KCPOG contract

Harmful Body-Worn Camera Policy Being Considered in King County

King County News

As reported last week, King County just approved their police union contract with KCPOG, an agreement that included 20% raises for deputies over the next few years and finally gave the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) subpoena power and independent investigative authority. The agreement also paved the way for use of body-worn cameras (BWC) for the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). While some studies have shown body-worn cameras do not reduce use of force by police, making their use by law enforcement bodies controversial, their adoption was part of a settlement between King County and the family of Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens, a 17-year-old killed by police in 2017.
However, two troubling issues regarding these body-worn cameras have recently come to light. First, OLEO requested that in the new King County budget, they be given twelve additional positions, and four additional positions if a contract agreement was reached that included the use of body-worn cameras (coming to a grand total of sixteen new positions). This is because reviewing body-worn and dash camera footage is a time-consuming process that requires more personnel. Instead, only five new positions were included for OLEO in the new budget, and only TWO for 2023, meaning OLEO will be under-resourced to exercise the new breadth of its powers under the ratified contract. It is interesting that the Executive is willing to spend over $50m in salary increases for deputies in the new budget but is unwilling to spend a fraction of that amount to prioritize police accountability and capitalize on hard-won concessions in the police union contract.
Second, the current body-worn camera policy has numerous flaws. As this is the first time body-worn cameras will be used by KCSO, this policy will set departmental norms and expectations. It is important to understand that without a strong and enforceable body-worn camera policy, this technology can actually be used to further shield King County deputies from accountability. Body-worn camera usage will be held up as an example of how accountability is being prioritized, while gigantic loopholes in the policy that render their adoption ineffective will not receive equal time in the spotlight.
As it currently stands, the policy has two major issues that will act as a large impediment to accountability, as well as a few smaller issues, as highlighted by OLEO:
  1. The best practice for more serious incidents is for a deputy to be interviewed before they get a chance to watch any video footage. That this is best practice is not in dispute. However, in the current policy, deputies will submit an initial written statement and then be allowed to watch any video before being interviewed. For less serious incidents under the current policy, deputies will be allowed to watch the video as they are writing their initial report, whereas OLEO would like them to write the report first, then watch the video, and file a supplemental report if needed after viewing.
  2. The current policy regarding discretionary recording is purposefully vague, stating that deputies don’t have to record if there is any circumstance that would justify a decision not to record. This lack of specificity will serve as a gigantic loophole, making the stated purpose of mandatory recording toothless, as in practice this will mean deputies can stop recording at any time and command staff can simply shrug and say they miscalculated and need more training.
  3. Smaller issues include training being required “as needed” instead of on an annual basis, giving cover to deputies making “mistakes” and a policy around what happens if a body-worn camera isn’t working properly, which allows a deputy to wait a week before handing in the faulty equipment and not necessarily receive a replacement while waiting for repair, creating large potential gaps of no video recording.
In addition, King County created the Community Advisory Committee on Law Enforcement Oversight (CACLEO) to advise both the Sheriff’s Office and the King County Council on issues related to equity and social justice. However, CACLEO hasn’t been an integral part of the process in advising on the new body-worn camera policy.
There will be a chance for the public to give comment about the body-worn camera policy at a King County budget committee meeting tomorrowThursday, November 10 at 9:30am either in person or via Zoom. You can find more information about how to give comment and a sample script here. You can also email the King County Council before November 15 to give them feedback about this policy.

Election News

The prophesied red wave failed to materialize yesterday, and locally we elected several more progressive candidates. On the Seattle Municipal Court, which had two contested judge races this cycle, both winning candidates were the more progressive choice who have less punitive philosophies and will be less likely to criminalize poverty. King County also selected the less punitive prosecutor, Leesa Manion, who will continue investment in proven diversion programs.
The Stranger has announced that fearmongering failed this election cycle, which is frankly a breath of fresh air. Democrats seem newly energized about the upcoming state legislative session, which begins on January 9. The Stranger reports that Senator Pedersen is “working on a bill to make gun manufacturers liable for the “damage their dangerous products cause,” and Dems will also be running a bill to ban sales of assault weapons. “Who knows where we’ll be in terms of the budget, but we’re going to be in a pretty strong position to defend the work we’ve done and to go further in terms of climate and carbon reduction. We’ll also continue to have a good discussion on progressive taxation … and it’s pretty hard to see a mandate out of these results for a dramatic rollback on the police accountability bills,” he said.“ It looks like it could also be a productive session in terms of housing. So get ready to roll up your sleeves and communicate with your state legislators come January.

