LEAD

Seattle Drug User Diversion (LEAD) Will Max Out Its Capacity in Spring 2024

Year End and Looking Forward:

As this is the closing edition of this year of the newsletter, I want to extend a big thank you to all my readers. I hope you’ve found my reporting this year to be helpful in keeping you updated on what’s happening in the public safety and criminal legal spaces in Seattle, King County, and Washington State. 

Looking forward, public safety will remain front and center as an issue of interest. A short state legislative session will be beginning in January; historically short sessions tend to focus more on policy and less than on fiscal issues. We’ll have a couple new faces on the King County Council and 7 new faces on the Seattle City Council. King County and Seattle will also both face large fiscal deficits for their 2025-2026 budgets, which they’ll hammer out in the fall. We’ll also see more developments with both Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) and social housing.

I’d like to give extra thanks to those who support this work via Patreon for helping make Notes from the Emerald City possible. And I’m making a small request. Donations this year are not quite going to cover the hosting fees for the Notes from the Emerald City website. So if you find this work valuable, now would be a really great time to give a small donation to help keep things running. You can give a monthly donation via Patreon or a one-time donation via Paypal.

Thank you so much, and here’s looking forward to more reporting and learning in 2024!

Seattle News:

At the last Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting of the year (and the last presided over by Chair Lisa Herbold), LEAD gave a report on how they’re doing with the new influx of police referrals following the passage and implementation of the drug criminalization ordinance. They are only continuing to accept community referrals (meaning not from SPD) from three geographic areas: upper Third Avenue, the CID, and Rainier Beach (the latter only because King County is specifically providing funding to provide this service there). Fewer community referrals in general are being made as they are so likely to be turned down by LEAD.

LEAD is predicted to reach an absolute capacity ceiling in late April or early May of 2024. At that time, if more funding is not provided–either from the city, from the state, or from federal grants–LEAD will have to start rejecting not only community referrals but also referrals from the police. 

Lisa Daugaard, the co-executive director, also said that people are coming in at the highest level of clinical need they’ve ever seen, and that there are insufficient resources and options to offer these people. LEAD provides case managers who connect people with the services they need, but if those services are unavailable, the model cannot work as designed. One particular area where more service is needed is wound care as people are losing their limbs, and there aren’t resources to address this that are mobile.

In accountability news, an arbitrator has ruled that a former SPD officer who was fired for “using excessive force and violating the department’s de-escalation policies” was done so unlawfully and should at most have been suspended without pay for 60 days. Because she was fired back in 2017, the arbitrator didn’t order that she be given back her job, but he did order that she receive over $600k in backpay.

A new firefighters contract has been announced, which the local firefighters ratified with an 86% vote. This contract covers the period between December 21, 2021 and December 31, 2026 (meaning it covers two years in the past and three upcoming years). Cost of living adjustment (COLA) increases in the new contract are based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue with increase minimums and maximums that vary by year but are mostly a 2% minimum and a 4% maximum increase. The contract also includes a COLA bank that allows firefighters to bank excess cost of living increases when inflation is higher than 4%.

The back pay for the firefighters for the last two years (2022 and 2023) will cost $22.3 million. Going forward, the contract will cost an additional $21.4 million in 2024. The estimated total additional cost for the contract from 2022-2026 is $106.5 million. 

The Coalition of City Unions has also reached a tentative deal with the city. It hasn’t yet been approved, but it would provide a 5% COLA increase for 2023 and a 4.5% COLA increase for 2024. After that wage increases would be tied to the CPI for between 2-4%, just like the firefighters. 

In her wrap-up Bad Apples column for 2023, Ashley Nerbovig has this to say when summarizing the year:

And what a year for the Seattle Police Department, even aside from the OPA investigations. Barely a month into 2023, Seattle Police Officer Kevin Dave hit and killed 23-year-old college student Jaahnavi Kandula while driving nearly three times the posted speed limit. Kandula’s death led to worldwide outrage after a video surfaced of Seattle police union vice president Officer Daniel Auderer cackling and mocking Kandula on the night of her death. SPD took another hit in September when The Stranger published audio of Officer Burton Hill hurling a racial slur at his elderly Chinese neighbor. SPD faced broader criticism about racism within the department after prominent Black SPD detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin filed a discrimination lawsuit in November claiming she’d endured decades of racial and gender bias while working for SPD. Just cop things!”

King County and National News:

Prosecutors began their final arguments in the Manny Ellis trial on Monday. The jury began their deliberations on Thursday.

