mid-year supplemental budget

Court Ruling Yet Another Example of SPD’s Racial Bias in Action

Personal News:

We’ll dive into the news of the week in just a moment, but I did want to take the opportunity to mention I had a book come out last week! I was supposed to write about it in last week’s newsletter, but I was so distracted by learning that the new drug criminalization legislation was almost exactly the same as the previous version that I forgot to include it.

Book cover of TO TRAVEL THE STARS with a couple dancing in close embrace with a starry space background

TO TRAVEL THE STARS is a Young Adult science fiction novel that is a retelling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE in space. If that sounds appealing either to yourself or a teenager in your life, I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy.

Seattle News:

The Seattle Times reports: “A federal judge has found evidence Seattle police stopped and detained a Black delivery driver at gunpoint because of his race, then illegally searched his trunk in a 2020 incident detailed in a civil rights lawsuit now headed for trial.” Incidentally, SPD doesn’t have a policy for what is known as a “high-risk vehicle stop” as took place in this incident, and when the OPA suggested SPD develop one, Chief Diaz refused. This ruling means the City has been found liable for the illegal search, and the trial would determine the amount of damages owed.

Captain Brown, one of the officers named in the case and the new acting commander of the South Precinct, recently wrote a letter of his expectations to his officers and supervisors. Erica C. Barnett at Publicola reported that this letter “included an exhortation to “take care of our own” by handling “minor misconduct” internally, rather than reporting it to the Office of Police Accountability. The letter also said officers should view themselves as forces of “good” whose job is to “intervene and stop evil” in the world.” When questioned about the letter, Brown said he didn’t intend to disparage the OPA. 

Brown has been the subject of 14 complaints since 2015. The OPA investigated the case involving the Black delivery driver detailed above and dismissed the racial bias complaint against Brown as unfounded, a decision the federal judge obviously disagreed with. This discrepancy between the OPA’s findings and the Judge’s ruling is another blow to the legitimacy of Seattle’s accountability system.

Seattle’s three accountability bodies all sent representatives to the joint Public Safety and Human Services committee and the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) public hearing on Tuesday night about expectations around a new Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) contract. The purpose of the meeting is for the LRPC to consider the public’s input before establishing bargaining parameters. The old SPMA contract expires at the end of this year, and a public hearing must be held at least 90 days before the City and the SPMA enter negotiations.

The public meeting was sparsely attended, with many commenters noting the insufficient amount of notice they received that the meeting was taking place and one commenter suggesting the hearing was “performative and pointless.” The Community Police Commission (CPC) had a few requests for the Council to consider, including details around the 180-day clock for OPA investigations, how long and in what situations personnel files should be preserved, and reform to secondary employment of officers, while also noting their concern about the biased culture prevalent within SPD. 

Still centered in conversation was the 2017 police accountability ordinance that has never been fully implemented due to conflicts with the SPMA and SPOG contracts. Unfortunately this failure has sometimes meant a continued focus over the past several years on trying to implement this ordinance instead of pushing for greater gains or other ways in which public safety in Seattle might become more equitable.

There will be a special meeting of the Public Safety and Human Services committee on Monday, August 14th at 2pm to discuss the new drug criminalization legislation. Now is the perfect time to email your councilmembers or plan to give public comment. I’ve already written at length about some of the problems with this legislation the last time it was introduced in early June. BJ Last has a new op-ed in The Stranger about some of the budgetary concerns with this bill.

The bill won’t be voted on in Full Council until sometime in September after the City Council’s two-week summer recess from August 21 to September 4.

The Revenue Stabilization Workgroup has issued a final report on options for further City revenue and will be delivering a presentation on Thursday, August 10th to the Finance and Housing committee. Among the options identified for revenue are increasing the Jumpstart payroll tax, instituting a city-level capital gains tax, and instituting a high CEO pay ratio tax. 

I particularly recommend you check out the Transit Riders Union’s Revenue Options Report, which outlines 26 different revenue options and how to make them more progressive. For example, the City could institute a flat 1% income tax, which would not be inherently progressive, but by pairing this tax with tax credits, rebates, or a basic income program, it could be made more progressive.

The mid-year supplemental budget passed out of Full Council yesterday. The package includes $1 million to expand opioid addiction treatment in Pioneer Square and $1.6 million to the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC) to hire new staff for their dual dispatch pilot.

A state appeals court issued a stay that will allow Seattle to continue its practice of no-notice sweeps–for now.

The Public Safety and Human Services committee met this week and heard reports from the Seattle Community Safety Initiative (SCSI) and the King County Regional Approach to Gun Violence. The Regional Peacekeepers Collective (RPCK) is expanding into Skyway, as well as adding service hubs in Kent and Burien.

Recent Headlines:

Court Ruling Yet Another Example of SPD’s Racial Bias in Action Read More »

Real Change Reporting Reveals Federal Monitor Oftelie Getting Cozy with SPD

Seattle News

In a fascinating piece of reporting in Real Change, Glen Stellmacher wrote about how SPD and the City of Seattle controlled the media narrative around the 2020 protests and the Defund Movement. I highly recommend reading the entire article, but here are some key points:

  • In a June 19, 2020 survey, SPD leadership recommended at least 12 areas of service within SPD that would be better with civilian employees.
  • In the face of defund demands, SPD claimed they would have to cut the SW precinct, SWAT, or traffic enforcement if cuts went too far. However, this narrative was shown to be false by both the June 19, 2020 and June 27, 2020 surveys of SPD leadership.
  • By August 2020, SPD and the City were aware that 45% of SPD patrol service hours didn’t require an officer. However, Mayor Durkan requested a second IDT; the results, not available until June 2021, also said nearly half of calls could be handled by a civilian response. At that point, you may remember SPD insisted on a risk managed demand report, which wasn’t completed until September 2022.
  • SPD played with the numbers to make the loss of diversity in the force, should there be layoffs, seem as bad as possible.
  • It appears then-SPD Chief Strategy Officer Chris Fischer may have ghost-written a Crosscut op-ed for Antonio Oftelie; Crosscut says they didn’t know SPD was involved and has since removed the op-ed from their site. Two days after publication, SPD’s Executive Director of Legal Affairs was pushing for Oftelie to be named the new Monitor of the consent decree. He was named the new Monitor the next month, beating out several qualified candidates. 