Seattle News

The budget balancing package will be released next Monday, November 14 at 11am, and the last budget public hearing will be held on Tuesday, November 15 at 5pm. Then final amendments to the budget, which must be self-balancing, will be heard on Monday, November 21.
The final Seattle redistricting map was passed yesterday in a victory for the Redistricting Justice for Seattle coalition. However, it didn’t pass without a final flare of drama, with Commissioner Nickels the sole vote against the final map, saying, “Retribution [against] Magnolia because it is an older, wealthier and whiter community—I think that’s not something that the redistricting commission ought to be engaged in.” Luckily the other commissioners had a strong vision that the commission should be engaged in equity, and thus we have our final map.

Recent Headlines

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: 'An open letter to our King County neighbors' - The B-Town (Burien) Blog

Harmful Body-Worn Camera Policy Being Considered in King County Read More »

Grim Economic News Leads to Extended Seattle Budget Season

Seattle Budget News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to today’s Seattle budget meeting. I won’t be live tweeting all details (and have to leave for a bit mid-meeting to drop Nala at the vet) but I’ll throw some info up here.
Above you can view my tweet thread on last week’s budget meetings covering proposed amendments for the CSCC, HSD, SDOT, and SPD. However, given yesterday’s bleak revenue forecast, many of the over 100 amendments discussed in last week’s meetings are likely toast. The new forecast foresees a net $64 million decrease in real estate excise tax revenues, a net $9.4 million decrease in general fund revenues, and a net $4.5 million decrease in revenues from the sweetened beverage tax over the next two years (2023-2024). There is also worry that the Jumpstart tax, which as a new tax is hard to predict, might begin to bring in less revenue. The REET revenues are dedicated to capital projects listed in the comprehensive plan, and the sweetened beverage tax revenues go towards “programs that increase access to healthy food and supports children’s health and learning.”
Due to this bad news, the budget season schedule has been changed. The last two public forums for public comment remain at the same times: Tuesday, November 8 at 9:30am and Tuesday, November 15 at 5pm. But everything else has been shifted back by about a week to give Budget Chair Mosqueda time to adjust her balancing package to account for the revenue shortfalls.
Thus, the balancing package will be announced on Monday, November 14. The votes on the balancing package and proposed amendments will take place on Monday, November 21. And then we have to wait until after Thanksgiving for the final budget committee vote on Monday, November 28 and the final Full Council vote on Tuesday, November 29.
The Solidarity Budget has arranged a week of action that began this past Monday. Today the website “Should SPD Do It?” was launched, which I encourage you to go give a spin. Tomorrow will be a call-in day to protect JumpStart. Next week, there will be a webinar on ShotSpotter on Monday at noon, a rally at 8:30am on Tuesday to support human services workers, and a Women in Black vigil on Wednesday at noon. So if you want to get involved, now is a great time!

Other News

The King County Council ratified the new police union contract with KCPOG on Tuesday. In addition to the new powers this contract grants the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) including the ability to subpoena, the contract also gives King County Sheriff deputies a raise of 20% over the next three years: 6% for 2022 (to be paid retroactively), 10% for 2023, and 4% for 2024. This raise will require a substantial increase to the King County Sheriff Office’s overall budget.
This contract was approved right as news dropped of a case from 2021 where a Black female detective from SPD was undercover monitoring a protest and was menaced by two men in a truck who she believed might be Proud Boys…but ended up being KCSO deputies. Both deputies have since left the department, one for a position in the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office.
As Will Casey reports in The Stranger, SPD officers have apparently been breathing in toxic gas while on the job, both in the garage and in the sergeant’s workroom adjacent to the garage. It took one SPD officer bringing forward and winning a lawsuit, after being harassed at work for wanting to protect his health, to daylight this issue. As Will Casey says, “If this is making you wonder whether, perhaps, mean statements from City Council members in 2020 doesn’t amount to the sole reason for attrition within the department, then you’re not alone.”
Finally, Seattle has released its Q3 accountability report required by the consent decree, which you can read here.

