As always, there’s a lot going on! Let’s dive right in.
Jan 6 insurrection
I was on vacation last week, and quite a lot happened! Get ready because this newsletter is a bit on the long side.
East Precinct Abandonment Last Summer
Yes, we finally found out what happened on June 8, 2020 when the SPD abandoned the East Precinct on Capitol Hill, thanks to KUOW’s investigative report. It turns out Assistant Chief Tom Mahaffey, the incident commander, was the one who made the call, without the knowledge of Chief Best or the Mayor’s office. The OPA’s report on this incident is expected shortly.
More on the 6 SPD Officers at “Stop the Steal”
Whether they were “directly involved” in the insurrection, or if they attended with the intent to passively support the unlawful insurrection and violent assault of our nation’s Capitol, neither act is an example of protected free speech nor should our support of free speech shield accountability for these acts.If public employees knowingly travelled to a location in support of people whom they knew were intending to attempt an insurrection, even if their participation was as a passive observer, that is a ‘clear connection between conduct and duties or…responsibilities’ and is an offense that merits termination. I will review the OPA investigation with an eye towards whether questions were asked of the four officers without sustained findings, and whether evidence was sought, to determine the advance knowledge they had of the planned violent events at the Capitol insurrection of January 6.
In practice, we’re very limited in how we can obtain information and documents from officers…but we’ve been told repeatedly that we don’t need subpoena power because we can just order officers to turn over records. And obviously, given the union’s objections to the order we issued, that’s not really the case.
OPA and OIG News
There are two major factors driving this election:
1) Extreme voter anger – targeted at the Seattle City Council.
2) ONE ISSUE (next tweet).
I’ve been fielding and reading polls for 30 years and I’ve never seen people this pissed. 1994 wasn’t this bad. https://t.co/Xz7sZjite4
The one issue referenced above? Homelessness.
The Seattle City Council finally passed their new less lethal weapons bill out of committee. However, it won’t be voted on by the Full Council until after a consent decree status conference with Judge Robart on August 10.
Seattle City Council’s Central Staff wrote a memo analyzing how much the Compassion Seattle proposed charter amendment might cost. As Kevin Schofield writes, “…The answer is complicated, because there are varied interpretations of vague language in the bill. At the low end: $30 million up-front capital costs, and $40 million annually in ongoing operational costs. At the high end: $839 million in capital costs and $97 million annually for operations.” This is a huge spread, of course, which shows how widely the amendment can be interpreted.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of the families of people killed by police officers, restoring reforms to the inquest process in King County that have been on hold for the last few years.
King County is looking at two finalists to become the new Director of OLEO (Office of Law Enforcement Oversight): Eddie Aubrey and Tamer Abouzaid. Both are similar in their outlook for the organization, although only Abouzaid said he’d support a state law prohibiting police unions from negotiating on issues of oversight.
The City of Seattle has filed a countersuit against The Seattle Times. If you’ll remember, the Times filed a suit against the City because of mishandled public record requests, including Mayor Durkan’s missing text messages. It’s also worth noting the City’s legal strategy for this matter is decided by City Attorney Pete Holmes, who is up for re-election.
Remember Mayor Durkan’s pot of $30m in this year’s budget for the Equitable Communities Initiative? Well, she has asked the Seattle City Council to lift the proviso on those funds, unveiling her spending plan proposal based on recommendations from the task force. Most of the funds will be dispersed through the RFP process. This legislation will be discussed at the Finance and Housing committee meeting on July 20.
Recent Headlines and Tweets
2 SPD Officers Participated in Jan 6 Insurrection
Other Seattle News
They report being called racial epithets, referred to as “monkeys” and having bananas left in their lockers, being told, “I thought all you guys like watermelon and Popeyes chicken.” They say they overheard white officers say that George Floyd got what he deserved, and even being hit with a stick by a white officer, who then said, “You people should be used to being hit with these.”
There’s a lot of news this time, so thank you in advance for bearing with me. If you’ve been looking for a chance to get more involved, this is the email to read!
First of all, the Washington state legislative session has officially begun and will run through mid-March. You can find out a lot more information about police accountability and criminal justice reform bills being discussed at the People Power Washington website. This website helps you look up your legislators, informs you about the various issues, and will have a daily action you can take to make your voice heard in Olympia during this crucial legislative session. I expect to be referencing it here frequently, and you might want to go ahead and bookmark it for your own reference.
Because this is the state legislative session, you can be a resident of anywhere in the state of Washington to take these actions. You do not need to reside in Seattle specifically, and in fact, it’s important that the legislature hear from voices outside Seattle as well.
This Thursday morning, January 14 at 8am, there will be Committee Hearing where you can support SB5134, a bill that, among other things, removes police accountability for serious misconduct from the collective bargaining process. You can read more about it here. This bill could have a huge positive impact on our ability here in Seattle to obtain an actual functioning police accountability system, as well as provide better accountability throughout the state, so its importance cannot be overstated. I strongly encourage you to consider supporting this bill.
