WA State Legislature News

HB 1025, a bill concerning civil liability for police and HB 1445, a bill that would give the state’s Attorney General powers of investigation & reform both received their first public hearings today. HB 1024, which would enact a minimum wage for prison labor, has been sent to appropriations. HB 1513, the traffic stops bill, hasn’t had its public hearing yet, but the ACLU WA has already written in its support

HB 1363, the high speed vehicular pursuit bill, will have its first public hearing on Tuesday, January 31. 

Currently enjoying bipartisan support, SB 5361 has been making some waves this week. This bill would allow municipalities to enact a sales and use tax of 0.10% to be used to fund law enforcement and public safety. If the jurisdiction in question does not meet a certain per capita officer rate that is tied to national rates, the proceeds from this tax would be required to go to hiring officers. If it does meet the specified rate, then the proceeds could be used for a few additional uses such as domestic violence programs. 

This bill is using a regressive sales tax that disproportionately impacts those with lower incomes to fund further investments in law enforcement, even though evidence suggests more officers do not tend to meaningfully reduce crime rates. Further, because crime rates are directly reported by police departments, they are open to manipulation, and many crimes aren’t counted, either because of low reporting rates or because officers choose not to pursue them. And as previously discussed, money doesn’t appear to be the main barrier in hiring more officers in any case. Meanwhile, we are struggling with a housing crisis, fentanyl overdose numbers continue to rise, our public education system continues to suffer from underfunding, and people are unable to access health care. None of these problems would be meaningfully addressed by hiring more police.

There will be a vote in the Senate about this bill tomorrow morning, January 26. If you want to email key legislators on the Senate Law & Justice committee to let them know your thoughts on this bill, there are instructions on how to do so, as well as a suggested script, here.

The Washington Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments about the capital gains tax tomorrow. The Court’s final ruling on this legislation, likely to be delivered sometime this spring, will have huge impacts on Washington State’s tax policy in the future.

King County News

Both King County Councilmember Joe McDermott and Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles have announced they do not intend to run for re-election this year, meaning there will be a few more interesting elections to watch this fall.

Meanwhile, King County’s new prosecutor Leesa Manion has announced a new gun violence prevention unit and a new division focused on gender-based violence. As the Seattle Times reports:Manion said the office plans to expand the efforts of a Harborview Medical Center pilot program that offers services to people who have been harmed by proximity to gun violence.” Canny readers will remember this program is partially funded by the City of Seattle; CM Herbold asked for additional funding in the 2023 budget to start a new pilot program to expand its age range and received about half of what she requested.

Recent Headlines

Budget Decisions Come Home to Roost Read More »

Record Deaths of Unhoused People in King County in 2022

WA State Legislature News:

Last week, The Stranger ran an excellent series by Will Casey covering some issues facing lawmakers during this legislative session:

HB 1025, a bill concerning civil liability for police, and HB 1445, a bill that would give the state’s Attorney General powers of investigation & reform similar in some respects to those powers currently enjoyed by the federal Department of Justice, are expected to have their first hearings next week. HB 1087, the solitary confinement bill, was heard in committee last week and is potentially scheduled for executive session on Friday. We’re still waiting for word on the traffic stops and independent prosecutor bills, as well as the bills dealing with the aftermath of the Blake decision. There is also talk about a new bill dealing with high speed vehicular pursuits by police that might undo the new standard adopted by the legislature in 2021, which has reduced deaths due to vehicular pursuit by 73%.

Other bills I’m watching with interest include HB 1024, which would enact a minimum wage for prison labor; HB 1110, known as the middle housing bill; HB 1045 to start a basic income pilot program for the state; and SB 5383 and companion bill HB 1428 to decriminalize jaywalking. For a great overview of how to participate in this state legislative session, as well as more details about the jaywalking bill, you can check out The Urbanist’s writeup here.

Seattle and King County News:

In tragic news, King County set a painful record in 2022: 310 people died while unhoused across King County. This represents a 65% increase in deaths from 2021, and more than half of the reported deaths were due to fentanyl-related fatal overdoses. 

