missing text messages

Scandal Rocks SPD as City Council is Posed to Vote to Give Them More Power

Seattle News:

The new war on drugs legislation was voted out of the Public Safety and Human Services committee last week 4-1, with CM Mosqueda as the lone vote against. CM Herbold and CP Juarez agreed to expedite the legislation, which means it will receive its final Full Council vote tomorrow, Tuesday, September 19 at 2pm. There will be a chance to give public comment, and you can find scripts here and here.

I wrote more about a few of the amendments considered last week and the dangers of relying on SPD officer discretion while passing legislation that will criminalize substance abuse disorder and poverty in an op-ed at The Urbanist, and I hope you will go give it a read. 

Last week the news broke about SPD officer and SPOG vice president Daniel Auderer minimizing and laughing at the death of student Jaahvani Kandula, who was killed by SPD Officer Kevin Dave when he hit her driving 74mph in a 25mph zone without consistent use of his flashing lights and siren. Erica C. Barnett describes the body cam footage here:

“I don’t think she was thrown 40 feet either,” Auderer told Solan. “I think she went up on the hood, hit the windshield, then when he hit the brakes, she flew off the car. But she is dead.” Then Auderer laughed loudly at something Solan said. “No, it’s a regular person. Yeah.”

We have asked SPOG via email what Solan asked that made Auderer clarify that Kandula was a “regular” person, as opposed to another type of person Dave might have hit.

“Yeah, just write a check,” Auderer continued. Then he laughed again for several seconds. “Yeah, $11,000. She was 26 anyway, she had limited value.” At this point, Auderer turned off his body camera and the recording stops.

Auderer has been investigated for dozens of allegations by OPA during his twelve years at SPD.

Many local electeds have responded to the incident, and it made international news. As Naomi Ishikawa wrote in the Seattle Times: “It was bitterly ironic the recording emerged less than a week after a U.S. district judge ruled the Seattle Police Department had achieved “full, sustained and lasting compliance” with most of the requirements of a federal consent decree intended to improve biased policing and police accountability.”

Over at the Urbanist, Doug Trumm wrote a piece linking this shocking body cam footage to the many failures of public safety in Seattle, including failures of accountability.

Danny Westneat wrote about the problem posed by SPOG’s contempt for those they serve and the lack of trust of SPD. Unfortunately, he doesn’t make clear (or perhaps is unaware of) the differences between regular unions and police guilds, including the historic use of police forces for union busting. You can read more about problems with police guilds and their historic opposition to labor here, here, and here

Gennette Cordova wrote an excellent piece in the South Seattle Emerald busting the myth of police defunding here in Seattle. I suggest going to read the entire piece; here’s a teaser: “To shield police against valid criticism, their proponents often say that police have an impossible job. And, in a sense, they’re right. Data shows that police don’t solve most serious crimes, including murder, rape, burglary, and robbery — and they never have. Furthermore, they certainly aren’t addressing the root causes of crime, so how could a reliance on them ever deliver us a safe society?”

Last week the King County Prosecutor’s Office announced they would not be pursuing criminal charges against former Mayor Durkan, former SPD Chief Best, and other officials who deleted their text messages in 2020, finally closing that embarrassing chapter in Seattle history. None of these officials will be held accountable for their missing text messages.

King and Pierce Counties:

Jury selection was scheduled to begin today for the trial of the Tacoma police officers who have been charged with the murder of Manuel Ellis.

Anita Khandelwal, the director of the King County Department of Public Defense, and King County CM Girmay Zahilay wrote a piece for the Seattle Times about the impossible caseloads and severe understaffing of King County public defenders:

“Public defenders are the latest justice system employees to test their breaking points. Newly published research spotlights the unsustainable caseloads King County public defenders have been working to manage. These caseloads grow even worse daily as experienced defenders qualified to handle the most serious cases quit, leaving a smaller and smaller number of attorneys to handle those most serious cases.     

As this system teeters on the edge of collapse, there is only one path to public safety rooted in reality: focusing King County’s limited legal system capacity on the gravest allegations of illegal behavior. The current volume of prosecutions (over 40% of which are not these most serious offenses) cannot continue without a massive influx of defense attorneys who simply don’t exist in today’s labor market.”  