Meanwhile, even the New York Times is saying body worn cameras haven’t lived up to the hype

“The story demonstrates the mixed results of police-worn body cameras: Many people hoped they would help hold police officers accountable for wrongful shootings. But there has been a basic problem, as Eric Umansky found in an investigation for The Times Magazine and ProPublica: Police departments have often prevented the public from seeing the footage and failed to act when it showed wrongdoing.”

Recent Headlines:

 

Seattle Drug User Diversion (LEAD) Will Max Out Its Capacity in Spring 2024 Read More »

Budget Amendments are Coming!

Seattle News

Budget

In budget news, Budget Chair Mosqueda released her balancing package late last week. Yes, ShotSpotter is still in there, and I encourage you to continue to tell your councilmembers about all the problems with it

Councilmembers had to turn in their budget amendments by noon on Tuesday. We will hear all about them at the budget meeting on Friday 10/27, with a chance to give public comment at 10am. 

I will be giving a virtual budget workshop with journalist extraordinaire Ryan Packer, sponsored by The Urbanist, on Monday, October 30 from 7-8:30pm, where we’ll fill you in on everything going on with those amendments, answer questions about the budget process, and more. Sign up for your free ticket here.

Elections

Money is pouring into the Seattle city councilmember races, with real estate companies and other business interests outspending labor 4 to 1, supporting the more conservative candidate in each race. Amazon tried a similar spending strategy back in 2019 only to have most of their preferred candidates lose, but it remains to be seen whether Seattle voters will be equally savvy this year. If big business wins out this year, The Stranger has shared some insights of what we can expect.

Dual Dispatch

CARE’s new dual dispatch alternative response program has officially launched. I have already covered this program in depth, but I will note the pilot is initially focusing on downtown, including the CID and SODO.

New Drug Law

The ordinance criminalizing public drug use went into effect last Friday, and SPD was ready. On Friday afternoon they targeted 12th Ave S and Jackson St in the CID and 3rd and Pine downtown and arrested about two dozen people, ten of whom went to jail. Chief Diaz says he intends to run similar operations on a weekly basis. This would seem to lend credence to the capacity concerns around the LEAD diversion program.

Other Seattle News 

The King County Prosecutors’ Office has hired an independent investigator to look into the death of Jaahnavi Kandula due to a potential conflict of interest of having SPOG being involved in the initial investigation. The work is supposed to be completed sometime in November.

The South Seattle Emerald did a great write-up of the new, very promising Guaranteed Basic Income program being run by Hummingbird Indigenous Family Services. This is the first GBI program in the country focusing exclusively on Indigenous communities. Their director, Patanjali de la Rocha, was one of the panelists for Solidarity Budget’s GBI panel earlier this month. 

Recent Headlines

Budget Amendments are Coming! Read More »

Will ShotSpotter CCTV Cameras Roam Seattle’s Streets Next Year?

Seattle Budget News

Budget-Associated Events

If you’re interested in learning more about Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI), you can view the presentation and panel of local experts from this week here. If you’d like to contact your councilmembers in support of a publicly funded GBI program in Seattle, you can find talking points here.

If you’d like to read talking points from the Seattle Solidarity Budget, you can read them here. These should be updated to reflect new information learned during issue identification by the end of the day Monday.

Seattle Solidarity Budget is also hosting a virtual public comment workshop on Monday, October 16 from 6-7:30pm. An overview of Solidarity Budget’s call to action will be provided, as well as help writing up and giving public comment. You can register here.

There are two chances to give public comment related to the budget next week. A public hearing for public comment will be held on Wednesday, October 18 at 5pm. CM Nelson also pushed strongly for a public comment period to be added to the budget meeting on Monday, October 16 at 10am. As always, you can also email or call your councilmembers and share your budget priorities and concerns with them.

Investments associated with the New War on Drugs Bill

I finally have a breakdown on the plan for the $7 million for capital costs and $1.4 million for services that Mayor Harrell promised during the discussion of the New War on Drugs bill. 

The $7 million will be spent on two facilities; we’ve already spoken about the post-overdose site at some length, but the other facility will be an outpatient treatment center for individuals with opioid use disorder and/or other drug dependencies that will offer low-barrier access.

