less lethal weapons

The Seattle City Attorney Has Been Busy

Personal News:

I had a novel come out this week! My Stars Shine Darkly is a YA science fiction novel and a dystopian romance. 

Book cover of My Stars Shine Darkly by Amy Sundberg, showing a teenage girl in a fancy dress and a golden Venetian mask

“In a story awash with Shakespearean intrigue and hijinks, join our intrepid heroine as she struggles against the dystopian patriarchy of her world.”

You can purchase it here or request it from your local library.

Seattle News:

Soon after I hit publish on my issue last Friday, the news dropped that the Seattle City Attorney’s Office would be filing an affidavit of prejudice on Seattle Municipal Court Judge Pooja Vaddadi on all criminal cases going forward. I dug more deeply into the issue with my story at the Urbanist. Perhaps most concerning is how this decision undermines the independence of the court from other branches of government.

Meanwhile the court is also in turmoil because of the rollout of a new case management system this week that has been bumpy at best. As The Seattle Times reports: “Court hearings have been exceedingly slow. Where it previously took a half a day to work through first appearances, when a judge sets bail, it’s now taking a full day, meaning some people are spending longer in jail than they otherwise would.

Yesterday at the State of Downtown event hosted by the Downtown Seattle Association, City Attorney Ann Davison said shesupports setting a limit on the number of times a person is allowed to overdose in public before they’re arrested and booked into jail.” While this law would supposedly only go into effect if a person refused treatment after an overdose, in practice treatment is often unavailable.

The City Attorney’s Office also announced they would be charging SPD Officer Kevin Dave, the officer who struck and killed Jaahnavi Kandula, with what amounts to a traffic ticket. Publicola reported that Dave received a hiring bonus of $15k after being hired in November of 2019: “Dave was previously an officer in Tucson, Arizona, but was fired from that previous position in 2013 after failing to meet minimum standards during his 18-month probation period.”

Daniel Auderer, the SPOG vice president who got caught in a recording laughing at Kandula’s death, was scheduled to have his disciplinary hearing with Chief Diaz this past Tuesday. Auderer has not yet had his pre-termination or “Loudermill” hearing, which would be required before he could be fired.

In other news, Publicola reported that SPD is continuing to operate under a crowd control policy that is against the law. SPD ignored the city’s new less-lethal weapons law (passed in 2021) for a few years before finally submitting a proposal in December 2023:

“Accompanying the policy: A memo from SPD denouncing their own proposal as “dangerous” and unworkable and asking the court to instead approve the department’s existing “interim” crowd control policy, which does not ban or substantially restrict the use of a single less-lethal weapon.”

The article goes on to state, “Antonio Oftelie, the court monitor overseeing the consent decree, told PubliCola that his office and the DOJ have decided to step back and see if SPD, working with the mayor and new city council, can come up with a policy in the first quarter of this year that complies with the consent decree and is something all sides can live with.

One example of SPD ignoring the new law was back in February when they dispersed a Pro-Palestine rally with pepper balls, which wouldn’t have been available for use if SPD had a policy in line with the existing legislation.

Mayor Harrell announced a new contract with the Coalition of City Unions with the following specifications:

“The proposed contracts include a 5% Annual Wage Increase (AWI) retroactively applied for 2023 and a 4.5% AWI for 2024, totaling a two-year 9.7% adjustment. The 2025 AWI will be based on a two-year average of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue-area with a 2% floor and a 4% cap. The 2026 AWI will be calculated similarly but then be increased by 1% with a 3% floor and a 5% cap.”

The contract has already been approved by union members and will now go for a final vote before City Council. It is currently unclear to me whether this increase in wages has already been calculated into the city’s looming deficit for 2025. According to Publicola, city departments are preparing plans to lay off employees (while already operating under a hiring freeze).

King County News:

This week Executive Constantine announced a five-prong strategy for addressing the fentanyl crisis and preventing overdoses. The five prongs are as follows:

  1. Treatment: launching a 24/7 buprenorphine prescribing line; increasing staffing for both the youth and adult mobile crisis programs; hiring 6 new community navigators to connect people with treatment
  2. Behavioral health beds: partnering with Pioneer Health Services to open 16-bed residential treatment program for people with both mental health and substance abuse disorders; re-opening a 24/7 SUD sobering center; opening post-overdose recovery center
  3. Overdose reversal meds and fentanyl testing: distributing more naloxone kits and test strips; testing drug samples; increasing number of fire depts providing leave-behind naloxone
  4. Behavioral health workforce: adding 100 apprenticeships statewide with half in King County
  5. Reduce disproportionality in overdose: investing $2 million in disproportionately impacted populations

KUOW reported that no new money is being allocated for this project, and when exactly any of this will happen is unknown. Neither Executive Constantine nor anyone else at the press conference would specify a timeline. Clint Jordan of Pioneer Human Services, however, did comment on when a 16-bed residential treatment program could open.