In Seattle City Council election news, Joy Hollingsworth, a cannabis farming entrepreneur, declared her candidacy for the seat in District 3. CM Sawant, who currently holds that seat, has not yet said whether she will seek re-election. Current CM for District 7 Andrew Lewis declared he will seek re-election, and The Seattle Times reports he said the most pressing issue facing the city is crime, which seems like an attempt to make things more difficult for his challengers from the right.

Last week there was a town hall held at Rainier Beach High School, which included students discussing their safety concerns and how their school is neglected when it comes to budgeting decisions in the district.

The CHOP business owners’ lawsuit against the city of Seattle continues, and the presiding Judge has ruled about what to do in the matter of those critical missing text messages. As Kevin Schofield writes: 

…he found that some of the messages had been knowingly deleted and that it prejudiced the city’s ability to provide a defense; he granted the city the right to present evidence to a jury about those deleted messages. More significantly, he found substantial circumstantial evidence that several city officials had deleted messages with intent to deprive the plainitffs of those messages, and that too was prejudicial. Zilly considered whether to decide the case in the plaintiffs’ favor on that basis alone, given that the messages were between Mayor Durkan, SPD Chief Best, and SFD Chief Skoggins, but he decided that would be too extreme a remedy. Instead, he will allow the plaintiffs to present evidence to the jury about the deleted messages, and he will deliver an instruction to the jury that they may presume the deleted messages were unfavorable to the city.

Recent Headlines:

Record Deaths of Unhoused People in King County in 2022 Read More »

Wrapping Up 2022

Seattle News

Some big Seattle City Council election news this past week! Both CM Herbold and CP Juarez have announced their intention not to run for re-election for their City Council seats next year. CP Juarez has always been clear about her intention to serve two terms, but much has been said about CM Herbold’s remarks about her decision. When comparing the upcoming D1 race to last year’s City Attorney race, it is important to remember a few key points. First, a district race is very different in character from a city-wide race. Second, one of the issues in the City Attorney’s primary was the lack of campaigning from Pete Holmes until the last second. And finally, Ann Davison’s campaign massively outspent Nicole Thomas-Kennedy’s campaign. So while the 2021 City Attorney’s race was certainly very interesting, we need to be cautious about the parallels we draw between these two races.

It does seem like the moderate council members, of which CM Herbold is one, face a messaging problem in this upcoming election. More conservative voters might disapprove of these CMs committing to trying to remove up to 50% from the police budget to reallocate for other public safety strategies back in 2020 (never mind that they never came close to this number), while very progressive voters might be disappointed at what could be characterized as a wishy-washy follow-through to that commitment.

It is interesting to note that CM Mosqueda, who is typically seen as a more progressive CM, won her city-wide race handily in 2021; she was one of seven council members to back the 50% defund pledge in 2020, but she has been more consistent and effective in her messaging and explaining her values than many of her colleagues.

The Public Safety committee voted unanimously to appoint Interim Chief Diaz as SPD’s new police chief. This is in spite of his lack of support of police alternatives, including the seemingly never-ending analysis of 911 calls the SPD has undertaken in spite of the fact that many other comparable cities have somehow managed to figure out how to implement civilian response programs without drowning in violence and death as a result. In addition, as Erica C. Barnett reports in PubliCola:
While transferring some low-risk work to trained civilian responders would be one way to free up SPD officers for police work and investigations, another option could be reducing the amount of overtime police burn through directing traffic and providing security for sports events, which added up to more than 91,000 hours through October of this year. Diaz didn’t seem particularly open to this suggestion, either, noting that there is always a risk of violence at large events, such as someone trying to drive through a barricade.
Meanwhile, in an act of breathtaking pettiness, the Seattle Municipal Court elected their new presiding judge without allowing recently elected new judge Pooja Vaddadi and recently elected returning judge Damon Shadid the chance to vote. As Erica C. Barnett in PubliCola says:
According to local court rule 10.2, the municipal court judges are supposed to elect a new presiding judge “within 30 days after [a] vacancy occurs.” Because Eisenberg will not vacate his position until next January, Vaddadi told PubliCola, “this action… was not appropriate, nor was it in line with [the local rule] for a minority of the judges to hold a secret vote to elect a presiding and assistant presiding judge.”