Recent Headlines:

Scandal Rocks SPD as City Council is Posed to Vote to Give Them More Power Read More »

Seattle to Launch “War on Health”

Seattle News

Mayor Harrell has announced the formation of a 24-member Fentanyl Systems Work Group to work on addressing the opioid crisis, using the baffling tag phrase “war on health”. He expressed his support of passing a city ordinance to allow the City Attorney to prosecute drug possession and drug use in public while also providing more treatment and diversion options. The timeline for the work group to come up with a plan is tight, with the goal to be finished by July 1, the date that the new state law goes into effect. To be clear, if the City were to miss this deadline, nothing particularly catastrophic would happen; Seattle never moved to adopt the State’s temporary new drug law passed in 2021 into the municipal code. It will be interesting to see what agreements the 24 people in this work group will be able to reach in only a few weeks, or if they instead end up blowing past the deadline.

CM Lewis is talking about the possibility of a new therapeutic court, which could potentially replace the recently ended community court. Meanwhile the City Attorney’s Office will be dismissing around another 1,000 misdemeanor cases filed before 2022

SPD has referred the case of Officer Kevin Dave, who hit and killed pedestrian Jaahnavi Kandula this January, to the King County Prosecutor, who will decide whether to charge Dave. It is unclear whether SPD referred the case because they believe Dave may have committed a crime or because they were required by law to do so. 

More lawsuits related to the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020 have been filed: Molly Moon’s ice cream shop and Hugo’s Properties LLC are both suing the City. The family of Antonio Mays Jr., who was killed near the CHOP in the summer of 2020, are also suing the City, former Mayor Durkan, and CM Sawant. The missing text messages will almost certainly be relevant in all these cases.

CM Pedersen has proposed a capital gains tax for Seattle. The 2% tax would replace a current tax on water bills, a move some opponents have criticized because low income households are eligible for a 50% discount on their water bills, meaning removal of the water tax might mostly serve as a subsidy to well-off homeowners. However, the implementation of a capital gains tax and the removal of the water tax are being moved through Seattle City Council as two separate ordinances, opening the possibility that the capital gains tax may be passed without repealing the water tax.

A US District Court has issued an injunction against Seattle enforcing its ordinance banning graffiti, saying it is likely too broad and might violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. From The Stranger:

In response to the order, SPD released a statement saying cops could do nothing about property damage. Of course, SPD failed to mention the reason for the order—SPD officers blatantly abusing their power to arrest as a way to discourage free speech. In any case, the City Attorney’s office clarified that the order only applies to the part of the ordinance that describes damage done by writing, painting, or drawing on property. People can still complain that the judge decriminalized graffiti.”

The Community Police Commission (CPC) has requested changes be made to the 2017 accountability ordinance, all of which are directly concerned with the CPC’s operations, including adding additional stipends, adding constraints to stipends, changing the CPC’s ability to remove commissioners, and deleting the phrase “to help ensure public confidence in the effectiveness and professionalism of SPD” from the description of the CPC’s role. Some of the changes appear to be reflective of some of the recent struggles the CPC has been undergoing.

Meanwhile Castill Hightower, sister of Herbert Hightower Jr, who was killed by an SPD officer, has said the CPC is continuing tosilence, undermine, belittle, mock and now threaten with violence the very communities they were initially created to center.” She asks that they stop their interference with creation of the Affected Persons program and relinquish control over the complainant appeals process, among other demands. The CPC was originally supposed to create such an appeals process, but after years of delay, that duty was transferred to the group working on developing the Affected Persons program. You can read her full letter here.

Recent Headlines

 

Seattle to Launch “War on Health” 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 »

We’re Going to Go Tougher on Drugs Because No One Cares about Evidence of What Actually Works

Seattle News:

In the latest in the ongoing saga of the missing text messages, the City of Seattle has agreed to pay a $2.3 million settlement to the two whistleblowers who revealed that former Mayor Durkan’s text messages had been deleted. When combined with legal fees, this lawsuit has cost Seattle taxpayers more than $3 million. One of the employees, Stacy Irwin, is quoted as saying, “There’s been no accountability. These officials basically got away with it and the taxpayers are paying.”

Crosscut published an interesting investigation on Seattle’s bike cops:

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an attorney and executive director of the Center for Protest Law & Litigation, said police violence and misconduct are going to occur regardless of the vehicle or weapon. 

“There was some thinking t”hat bicycle units are somehow going to be better because it seems softer,” she said. “But we have seen bicycle units act with extreme violence, attacking en masse, throwing their bikes down and charging crowds of people.”

