hot spots

The WA Legislative Session Winds to a Disappointing End

WA State Legislature News

The two policing bills we’ve been following here rolling back reforms made in the 2021 session–2037 and 5919–both passed out of their second chamber largely unchanged on Friday and will now make their way to the Governor’s desk for a signature. There was very little debate about either of these bills on the floor before the vote. For 5919 in particular, lawmakers were seemingly not honest about this bill’s chances of making it to the floor, meaning an organized campaign against it was difficult to mount at the last minute. There is not much optimism at present about the ability to get further police reform bills through in upcoming legislative sessions either, and concern about even more rollbacks.
Not only were further improvements to police accountability tabled for this session, the legislature also failed to pass legislation reforming current sentencing laws, not to mention the failed solitary confinement bill that would have put to an end punishment used in Washington State that is internationally recognized as torture. The legislature were able to pass three bills pertaining to gun control.
Impacted families went above and beyond to speak to lawmakers both in 2021’s session and in this year’s session, sometimes re-traumatizing themselves in the process. The results show that many lawmakers weren’t truly listening to these personal stories, but were instead responding to the pressure created by the mass movement on the streets in 2020. Once that pressure was no longer as present, we can see how quickly they are allowing things to slip back to the status quo.
This year’s legislative session officially ends on Thursday.

Seattle News

Mayor Harrell held a public safety press conference last week, mostly to talk about “Operation New Day,” the administration’s latest effort in hot spot policing. In addition to the hot spot at 12th and Jackson, SPD is now also focusing on Third and Pine in the downtown corridor. So far, no social service providers are involved in this operation in spite of general agreement that the city cannot arrest its way out of its problems; Harrell said they are doing a general inventory of community-based organizations to make sure they are aligned with his vision. In the meantime, SPD has made many felony and misdemeanor arrests.
The Seattle City Council passed legislation last week that retroactively authorized a hiring bonus program for 911 dispatchers and SPD officers for the month of January, during which $220k was spent. The legislation says: “on February 4, 2022, Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell, sent an e-mail to Councilmembers that indicated, “unbeknownst to the Harrell Administration,” the SPD and CSCC “continued to offer incentive bonuses throughout the entire month of January,” and that they “have since directed both SPD and CSCC to cease offering the bonuses immediately,””
At today’s Public Safety committee meeting, Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell came to speak about the appointment process for the new Director of the OPA. Their goal is to have 4-6 final candidates identified for interviews by May 27, and a final decision by the Mayor on the new director by June 30. This timeline is extended past that specified in the City’s accountability legislation, but CM Herbold supports the proposal and will act to make it possible.
A search committee will be formed to aid in this process. It must consist of 25% CPC members and have a CPC member as co-chair. Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell said they are also hoping to have community members serve on this committee, as well as at least one CM.
As part of the interview process, the 4-6 final candidates will receive written assessment questions, and their answers will be made available to the public. CM Mosqueda asked if there would also be an opportunity to conduct community forums so community has a chance to interact with the final candidates.While this wasn’t part of the original plan, Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell sounded like she was amenable to adding it. Given that King County community members were given this opportunity to hear and speak with the final candidates for the OLEO Director position, one hopes Seattle residents will be given a similar opportunity for such an important position.
This process will be discussed further at the next Public Safety committee meeting in two weeks.
Carolyn Bick has a new article out today in the South Seattle Emerald revealing more abuses within Seattle’s police accountability system. They report that it appears clear that the City is, in some capacity, currently investigating Andrew Myerberg, the former Director of the OPA and now the Mayor’s Director of Public Safety. They also report extensively on the labyrinth of confusion navigated by lawyer Sarah Lippek, who in 2021 made one complaint to the OPA and two complaints to the OIG, none of which have been resolved and all of which are confusing in how they’ve been pursued (or failed to be pursued, as the case may be). The Seattle Department of Human Resources and the Seattle City Attorney’s Office are also involved, as is outside firm Seyfarth Shaw, rumored for the last several decades to be notorious for union busting.
All of this begs the question: if this lawyer is having such difficulty navigating the system, (you can read the article for many examples of how dysfunctional these bodies’ email communications alone appear to be), how would a normal private citizen have any hope whatsoever of gaining real accountability from Seattle’s system as it currently exists?