This action by the other sitting judges seems to exhibit both a lack of professionalism and respect for the law governing the institution.

Regional News

The Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer was found not guilty of false reporting today. While the verdict is not surprising in a country that rarely holds police accountable, this case appeared like a clear example of police overreach:

An investigation led by former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran, commissioned last year by the Pierce County Council, found Troyer had violated policies on bias-free policing and other professional standards. Moran’s report, released in October 2021, noted that Troyer had given shifting statements about the encounter to media, his neighbors, and police.

The King County Auditor released a report on the County’s incarceration alternative and diversion programs this week that found a lack of strategic direction and data coordination between the 12 existing programs. This deficit makes it hard to tell whether the County has implemented the right programs, how they could complement each other, or if they need more capacity. It also found the County’s criminal legal agencies collect race data in different ways, making it difficult to meaningfully analyze racial disparities in those agencies.

The King County Sheriff’s Office is looking for applicants for their Community Advisory Board. Applications will be accepted through the end of January. It is unclear why King County is forming a new advisory board instead of continuing the extant King County Public Safety Advisory Committee, although it is possible for members of that body to apply for the new board.

Governor Inslee introduced his proposed 2023-25 budget today. Included in his proposal are additional investments in law enforcement training. Washington State currently runs two academies in the state, the main one in Burien and a smaller one in Spokane. The governor is proposing funding for seven additional Basic Law Enforcement Academy classes per year, including four at two new regional campuses, in order to reduce the waiting time for training and increase the output of trained officers per year. He also wishes to invest in grants to help local agencies pay for their share of training costs and increase recruitment efforts. The total proposed investment for these additions would be $16.16m.

The Washington Coalition of Police Accountability (WCPA) announced four new bills related to policing that will be discussed during the upcoming legislative session (which begins on January 9). The most promising might be the “Traffic Safety for All” bill that would limit traffic stops and provide a pool of money for low-income drivers to keep their vehicles in compliance with traffic laws. The other three are: a Washington Attorney General pattern-or-practice law that would allow the state to sue departments that systemically violate the law, not unlike federal consent decrees but at the state level; the establishment of an independent prosecutor to investigate and prosecute police misconduct at the state level; and revoking qualified immunity for police officers on the state level. I’m also hoping we’ll see the bill for ending solitary confinement in Washington again this session.

Housekeeping

The Seattle City Council has their Winter Recess from December 19 through January 1st.

Revue, the host of this newsletter, will be discontinued as of January 18. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve already begun the process of researching alternatives, and I’m hoping to use the City Council break to make some real headway in setting up a new delivery system for Notes from the Emerald City. My plan will be to automatically add my subscribers’ email addresses to the new system to keep the changeover as painless as possible.

For those of you who are paid subscribers, first of all, thank you for your support! On December 20, Revue will set all outstanding paid subscriptions to cancel at the end of their billing cycle. I expect to be setting up some new kind of payment system, and I’ll let you know the details when I have them.

In the meantime, I’m wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season. I hope you find some time to rest and rejuvenate; I have a feeling 2023 is going to be an eventful year!

Recent Headlines

Seattle Is Ignoring Major Support for Social Housing - The Stranger

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A wave breaks? In downtown Seattle, crime is now falling | The Seattle Times

Former Office of Police Accountability director files a lawsuit alleging city interfered with former BPD chief investigation

Wrapping Up 2022 Read More »