Police bicycle tactics are concerning because in spite of their violence, the use of bicycles to, for example, push protesters, was not a reportable use of force during the protests of 2020. Another issue at play is cost, with a fully equipped Volcanic police bike model now costing around $2,495. SPD also formed the Community Response Group in October 2020, requiring all team members to be bike-trained, which expanded their ranks of deployable bike officers, meaning this is not an issue that is going away any time soon.

Given the Blake compromise law just passed by the state legislature (more on this below), CMs Nelson and Pedersen are introducing a new version of their legislation to criminalize public drug use. This legislation would be necessary for public drug use and drug possession to be charged by the Seattle City Attorney; right now drug possession is handled by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

A correction from last week: the appointment of Anthony Gaedcke to the CPC fulfills the requirement of the CPC to have two officers on the commission, one from SPOG and one from the SPMA. In the documentation, these two appointments count as appointments by the CPC, as opposed to by the Mayor’s Office or the City Council.

Election News:

The filing deadline for candidates for this election cycle is this Friday, May 19. The primary election will be on August 1.

We’ve had a few late declaring candidates, including Jorge Barón for King County Council District 4, Tyesha Reed in Seattle District 5, and Olga Sagan in Seattle District 7.

After last week’s MLK Labor Council’s candidate forum, the Council has endorsed Maren Costa in Seattle’s District 1.

WA State Legislature News:

The legislature’s special session lasted a single day on Tuesday. The Stranger’s Ashley Nerbovig gave a succinct summary of the downsides of the compromise legislation, which is centered around criminal penalties and coercive treatment instead of a harm reduction approach:

The legislation increases criminal penalties for drug possession, creates a new criminal offense for public drug use, gives prosecutors more power to direct people to jail rather than to diversion programs, allows cities and counties to ban harm reduction services, and adds barriers to siting drug treatment facilities. 

Drug possession and a new offense of public drug use are now defined as gross misdemeanors, but with a maximum sentence of 180 days for the first two convictions (instead of 364 days). This is in spite of many studies showing the criminal legal system is ineffective when addressing addiction.

The bill also includes $62.9 million, an increase of $19.6 million from previous versions of the bill, for an array of supportive services.

Ironically, seven people incarcerated in the Snohomish County Jail overdosed on fentanyl this week, belying legislators’ confidence in jails being an effective place to treat addiction problems. And don’t forget that this new drug legislation will probably also impact the population of the already overcrowded King County Jail.

Recent Headlines:

We’re Going to Go Tougher on Drugs Because No One Cares about Evidence of What Actually Works Read More »

New Drug Law Negotiations Still Messy

Once again, we have a more bare bones edition this week while my hand takes its time healing and I am still unable to type normally. These headlines should give you a sense of what’s been going on this week.

Seattle:

As a Firefighter, I Oppose Criminalizing “Interference” with Seattle Fire Department Personnel

Seattle City Council will vote on this legislation on Tuesday. For more information, read this.

Seattle to settle lawsuit by employees who blew whistle on mayor’s missing texts

Seattle Cop Mocks Trans People, Blames Jan. 6 Riots on Pelosi; County Council Plays It Safe by Proposing Flat Levy Renewal

Seattle-Based Seabold Group Investigated Fmr. SPD Chief Best — Unclear Where Investigation Stands

Maren Costa Builds Council Run on West Seattle Roots and Climate Organizing

King County:

King County councilmembers seek evaluation of jail population reduction programs

King County Council approves sending renewal of Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services levy to ballots

They decided not to ask for an increase in the tax rate.

Washington State:

Progressive Democrats Want to Compromise on a New Drug Law

Inslee calls WA Legislature special session to address drug possession

Criminalizing Drug Possession Is a Mistake We Must Not Make Again

New Police Pursuit Law Requires Less Evidence to Give Chase

Here’s What Happened in Olympia

Heroes and Zeroes of the 2023 Washington State Legislature

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says he won’t run for a fourth term

Slog AM: Ferguson Exploring Run for Governor, Durkan’s Whistleblower Settlement, Biden Agrees to Debt Ceiling Talks

Sen. Patty Kuderer Announces Run for Insurance Commissioner

Resources & Commentary

Our Media Is Fueling Vigilantism Against Homeless People

Three Things To Read This Week: Baltimore’s “Community Violence Intervention Program Is Helping To Drop The Homicide Rate.”

 

 

New Drug Law Negotiations Still Messy Read More »

Alternative Response in Seattle is Behind…Again

Seattle News

There’s a lot to catch up on, so let’s start off with the big news that the Social Housing Initiative 135 has passed! Next steps include bringing together a board of directors and seeking funding.

