SPD swings back at #DefendtheDefund; and more state bills to support!

We have a lot to cover today, so let’s dive right in, shall we?

First up, state legislature news.

HB1054, a Tactics Bill for Limiting Deadly Force, has a public hearing tomorrow, March 11th, and you can weigh in!

SB5051, the decertification bill to increase police accountability, also has a public hearing tomorrow.

  • You can sign in to register your support. (This takes less than a minute.)
  • You can submit written comments in support of the bill.
  • You can sign up to testify live at the hearing tomorrow.

    You can read my livetweets of this week’s Seattle Council Briefing. Of particular note, CM Herbold said the consent decree monitor and the DoJ have reviewed the less lethal weapon draft bill passed out of the Public Safety committee, and they have questions. She will meet with them sometime this week along with counsel and CP González.

    At this week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, the committee discussed HSD’s spending plan for awarding the $12m in community safety capacity building and voted to lift the proviso on these funds. This legislation will move forward to a full Council vote next Monday. The RFP applications are now available and are due April 9 by noon; the resulting contracts will be in effect from 7/1/21-12/31/22.

    The SPD also presented at this meeting, declaring they are in a staffing crisis and that the instability of the 2021 budget is causing general instability in the department. This is SPD’s attempt to retain the $5.4m the Council has been talking about cutting from this year’s SPD budget, an issue you might remember from the #DefundtheDefend hashtag.

    The SPD had a much increased rate of attrition in 2020. As Kevin Schofield points out, attrition “steadily rose from 2011 through 2019. 2011 was when the DOJ investigation into biased policing by SPD began, and the Consent Decree was signed in 2012.” The SPD would like to use the $5.4m to mitigate their high attrition rates through further investments in civilian hiring, technology upgrades and solutions, officer wellness, lateral hires, separation and family leave pay. If the money is cut from the budget, it would be added to the amount currently allocated to the participatory budgeting process.

    At present, the Council seems more sympathetic to the SPD’s case than they have often been in the past nine months. This legislation is likely to receive a committee vote at their next meeting on Tuesday, March 23 at 9:30am before moving to a full Council vote. If you would like to see this cut go through, now is the time to contact your CMs, and you can also make public comment at the March 23 meeting.

In election news, Nikkita Oliver has announced their candidacy for position 9 of the Seattle City Council (the seat being vacated by CP González). They are a community organizer, lawyer, and activist who came in third in Seattle’s 2017 mayoral race. They have been a key player in the movement to defund the SPD by 50%.

There has been some reporting on the Black Brilliance Research Project’s final report and presentation. It is both striking and illuminating what a different tone the article in The South Seattle Emerald (a Black-led publication) takes compared to other articles on the same topic. I am going to quote that article extensively, and I suggest both supporting The South Seattle Emerald and going to read the entire piece:

But despite the setback, BBRP moved forward to complete its critical work. Glaze and Severe said that misleading news reporting on the BBRP and subsequent City Councilmembers’ decisions to create additional requirements in response to that reporting slowed down the research progress.

“We had a couple of examples where there were a few reporters who have put out stories talking about the report that we put together and have said things like ‘it doesn’t contain details,’ or ‘it’s too vague or not detailed enough.’ Meanwhile, it’s like are you kidding me? We have produced something that is orders of magnitude more detailed than is typically required of literally any research consultant who has ever done research for the City,” said Glaze.

Glaze and Severe also said that they faced double standards which Black people and People of Color often face in professional settings. “As a Person of Color, as a Black person, I’m very used to what happens when people move the goalpost. They’ll say, ‘Alright, you just have to do this and you’re good.’ And so you not only do that, but you go a little bit farther above and beyond, so you’re definitely good, and then they’ll move the goalpost again,” said Glaze. Glaze and Severe say this repeated addition of new requirements caused a lot of frustration for the research team. “Honestly, the goalpost was moved no less than four times in the beginning,” said Severe.