American Police Have Managed Not to Kill Someone 13 Days This Year

Seattle Budget Wrap-Up

The Seattle City Council passed the 2023-2024 municipal budget last week in a bitter 6-3 vote. CM Sawant cast her usual protest vote against a budget she characterized as an austerity budget, while CMs Pedersen and Nelson voted against the budget because…they were upset 80 unfillable positions were eliminated from SPD. They were also concerned that the Council will be continuing to practice basic fiscal oversight over a police department that ran completely amuck as recently as two years ago, as well as having a track record of habitually overspending their overtime budget. Quelle horreur.
Before we get any further, a correction. Both my reading of Seattle’s City Charter and consultation with others had, back in 2020, led me to the conclusion that the budget needed a ¾ vote to pass, which if rounding up, meant 7 out of 9 council members needed to approve it. However, since the budget passed with 6 votes last week, this understanding was clearly incorrect. Unless more comes to light about this matter, we can expect future budgets to require only 6 votes to pass.
Let’s talk some more about those 80 abrogated positions, shall we? The Seattle Times editorial board weighed in last week, saying:
Against this backdrop, council members Lisa Herbold, Dan Strauss, Tammy Morales, Debora Juarez, Kshama Sawant and Teresa Mosqueda flouted the mayor’s request and voted to eliminate 80 unfilled SPD positions. Mayor Bruce Harrell wanted these positions to support his effort to rebuild the department to 1,450 officers.
This ignores the fact that these abrogated positions are unfilled and will remain unfilled for several years. Those positions will remain unfilled regardless as to how the Seattle City Council feels about it because of simple mathematics; SPD literally cannot hire and train enough new officers to expand the department quickly, especially given the number of separations every year. 160 unfilled and still funded positions remain in SPD even after this abrogation, and CM Herbold estimates it will take EIGHT YEARS to fill 120 of these positions. That means that even if Council members wish to aggressively grow the police department, no additional positions will be necessary until 2030. Furthermore, additional positions are added to city departments all the time; this is standard practice, and the idea that Seattle council members will be unable to do this in 2030 (or whenever the need might arise) if they are in agreement as to the proper size of the department is absurd.
It is also worth noting the overall SPD budget will grow by around $15m in 2023 after shrinking for the last two years (2021 and 2022). The Council’s changes to SPD’s budget from the one proposed by Mayor Harrell at the end of September amount to a less than 1% decrease. Fiscal realities due to lower-than-expected city revenue meant there simply weren’t a lot of additional resources to devote to any part of the budget, including to a police department that is only expecting to gain a net of 15 police officers in 2023 in spite of funding hiring bonuses and an expensive media campaign. Unfortunately, this also negatively impacted investment in alternative public safety programs that are often both more effective in making people feel safe and more cost effective than hiring more police.
This was CM Nelson’s first budgetary vote, but why did CM Pedersen choose this year to put his foot down budgetarily speaking, given the above? Certainly the budget included much more controversial choices back in 2020, when he chose to vote in favor of it. One cannot help wondering if next year’s elections have something to do with this change in approach.

Other Seattle News

Seattle has released its legislative agenda for the next state legislative session, which begins in January. The following items related to public safety and the criminal legal system made the city’s agenda, among others:
  • ending qualified immunity for police officers
  • allowing police chiefs to lay off officers on the Brady list
  • removing issues of “disciplinary action, appeals of discipline, subpoena authority, and any state reforms related to law enforcement” from collective bargaining
  • supporting independent prosecutions of deadly use of force
  • supporting more training for cops
  • supporting “increasing the flexibility for local jurisdictions to allow civilian personnel to respond to 911 calls and low-level criminal calls, as in the CAHOOTS program”
  • eliminating or significantly reducing the role of local law enforcement officials in immigration law enforcement
  • supporting various gun laws, such as limiting or banning assault weapons and having a ten-day waiting period for purchasing a firearm
  • supporting criminal legal system reform, including “decreasing mass incarceration and supervision, decreasing racial disproportionality, making the system more equitable, and ending the death penalty” (note no specific mention of solitary confinement)
  • funding for behavioral health care and substance abuse disorder treatment as well as permanent supportive housing
While all of this is very interesting, mostly in seeing what made the cut and what didn’t, it’s worth noting the city’s legislative agenda as it pertained to public safety last year was barely addressed. That being said, the climate is considerably more friendly towards getting things done this year.
Meanwhile, both Will Casey at The Stranger and Doug Trumm at The Urbanist have called out the difficulties of progressive voter turnout in Seattle in odd years. Unfortunately, changing our local elections to even years would require a change in state law, but it is a popular idea, as is evinced by the success of the measure in King County in last month’s elections to move some elections to even years. Otherwise, Will Casey talked to political consultant Michael Ferkakis, who suggests, “If progressives want to have a shot at winning, they have to really focus on turning out low-turnout voters and having policies that are progressive but can’t be construed as radical to scare consistent voters.” Not the most inspiring strategy for progressives who want to get things done. Ferkakis particularly called out District 1 as a difficult district for a progressive.
The investigation into former OPA Director Myerberg is continuing to drag on in its messy way:
Further documentation reveals that the City plans to spend — or, at the time of this writing, has already spent — $50,000 on Seyfarth Shaw to “fact-find” for the OIG, despite the fact that the OIG is not looking at the formal allegations as articulated in Lippek’s original complaint. In other words, the City is apparently spending thousands of public dollars to fund a fact-finding mission based on a flawed investigatory premise.

