KCSO

King County Able to Produce Risk Index of 911 Calls With Little Fuss, Unlike Seattle

Seattle News

The Seattle City Council’s final vote on the SPMA contract was delayed for a week to allow both CMs and community more time to understand the ramifications of this new contract. The CMs voted to approve this contract yesterday with an 8-0 vote (CM Sawant was not present.) You can read more about the new contract here.
The forum for the finalist candidates for OPA Director was changed from June 23 to June 8 with very little notice to the public. The Mayor’s Office didn’t tell CMs about the new forum date until late the preceding Friday, when such details were likely to slip through the cracks. After public complaint, the Mayor’s Office finally published a press release about the forum late on the day of June 7. People Power Washington has asked for the selection process to begin anew with greater community engagement. That being said, an announcement on the selected candidate is expected in early July.
At Tuesday’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, CMs discussed SPD’s quarterly report on finances and overtime. SPD’s use of overtime is up, creating worries that the department will overspend their annual budget on overtime, something they have a history of doing. The bulk of overtime in the first quarter of the year was used for emphasis patrols, but as we move into the summer season, more overtime is typically used for big events. CMs asked questions related to the prioritization of officer hours and the possibility of transferring certain kinds of work to civilian workers.
We learned that SPD’s new scheduling and timekeeping software solution has run into implementation issues that have led SPD to decide not to deploy this solution after all, after spending many years working on this project. The original auditor’s report referencing this project came out, in fact, in 2016. SPD is now exploring a different software solution, and in the meantime continue with their abysmal timekeeping system. The SPD has also implemented a new call triage policy called Z-Disposition Clearing. Finally, 911 call response time is up.
CM Herbold announced that at the committee’s June 28 meeting, there will be a briefing on the next steps around the analysis of which 911 calls could be handled by alternative response. She said this report will be less about the outcome of the analysis and more focused on the process and who is involved and next steps. The length of time this analysis is taking is fascinating, particularly in light of the fact that the King County Auditor’s Office has already been able to create a risk index of 911 calls answered by the King County Sheriff’s Office. More on that in a bit.
Meanwhile, the City Council is also working on a new bill that would close a loophole in the police accountability system when complaints are lodged against the Police Chief; a substitute bill is expected to be introduced in an upcoming meeting. Will Casey’s article in The Stranger explains how the loophole played out following the 2020 protests:
What the OPA manual didn’t account for is what Mayor Durkan did next. Instead of following through on OPA’s recommendation to secure an outside investigator, Durkan did … nothing. By simply failing to act at all, she effectively covered up any alleged misconduct in which her police chief engaged for the rest of her term in office.

King County News

Also this week, the King County Auditor’s Office gave a presentation and delivered their report looking at racial disparities in arrests and use of force and looking into alternative response for King County.
In their work around alternative response, the Office produced their own risk index of 911 calls based on calls answered by the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) over the last few years. They determined that 58% of these calls fall into the lowest-risk category of call outcomes and that about 15% of calls could be answered by an alternative response. They studied alternative response programs in Denver, Phoenix, Austin, and Albuquerque to develop a list of best practices the programs have in common. King County is currently working to develop a pilot alternative response program.
Regarding racial disparities, KCSO only collects racial data on about 4% of its service calls, which is obviously insufficient. From the small data set available, Black people are more likely to be arrested and more likely to be subject to use of force. White officers are also much more likely to use force. You can read more about this here. The Auditor’s Office recommended that KCSO begin collecting and analyzing data on all calls for service where an officer stops someone, begging the question as to why this wasn’t already being done.

Washington State News

Last week in a landmark decision, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that race and ethnicity must be taken into account when the police stop someone. As David Gutman wrote in The Seattle Times:
The court also clarified state law to say police have seized a person if an objective observer would conclude that the person was not free to leave or refuse a request. But, the court wrote, that “objective observer” must be aware that discrimination and biases “have resulted in disproportionate police contacts, investigative seizures, and uses of force against Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.”