“We’re targeting a six month open,” Jordan said. “I think that puts us in October, November, somewhere in there.””

WA State Legislature News:

Initiative 2113, which changes the state-wide policy on vehicular pursuits, was passed in the state legislature on Monday. Unlike the reform on pursuits passed in 2021 and then weakened in 2023, this initiative doesn’t restrict pursuit based on type of violation in any way. Opponents say this change will almost certainly cause collateral damage, likely leading to more deaths and injuries. As Publicola reported, “Going back to 2015, Morris found that of 379 people killed by police in Washington state, 26 percent involved vehicular pursuits. Of the 32 deaths in Washington caused by collisions during pursuits, more than half were bystanders, passengers, or officers.”

Crosscut reported on two new gun control laws that are likely to make it through this year’s legislative session: one on reporting stolen guns and another on gun dealer security measures. 

Speaking of, this year’s legislative session is officially over. The WA State Standard reported that “Republicans had a pretty good year” and “big progressive priorities flared out.” 

Recent Headlines:

The Seattle City Attorney Has Been Busy Read More »

SPD Responsible for 1 out of 10 Killings in Seattle, Data Scientist Says

Seattle News

First up, I wrote an article for The Urbanist about the proposed drug legislation being voted on in Seattle next week. If you’d like to email your councilmembers and/or give public comment at the City Council meeting next Tuesday June 5, you can find a quick email submission here, and scripts here and here. It looks like the vote will be a close one.

Late last week, City Attorney Davison informed the Seattle Municipal Court she will no longer be participating in their community court, effectively shutting it down. Those people on the High Utilizers Initiative list were already barred from using community court, which was a court for people who had committed certain low-level crimes. This step is likely to significantly add to the caseload of the City Attorney’s prosecutors. It will be interesting to see how the office’s case clearance rate, rate of dismissals, and attrition rate will be impacted by this change in the months to come. CM Lewis has been vocal in defense of community court, tweeting, “Misinformation about Seattle Community Court success rates is circling in the media, so let’s get a few things straight. Approximately 75% of people who enter Community Court complete the program, and 80% of them go on to commit no new criminal law violations.” 

It has come to light that during the 2020 George Floyd protests, SPD called for help from at least 23 different law enforcement agencies. Officers from these agencies were not ruled by SPD policy relating to use of force, reporting, and accountability, and used weapons such as “Stinger” rubber pellet blast grenades, 12-gauge beanbag “shotgun” rounds, military style SAF smoke, HC smoke, and Aerial Flash-Bang devices. As Glen Stellmacher reports:

If SPD holds a backdoor policy that allows for the use of these weapons, that policy is not available to the public, nor are the conditions for the use of these specific weapons. If SPD solely relied on communication with these agencies to prevent the use of certain types of weapons, that dialogue appeared chaotic and indecisive.”

There were at least 547 uses of force by these other agencies during the 2020 protests, and it doesn’t look like any of them were investigated by the OPA. The OIG is performing an audit about SPD use of “mutual aid,” but no results of this audit have yet been made available to the public. It also appears that SPD orchestrated their infamous Proud Boy “ruse” because they didn’t know how to deal with crowd control without their mutual aid partners.

Meanwhile, Seattle has spent a whopping $20.1 million on outside legal fees for four lawsuits related to the 2020 protests.

The 2020 protests are also haunting Bob Ferguson, who launched an exploratory campaign for governor at the beginning of May. He announced the endorsement of former SPD Chief Carmen Best on Twitter this week. His base in Seattle didn’t take kindly to this news, as Best admitted to deleting text messages and was in charge of SPD during the tear gassing of Seattle neighborhoods during the 2020 protests. 

On the Consent Decree

This week, Judge Robart held a hearing in response to the DOJ and City of Seattle’s request for reduced oversight and an imminent end to the consent decree that has been in place for over eleven years. While it is unclear when the judge will issue a ruling, he signaled he will be rewriting parts of the proposed order but that overall he is proud of the work SPD has done under the consent decree. Not everyone agrees with this assessment:

“Ultimately, Seattle’s experience shows consent decrees to be a trap — one that results in more expensive police departments, but which leaves untouched the violence at the heart of policing. Consent decrees first offer communities validation for the harm police have caused them, along with a promise of someone else coming in and “fixing” the police. In practice, they cut off community voices, inflate police budgets at the expense of everything else, and legitimize the very police force that continues to harm the community.” 