Other News

Five cities in our region–Kirkland, Bothell, Kenmore, Shoreline, and Lake Forest Park–have agreed to band together to offer a regional crisis response that merges Kirkland’s program with the RADAR Navigator program. It will begin operation at the end of Q1 2023. Kirkland CM Black said about the program, “We are committed to reducing reliance on law enforcement as the primary responders to our community members experiencing behavioral health crisis and finding other ways to connect them to care and resources.”
As we near the end of 2022, it seems like a good idea to check in with the Mapping Police Violence resource to see how the US has been doing this year. US police have killed 1,074 people so far this year. There have been 13 days this year during which the police succeeded in not killing someone. Black people have been three times more likely to be killed by police than white people during the last decade, even though they are 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed. Only 1 in 3 killings over the last 6 years began with an alleged violent crime. 35 people were killed by police so far this year in Washington State.

Recent Headlines

Jim Brunner
NEW: Lawsuit seeks to stop disqualification of WA ballots for signature mismatches, arguing practice is arbitrary, error-prone & disproportionately disenfranchises young voters, voters of color #waelex https://t.co/R5E81NALZ1 via @seattletimes
Council Member Nelson “Egregiously Misconstrued” African American Museum Director to Save a Fraction of the Police Budget

King County Sucks at Tackling Organized Retail Theft, but the State Wants to Help

New Seattle Council Districts Probably Won’t Sweep Antifa into Power

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SF police 'killer robots' motion passes

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Council Votes to Take More Money from You but Not Amazon - The Stranger

Breaking down Seattle's $7.4B final budget | Crosscut

Seattle City Council approves budget. Here are 3 things to know | The Seattle Times

American Police Have Managed Not to Kill Someone 13 Days This Year Read More »