Recent Headlines

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Assistant police chief gets $1.5 million settlement after displaying Nazi symbols - The Washington Post

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Chief Diaz’s reversal of the Pink Umbrella case decision continues to cause concern

Seattle: Participatory Budgeting News

 

CM Morales has said the partipatory budgeting program is now clearly delayed until next year. An updated agenda for the Community Economic Development meeting taking place tomorrow at 2pm was released this morning, re-introducing a participatory budgeting discussion as an agenda item, where we will hear from a NYC Councilmember as well as Sean Goode from Choose 180. You can read the related draft legislation lifting the PBP proviso here, which I believe is still being reviewed by the law department.
At the Council Briefing this morning, CM Morales said the plan is to give around $1m to the Office of Civil Rights to hire three people to issue an RFP to an outside administrator for the PBP process, as well as to provide various support functions. Kevin Schofield said on the Seattle News & Brews episode released today that the OCR is quite a small department budget-wise so this is huge for them, and CM Morales hasn’t been talking to the Office of Civil Rights to see if they want to do this work.
Nevertheless, CM Morales is pushing forward and said she hopes this proviso lift can be voted on during a special meeting of her committee on June 3, leading to a Full Council vote. Both tomorrow’s meeting at 2pm and the June 3rd meeting would be good times to plan to give public comment in support of this participatory budgeting process.
CM Herbold signaled she might be adding an amendment to the legislation to move the 911 call center and PEOs out of the SPD to allow the PEOs more time to resolve differences and figure out which department would be best suited as their new home.

Seattle Scandals

 

Controversy surrounds Chief Diaz’s recent decision to overturn the OPA finding regarding the pink umbrella case. At this morning’s Council Briefing, CM Herbold, the Chair of the Public Safety committee, spoke about her correspondence with the Chief over this matter, including the bombshell that there is new evidence that has surfaced that wasn’t in the OPA investigation. CM Herbold says she is holding her judgment until she finds out more about what happened up the chain of command, but CM Lewis asked some pointed questions about whether this new information had been turned over to the OPA and whether the Chief is taking it upon himself to continue this investigation or whether the OPA will be doing so, as well as concerns that norms aren’t being followed. You can find all the related emails of this exchange over at SCC Insight along with a summary of the issues involved.

The most caustic article yet has been published on the scandal involving the missing text messages of Mayor Durkan, former Chief Best, and Chief Scoggins, saying:
…the context suggests a coverup. These suspicions are bolstered by the fact that five members of senior command at the Seattle Police Department also deleted their text messages. That means the question of who ordered the abandonment of East Precinct hasn’t been definitively answered, with both Durkan and former Police Chief Carmen Best denying they gave the order. It’s possible a subordinate made the call independently as they claim, but without the text messages to confirm this story, it’s a very convenient explanation.

Meanwhile, in King County…

 

The South Seattle Emerald has started an excellent series of investigative journalism by Carolyn Bick on the pushback and internal pressure faced by former OLEO Director Jacobs, OLEO being the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight for King County. She appears to have faced a years-long campaign against her by the King County Sheriff’s Office and the King County Police Officer’s Guild. Here are a few key quotes:

They said that this culture of law enforcement pushback against civilian oversight and closing ranks had always been present but has grown much more pronounced under Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht. These same sources also said that the KCPOG had been particularly hostile towards Jacobs over a similar period of time.
The pressure and roadblocks Jacobs faced during her tenure aren’t unique to Jacobs and the KCSO, according to civilian law enforcement oversight experts who spoke with the Emerald. Even former Sheriff Urquhart, who sat down with the Emerald for an interview on May 10, 2021, agreed that Jacobs faced an internal campaign to oust her and said that “there’s something about a reformer … they just don’t last long here [in King County].
and
In other words, the new contract appears to prevent investigators from consulting or commissioning reports from any expert whose findings KCSO determines are critical of findings by an expert KCSO consulted in its original administrative investigation of a matter, such as a police shooting. The contract seems to block OLEO from including rebuttal experts in their investigative reports or testimony.
The entire article is worth a read and puts into clear relief why an elected sheriff can sometimes be unfortunate , leading to internal politicking and backstabbing and getting in the way of much-needed reform. In an interview with Publicola, King County Executive Dow Constantine says, “I think that the ability of the executive and the council to hire and fire the sheriff dramatically increases accountability. Having the sheriff be elected creates deep rifts within the sheriff’s office, it creates these political camps that continue to war long after the election is over. And that is profoundly unhealthy. So I think this is a real step forward.”
As a reminder, King County’s Sheriff is supposed to change over to a new appointed Sheriff (as opposed to an elected one) at the beginning of next year because of a measure that passed in last November’s general election.

Chief Diaz’s reversal of the Pink Umbrella case decision continues to cause concern Read More »