House Our Neighbors

Mayor Harrell Has Been Saying Some Interesting Things at SPD Roll Calls

The news didn’t slow down THAT much at the end of August, so let’s dive in and get caught up!

Seattle News

There will be a public Q&A session for the top three candidates for SPD police chief on the evening of Thursday, September 15. You can submit questions for the event here and you can watch it on the Seattle Channel.
Andrew Myerberg was removed from his position as Director of Public Safety for Seattle. He is now “Special Projects Director” and is apparently still working on “safety related legal work, police chief search, accountability issues, etc.” Publicola reports that “Harrell said removing Myerberg from his position was just part of a six-month evaluation that involved “moving people around,” but declined to say more about what Myerberg will do in his new role.” The Mayor’s Office appears to be searching for a replacement for the Public Safety Director position.
Social Housing Initiative 135 qualified to be on the ballot in February 2023.
In MyNorthwest.com, Jason Rantz wrote about how Mayor Harrell has been visiting police precinct roll calls and speaking candidly about his thoughts on Seattle: “I don’t think anyone has a right to sleep in a public space. I don’t think anyone has a right to sleep on a sidewalk and I don’t think anyone has the right to sleep in the park.” Now there’s a quote that gets people to sit up and take notice.
There’s a lot more going on in this article though. It confirms Mayor Harrell’s commitment to ending the consent decree, and it’s the first time I’ve heard the possibility floated that the new SPOG contract negotiations could be done by the end of the year. In addition, the Mayor seems to have indicated he’s getting involved with the City Council races next year, when 7 of the 9 council members will be up for election. Hannah Krieg at The Stranger did some digging and found that Seattle’s big business faction is recruiting candidates to challenge Lisa Herbold in District 1 and Tammy Morales in District 2. Lisa Herbold currently serves as the Chair of the Public Safety and Human Resources committee, and Tammy Morales is one of the most progressive members of the Council. The Mayor also seems to be taking shots at the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (to which Seattle provides a large amount of funding) and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), which has been shown to reduce recidivism.
Lastly, Jason Rantz reports that, talking to SPD officers, “many question the mayor’s recruitment and retention plan. They do not think sign-up bonuses will make a difference and they believe the only thing to retain officers would be a fair contract.” It seems not even SPD officers agree with the Mayor’s recruitment bonus plan, legislation for which passed in August.
In other news, now’s your chance to become more informed about an important race that Seattle residents will vote on in November, for Seattle Municipal Court Judge. There are two judicial positions coming to the ballot this year, and The Stranger ran profiles last week on the race between incumbent Adam Eisenberg and challenger Pooja Vaddadi:
It’s Eisenberg’s day-to-day administration of his courtroom and perceived friendliness towards prosecutors, not his work on diversion programs, that attracted an unusually well-funded opponent in this November’s general election.
In a recent survey, Eisenberg was rated lowest for impartiality amongst all his judicial colleagues. He is known for leading the development of the Domestic Violence Intervention Project, which takes a less court-focused and more rehabilitative approach to those accused of domestic violence.
Pooja Vaddadi has her own plans when it comes to supporting diversion programs from the bench:
If she does prevail in November, Vaddadi says she wants to use the relationships she’s built with elected officials on the campaign trail to advocate for more funding for diversion programs so that more low-income people can access them. She also plans to push for expanding diversion programs that prove successful at the King County Superior Court level so that people in Seattle Municipal Court can benefit from them as well.
For Vaddadi, her focus on diversion programs stems from her belief that no one is beyond help, and from a recognition that the criminal legal system creates much of the harm its proponents say they want it to prevent.
Meanwhile, cases at Seattle Community Court are surging as a result of City Attorney Davison’s policy to prosecute more cases than Pete Holmes. Low-level misdemeanors that are eligible for community court are automatically sent there, and in Q2 2022 cases sent to community court have doubled compared to Q2 of 2021. As Josh Cohen in Crosscut writes:
Though court reformers see community court as a more humane alternative to booking people into jail, they don’t necessarily see the increase in community court referrals as positive. Instead, many want to see more cases diverted into alternatives that provide social services and support before they enter the court system. According to city attorney office data, pre-filing diversions and pre-trial diversions are both down significantly compared to years before the pandemic and prior to the creation of Seattle Community Court.