Mayor Harrell gave his State of the City speech last week. Apparently the white paper about a third public safety department that was supposed to be completed last year is still forthcoming. As this was supposed to be the main tangible step forward in 2022, the failure to deliver this white paper in a timely fashion is disappointing to say the least. But at least the new department has a name now, which obviously took many hours of painstaking work: CARE, the Civilian Assisted Response and Engagement Department. Apparently we’ll also be hearing more about police officer hiring this year, which is hardly a surprise, although given the difficulty police departments across the country are having hiring, these are conversations that seem unlikely to deliver the desired results.

Last week the Adley Shepherd case was dismissed by a U.S. District Court Judge. Adley Shepherd is a former SPD officer who was fired after punching a handcuffed woman in the back of a squad car. His case has been filtering through arbitration and courts ever since, most recently as a suit brought by him against the City of Seattle.

The City of Seattle settled the CHOP lawsuit for $3.65m, $600k of which was due to the missing texts of former Mayor Durkan, former SPD Chief Best, and others. This money, as well as additional costs of defending the lawsuit, comes from taxpayer dollars.

At this week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, the CSCC presented on their 911 Protocols Software that would enable them to dispatch calls to responders other than the police. Right now the plan is to implement dual dispatch including SPD, although CM Herbold was quick to remind us that dual dispatch doesn’t necessarily mean a police officer will be on the scene in every instance, but rather in some cases SPD would simply be situationally aware of the dispatch of a civilian responder. That being said, it was made clear at the meeting that the nature of the dual dispatch model has yet to be determined

Shocking no one, given we’ve been holding our breath for a particular white paper since December, all the work on alternative response appears to be behind schedule. None of the deliverables outlined on the term sheet regarding developing alternative response between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff appear to be complete. Some of this delay was attributed to the hiring and on-boarding of the new interim Director of the CSCC, Rebecca Gonzales, although of course everyone already knew when deliverable dates were set that a new director would need to be found. CM Lewis was frustrated enough to say that if more progress isn’t forthcoming in future briefings, the Council might need to take a more assertive role in this work. Given Seattle has been waiting two and a half years for alternative response with nothing to show for it, this reaction seems quite measured.

The protocols and work flow of the new triaging dispatch system also won’t be complete until late this year. CM Herbold called out that we continue to be told of reasons why we can’t move forward on implementation of alternate response: SPD’s RMD analysis, the overdue white paper from the Mayor’s Office outlining the new third public safety department, and now this triage dispatch system. She expressed her hopes that launching an alternate response pilot for person down and wellness checks won’t depend on the dispatch system being complete. CM Lewis pointed out other cities with alternative response have triage systems that dispatch to fully civilian responses, not just dual dispatch. And so the slog to push alternative response continues sluggishly forward as Seattle continues to fall behind many other cities who have been able to do this work.

Due to objections from SPOG, SPD discontinued use of Truleo software that analyzed police body-cam footage to look for potential police misconduct. Unfortunately, SPD’s use of several other surveillance technologies was approved by the Seattle City Council earlier this week, including “cell phone and laptop extraction tools, a geospatial analysis technology called GeoTime, remotely operated vehicles, crash retrieval forensics and hidden GPS trackers and cameras.” Seattle has its own Surveillance Advisory Working Group, and the CMs failed to implement many of this work group’s recommendations relating to the use of these technologies.

A recent report shows that Seattle’s automated traffic cameras disproportionately target Communities of Color. In fact, 65% of automated traffic cameras are placed in neighborhoods with relatively more people of color and immigrants; Seattle’s most dangerous roads tend to be in these communities because of displacement. In 2022, Seattle’s automated cameras issued almost 200,000 traffic tickets, which is almost fifty times more than the number given by police. It’s also worth noting that these camera-generated tickets currently require review by police, meaning such a large volume requires additional resources given to SPD in order to review them; to do otherwise would require a law change. An op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald by Ethan C. Campbell and Nura Ahmed outlines several ways to address issues of equity surrounding traffic cameras in Seattle. 

CM Herbold wrote the following about violent crime in Seattle in 2022:

Although, over the entire year, the data shows violent crime higher than it’s been for years, the SPD Crime Dashboard shows that there were 363 violent crimes reported in December 2022; this is the lowest number of violent crimes reported for a month since February 2021, when 329 violent crimes were reported. The December 2022 figure is lower than the 403 violent crimes reported in December 2019 (before COVID-19, before the murder of George Floyd, and before 500 officers left SPD).