Seattle’s Budget Balancing Package

Seattle’s Balancing Package

Amy Sundberg
Okay, let’s try this again! Welcome to Seattle’s budget committee meeting introducing the Chair’s balancing package.
Budget Chair Mosqueda released her budget balancing package yesterday morning, after delaying its unveiling a week to wrestle with lower than expected revenues.
Looking at the public safety portion of the budget, it lays out the following:
  • 80 “ghost cop” positions to be abrogated
  • the PEOs to remain in SDOT with increased supports until a study about their final destination can be run
  • many small cuts in SPD: to the retention program (although the main program passed earlier this year remains intact); to the recruitment media plan; to police equipment; elimination of the gunfire detection system (ShotSpotter); and elimination of an assistant city attorney position that was to be housed within SPD, for cuts totaling around $2.84m. These cuts were all originally funded by empty positions SPD can’t hope to fill anytime soon.
  • $4m additional to LEAD, which is less than CM Herbold asked for
  • $300k for a gun violence prevention pilot run at Haborview through the Regional Peacekeepers Collective, which is half of what CM Herbold asked for
  • $50k to develop an Affected Person’s program for those impacted by SPD violence
  • $1m to expand mental health services in schools, in answer to Seattle Student Union’s demands for $9m to improve the ratio between counselors and high school students
  • the dual dispatch emergency response pilot doesn’t get any additional funding until 2024, and the expansion of CSO duties isn’t funded
In addition, transportation projects took a big hit, unsurprising given the much lower forecast of the REET funds. Sweeps remain well funded. Given the poor revenue forecast, CM Mosqueda opted to use JumpStart funds to avoid an austerity budget for the next two years but chose not to permanently change JumpStart to become a General Fund slush fund in perpetuity as Mayor Harrell had wanted. She seems to be pinning her hopes on the task force looking for new progressive revenue for the city. You can read another overview of the balancing package here.
At the meeting on Monday, one could already observe the “tough on crime” part of the Council wringing their hands, and CMs Nelson and Pedersen quickly published an op-ed in The Seattle Times, complaining specifically about the public safety portions of the balancing package. The piece seems to claim that somehow Seattle’s homeless problem will be addressed by…keeping those 80 perpetually open SPD positions? moving the PEOs back into SPD? undoing the less than $3m in proposed cuts to SPD in the balancing package? It is an incoherent argument at best, given that meaningfully addressing the homeless crisis will cost hundreds of millions of dollars spent on HOUSING and supportive services, not SPD.
Given the hysteria over what amount to fairly small changes from the Mayor’s proposed budget, perhaps it is time to revisit WHY 7 out of 9 Councilmembers agreed in 2020 that as a general policy position, the idea of shrinking SPD might have some merit:
  • In response to the mostly peaceful George Floyd protests, SPD indiscriminately used less-lethal weapons such as tear gas, pepper spray, blast balls, and flash bangs, as well as using their bicycles as weapons and punching and kneeling on the necks of people who had been arrested. They did so night after night, at protest after protest. The OPA were contacted over 19,000 times between May 30 and the end of 2020 with complaints about police behavior at protests.
  • In fact, SPD were so extreme in their behavior that the Court granted a temporary restraining order against SPD and their use of these weapons in June 2020, and then in December 2020 found SPD in contempt for protests in the preceding August and September.
  • The City of Seattle also withdrew the motion “to terminate most of the Consent Decree” on June 3. 2920 because of community outcry and SPD’s egregious use of force, a consent decree which has now been in place in Seattle for over TEN years.
  • SPD were noted to be specifically targeting medics, legal observers, and journalists with violence and arrest, including journalist Andrew Buncombe, who wrote about the experience for his paper
  • The protests were marked by both a lack of communication from SPD and the Mayor’s Office (for example, pertaining to the evacuation of the East Precinct, for which no one would take responsibility) and flat-out lying, for example in the case of the Proud Boys ruse executed by SPD and the SPD press conference on June 10, 2020
  • The public later discovered text messages from the period in question had been illegally deleted from the Chief of Police’s phone, the Mayor’s phone, the Fire Chief’s phone, and several other SPD command staff members’ phones. Former Chief Best later admitted she had gone in and manually deleted some of her texts
  • A strong coalition of protesters came together to demand cuts to SPD and investments to address the root causes of violence, meet community members’ basic needs, and begin to address the systemic racism that has been at play in our city since its founding
And yet here we are, a little over two years later, arguing over less than $3m, the civilian PEO unit staying in a civilian division, and 80 SPD abrogations that SPD has no way of filling for years to come. Meanwhile, the much small 911 dispatcher unit is undergoing 26 abrogations in the same budget, a move that hasn’t caused an outcry even though the “tough on crime” proponents make frequent complaints about increased 911 call response times. This is because abrogation of positions that cannot be filled is simply good fiscal practice.
The last public hearing on the budget was held tonight beginning at 5pm. You can still email council members with your thoughts on the balancing package; here are a few scripts. The next round of amendments, which need to be self-balancing, will probably be released towards the end of this week. You will have the opportunity to make public comment on these amendments on Monday, November 21 starting at 9:30am (signups beginning at 7:30am), after which the amendments will be voted upon.
The budget committee will vote on the entire budget on Monday, November 28, and the full council will make their final vote on Tuesday, November 29.

Other News

Carolyn Bick reported today that the OPA may have broken city and state public records laws by deleting emails they were legally required to keep. Given the “missing” text messages of 2020, it is perhaps no surprise that other city departments will now follow that precedent, secure in the knowledge that we don’t currently have a city culture of transparency or accountability and that they won’t suffer any consequences for improper actions.
UW graduate student Matthew Mitnick announced his run today for the Seattle D4 council member seat currently held by CM Pedersen.
The King County Council voted on the 2023-2024 biennial budget today, which passed unanimously.

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Seattle’s Budget Balancing Package Read More »