Meanwhile, data scientist Dr. Sherry Towers wrote to the judge before the hearing to share some alarming findings, saying, “During my examination of police shooting and homicide data from 2015 to 2021[*] in my research, I found that the rates of police killings per homicide in Seattle were significantly higher than in other areas of the US (nationwide around 3% to 4% of all homicides were due to police killings, whereas in Seattle during that time period that number was 11%, well over twice the national average – to put this in perspective, one out of ten people killed in Seattle since 2015 was killed by a police officer).” 

She went on to say, “I found that by all measures I examined, fatal police violence and racial disparities in police shootings became worse after the consent decree, both in total number and per homicide.  In addition, significantly more police officers were involved in each shooting incident after the consent decree (2.5 on average), compared to before (1.5 on average), and police shootings became significantly more likely to be fatal.” 

Finally, a particular wrinkle of police union contract bargaining was discussed at the hearing. In general, if the negotiations between the City and the police union reach an impasse, the next step is to go to interest arbitration. However, the only issues that are allowed to go to interest arbitration are those that were included in the list of contract issues to be bargained that is created at the start of negotiations. So if a new issue comes up in the middle of negotiation, that can’t be forced into interest arbitration. This had huge implications for the 2017 police accountability ordinance, which hadn’t been included on the list of contract issues for the SPOG contract that was approved in 2018. 

Recent Headlines

 

SPD Responsible for 1 out of 10 Killings in Seattle, Data Scientist Says Read More »

The Obligatory Election Results Discussion

Budget meetings continue in Seattle

Yes, yes, we’re going to talk about the election, but first, believe it or not, we still have two weeks left in Seattle’s budget season. This week, Budget Chair Mosqueda’s proposed balancing package will be presented to the public on Wednesday morning at 9am. There will be no public comment at this meeting, but there will be an entire public hearing later on Wednesday at 5:30pm. Sign ups for public comment start at 3:30pm. I will be live tweeting the morning presentation in case you want to take a peek at what’s in the new proposed budget so you can tailor your comments accordingly.
There will be another budget meeting on Friday starting at 9:30am to discuss the new proposed budget in more detail.
Also of note, the Council received an updated revenue forecast for Seattle, and it wasn’t a great one: the expected revenue dropped $20m from the last forecast. The Council will need to make up this difference in their balanced budget.
You can read more about CM Strauss’s proposal to increase funding for the Mobile Crisis Team to respond to mental health calls here. You can read a summary of some of the previous budget meetings here. And here is today’s Twitter thread of the Seattle Council Briefing:
Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing. Presiding this morning is Council President Pro Tem Dan Strauss. He wishes CM Juarez either a happy early or belated birthday. And now we have the Grand Street Alley Vacation briefing, which I’m not going to tweet.

Election News

Let’s start with this thread of good election news, shall we?

Kamau
a 🧵of good results in WA races:

let’s start in seattle since so many people are down on the results. first, the fact that Oliver, NTK, & Gonzalez got tens of thousands to vote for a bold progressive vision can’t be understated.

notably, we won the school board decicively https://t.co/yQdP6hTlzv

In Seattle, progressive Teresa Mosqueda was able to hold onto her Council seat, while Bruce Harrell won for Mayor, Sara Nelson won for Council Seat 9, and Ann Davison won for City Attorney. All three represent business interests and beat out their more progressive opponents.
So how is this going to affect police accountability in Seattle and what should we be looking for in upcoming months?
Next year the Mayor will need to appoint a new Chief of Police for SPD. One key decision will be whether to appoint Interim Chief Diaz or look for a candidate outside the department. Whoever is chosen as Chief will have a lot of influence on any potential changes within SPD. The Mayor will also play a large role in bargaining with SPOG, a process that is currently ongoing and that has huge impacts on police accountability. The Mayor is also the chief administrative officer of Seattle, and in the case of Mayor Durkan, we’ve seen how she used this role to act as a road block to certain policy changes and expenditures approved by the Council, while also failing to set a culture of accountability for her office and the offices beneath her.
As pertains to Bruce Harrell, he has spoken in favor of continued sweeps of the homeless, including punishment for those who refuse offers of shelter, and in favor of maintaining or possibly growing the police department. He seems to be a proponent of dashboards and studies. You might remember that he suggested having every SPD officer watch the murder of George Floyd and then sign a pledge. In good news, he supports continued investment in alternate response to crisis calls.
In very simple terms, with Sara Nelson taking a seat, the City Council will now be divided between 3 moderates and 6 progressives. (Obviously there is a lot more nuance involved here, with each council member having their own individual views and representing different district interests.) Most legislation needs to pass by a simple majority, meaning in some ways there won’t be much of a change. If CM Sawant loses her recall election next month, the Council would appoint someone to fill her seat.
However, budget legislation requires a ¾ majority, which the more progressive members no longer have. (Remember, this won’t apply to the current budget process, but it will come into play next year.) This new balance will affect what budget proposals are feasible. In addition, overturning a Mayor’s veto generally requires a 2/3 vote, meaning only a single more progressive CM would need to waiver to prevent an overturn. Another aspect to watch is the new assignments for committee chairs and Council President.
Ann Davison, who will be our new City Attorney, may cause the biggest change in the status quo. There is concern she will begin prosecuting more low-level misdemeanors and more aggressively criminalize poverty. She must defend the City against lawsuits, which includes lawsuits against the JumpStart tax and other legislation passed by Council, and we don’t know what her skill or interest level will be in defending these cases. The City Attorney also plays a role in the consent decree. It is unclear at this time what legislation and provisos the City Council may adopt before the end of the year to try to mandate a continuation of existing diversion programs within the City Attorney’s office, but we should know more on this front soon.