King County News

There will be a forum on Thursday, September 8 at 7pm discussing the role of the King County prosecutor in the criminal punishment system and particularly, how much discretion prosecutors have. This is timely given King County will be electing a new prosecutor in November’s election. You can register for the forum here or watch it live on the League of Women Voters Youtube page.
Speaking of the King County Prosecutor, current prosecutor Dan Satterberg has asked King County Sheriff Cole-Tindall to investigate the deletion of text messages of Seattle city leaders in 2020, including then-Mayor Durkan, then-SPD Chief Best, and SFD Chief Scoggins. While this response seems a bit delayed, to say the least, it is possible Satterberg felt more able to act given his term as prosecutor will be ending shortly. You can read more about it at Axios.
Sydney Brownstone over at The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle jail (run by King County) has had an extreme suicide rate over the past year.
“It’s astronomical,” said Frances Abderhalden, an expert on jail suicides and an assistant professor of criminal justice at California State University, Los Angeles. “It begs the question to me: Why this facility? That’s a lot of death in general in one facility per year.”
In July of 2020, Executive Constantine promised to close this jail, but it is unclear what the timeline of such a closure would be, or if the promise will be kept now that the narrative around the criminal legal system has shifted due to a backlash that, if allowed to prevail, handily protects the status quo.

National News

President Biden has a new crime plan called the “Safer America” plan. Ah, does he finally intend to crack down on gun control, a problem that we know how to solve given the large number of countries that have in fact solved it? No, no, why do the obvious thing to make the US safer when you can hire more police officers instead? The plan consists of hiring 100,000 more police officers and allocating at least an additional $13 billion to America’s police budgets, which are already the largest in the world by far.
Here is Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing, on the plan:

And as Eric Reinhart starts out his piece in Time Magazine:

The “war on crime” is the highest-casualty, most expensive, and longest-lasting war in American history. This coordinated assault on the nation’s poorest communities has led to tens of millions of individuals locked up in cages with deadly long-term health consequences, at least 31,000 people killed directly by police, and trillions of dollars spent on pointless punishment. For over 50 years, repeated increases to public spending on police and prisons have continually bankrolled this war while failing to ensure safety, leaving the U.S. one of the least safe countries among all wealthy nations.

Recent Headlines

What's in a Movement? Understanding Resistance, Justice & Allies

Texas Bail Reform Reduced Jail Time and Crime, New Study Says - Bloomberg

We Probably Do Not Need Cops Directing Traffic at Sports Games - The Stranger

Seattle Fire Department staff shortage forces extreme hours, $37.7M of OT | The Seattle Times

Seattle police has big backlog of open requests for public records; slow responses persist - Axios Seattle

For some, community court reduces jail bookings by 87% | Crosscut

The role WA courts play in mental health care when someone is in crisis | The Seattle Times

'We are the alternative': A growing movement aims to disrupt violence by connecting incarcerated youth with mentors | CNN

5 agencies create task force to target violent, gun-related crimes in Snohomish County

NYC's Rise of Low-Level Arrests Worry Critics of 'Broken Windows' Era - Bloomberg

Mayor Harrell Has Been Saying Some Interesting Things at SPD Roll Calls Read More »

A Road Map for the Fall

Seattle News

Hannah Krieg
Today the council will vote on hiring bonuses for cops. An organizer, TK, from Every Day March called into public comment to accuse the council of lying to Black organizers about their commitment to police accountability and reform during the summer of 2020.

Yesterday the Seattle City Council voted to pass the SPD hiring incentive legislation 6 to 3, with CMs Morales, Mosqueda, and Sawant voting against it. You can see CM Morales’s remarks about why she didn’t support this bill here:

Councilmember Tammy J. Morales
We have a LOT of challenges in this city that cannot be solved with a badge and a gun: inadequate housing options, homelessness, limited behavioral health services.

That’s why I voted no on hiring incentives for SPD yesterday. It passed @SeattleCouncil 6-3. Remarks below:

1/10 https://t.co/AtkCR6oq5f

I-135, Seattle’s social housing initiative, has turned in more signatures and is now aiming to be on the ballot in February 2023, pending signature verification.
The Seattle Times reported that in Q2, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office filed 1,708 cases, an increase of 124% from the same quarter last year.
At Wednesday’s Finance and Housing committee meeting, CMs received the city’s revenue update, and it’s not looking great for 2023 and 2024. The August forecast for 2022 comes in at $1,745,610,000. whereas the August forecast for 2023 is $1,519,120,000 and the August forecast for 2024 is $1,557,310,000. It’s worth noting those forecasts for 2023 and 2024 are the baseline forecasts, not the pessimistic ones.
Erica C. Barnett
Seattle Councilmember @CMTMosqueda has proposed using some JumpStart payroll tax revenues to once again pay for general-fund services in light of the city’s ongoing budget shortfall; funding would come from excess/higher-than-anticipated JS revenues. /1

CM Mosqueda has proposed using some of the JumpStart tax revenues to continue paying for general fund services in 2023 and 2024 to help fill the revenue vs. expenditure gap. The Mayor is also pulling together a progressive revenue task force to look for potential new sources of revenue for the city (think more in the 2025 range for when this could kick in). This news sets the stage for the upcoming budget season.