A further review of the SPD dashboard shows that moving into 2023 (the report only covers 2022), 371 reported violent crimes in January, slightly lower than January 2020, with 373 reported violent crimes.

Shots fired, while higher overall in 2022, are also dramatically declining, according to the Chief.”

When discussing violent crime in 2022, it would be remiss not to reiterate the increasing violence experienced by unsheltered people.

The turmoil at the Seattle Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the Community Police Commission (CPC) continues. Two more SHRC commissioners have recently resigned as commissioners continue to receive legal threats from the City Attorney’s Office about trying to seek amicus status in the consent decree, and the CPC Executive Director Brandy Grant resigned on February 10. Cali Ellis has been named as the interim director. After events at a CPC community engagement meeting on February 14 and the CPC’s regular meeting on February 15, both Castile Hightower and Howard Gale have filed complaints with the OPA about SPD Officer Mullens, who also sits on the CPC. 

King County News

The ACLU of Washington filed a lawsuit on Friday against King County and Executive Constantine arguing they are in breach of a settlement agreement regarding the King County Jail mandating certain staffing levels and inmate access to medical care and court hearings. Advocates held a press conference and rally outside the jail on Monday morning.

Election News

Becka Johnson Pope, who has spent the last three years managing King County’s budget, announced her run for the King County Council seat for District 4. Sarah Reyneveld has already announced her run for the same seat.

Seattle CM Dan Strauss has announced his intentions to run for re-election in District 6.

ChrisTiana Obeysumner has declared their candidacy in District 5. They are one of six filed candidates so far for the district.

WA State Legislature

Sadly, the bill banning solitary confinement has died again this year. The new drug possession bill also doesn’t look promising.

HB 1513 (traffic stops), HB 1025 (qualified immunity), HB 1579 (independent prosecutor), and HB 1445 (AG investigations & reform) are all headed for floor votes. March 8 is the cut-off date for bills to be voted out of their house of origin. 

Recent Headlines

Alternative Response in Seattle is Behind…Again Read More »

Record Deaths of Unhoused People in King County in 2022

WA State Legislature News:

Last week, The Stranger ran an excellent series by Will Casey covering some issues facing lawmakers during this legislative session:

HB 1025, a bill concerning civil liability for police, and HB 1445, a bill that would give the state’s Attorney General powers of investigation & reform similar in some respects to those powers currently enjoyed by the federal Department of Justice, are expected to have their first hearings next week. HB 1087, the solitary confinement bill, was heard in committee last week and is potentially scheduled for executive session on Friday. We’re still waiting for word on the traffic stops and independent prosecutor bills, as well as the bills dealing with the aftermath of the Blake decision. There is also talk about a new bill dealing with high speed vehicular pursuits by police that might undo the new standard adopted by the legislature in 2021, which has reduced deaths due to vehicular pursuit by 73%.

Other bills I’m watching with interest include HB 1024, which would enact a minimum wage for prison labor; HB 1110, known as the middle housing bill; HB 1045 to start a basic income pilot program for the state; and SB 5383 and companion bill HB 1428 to decriminalize jaywalking. For a great overview of how to participate in this state legislative session, as well as more details about the jaywalking bill, you can check out The Urbanist’s writeup here.

Seattle and King County News:

In tragic news, King County set a painful record in 2022: 310 people died while unhoused across King County. This represents a 65% increase in deaths from 2021, and more than half of the reported deaths were due to fentanyl-related fatal overdoses. 

In Seattle City Council election news, Joy Hollingsworth, a cannabis farming entrepreneur, declared her candidacy for the seat in District 3. CM Sawant, who currently holds that seat, has not yet said whether she will seek re-election. Current CM for District 7 Andrew Lewis declared he will seek re-election, and The Seattle Times reports he said the most pressing issue facing the city is crime, which seems like an attempt to make things more difficult for his challengers from the right.

Last week there was a town hall held at Rainier Beach High School, which included students discussing their safety concerns and how their school is neglected when it comes to budgeting decisions in the district.