As for the $1.4 million, it will be spent for the following:

  • $470k for existing programs for drug user health and harm reduction
  • $325k for 2 new positions at Health One as well as relevant supplies
  • $582k one-time investment to support service delivery at the post-overdose stabilization center
  • $516k for ongoing costs at the post-overdose stabilization center
  • $164k administrative costs
  • $164k for a planning & development specialist to oversee the work supported by these monies

It is unclear where the money needed to operate the low-barrier access outpatient treatment center will come from.

CM Nelson objected to the use of the funds for harm reduction programs.

Meanwhile, SPD has estimated the requirements from this new legislation will result in it making 700-800 new diversion referrals every year. Right now LEAD is funded with $9.9 million, which allows it to serve 750 program participants. HSD believes this funding level will be sufficient, but how this can be the case when LEAD might not even have enough funding to serve all the new SPD drug referrals, let alone their normal caseload, is something of a mystery at present. Pre-filing diversion programs are also not receiving any increase in funding. 

SPD Budget Issues

The budget issue identification pertaining to SPD was discussed by City Council on Friday afternoon. You can see the presentation and the associated memo

Between January and September of 2023, SPD missed its hiring goals by 36, only hiring 46 officers and only 6 of those being lateral hires (meaning those officers are experienced and can be deployed quickly). They had 77 officer separations during that same time period (the projection was 72). Therefore, they experienced a net decrease of officers of 27.

At best, SPD’s staffing will remain flat for 2024, but this depends on an ambitious plan to hire 120 officers next year, with a full 30 being lateral hires. Unless something changes vastly in the next few months, this projection appears to be removed from reality. Iin 2024, SPD is proposing to fund 1,131 sworn FTEs.

SPD expects to exceed their overtime budget by $9.3 million for 2023, reaching a total of $40.6 million for overtime. The total number of events worked by SPD in 2023 was greater than that in 2019 before the pandemic began. Interestingly, Chief Diaz reported the department uses a combination of sworn officers and parking enforcement officers (PEOs) to staff events. 

SPD has been having trouble staying ahead of attrition while hiring new parking enforcement officers (PEOs) this year, so there might be as much as $1.5 million in PEO salary savings to help plug this overtime spending gap. Yes, now that the PEOs have moved back to SPD, it gets to use PEO salary savings as well as sworn officer salary savings. There are 22 open PEO positions right now, and these are planned to be filled by April 2024. 

Finally there was much discussion of the crime prevention pilot, for which the Mayor is asking for a $1.8 million investment that is being paid for by salary savings (the rest of the $8.1 million in projected salary savings for 2024 is being proposed to be spent on additional SPD overtime). $280k would be spent on additional automatic license plate reader technology. The remainder, $1.5 million, would be spent on deploying CCTV cameras with acoustic gunshot locator capabilities (aka ShotSpotter with cameras). 

The Mayor’s Office has chosen the 3rd Avenue corridor, Belltown, and/or Aurora Ave N as potential locations to deploy this new technology, although they are not yet sure how many locations they will be able to cover with the money available. These locations were chosen from SPD data, looking for places where gun violence, human trafficking, and high felony crime concentration are present. There is also no information available on what a scaled up version of this pilot might look like or how much it would cost. 

The Mayor has suggested this new technology would be deployable by March of 2024, even though it would first need to undergo a surveillance technology review and a racial equity analysis. 

A particularly disturbing detail of the plan is the desire to develop an omnibus surveillance policy. This policy would allow any CCTV cameras in the pilot to be moved around the city at will, without having to undergo any oversight from the City Council. The Mayor has said he will engage with each community to which the cameras are moved, but given some of the community engagement efforts we’ve seen in the past from this administration, this loose commitment doesn’t exactly ease fears of potential issues with this policy.

Several councilmembers, including CMs Nelson, Pedersen, Lewis, and Strauss signaled their potential support for this Shotspotter CCTV pilot. 

I will try to cover the new CARE department budgetary issues next week, but in the meantime, you can see their presentation and memo.

Overall Budget Issue

The critical conversation about potential new progressive revenue sources for 2025 and beyond has yet to truly begin, but Pubicola reports the Mayor’s proposed 2024 budget increases the projected 2025 deficit from $212 million to $247 million. 

And what about the JumpStart tax revenues?Harrell’s budget transfers $27 million from the Jumpstart tax fund to the general fund, an ongoing practice that the council has approved every year for the past several years to keep COVID-era programs going. Much of that includes new spending beyond what the council approved last year in the “endorsed” 2024 budget.”