If you would like to lobby on behalf of SB5134, you have three options. (You have these three options for each bill being discussed this session.) If you can, it is best to sign-in to note your position AND submit written testimony or testify live. If you’re short on time, signing in to note your position is incredibly quick.
Sign-in to note position (this is the quickest and easiest option, simply requiring you to register and say you support this bill)
Submit Written Testimony (in addition to expressing your support, you can also provide a written statement about why you support this bill)
Testify Live During Hearing (you can sign up to give live testimony over Zoom about why this bill is important to you)
A script to help you draft written or live testimony will be available on the People Power Washington website as the Daily Action on Wednesday. You’ll need to complete these actions (including signing up for live testimony) by 7am on Thursday.
You might also consider supporting SB5055, also being discussed on Thursday, which is specifically concerned with arbitration reform.
ACLU is having their Lobby Week on January 25-29; you can sign up for it here. The ACLU will be organizing meetings with your lawmakers to discuss your legislative priorities, and you can participate from the comfort of your own home instead of making the trek to Olympia.
In Seattle news, during yesterday’s Council Briefing many of the CMs spoke out condemning the violence in DC last week and calling for Mike Solan, President of SPOG, to resign after he falsely accused BLM of being involved in the insurrection in DC last week. In fact, Mayor Durkan and all CMs except for CM Juarez have called for this. As President of SPOG, Mike Solan would play a large role in negotiating the new police union contract this year, so his removal could potentially have real impact on the outcomes of those negotiations. However, so far he has remained adamant that he will not resign.
CP González also said the office of intergovernmental relations will begin attending council briefings next week to report on the state lobbying agenda so we can expect regular reports on the state legislature session from that source. Because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Council Briefing and full Council meeting will meet on Tuesday next week.
Meanwhile, the CPC released an official statement about both the potential involvement of SPD officers in last week’s violent insurrection in the nation’s capitol and Mike Solan’s comments on those events:
As you can see, the CPC is taking action in regard to these matters to the full extent of its abilities. I strongly encourage you to attend the next CPC meeting at 9am on Wednesday, January 20 to show your support for their actions, your condemnation of the attempted coup last week, and your commitment to holding those involved, including any SPD officers, accountable. I will do my best to provide the Zoom link next week for any of you who wish to attend. It will also broadcast live on the CPC’s Facebook page.
The latest Public Safety & Human Services Committee meeting was held this morning.
They spent the bulk of the meeting discussing their legislation regarding SPD’s use of less lethal weapons. The original bill, passed over the summer, has never gone into effect as Judge Robart (who oversees the consent decree) passed a restraining order on it. He said that he wanted recommendations from the three oversight bodies in Seattle (OPA, OIG, and CPC) about use of these less-lethal weapons. The discussion this morning started with a draft bill that contained all the consensus items between these three bodies and then began conversation about decision making for those weapons and circumstances about which there is not consensus. In general (and not surprisingly) the CPC’s recommendations are stricter and more protective than the OPA and OIG’s.
The CMs are in a tricky situation here. Judge Robart seems to believe the original ordinance as passed is too broad, so the CMs need to try to find a compromise that results in legislation about these weapons that is still strong while allowing enough leeway that Judge Robart won’t block it. If Judge Robart doesn’t approve the new legislation, the Council cannot simply overrule his verdict so they are heavily incentivized to try to find a compromise they think he will approve. At the same time, they are obviously torn about weakening the original legislation.
CM Lewis signaled one possible compromise: that the Council very carefully tightens decision points and narrowly tailors exceptions to the weapons ban, walking a fine line to make the legislation less broad so Judge Robart approves it while still strongly regulating and minimizing any use of such weapons. One of the big sticking points is the use of tear gas, which some CMS want banned completely while others are looking for these narrow points of compromise. They will continue to discuss this legislation, and specifically how far to go with the tear gas ban, at the next Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday, January 26 at 9:30am, with the hope of voting a bill out of committee to send to Judge Robart for review. You will be able to give public comment at the beginning of this meeting.
To wrap up a few last bits of news:
- The decision in CM Sawant’s recall case has been delayed. I don’t know when we expect a decision: maybe February?
- There haven’t been any further announcements about Seattle 2021 mayoral and council candidates, probably because nobody wants to compete with the current news cycle. Given the report that more violence related to the Inauguration is anticipated in the coming week, announcements of candidacy will probably be delayed until after next week.
- BLM Seattle-King County has alleged that federal law enforcement was involved in inappropriate actions regarding the Seattle protests this past summer. Specifically they allege that FBI agents might have provided inaccurate information about “outside actors” in order to incite violence during the protests.
They are asking that a special independent Counsel be appointed to investigate this matter more fully. Their full letter and press release is shown in the above Twitter thread.
Thanks for your patience in catching up on all the news with me! I do hope you will consider supporting some of the many police accountability bills up before the state legislature this session and/or joining me in attending the CPC’s meeting next week.