The CHOP business owners’ lawsuit against the city of Seattle continues, and the presiding Judge has ruled about what to do in the matter of those critical missing text messages. As Kevin Schofield writes: 

…he found that some of the messages had been knowingly deleted and that it prejudiced the city’s ability to provide a defense; he granted the city the right to present evidence to a jury about those deleted messages. More significantly, he found substantial circumstantial evidence that several city officials had deleted messages with intent to deprive the plainitffs of those messages, and that too was prejudicial. Zilly considered whether to decide the case in the plaintiffs’ favor on that basis alone, given that the messages were between Mayor Durkan, SPD Chief Best, and SFD Chief Skoggins, but he decided that would be too extreme a remedy. Instead, he will allow the plaintiffs to present evidence to the jury about the deleted messages, and he will deliver an instruction to the jury that they may presume the deleted messages were unfavorable to the city.

Recent Headlines:

Record Deaths of Unhoused People in King County in 2022 Read More »

Proposed Surveillance Tech Can Lead to Biased Policing

Seattle News

There have been no budget meetings during this second week of Seattle’s budget season, as both CMs and the public analyze the proposed budget and consider its ramifications and any changes they’d like to see. The next opportunity for public comment is on Tuesday, October 11. There will be public comment at the beginning of the budget meeting beginning at 9:30am (sign-ups starting at 7:30am), AND the first public hearing, also for public comment related to the budget, will be that evening at 5pm (sign-ups starting at 3pm). You can give your public comment at both meetings either in person at City Hall or remotely.
Speaking of budget season, the Solidarity Budget will be having its virtual volunteer orientation tomorrow night, Thursday 10/6 at 6pm. You can sign up to participate here.
One of the more controversial line items of the proposed budget is the $1m allocated in SPD’s budget for ShotSpotter. Mayor Harrell has been a long-standing proponent for the technology, which places microphones throughout specific neighborhoods in order to pick up the sounds of gunfire. Not only would this increase SPD’s surveillance capacity in a more diverse and lower income neighborhood in Seattle, but its efficacy is also in question. The OIG in Chicago found that ShotSpotter rarely results in evidence that leads to evidence of a gun-related crime, and the presence of the technology changes police behavior; areas with a perceived higher frequency of ShotSpotter activity leads to the justification of more stops and more pat-downs during stops, aka biased policing. In addition, prosecutors in Chicago are having to withdraw evidence generated by the technology. It is perhaps no surprise that the cities of Charlotte and San Antonio have dropped use of this technology in past years, or that the city of Buffalo recently blocked its implementation.
If you ever wonder how effective public comment is, wonder no more! Apparently one public comment made by programmer Scott Shawcroft at a redistricting commission hearing, in which he suggested putting Magnolia in District 6 and Fremont in District 7, prompted the amendment discussed in this newsletter last week that puts all of Magnolia in one district and divides Fremont into THREE districts. The last public hearing for the redistricting commission in Seattle is this Saturday, October 8 from 10am-12pm. You can register to give public comment online here, where you can also get the relevant Zoom link, or alternately you can show up in person. If you’d like to support the Redistricting Justice for Seattle proposed map, you can find talking points here.
In the story that keeps giving, remember those pesky deleted text messages of our former Mayor Durkan? New forensic evidence found that 191 of her texts were MANUALLY DELETED. This is very different from previous statements that the missing text messages were simply due to a setting mysteriously set to delete texts after 30 days. In addition, six other city officials had “factory resets” performed on their phones during the relevant period in 2020. This new evidence could strongly impact current lawsuits against the city.
The SPD announced they fired Officer Andrei Constantin, who took to Twitter to make fun of protesters and victims of police violence, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and local activist Summer Taylor, who was killed while protesting on I-5. Constantin had racked up at least nine other OPA complaints during his tenure at SPD, which began in April of 2016.
At the Council Briefing on September 26, CM Herbold announced that SFD has been doing an analysis of calls they respond to that can lead to violence. The analysis suggested an automatic joint response of SPD officers escorting SFD personnel to both overdose and seizure calls, as patients can be unaware of their surroundings and have an initial violent reaction after receiving NARCAN or coming out of a seizure. Along with this near-term change, the Joint Safety Committee is considering other recommendations along these lines.