Other News

Former SPD Chief Carmen Best is reportedly up for consideration to be the Chief of Police for NYPD. And she has a new book out! A big month for her.
Meanwhile, Pierce County is not only struggling with their Sheriff Ed Troyer, who is now facing criminal charges, but the highest ranking Black women in the Sheriff Department’s history are now suing the county:
Kari Plog
The highest-ranking Black women in Pierce County Sheriff’s Department history are suing the county, alleging decades of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Suit says the “top echelons” of the department “participated in and ignored” the behavior. https://t.co/3GkrIKGKJq
Right before the election, Mayor Durkan issued an emergency order authorizing hiring bonuses for police officers and 911 call dispatchers, with bonuses of up to $25k for experienced lateral hires and $10k for new recruits. These bonuses are both higher and cover more personnel than Mayor Durkan’s similar proposal in her 2022 budget, meaning the Council would need to find additional funding in next year’s budget to cover the difference. CM Sawant has proposed legislation to modify this order to cover hiring bonuses for only 911 call dispatchers and not police officers, and said CP González indicated to her this legislation would come to a vote on Monday, November 22, which is the same meeting at which the CMs will vote on the overall budget.
Meanwhile, Chief Diaz has reservations about the Council’s latest crowd control weapons ordinance as well as to certain of OIG’s recommendations based on their review of the 2020 protests. It looks like the Federal Monitor Dr. Oftelie is now getting drawn into the fray:
Paul Faruq Kiefer
This saga continues today with a letter from Chief Diaz to consent decree monitor Dr. Antonio Oftelie doubling down on the chief’s criticisms of the crowd control weapons ordinance. https://t.co/67m5vw7GdE

Recent Headlines

Minneapolis voters reject replacing police with new agency

WA’s new federal judges signify reversal of Trump-era influence | Crosscut

The Obligatory Election Results Discussion Read More »

Seattle News Salad

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”

There have been a flurry of articles about the findings of the OPA’s investigation of the six SPD officers who were in Washington DC for the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6. A key point of contention being discussed is whether simply attending the rally constitutes protected speech for police officers (meaning speech protected by the first amendment), which would determine whether the four officers not found to have behaved illegally should also be disciplined.
CM Lisa Herbold had this to say:
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.
CP González has said the remaining four officers should be disciplined. You can also find out what other current candidates think about the case.
Another interesting aspect of this case is the way it highlights the limitations placed on the OPA by not having the ability to subpoena SPD officers, especially since SPOG has filed a grievance against the OPA for instead ordering the officers to give them personal documents related to their activities in DC. OPA Director Myerberg said:
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.
Next up, there will be a due process hearing on August 5 for the two officers with sustained complains against them, after which Chief Diaz will decide whether to terminate their employment. They will then have the opportunity to appeal his decision through arbitration. There is an open OPA case about one of the other officers who refused to provide his personal records when ordered to do so; there may also be another OPA case addressing the fact that the two officers with sustained findings against them appear to have lied during the original OPA investigation.

OPA and OIG News

The South Seattle Emerald has obtained several additional OIG partial certifications on OPA investigations, after reporting on the one for the protest at SPOG HQ last September. Of six completed investigations that received only a partial certification, all six were certified “not thorough” and one was also certified “not objective.” Four of these cases were protest-related. The “thoroughness” issues tend to involve insufficient questioning, overlooked witnesses, and ignoring certain parts of cases.
Meanwhile, the OPA investigation of Officer Ron Willis, the officer who made $414,543.06 in 2019 while working several 90-hour weeks and more than one greater than 24-hour day, has been completed. He was suspended for one day without pay. Meanwhile, SPD’s system of tracking overtime has still yet to be overhauled, and the new promised automated timekeeping system has yet to go live, five years after an audit that called attention to these problems.