Looking forward….

The City of Seattle goes on its two week summer break starting on Monday, August 22. Unless something mind-blowing happens during that time, I’m not planning another edition of the newsletter until after Labor Day. But fear not, Budget Season will be upon us before we know it.
Upcoming Dates of Note:
9/13 9:30am: Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, where there will be a Q&A with OPA Director nominee Gino Betts
9/20 2pm: potential final Council confirmation vote of Gino Betts as OPA Director
9/25 11am: People Power Washington’s General Meeting; come if you want to hear me talk about budgets (and honestly, who doesn’t want to hear that?)
9/27: Mayor Harrell transmits Seattle’s proposed 2023 budget; Executive Constantine transmits King County’s proposed 2023-2024 budget
10/21: Ballots for the General Election are mailed out to WA voters
11/8: Election Day!
11/22: potential final Council vote for Seattle’s 2023 budget

Recent Headlines

WA state delays watchdog reports on prisons, concerning advocates | Crosscut

TV News Is Ignoring the Eviction Crisis - by Adam Johnson

Local Leaders Announce New Coalition to Address Behavioral Health Crisis - The Stranger

A New Agency Seeks to Hold Washington’s Killer Cops Accountable - The Stranger

A Road Map for the Fall Read More »

The Fight Over a Seattle Alternative Response Pilot Continues

Seattle News

Yesterday morning Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee received their long-awaited update from the Mayor’s Office regarding the development of alternative responses in Seattle.

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. CM Mosqueda is excused from this meeting.
And the news, while not surprising, was not good. The Mayor’s Office continues to drag their feet on standing up any kind of pilot for alternative response like other similar cities have already done. Indeed, other cities’ alternative response have had time to launch pilots and begin to scale up their programs in the time it has taken Seattle to…string together a lot of empty words. The Mayor’s Office said they expect SPD’s risk management report any day now, and promised to share it with City Council very quickly…which turned out to mean in August, at least a full month after its expected receipt. CM Herbold asked for this to happen at the end of July instead.
Both CM Herbold and CM Lewis pushed multiple times for more urgency in this work, although their arguments seemed to have little visible impact on Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell and Director of Public Safety Andrew Myerberg. The white paper regarding standing up a third public safety department was once again referenced as being expected “by the end of the year”, with no apparent plans for any pilot program in the meantime. CM Lewis said he’d had a pilot priced out, and it would only cost $700k-$1m, which is a drop in the bucket of Seattle’s overall budget.
Council members also pushed for CSOs (Community Service Officers) to potentially be given the task of answering certain low-acuity 911 calls, at which point we learned the hiring pipeline for CSOs is apparently having difficulty. CM Lewis cautioned against giving the CSOs work that didn’t fit with their “culture” of being a police auxiliary, but CM Herbold shared the news that this culture has shifted since last year, and there is now more diversity of opinion within the CSO unit as to what their duties should entail and perhaps even where they might best be housed. Moving the CSOs out of SPD so they are able to develop their own culture separate from SPD matches more closely to what many advocates have been asking for when it comes to alternative response.
Meanwhile, while the Mayor’s Office has promised to work together with City Council’s Central Staff on these issues, it came out that the interdepartmental team (IDT) that would include Central Staff hasn’t been active, and they’re still working to put meeting dates on the calendar. You can read more about all these issues from Will Casey at The Stranger.
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The meeting also featured a presentation on the new 988 behavioral crisis system, which launches on July 16. It is being handled by King County Behavioral Health and Crisis Connections, with opportunities for partnership with Seattle. They have a three step plan for implementing the 988 vision: first, making sure the state hotline is fielding 90% of calls by next year; next, that 80% have access to a rapid crisis response by 2025; and lastly that 80% have access to community-based crisis care by 2027. There has been some money allocated to help make this happen. However, the mobile crisis team, while in the process of being doubled, is still quite small, and one of the biggest identified gaps in the system right now is the lack of enough mental health crisis facilities, so this development of a continuum of behavioral health supports is going to take time.
Meanwhile, Initiative 135 for social housing collected enough signatures to go onto November’s ballot…hopefully. They need 26,500 signatures and were able to collect 29,000, which doesn’t give much buffer should some of those signatures prove to be invalid. Cross fingers! Unfortunately Washington State Initiative Measure No. 1922, which would have decriminalized personal drug possession and provided funding for additional prevention, treatment, and recovery services, did not collect enough signatures to make the ballot this year.
Finally, Publicola‘s Erica Barnett published an article with a gem of a headline this week: Times Columnist Wants Seattle to Have So Many Cops, They’ll Rush Across Town to Arrest IPhone Thieves.