King County News

Budget season has also begun in King County, and now is the time for you to email your King County council members about your budget priorities. People Power Washington has a script for you to use if you are so inclined. You can find the King County budget schedule, including opportunities to make public comment, here.
We conclude today’s newsletter on a somber note. Erica C. Barnett recently did an investigative piece on the King County youth jail, which is well worth a read. While the occupancy rate of the jail is rising and the number of staff is falling, the jail frequently uses solitary confinement for its juvenile occupants:
King County officials are aware that keeping kids in their cells is a problem, but the use of the practice has been escalating. In July, there were 13 days when kids were locked in their cells between 18 and 20 hours a day because of short staffing at the jail. Additionally, an independent monitor’s report released in May found a “significant increase” in the number of times youth were put IN “restrictive housing” (solitary confinement) because of a risk of “imminent and significant physical harm to the youth or others,” along with a spike in the length of this form of confinement; in the first quarter of this year, 41 kids were put in restrictive housing for an average of 6 hours per session.
We have kids in King County who have already experienced the trauma that resulted in them being in jail in the first place who are now having their trauma compounded by being locked into their cells for 18 to 20 hours per day. While the County has convened an advisory committee to make recommendations for how to phase out youth incarceration, little progress has been made thus far, which is concerning giving the urgency and gravity of their mandate.

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Mayor Harrell Has Been Saying Some Interesting Things at SPD Roll Calls

The news didn’t slow down THAT much at the end of August, so let’s dive in and get caught up!

Seattle News

There will be a public Q&A session for the top three candidates for SPD police chief on the evening of Thursday, September 15. You can submit questions for the event here and you can watch it on the Seattle Channel.
Andrew Myerberg was removed from his position as Director of Public Safety for Seattle. He is now “Special Projects Director” and is apparently still working on “safety related legal work, police chief search, accountability issues, etc.” Publicola reports that “Harrell said removing Myerberg from his position was just part of a six-month evaluation that involved “moving people around,” but declined to say more about what Myerberg will do in his new role.” The Mayor’s Office appears to be searching for a replacement for the Public Safety Director position.
Social Housing Initiative 135 qualified to be on the ballot in February 2023.
In MyNorthwest.com, Jason Rantz wrote about how Mayor Harrell has been visiting police precinct roll calls and speaking candidly about his thoughts on Seattle: “I don’t think anyone has a right to sleep in a public space. I don’t think anyone has a right to sleep on a sidewalk and I don’t think anyone has the right to sleep in the park.” Now there’s a quote that gets people to sit up and take notice.
There’s a lot more going on in this article though. It confirms Mayor Harrell’s commitment to ending the consent decree, and it’s the first time I’ve heard the possibility floated that the new SPOG contract negotiations could be done by the end of the year. In addition, the Mayor seems to have indicated he’s getting involved with the City Council races next year, when 7 of the 9 council members will be up for election. Hannah Krieg at The Stranger did some digging and found that Seattle’s big business faction is recruiting candidates to challenge Lisa Herbold in District 1 and Tammy Morales in District 2. Lisa Herbold currently serves as the Chair of the Public Safety and Human Resources committee, and Tammy Morales is one of the most progressive members of the Council. The Mayor also seems to be taking shots at the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (to which Seattle provides a large amount of funding) and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), which has been shown to reduce recidivism.
Lastly, Jason Rantz reports that, talking to SPD officers, “many question the mayor’s recruitment and retention plan. They do not think sign-up bonuses will make a difference and they believe the only thing to retain officers would be a fair contract.” It seems not even SPD officers agree with the Mayor’s recruitment bonus plan, legislation for which passed in August.
In other news, now’s your chance to become more informed about an important race that Seattle residents will vote on in November, for Seattle Municipal Court Judge. There are two judicial positions coming to the ballot this year, and The Stranger ran profiles last week on the race between incumbent Adam Eisenberg and challenger Pooja Vaddadi:
It’s Eisenberg’s day-to-day administration of his courtroom and perceived friendliness towards prosecutors, not his work on diversion programs, that attracted an unusually well-funded opponent in this November’s general election.
In a recent survey, Eisenberg was rated lowest for impartiality amongst all his judicial colleagues. He is known for leading the development of the Domestic Violence Intervention Project, which takes a less court-focused and more rehabilitative approach to those accused of domestic violence.
Pooja Vaddadi has her own plans when it comes to supporting diversion programs from the bench:
If she does prevail in November, Vaddadi says she wants to use the relationships she’s built with elected officials on the campaign trail to advocate for more funding for diversion programs so that more low-income people can access them. She also plans to push for expanding diversion programs that prove successful at the King County Superior Court level so that people in Seattle Municipal Court can benefit from them as well.
For Vaddadi, her focus on diversion programs stems from her belief that no one is beyond help, and from a recognition that the criminal legal system creates much of the harm its proponents say they want it to prevent.
Meanwhile, cases at Seattle Community Court are surging as a result of City Attorney Davison’s policy to prosecute more cases than Pete Holmes. Low-level misdemeanors that are eligible for community court are automatically sent there, and in Q2 2022 cases sent to community court have doubled compared to Q2 of 2021. As Josh Cohen in Crosscut writes:
Though court reformers see community court as a more humane alternative to booking people into jail, they don’t necessarily see the increase in community court referrals as positive. Instead, many want to see more cases diverted into alternatives that provide social services and support before they enter the court system. According to city attorney office data, pre-filing diversions and pre-trial diversions are both down significantly compared to years before the pandemic and prior to the creation of Seattle Community Court.