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WA Legislature Discusses Rollbacks to Last Year’s Public Safety Progress

WA State Legislature News

With the exception of HB 1756 regarding solitary confinement, most of the potentially helpful public safety bills are dead at this point in the session. Instead, advocates for more equitable public safety are having to fight against serious rollbacks to policy improvements won during last year’s session.
Perhaps most concerning of these is HB 2037, which would broaden the circumstances and lower the standards for when police can use force when someone flees the scene of a Terry stop. Among other things, this would likely increase police violence and racial profiling by police officers in Washington State. As the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability’s (WCPA) one-pager on this bill states:
Even under the standard that existed before HB 1310, there was too much police violence. Police got  away with harming people, and have killed people when they were not even committing a crime – when  they were in crisis, or when officers assumed criminality without evidence. HB 2037 would be a step  backwards from the prior standard. Thousands of people throughout Washington marched in the streets  to demand accountability in policing, not to give officers more leeway to harm people.
People Power Washington – Police Accountability is joining with WCPA to urge you to contact your representatives as soon as possible to urge them to reject HB 2037 unless it includes amendments approved by the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability (WCPA) that would protect vulnerable residents from police violence. You can find more details, scripts, and contact information for this action here.
Other bills currently still being discussed that would roll back hard-won progress in public safety are HB 1788 and SB 5919.

Seattle News

Journalist Erica C. Barnett shared another glaring breach of transparency during the Durkan administration yesterday. During a PDR request, she became aware of a “secret” email address former Mayor Durkan was using to conduct government-related business. Why this email address was never disclosed in the large amount of previous PDRs requested is an open and troubling question, and once again shows how deep a problem Seattle city government has with transparency to the public.
Last Friday Mayor Harrell held a press conference about public safety. He discussed the city’s “hot spot” strategy for reducing crime–nothing new for Seattle–and increasing the number of police officers in SPD. Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell spoke again about alternate safety responses, and it sounds like the new administration is in the middle of making plans for how these alternatives are going to be set up. Mayor Harrell also cited a specific book his public safety policy is influenced by: When Brute Force Fails, by Mark A.R. Kleiman. You can read more about the press conference here.
Also discussed was the increase of violence in Seattle last year, and especially of gun violence. This increase has been seen throughout the country over the past two years, in both blue and red areas and regardless of amount of police funding. This underscores the need for consistent and sufficient funding for community-based violence prevention programs in Seattle and King County; to learn more about what these programs can look like, you can read more in these recent articles here and here.
The CPC is continuing its community engagement meetings with consent decree Monitor Oftelie. The next one is tonight, 2/8, from 6-8pm. The subject is traffic stops, and you can find the full agenda and Zoom link here. While SPD has moved away from certain routine traffic stops such as stops for cracked windshields and expired tags, there is more progress that can be made in this area. You can find some suggestions for additional policy improvements in SB 5485, including halting stops for driving with a suspended license in the third degree, failure to dim lights, and failure to keep to the right.
In February of 2021, two officers fatally shot 44-year-old Derek Hayden, who was carrying a knife and threatening to kill himself. This continues a pattern of confrontations between SPD officers and people in crisis with knives that end in the death of the person in crisis. (You may remember, for example, the killing of Terry Caver by an SPD officer in 2020.) The two involved officers have been suspended for failing to de-escalate, but only for three days and one day respectively, even though, according to Paul Kiefer’s article in Publicola:
Both the officers’ supervisors and the OPA, however, determined that the officers made a series of disastrous assumptions and miscalculations that made the shooting almost inevitable.
The article went on to discuss the reaction of CM Lisa Herbold, the chair of Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee:
Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold criticized both the OPA’s ruling and the relatively minor punishments for Butler and Jared on Wednesday, arguing that one or both decisions exposed a dangerous gap in the city’s police accountability system. “When an officer’s out-of-policy actions contribute to the circumstances leading to someone’s death, our accountability system must hold them accountable,” she said of Myerberg’s decision to not fault Butler and Jared for the shooting itself.
Myerberg, of course, has left the OPA and gone on to become the Director of Public Safety for the City of Seattle.

King County News

We have a new candidate in the race for King County prosecutor: Stephan Thomas, who plans to bring a full-scale restorative justice framework to his work in the prosecutor’s office, aided by his experience and relationships with local groups like CHOOSE 180 and Community Passageways. In his recent interview with the South Seattle Emerald, he describes a clear vision of building new processes and systems based on the work of such groups. As he says, “What does moving forward look like? It looks like investing in the things that right now are in their infancy. Things like Community Passageways, things like CHOOSE 180, things like treatment on demand, things like housing first. Those are the things that we know work.”

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