Nationwide News

CBS released a news story this week that everyone is talking about. They reviewed US murder clearance rate statistics from the FBI and found that the rate for 2020 was at around 50%, its lowest rate in more than fifty years. Murders involving Black and Hispanic victims were much less likely to be solved than those involving white victims during this time. While the usual culprits of not enough police staffing and backlogged courts are blamed for this low rate, CBS’s story says that “police are also contending with a breakdown in trust between their officers and the communities they serve, a result of decades of tensions that spilled over during high-profile cases of police misconduct in recent years.”

Recent Headlines

The Bright Side of SPD's Staffing Shortage - The Stranger

Seattle Might Soon Defund a Promising Police Alternative - The Stranger

The King County Jail knew these bunks were a suicide risk. And still, more people died | The Seattle Times

Seattle police officers won’t march in Pride Parade, frustrated chief says | The Seattle Times

The Fight Over a Seattle Alternative Response Pilot Continues Read More »

A Revealing Lens into the WA State Legislature

WA State News

 

There are two big pieces of news related to the state legislature this week.
First, Kirsten Harris-Talley wrote a revealing op-ed that ran in the South Seattle Emerald about why she’s choosing not to run again for her representative seat. In particular, she writes about what happened with the rollback police accountability legislation HB 2037 and SB 5919 during this year’s session. She relates how she was strongly discouraged by party leadership from proposing two amendments to 2037, thus at least allowing a conversation to take place about issues with the bill and setting up for improvements to the bill to take place in the Senate; leadership told her if she did this, it would interfere with their plan to block 5919 from passing in the Senate.
Of course, it turned out 5919 passed in the Senate anyway, only to quickly pass in the House. The only reason it didn’t get passed into law was because the Senate held it up at the last minute. Not the House, who was purportedly only passing 2037 to prevent 5919.
As Harris-Talley writes, “it took us years to get a little bit of justice for police accountability, but they are willing to reverse it in less than a year of these laws being on the books.” This action caused great harm to impacted families, who had given so much of their time and energy and emotion in service to getting 1054 and 1310 passed last year and then defending them this year.
Second, the state Criminal Justice Training Commission voted that last year’s 5051 decertification bill could be applied to past misconduct by police officers, not just to misconduct committed after July 25, 2021 when the law took effect. It is interesting to note the commission recently added six new members to their number, with more members being from the community and fewer representing law enforcement. There is still an open question as to whether some use cases of this law could be found to be unconstitutional, but for now, current certification decisions can be made based on 5051 even when applicable events happened before July 2021.

Seattle News

Mayor Harrell announced a nationwide search for a new police chief and encouraged Interim Chief Diaz to apply. The mayor must choose three finalists for the position, and whoever he chooses must be approved by the City Council. We can probably also expect to see some kind of engagement with the public during this process. The popular wisdom at present is that this is Diaz’s position to lose.
Meanwhile, SPD’s former Chief Carmen Best just got hired by Microsoft as director of global security risk operations, which is especially interesting given the recent released text message audit, in which it was clear she had deleted some of her text messages and initially lied about doing so. Apparently this behavior was not enough to give Microsoft qualms about making this hiring decision.
The House Our Neighbors coalition recently announced their ballot initiative to create a new public development authority to build social housing. Initiative 135 would also create a process for public land to undergo a feasibility study before being sold to determine whether it could be used for social housing. The initiative will need to collect around 35,000 signatures (26,500 plus a buffer for invalid signatures) to make it on the ballot this November. You can check out ways to volunteer for this effort here.
Starting tomorrow, the bus stop at Third and Pine in downtown Seattle will be temporarily closed. How effective this move will be to “increase visibility [by Seattle police] into criminal activity … and to reduce areas of congregation,” as mayoral spokesperson Jamie Housen put it, is unclear, but we can expect to hear more about it in the future.

King County News

The King County Council is considering draft legislation that would give adults the right to consult with an attorney before being searched by officers from the Sheriff’s Office. The purpose of such a bill would be to help people understand their constitutional rights regarding such searches. Many people are not aware they are allowed to refuse a search or may be afraid to do so, so being able to consult with a public defender could help. It’s important to note, as Erica Barnett reports in Publicola: “The new requirement wouldn’t apply when police have a warrant; when police have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person has committed or is about to commit a crime; or when police have reason to believe delaying a search would result in a loss of evidence or harm to the public or police, among several other exemptions.”
Whether and when this draft legislation might move forward in the process is not yet clear.

Recent Headlines

OPINION: Caging the Caged — Solitary Confinement in Washington State | South Seattle Emerald

Redlining's enduring impact shows up in WA pollution disparity | Crosscut

New maps show strong correlation between redlined places in Seattle and worse air quality | The Seattle Times

A Revealing Lens into the WA State Legislature Read More »