Recent Headlines

Grim Economic News Leads to Extended Seattle Budget Season Read More »

OLEO Finally to Get Its Subpoena Power

King County News

We’ll start off with some big news: King County has finished negotiating their police union contract with the King County Police Officers Guild (KCPOG). While I have not yet read through the contract (oh, what fun weekend reading I have ahead of me!), the big headline here is that the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) has finally been given the powers King County voters decided to grant them that have been blocked by the old contract. OLEO will be able to issue subpoenas and conduct independent investigations of alleged misconduct and use of force cases involving the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). Until now OLEO has had their hands tied without access to the information they would have needed to perform solid investigations, but this contract would change that.
The new contract will have to be voted upon by the King County Council before going into effect. It will cover the 3-year period of 2022-2024.
Meanwhile, the King County Jail is still having water problems, and inmates are still drinking bottled water. These problems first began more than three weeks ago, and there are questions as to whether inmates are getting sufficient bottled water for their needs.

Election in Two Weeks

The election is coming up, ballots have been mailed out, and voting guides are being published. Here are a few worth checking out:

Seattle News

As expected, it looks like CM Mosqueda is not supportive of permanently changing how the Jumpstart tax funds are allowed to be used in Seattle’s budget.
Budget amendments relating to SPD, the CSCC, and HSD will be discussed this Thursday so expect more on that in the next newsletter. The next opportunity for public comment will not be until the morning of Tuesday, November 8 at 9:30am. Budget Chair Mosqueda’s balancing package will drop the previous day, Monday, November 7. And there’s a tight turnaround for any amendments CMs might want to add to that package.
There will be a Rainier Beach Public Safety town hall this Thursday, October 27 from 6-8pm at the New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave South. The proposed gunfire detection system (likely ShotSpotter) will be discussed. Masks are required, and dinner, child care, and translation will be provided.
We are not quite done with the Seattle redistricting process. The final map vote will take place on Monday, October 31, and the final map and resolution from the committee will be confirmed on Tuesday, November 8. Apparently a new map not favored by the Seattle Redistricting Coalition was introduced at a meeting earlier today, and you’ll have a last chance to give public comment about the map options on Monday 10/31 at 12pm at this Zoom link. You can find a script (that will probably be updated before that meeting) here.

Other Resources

City Leaders Fight over Policing Pirates - The Stranger

Policing Seattle

OLEO Finally to Get Its Subpoena Power Read More »