Election News

How do the endorsements of The Stranger and The Seattle Times stack up?
Seattle Mayor: M. Lorena González vs. Bruce Harrell
King County Executive: Joe Nguyen vs. Dow Constantine
SCC Position 8: Teresa Mosqueda vs No Endorsement
SCC Position 9: Nikkita Oliver vs. Sara Nelson
Seattle City Attorney: Nicole Thomas-Kennedy vs. Ann Davison
King County Council #3: Sarah Perry vs. Kathy Lambert
King County Council #7: Saudia J. Abdullah vs. Pete von Reichbauer
King County Council #9: Chris Franco vs. Reagan Dunn
We also have some new polls! In the race for Seattle City Attorney, Pete Holmes is coming in at 16% and his opponents Nicole Thomas Kennedy and Ann Davison are both coming in at 14%, with 53% undecided. For an incumbent who won by a large margin last time, this is a surprisingly weak showing for Holmes. And in the Seattle mayor’s race, Bruce Harrell is coming in with 20%, M. Lorena González with 12%, and Colleen Echohawk with 10%, with 32% undecided.
Meanwhile, this poll (it’s important to note the polling size is only 524) asked respondents who they would vote for in different head-to-head Seattle mayor’s races:
Echohawk 51% vs Harrell 49%
Harrell 65% vs González 35%
Echohawk 69% vs González 31 %
Washington Research Group, who conducted the poll, had this to say about the upcoming race:
WaResrchGrp
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.

News Tidbits

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

Paul Faruq Kiefer
Some stats from this report: Native people are nine times more likely to be stopped by SPD than white people (and Black people are five times more likely), but white people were more likely to be carrying a weapon when they were stopped. https://t.co/LnHZTDL8Nm

Seattle News Salad Read More »

We’re Back to Discussing a Less Lethal Weapons Bill in Seattle

On Police Unions

I’d like to start by sharing a few key quotations from an article from The Atlantic, The Authoritarian Instincts of Police Unions:
Americans are presently engaged in a debate about how to reform police departments to prevent the unlawful killing of civilians by officers, as well as other, nonlethal abuses of power. Reining in police unions may not seem like the most urgent response to this crisis. But no reform effort can hope to succeed given their power today. As long as they exist in anything like their current form, police unions will condition their members to see themselves as soldiers at war with the public they are meant to serve, and above the laws they are meant to enforce.
This is not a system ruined by a few bad apples. This is a system that creates and protects bad apples by design. Most people who become police officers enter the profession because it is held in high esteem and because they wish to provide a public service. But individual good intentions cannot overcome a system intended to render them meaningless. Being a good cop can get you in trouble with your superiors, your fellow officers, and the union that represents you. Being a bad one can get you elected as a union rep.

This Week’s Seattle City Council Meetings

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to the Seattle Council Briefing! This morning it sounds like we’ll be talking some more about less lethal weapons and all the ways we’re supposed to be okay with tear gas.

At the King County Board of Health meeting last week, there was a discussion about the mandatory bike helmet law, which is disproportionately enforced, primarily against homeless and BIPOC individuals, and doesn’t actually lead to more helmet use. There is a push to have this law reconfigured or eliminated, as well as to distribute free helmets and provide more public education on their use.

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to the Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. So far we’ve had opening remarks, public comment, and now we’re talking about a potential appointment to the Seattle Municipal Court administrator.
At today’s Public Safety and Human Services meeting, we heard a presentation from HSD on council investments in health and crisis response, which covered the expansion of Health One (one van was added this spring and another is slated to be added this fall), the SPD crisis response team, and the mobile crisis team, including its new pilot project the Behavioral Health Response Team (costing $450k), which consists of teams of a mental health professional and two peer navigators who have lived experience.
In regards to the SPD crisis response team, CM Herbold noted that many of the police officers on this team have left or been transferred, and asked if there aren’t as many pairing opportunities because of SPD staffing issues, was this an opportunity for HSD to look at other ways to expand this important function? She clarified that she sees HSD as having a programmatic role as well as a funding role for this project, but unfortunately she received no reply from HSD. She also stated that she’s interested in a Seattle-specific designated crisis responder serving on the mobile crisis teams.
The committee also discussed their newly revised bill on SPD usage of less lethal weapons, following its review by the DoJ and Court Monitor. The basics of the bill are outlined in a Central Staff memo and an article at SCC Insight, as well as in this helpful diagram. As you can see, blast balls and flash bangs are completely banned at demonstrations, while pepperballs (using launchers), pepper spray, and tear gas do have some allowed uses during demonstrations.
Provisions of the new less lethal weapons bill
Provisions of the new less lethal weapons bill

CM Herbold said changes from the February version of this bill were due to input given by the Department of Justice and Police Monitor, and Kevin Schofield reports that the DoJ did have a verbal conversation with her about their concerns about the potential that restricting the use of certain less-lethal tools in crowd management circumstances could actually lead to officers using higher levels of force and about whether police officers would have enough time to train on any new policies. He also reports that Court Monitor Oftelie declined to offer feedback on the bill, saying: “My hope in all of this is that SC would work more directly with the Mayor’s office, SPD, and the accountability partners (OIG, OPA, CPC) to draft a comprehensive, evidence-based, and pragmatic new policy. But so far SC has chosen to work on this on their own which is disappointing.” This is interesting because CM Herbold did ask all three accountability bodies for their feedback last year and had all three as well as SPD participate in a roundtable on the subject at a public safety meeting in December. We can only assume the Court Monitor wasn’t satisfied with this effort.