Severe said that these added obstacles were also a result of the political context of the research project. “The project was very politicized from the beginning,” said Severe, “coming out of the uprising in defence of Black lives and a call for defunding the police, having folks in the streets.”

It sounds like CM Morales isn’t sure the participatory budgeting process will hit the projected timeline, but in an article at SCC Insight she said, “We might be pushing it to actually get money out the door in the fall, but I still have faith that we’ll be able to get money out the door before the end of the year.” The above article also lists details about the participatory budgeting process that still need to be decided. We should receive further updates on the participatory budgeting process at CM Morales’s next committee meeting on March 16.

In a last few tidbits of news, Mayor Durkan’s office has asked the state auditor to expand the scope of its audit of the contract between Seattle’s legislative department and the Freedom Project for their $3M research project. CP González mentions the Mayor’s office has itself engaged in no-bid contract processes, which makes her office’s letter smack of hypocrisy. CP González also had this to say:

González, who is running for mayor (Durkan will not seek reelection), called the letter a “distraction” from the issues Durkan could be addressing in the final months of her term. “I’m just confused about why the Durkan administration is spending time, energy, and resources on this letter… instead of on the real problems facing the city in the remainder of her term,” González said. “This audit was already happening, and it’s going to go through its natural course, and I don’t understand how this letter helps advance our city.”

Meanwhile, Seattle’s Director of Labor Relations, Jana Sangy, has announced she is leaving in June. Apparently the city doesn’t anticipate this affecting the timeline for the upcoming SPOG contract negotiations. However, this resignation could indicate problems:

But Peter Nguyen, who represented the Labor Relations unit during the last round of bargaining with SPOG in 2018, thinks that Sangy’s departure ahead of one of her unit’s most crucial performances is a sign of a struggling unit. “The resignation of the city’s Labor Relations Director is troubling,” said Nguyen. “There is not a very deep well of stability to fall back on during this transition to yet another interim director. It begs the question why this mayor has had such difficulty retaining solid talent in such a critical role.”

And with that, I’ll leave you to enjoy this lovely sunny Wednesday afternoon!

SPD swings back at #DefendtheDefund; and more state bills to support! Read More »

The SPD-related budget amendments that passed today

All right, let’s get right to discussing today’s budget meeting. Here’s the link to the revised agenda, which includes links to documentation, and the relevant thread:

First, a list of new legislation discussed today that will be added to the introduction and referral calendar on Monday and receive a final vote at a later date.

  1. Legislation related to Amendment 26, disaggregating SPD precincts from Patrol Operations BSL. This re-establishes budget levels for each of the five precincts, giving the Council more granular financial data. This should have no trouble passing.
  2. Legislation related to Amendment 53 to transfer 911 Services from SPD to FAS. The main issue with this is that if the service is moved, it will need to be re-certified as a first responder. More research is needed on how long that would take, so it will be discussed again on Monday. Meanwhile CM Strauss is planning to introduce a different amendment, discussed further below, on Monday to provide another option.
  3. Legislation related to Amendment 32, adding $3m to the legislative department for community research, coming from the COVID relief bill. There are two pieces of legislation required to do this for technical reasons. This should also have no trouble.
  4. A draft interfund loan bill from the construction and inspections fund, to be repaid in 2021 with interest, for the, along with $13.1m portion. Nobody had objections about this either.

Next, a list of the amendments that passed today, with details on each.