Mayor Asks for CPC’s Assistance in Bringing Cops Back into Seattle Schools

Seattle News

Mayor Harrell announced his choice for the next SPD police chief on Tuesday: interim Chief Adrian Diaz. Publicola analyzed this choice succinctly:
This approach, like the choice of Diaz itself, represents a commitment to the status quo: Reform, not a radical rethinking of the relationship between police and the communities they serve. Aggressive hiring, rather than redistributing some duties to non-police responders. More and better officer training, rather than example-setting discipline for cops who abuse their power. Even Diaz’s characterization of the 2020 protests outside the East Precinct, which he repeatedly referred to as “riots” both yesterday and during his Seattle Channel interview, represents a pre-2020 perspective in which police are the only bulwark against everything from violent crime to people protesting against police violence.
At the press conference, Mayor Harrell promised that in his proposed budget being delivered next Tuesday, we will see investments in his strategy of a whole “third way of policing”, although he wasn’t immediately familiar with the term sheet and related work the Public Safety committee discussed last week. He also mentioned that he sees employees such as park rangers and MID-funded ambassadors downtown as alternative public safety responses.
There has been recent controversy around the idea of hiring more park rangers (potentially expanding their numbers from 2 to 26), who some activists think are police officers by another name. While park rangers do not carry guns, they are able to give citations and exclusion orders, which are traditionally duties associated with police officers, and community members have complained about the two existing park rangers treating homeless people poorly during sweeps.
The Seattle Parks funding plan will receive a final vote right after the 2pm Full Council meeting on Tuesday, September 27th. The current proposal funds the new park rangers but includes a spending restriction stating that no park district funds will be used for park rangers to participate in clearing encampments, and that park rangers will continue to issue trespass warrants as per a specific park rule.
The Full Council voted to confirm the appointment of Gino Betts as the new Director of the OPA yesterday 8-1, with CM Sawant casting the sole “nay” vote, stating that her vote is more a statement about the broken state of the current accountability system in Seattle and not about the qualifications of the candidate. She called for an elected community oversight board.
Current Seattle Municipal Court Judge Adam Eisenberg, who is currently running for re-election against Pooja Vaddadi, published a book in 2009 entitled “A Different Shade of Blue” about women police officers. It received favorable (although not many total) reviews on Amazon, but James Barker, deputy general counsel for Bungie and Pooja Vaddadi’s husband, took to Twitter to share some literary criticism:
JAMS
I won’t hide the ball.
Far from highlighting their struggles, this book fetishizes, objectifies, and demeans the police officers it purports to elevate. It’s rife with casual racism, sexism, voyeuristic poverty-porn, white-saviorism, and it denigrates Seattle’s communities.
3/

Cops Back in Seattle Schools?

During an August 17 meeting between Mayor Harrell and the CPC (Community Police Commission), CPC Commissioner and Officer Mark Mullens said during our “defunding,” we removed resource officers from our schools and that this was an overreach of what defunding is. Mayor Harrell responded that they needed to earn the trust and the right to go back into the schools and that he is working with Superintendent Dr. Jones and Chairman Brandon Hersey to build those relationships to get officers back in schools. He suggested the CPC could be an invaluable asset in this space. No mention was made of how this would reestablish the school to prison pipeline or be detrimental to students’ health and safety.
At the same meeting, Mayor Harrell also suggested the CPC help him recruit new officers for SPD. The idea that the CPC, which states as part of its mission that it “listens to, amplifies, and builds common ground among communities affected by policing in Seattle,” is now being encouraged to take on the dual role of SPD PR and SPD HR is disturbing, to say the least.

Police Union Contracts

People Power Washington sent a letter to Seattle city leaders today outlining their recommendations for the SPOG contract currently being negotiated. Full disclosure, I signed this letter myself, along with my co-chair Camille Baldwin-Bonney. We recently heard contract negotiations could be wrapping up as soon as the end of the year, and we believe it is incumbent upon us to let city leaders know what we would like to see while the contract is still in the process of being negotiated, instead of treating the contract as a fait accompli once it is presented to the public. We also hope this letter helps educate community members on how police union contracts can act as impediments to accountability and equitable public safety.
The Seattle Times reported that the president of the King County Police Officers Guild said he’s hopeful they would agree to a new contract in coming weeks. This police union contract pertains to officers at the King County Sheriff’s Office.

King County Budget

On Monday Executive Dow Constantine announced a list of public safety proposals he wants to fund in King County’s 2023 budget. Publicola has provided a handy list:
$2.4 million for Vital, a program that targets “high utilizers” of the criminal justice system by providing case management and wraparound services;
$7.3 million for Restorative Community Pathways, a pre-filing diversion program for youth who commit certain first-time felonies;
$5 million for body-worn cameras, which every deputy would be required to wear by the end of 2025;
$21 million to hire 140 new security officers for King County Metro buses, transit centers, and stops.
The amount of money spent on body cameras seems disappointing, given that the program won’t be fully deployed until the end of 2025 and that the evidence of the efficacy of body camera programs is mixed at best, while they do expand police surveillance powers. You can read more about concerns about body camera programs, including discussion of a few key studies, over at the ACLU Washington’s blog.
Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall said the Sheriff’s Office has hired 50 new deputies so far this year, and they hope to hire 70 more over the next two years.

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Mayor Asks for CPC’s Assistance in Bringing Cops Back into Seattle Schools Read More »