Other News

The City of Seattle settled with the estate of Derek Hayden, a man killed by SPD in January of 2022. To resolve this wrongful death claim, they paid $1.5 million

The trial of the police who killed Manuel Ellis continues in Tacoma. Before she testified on Monday, Ellis’s mother says she found an AirTag tracking device on her car, as well as having her tires slashed earlier on the weekend. As a result, Ellis’s sister alleged witness intimidation.

Recent Headlines

 

Will ShotSpotter CCTV Cameras Roam Seattle’s Streets Next Year? Read More »

Discussing the Plan for SPD Divestment

Today’s Council Briefing:

You can find my Twitter thread from this morning’s meeting here.

Only a few items of note. CM Herbold is sponsoring an amendment to remove the SPD from the gatekeeping role of providing referrals to LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), our local arrest diversion program. Chief Best supports this effort, so it looks like this reform should be pretty easy to enact.

CM Mosqueda announced the two budget meetings this week, one at Wednesday at 2pm and one on Thursday at 10am. There will be periods for public comment at both meetings. These meetings will be to discuss potential amendments to the revised 2020 budget that are not involved with the SPD. As such, I will probably skip this week’s budget meetings. The amendments involving the SPD will be discussed at the budget meeting on Wednesday, July 29. Remember, the revised budget as a whole is scheduled to be voted on at the city council meeting that following Monday, August 3.

Ordinance banning less-lethal weapons violates Consent Decree

After all the excitement of getting the bill banning the SPD’s use of less-lethal weapons passed last month, it turns out it violates the Consent Decree. Under the terms of the Consent Decree, the city and the SPD are supposed to present this sort of change for review and to the court for approval. Attached to the notice filed on Friday acknowledging the violation of the decree is a blistering criticism of the bill from Police Chief Best. This highlights one of the ongoing issues with attempts at reform and divesting from SPD: namely, that the Consent Decree is still active and must be adhered to, which will make these processes lengthier.

Other Difficulties

In addition to needing to take time to have many measures related to the SPD reviewed and approved by the court because of the Consent Decree, this reform process will also have to reckon with existing local and state laws and the several different labor contracts covering groups of employees currently housed within the SPD. While not impossible barriers, these issues will both slow down and complicate the process. You can read an excellent run-down of these problems here:

“There is nothing above that can’t be changed (state law will be the most difficult as it is entirely out of the hands of the city, and at this point it seems unlikely that the state legislature will hold a special session this year), but even if the City Council and the Mayor act with urgency it will take time. Even some of the things that look simple, like moving the 911 call center and parking enforcement out of SPD, can’t be done without collective bargaining and possibly some changes to the laws.”

It is important to proceed correctly and legally because otherwise any reforms made can be easily overturned, wasting this opportunity to make change, and more generally because we don’t want to see the rule of law further weakened. We’re in this for the long haul.

Meanwhile, this article makes the point that for the housing portion of Decriminalize Seattle’s four point plan, there are other powers at work, in this case the Growth Management Policy Board:

“While Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now push for housing as a pillar of change in the justice system, groups like GMPB are actually deciding the location of housing throughout the region…It is the work happening at GMPB which corrals and undermines reform regardless of veto-proof majorities and participatory budgeting.”

Moving Forward

Given that a lot of the changes being proposed to the SPD are impossible to make in a few short weeks, what now? While activists continue to call to defund the SPD by 50%, The Urbanist reports what Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now are actually suggesting is a 12% cut to the SPD budget for each remaining month of the year. A little back-of-the-envelope math tells us that means we’re talking in the range of $20m total to spend from August through December of this year to fund the research process and scaling up relevant community organizations. In an interview with the West Seattle Blog last week, CM Herbold suggested $30m of additional cuts, so those two data points give us a general ballpark figure of what to expect. At the same time, the City Council can begin the relevant bargaining, law changes, development of policies to ensure laws are met within the reorganization, and process to get approval of changes that impact the Consent Decree.

So at next week’s budget meeting, this is what we’re looking for: whether the Council can come up with enough additional, legal, and immediate cuts within the SPD to bring us close to that $20-30m figure to fund community efforts, as well as signs of their continued commitment to do all the necessary work to continue making this transition over the next several months and years.

That being said, when you’re communicating with your council members, whether that be via email, phone, or public comment, it is perfectly fine to continue to push the message about defunding by 50% as part of supporting Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now’s plan. The Council knows what that means in realistic terms, and they need the continued pressure to proceed with the work, especially since the 2021 budget process is right around the corner. This next two weeks is a critical time to make your voice heard.

Discussing the Plan for SPD Divestment Read More »