Other News

The news broke that Casey Sixkiller, a candidate for Seattle Mayor, has worked as a lobbyist for such clients as private prison companies, oil and gas firms, and weapons makers. Meanwhile, the Seattle Times ran an article about what mayoral candidates are looking for in the City’s next Police Chief. And Erica Barnett reports on where the money is coming from for upcoming city-wide elections.
A community report on Choose 180, a nonprofit offering restorative justice diversion options to teenagers and young adults, was released this week. Choose 180 has a partnership with the City Attorney’s office for a diversion program for 16-24-year olds that “offers young people the opportunity to participate in a 4-hour CHOOSE 180 Young Adult Workshop instead of being processed through the traditional criminal legal system.” I highly recommend reading the report to see one example of a currently working diversion program.
At the latest CPC (Community Police Commission) meeting, members were divided as to whether to go forward with plans to host a general election forum in partnership with a community organization such as Choose 180 or Community Passageways. Some members believe that hosting such a forum is beyond the scope of the CPC’s responsibilities or mission, while others think holding a candidate forum will help inform the community about the candidates’ different viewpoints on police accountability. It is unclear if the forum will proceed as planned, although we can expect updates on this at tomorrow morning’s CPC meeting. Also on the meeting agenda is an update from the OIG on the Sentinel Event Review of last summer’s protests.

Recent Headlines

Few Cops We Found Using Force on George Floyd Protesters Are Known to Have Faced Discipline — ProPublica

Stop police false narratives about officer-involved deaths | by Deborah Jacobs | Jun, 2021 | Medium

We’re Back to Discussing a Less Lethal Weapons Bill in Seattle Read More »

Disagreement abounds on whether the new proposed charter amendment on homelessness would reinstitute the sweeps

Time for some early April news!

First off, you can read my live-tweeting of this morning’s Council Briefing here.

CM Herbold mentioned that she had a meeting last week with the DoJ and the Monitor about the draft bill on less lethal weapons, and that they will have additional questions for the SPD and the City’s Central Staff, so that is continuing to move forward. The next public safety committee meeting isn’t until next week, and we don’t yet have word on the agenda.


Meanwhile, Seattle is busy discussing the new proposed charter amendment from Compassionate Seattle, led by former CM Tim Burgess, that would create a new Article in Seattle’s city charter called “Provision of Homeless Services.” This proposal is unprecedented in that it attempts to use the city charter to dictate specific policy and budget priorities, while charter amendments in the past have stuck to causing governance changes. The purpose of this amendment appears to be to cause the City to stand up 1,000 new units of “emergency or permanent housing with services” in 2022, stating the City must allocate 12% of its general fund annually to a separate Human Services fund.

More controversially, the proposed amendment also contains the following language: “As emergency and permanent housing are available, the City shall ensure that City parks, playgrounds, sports fields, public spaces and sidewalks and streets (“public spaces”) remain open and clear of encampments. The City also may require individuals to shift their belongings and any structures to ensure accessibility and to accommodate use of public spaces.” Given the initiative’s major financial backer is the Downtown Seattle Association, this section shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

There are several different interpretations of what that language might mean, and it is disturbing that a major initiative on which the public may be expected to vote is so ambiguous:

  • Kevin Schofield of SCC Insight says: “This does not appear to be bringing back “sweeps.” The text of the proposed amendment makes clear that parks and public spaces should be cleaned up and restored “as emergency and permanent housing are available.”
  • Marcus Harrison Greene of the South Seattle Emerald says in an interview on Hacks & Wonks: “Other than, as you were saying, people essentially just don’t want to see any type of blight on their fair city or what have you. And are trying to essentially make it more and more of a hardship on people who are unhoused to be in areas that are “public spaces” or public amenities. And so for me, I mean, this just seems like an extremely – just extremely callous potential initiative that is couched in this language of compassion and love.” Crystal Fincher then responds, “I think the question is – the mandate in here to ensure that parks and public spaces are open and clear of encampments, is a clear direction and clear indication to return to aggressive sweeps. And to return to just default, I see someone in public – call the police, get them out.”
  • Erica C. Barnett of Publicola reports: “Supporters of the amendment say the mandate to ensure that parks and public spaces are “open and clear” of encampments does not mean a return to aggressive encampment sweeps, although that provision will be open to interpretation if the amendment passes.”