This Sunday, July 23 from 12-7pm in Othello Park, there will be a Participatory Budgeting cookout to launch the idea collection phase of participatory budgeting. You can also submit a proposal here.

In a court ruling this week, a judge ruled the City of Seattle has been using an overbroad definition of “obstruction” to justify its sweeps activity, writing that it constitutes “cruel punishment.” The definition was expanded in 2017, increasing obstruction removals in the City. The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in September.

On Tuesday, an SPD officer shot a man downtown. SPD is supposed to release video footage of what happened within 72 hours.

The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) is investigating the incident of the mock tombstone of a man killed by SPD police displayed in an SPD breakroom. Chief Diaz has ordered inspections of precinct HQs for other potential inappropriate displays. At a CPC meeting this week, Chief Diaz had very little information to share.

And finally, it’s supplemental budget time! The proposed supplemental budget includes around $815k in additional funding for SPD, including increasing overtime to pay for more downtown emphasis patrols, paying for additional online crime reporting, and hiring six civilian positions, including four new public disclosure officers. It also adds an additional $19 million for the City to pay for lawsuits, many of which are related to police misconduct. The City already added $11 million to the 2023 for lawsuits last year, but apparently that wasn’t enough.

In addition, the supplemental budget funds a graffiti clean-up team, and because the contracts have already been executed, the Mayor’s Office has potentially forced the Council’s hand into cutting other Seattle Public Utilities programs to pay for this. More money is also being requested for the CSCC for its dual dispatch pilot and updating its call center technology and for OIG to take over the consent decree’s Monitor duties. 

There is a vote scheduled on the supplemental budget on the morning of August 2. 

Recent Headlines

Real Change Reporting Reveals Federal Monitor Oftelie Getting Cozy with SPD Read More »

No, SPD Officers Won’t Be Receiving Retention Bonuses This Year

Budget Season

Budget season is almost upon us! In Seattle, budget season begins on Monday, September 27 when the Mayor delivers her proposed 2022 budget. I will be writing a great deal about budget season over the course of the next few months, and I’d like to invite you to join me at People Power Washington – Police Accountability’s general meeting this Sunday, September 19 at 11am, where I will be giving a presentation on the basics of local budgets and how to get involved. You can register for the meeting here.

Seattle City Council News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to the Seattle Council Briefing! Hope you haven’t missed me too much over the past four weeks. 😉
Yesterday the Seattle City Council took their final vote on the mid-year supplemental budget, which included their plan for how to spend the $15m the SPD expects to save this year from increased attrition rates. You can remind yourself of what is involved in this bill relating to SPD-related spending here.
Further complicating matters were several last-minute amendments, including two from CM Pedersen that would either remove $3m from community-led public safety efforts in order to fund SPD hiring and retention bonuses (almost $2.8m of this was to be for retention purposes) or that would allocate $1.1m to SPD hiring and retention bonuses. The first of these amendments was defeated handily. The second was defeated by a single vote: CMs Morales, Sawant, Mosqueda, Herbold and CP González voted against and CMs Pedersen, Juarez, Lewis, and Strauss voted in favor. CM Sawant proffered an amendment that would have transferred more of the SPD salary savings to community safety capacity building, but this was also defeated, with only CMs Sawant and Morales voting in favor.
At the Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting this morning, council members also discussed a bill that would prohibit SPD from training with countries that have verifiable incidents of human rights violations. The bill passed out of committee, with CMs Herbold, Sawant, and Morales in favor and CM Lewis and CP González abstaining. CP González said she abstained because there are many moving pieces, and there is going to be more information available before the final vote on September 20. CM Lewis added that he needs to know what the training definition will be. The Full Council will consider this legislation at their meeting on Monday, September 20. The Public Safety and Human Resources committee will have a special meeting on Friday, September 24.

Other News Tidbits

It looks like signature gathering for the campaign to recall Sawant is completed, although the signatures weren’t submitted in time for the recall to be on the November ballot, meaning a special election sometime this winter.
There’s been a recent shake-up at the CPC (Community Police Commision). Co-Chairs La Rond Baker and Erin Goodman resigned from their positions, and new Co-Chairs will be finishing the term. The CPC is also opening some community engagement meetings to the public in upcoming months. The first meeting is tonight from 6-8pm, and there will be other meetings on October 12, November 9, and December 14.
After recent reports about Bellevue School Board candidate Faye Yang, who until recently believed race was linked to IQ scores, there has been news about another Bellevue School Board candidate. Gregg Smith has said “Critical race theory is inherently racist in itself and is out of control in the schools as well as society in general” and “It’s both hypocritical and senseless to make racist attacks against white people in an attempt to supposedly end systemic racism against blacks.” Unfortunately, these remarks demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of white supremacy and how systemic racism operates in our society. Watching the school board races in Bellevue right now is a case study in understanding why getting involved in local politics matters.

Recent Headlines

Abolitionist Candidates Are Running for Office Across the Country | Teen Vogue

Seattle police intervening in fewer mental health calls, data show | Crosscut

No, SPD Officers Won’t Be Receiving Retention Bonuses This Year Read More »