  1. Amendment 33: adds $4m to HSD for SCS for scaling up gun-violence intervention and prevention, passed 9-0
  2. Amendment 34: invests $10m to scale up community organizations doing public safety work, passed 9-0
  3. Amendment 35: cuts $36k from SPD from implicit bias training (in the time of Covid some of these dollars aren’t necessary because of travel etc.), passed 9-0
  4. Amendment 37: cuts $800k from SPD’s recruitment and retention, passed 9-0
  5. The consent package: a package of 12 amendments (once 16 was removed for further discussion further down this list): 17-25 entailing provisos for reductions of different police department units; 46 requiring the Mayor’s office or SPD to submit a report on which police departments could be civilianized; 47 requiring fiscal reporting to the Council from the SPD every two weeks etc; and 49 cutting $50k from jail contracting services and moving it to be used to develop a new 911 response system in relationship with community, passed 9-0
  6. Amendment 45: add $80k to the New Deal Oversight Board by cutting $80k from the SPD’s patrol functions, passed 8-0 with CM Strauss abstaining
  7. Amendment 48a: reducing the 2020 pay (from Sept-Dec) of the 13 SPD command staff who aren’t unionized by a small amount, resulting in a potential $500k savings, passed 6-3 (Pedersen, Juarez, and Lewis voted no)
  8. Amendment 55: a proviso requiring the SPD to provide a monthly report with payment information of all employees paid more than $150k, increasing transparency, particularly about overtime, passed 9-0.
  9. Amendment 31: a proviso laying off all the sworn officers in the Navigation Team, passed 9-0
  10. Amendment 40: all the additional funding ($2.9m) for the Navigation Team cut (except for that in the Parks department used to pick up garbage) and used to pay for existing non-profits to do homelessness outreach and engagement. Vigorous debate on this one because businesses in the North Seattle districts are scared to not have a Navigation Team anymore. CM Herbold agreed the Navigation Team was a failed experiment. Passed 5/4 (Pedersen, Juarez, Lewis, and Strauss voted no)
  11. Amendment 16: proviso stating the Council’s intent to reduce the police force by 32 FTEs. CM Pedersen mentioned he’s received 35,000 emails about police accountability from Seattle residents and wanted to explain to his constituents why he’s supporting this. Passed 9/0.
  12. Amendment 27 (part of a different bill but still part of this conversation): transfers victim advocates and the victim support team from SPD to HSD, passed 9-0.

Now a list of amendments that are still to be discussed, either on Monday or another time.

  1. CM Strauss’s proviso removing sworn officers from overseeing the 911 dispatch so it can stay in SPD until they have a final decision about where to move it, along with information on receiving first responder certification relevant to today’s legislation to move the dispatch.
  2. Amendment 52: proviso prohibiting SPD from spending funds to prosecute individuals for participating in Justice for George Floyd protests. There was a long conversation on this one, along with confusion about how to read it. They’ll work on it some more, then revisit it on Monday.
  3. Some technical amendments to make sure everything works together correctly
  4. ??? There could be a few additional amendments based on ongoing conversations.
  5. Also still needing to be discussed is CM Lewis’s resolution stating the Council’s intent to create a public safety department and providing a time frame for their future work on reimagining public safety.

As you can tell from above, the City Council was widely in agreement on most of the amendments before them. The only two amendments that received real pushback and still passed were the ones regarding lowering SPD command staff pay for the rest of the year and defunding the civilian HSD side of the Navigation Team. Sawant’s amendments implementing a greater immediate defund of the SPD failed to pass, with no other council member voting in favor.

The goal is to finish discussing, voting on amendments, and cleaning everything up on the morning of Monday August 10th, followed by moving this budget bill out of committee. Then the Council will vote on the complete budget bill (excepting the new legislation in the first list above) in Full Council in the afternoon. I believe this full bill needs to be passed by a 3/4 vote since it increases appropriations, which would then be automatically veto-proof assuming nobody changed their mind. I do think it has a good chance of passing; overall the Council seems committed to working together on this effort.

The budget meeting on Monday will immediately follow the Council briefing, so should start around 10am, and there will be an opportunity for public comment both at 10am (signups at 8am) and 2pm (signups at noon) at the full Council meeting. There will be a special meeting on Wednesday August 12 (I think at 2pm) to discuss the vetoed COVID relief act and possibly vote on the new legislation from the first list above.

There’s a lot of hard work in front of us, but today was another step forward.

The SPD-related budget amendments that passed today Read More »