In one further wrinkle, one of the members of the coalition supporting this amendment is Chief Seattle Club, the executive director of which is Colleen Echohawk. In her statement on this initiative, she says it “prohibits sweeps unless there is a place for people to go.” However, a prohibition doesn’t seem clear from the actual language of the amendment. How her support of this amendment might affect her chances in the mayoral election is anyone’s guess, but it does seem to pull her into a more center position and align her clearly with the interests of Seattle’s business community. Of course, this could also easily weaken her prospects with more progressive voters concerned about the possibility of renewed sweeps.

In order for this city charter amendment to appear on the ballot in November, it will need to collect 33,000 signatures from Seattle voters, to be filed by early August.


The other big piece of news in Seattle is the Court’s ruling that the recall of CM Sawant can proceed. The recall campaign will now begin collecting signatures; they need 10,000 signatures from District 3 voters and have 180 days to collect them. Depending on when these signatures are turned in, this recall might be voted on during the November election or there might need to be a special election at a later date. So far CM Sawant has out-fundraised the recall campaign.


Finally, you can attend free virtual bystander intervention trainings to stop anti-Asian/American and xenophobic harassment. Hosted by Hollaback! and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, you can sign up for a training here. There is still one available training in April and several in May, and if you finish this first training, there is also a conflict de-escalation training workshop available.

Thanks for reading!

Disagreement abounds on whether the new proposed charter amendment on homelessness would reinstitute the sweeps Read More »

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 »

Support the Pathways to Recovery Act

First up, we have a few bills in the Washington State legislature that could use your support.

The Pathways to Recovery Act, HB 1499, will be receiving a hearing this Friday, February 12 at 10am. This bill addresses the current public health crisis of substance abuse disorders, changing the law so they are treated as a health issue instead of a crime, providing pre-treatment outreach, treatment, and recovery support services for suffering individuals. This bill could make a huge difference in so many people’s lives, and I urge you to consider supporting it. You can find scripts to help you craft your comments here.

SB 5134, which I’ve spoken about before, the bill that removes police accountability for serious misconduct from the collective bargaining process (among other things), could also use your support. This bill was always a heavy lift, and it hasn’t yet been scheduled for executive session, as we fast approach the deadline for bills to be voted out of committee. Efforts are being made to truncate the bill in order to reach a compromise, and more labor organizations are coming on board, but time is running out.

To support this bill, you can email the chair of the Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Relations Committee, Senator Karen Keiser at karen.keiser@leg.wa.gov. Your email should be brief (two sentences or less), telling her you support SB 5134 and asking her to schedule it for an executive session.


Next up is yesterday’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting.

The discussion about changing the 2021 SPD budget to reflect SPD’s overspend in 2020 was once more postponed, but as previously stated, it did sound like CM Herbold is now waffling over this measure of accountability. The committee did get a chance to discuss the less lethal weapons draft bill, and voted to recommend it as amended (CM Herbold’s amendment to allow the use of tear gas and legally define “violent public disturbance” passed 4-1) to be sent for review by the DoJ and the monitor. All CMs on the committee voted to recommend the draft except for CM Sawant.

However, the votes in favor were all obviously with nose held in the interest of expediency. The City of Seattle currently has no active law on the books that governs the use of less lethal weapons by the police in any way, and the CMs wish to codify the protections provided by the Court’s recent injunction on such weapons. It sounds like the City’s lawyers counseled that this weaker bill was the only one that would have a chance of passing through the consent decree process and actually making it into law. Most of the CMs stated they didn’t think tear gas should be used in Seattle’s streets and that its use was not consistent with Seattle’s values.

This draft bill will now be passed along to the Department of Justice and the new Police Monitor, who will also shortly be receiving the SPD’s changes to use-of-force and crowd control policies. They will be charged with reconciling the two. It is worth noting that in this instance, the consent decree appears to be standing in the way of more comprehensive reform. However, for better or worse, we’re stuck with it for at least another couple of years.


Finally, the Black Brilliance Project, who have been doing research for the past several months on community health and safety and laying the foundation for the participatory budgeting process, announced their separation from King County Equity Now in an open letter. How the project will proceed from here remains unclear: the Black Brilliance Project says they are wrapping up the research project now and will be ready to present the final report to the City Council on February 26, as originally planned. KCEN says they are initiating a second phase of the research and expect any final report to be delayed, by how long they don’t know. Of course, any delay of the research report will also delay the participatory budgeting process itself. Complicating the matter is the involvement of fiscal sponsor Freedom Project, as well as any potential cooperation and coordination between the Mayor’s public safety task force and the participatory budgeting process.

Also unclear is who has the ultimate say in how this conflict will be resolved, although it is likely the City Council will be getting involved. A lot of pressure has been placed on this research project, and there is certainly danger of this latest development distracting from the actual work of the research and participatory budgeting process itself. It is important to remember the participatory budgeting process was never planned to be housed within King County Equity Now or the Black Brilliance Project, but is intended to be its own independent process.


I hope you stay warm and toasty as we might see some snow here in Seattle in the next few days!

Support the Pathways to Recovery Act Read More »

An important Seattle Public Safety Committee meeting tomorrow

Lots of news to cover today!

First of all, we have this morning’s Seattle Council Briefing.

CM Herbold’s report this morning was rather bracing. She spoke about the agenda for tomorrow morning’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting. Included will be the continuation of the discussion about the less lethal weapons draft bill that she’s hoping they can vote to send to the DoJ and Police Monitor to review, as well as a discussion about legislation to reduce the SPD’s 2021 budget by $5.2m to hold them accountable for that level of overspending in 2020. Both of these deserve more discussion.

Kevin at SC Insight does a good job summarizing where we are right now with the less lethal weapons draft bill. Tomorrow the committee will be discussing an amendment to weaken the ban on SPD using tear gas, so now would be a good time to email your CMs to support the complete tear gas ban and/or to testify during public comment tomorrow (2/9) at 9:30am (sign-ups at 7:30am). Amendments both strengthening and weakening the private right of action (the ability of individuals to sue and hold the SPD accountable for misuse of these weapons) will also be discussed.

The CMs agreed to reduce SPD’s 2021 budget by the amount of their overspending in 2020 late last year and seemed generally in agreement about taking this measure to hold the SPD accountable for a long pattern of overtime overspending. However, today CM Herbold signaled that she was waffling on this course of action, mentioning that the SPD has other funding needs; for example, the SPD needs funds to fulfill public disclosure requests, meet minimum requirements for evidence storage, and to hire civilians for CSOs (community service officers) and the CPC. So there might be a bit of a fight over whether this $5.2m should be left in the SPD’s budget after all to cover these expenses or whether it should be removed and potentially allocated into the pool of money for participatory budgeting. It doesn’t look like there’s a committee vote scheduled for tomorrow on this issue, as CM Herbold said representatives from the SPD will be attending a future meeting to discuss further.

CM Herbold also defended the Council’s actions last year after Judge Robart roundly criticized them during last week’s consent decree hearing. During the hearing the new Police Monitor submitted a new work plan for 2021, about which the Judge appears generally favorable. It will be considered for approval on February 19. In the meantime, Judge Robart said that in this time of flux (the pandemic, the upcoming election with the mayor and two Council seats up for grabs, SPD having an interim police chief, and the upcoming SPOG negotiations) it is going to be hard to continue making progress with police reform. He is particularly upset that the Council acted in various ways in the summer (vocally supporting a 50% defund, for example) that contravened the consent decree.

Meanwhile CM Lewis mentioned that STAR out of Denver, a low acuity response program similar to CAHOOTS in Eugene, just released a six month report and has been quite successful thus far. Out of 748 incidents responded to by the program, none ended up needing police involvement.


In election news, Council President González announced she will be running for Mayor this year, creating a wide-open race for her Council seat. So far the most well-known candidate for that Council seat is Sara Nelson, co-founder of Fremont Brewing. Her top issues involve the hospitality industry (big surprise), economic recovery, and restoring public trust in local government. Ouch. You can read more about her here:

Even though the Seattle council seats are officially non-partisan, most members indicate party leanings. On her official website, Nelson — a lifelong democrat — characterizes herself as a “moderate pragmatist,” and many of her positions seem to be to the right of several current city council members (she said she opposed the recent tax on big businesses, for instance, as well as cutting Seattle’s police budget by 50 percent).


The CPC appointed a permanent director last week, Brandy Grant, who had already been serving as interim director. She was the only one of the three candidates who didn’t have a background as a police officer.

The CPC is also hosting a community conversation on the Seattle Police Contracts this Thursday, February 11 at 4pm. The description of the event is as follows:

A chance for the community members to discuss what they want out of police contract negotiations and how we achieve complete police accountability. This event is hosted by the Community Police Commission. City leaders and staff involved in the negotiations will also be there to listen and speak on specific issues.


Finally, some excellent investigative reporting dropped at the South Seattle Emerald today, an article about SPD officials asking King County Jail officials to override COVID-19 restrictions and book protesters facing nonviolent misdemeanor charges.


Expect an update later this week on tomorrow’s Public Safety committee meeting, along with a possible update on the Pathways to Recovery Act decriminalizing drug use and addiction, which may have a hearing in the state legislature on Friday morning.

An important Seattle Public Safety Committee meeting tomorrow Read More »

Time Sensitive: The state legislature is in session and it’s time to make our voices heard.

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.

Time Sensitive: The state legislature is in session and it’s time to make our voices heard. Read More »