King County News

There will be a forum on Thursday, September 8 at 7pm discussing the role of the King County prosecutor in the criminal punishment system and particularly, how much discretion prosecutors have. This is timely given King County will be electing a new prosecutor in November’s election. You can register for the forum here or watch it live on the League of Women Voters Youtube page.
Speaking of the King County Prosecutor, current prosecutor Dan Satterberg has asked King County Sheriff Cole-Tindall to investigate the deletion of text messages of Seattle city leaders in 2020, including then-Mayor Durkan, then-SPD Chief Best, and SFD Chief Scoggins. While this response seems a bit delayed, to say the least, it is possible Satterberg felt more able to act given his term as prosecutor will be ending shortly. You can read more about it at Axios.
Sydney Brownstone over at The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle jail (run by King County) has had an extreme suicide rate over the past year.
“It’s astronomical,” said Frances Abderhalden, an expert on jail suicides and an assistant professor of criminal justice at California State University, Los Angeles. “It begs the question to me: Why this facility? That’s a lot of death in general in one facility per year.”
In July of 2020, Executive Constantine promised to close this jail, but it is unclear what the timeline of such a closure would be, or if the promise will be kept now that the narrative around the criminal legal system has shifted due to a backlash that, if allowed to prevail, handily protects the status quo.

National News

President Biden has a new crime plan called the “Safer America” plan. Ah, does he finally intend to crack down on gun control, a problem that we know how to solve given the large number of countries that have in fact solved it? No, no, why do the obvious thing to make the US safer when you can hire more police officers instead? The plan consists of hiring 100,000 more police officers and allocating at least an additional $13 billion to America’s police budgets, which are already the largest in the world by far.
Here is Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing, on the plan:

And as Eric Reinhart starts out his piece in Time Magazine:

The “war on crime” is the highest-casualty, most expensive, and longest-lasting war in American history. This coordinated assault on the nation’s poorest communities has led to tens of millions of individuals locked up in cages with deadly long-term health consequences, at least 31,000 people killed directly by police, and trillions of dollars spent on pointless punishment. For over 50 years, repeated increases to public spending on police and prisons have continually bankrolled this war while failing to ensure safety, leaving the U.S. one of the least safe countries among all wealthy nations.

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Mayor Harrell Has Been Saying Some Interesting Things at SPD Roll Calls Read More »

Final Vote on the SPMA Contract Tomorrow

SPMA Contract

Today at the Seattle Council Briefing, CMs heard a presentation on the new SPMA police union contract, on which they are scheduled to vote tomorrow.
Amy Sundberg
Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s Seattle Council Briefing. CM Sawant and CM Mosqueda are excused from today’s meeting.
I’ve already reported on the financial impacts of the new contract (bye bye, SPD salary savings), so now let’s talk about changes in accountability. You can read a summary of the accountability changes here. Included in these changes:
  • OPA and OIG will be able to exercise subpoena power since there is no bar to this in the contract
  • the definition of honesty has been changed in a favorable way
  • OPA investigation records will be retained for longer, even for those that involved complaints that were not sustained
  • an entire new “discipline review” process has been outlined that will fix some problems with arbitration, eliminates De Novo review, and is based around the “preponderance of evidence” standard
  • it makes changes to the 180-day clock, allows OPA to coordinate with criminal investigations, and changes limitations to OPA’s civilian investigators
  • it doesn’t explicitly require the City to bargain in order to make layoffs (although who gets laid off is determined by a specific set of rules that can’t be affected by the City Council; remember all the brouhaha about “out of order” layoffs? Yeah, that’s not a thing that is easy to make happen.)
Here are three specific things that aren’t changed in the new contract that advocates had hoped to see:
  • That OPA be allowed to refer and oversee criminal investigations as well as coordinate with these investigations
  • That complainants be given the ability to challenge disciplinary decisions, eitherin court or via some other process, so we can objectively see how the disciplinary process is working
  • That the primary source for disciplinary outcomes be publicly available so police officers understand the standards and the public can evaluate them; and further that there be some way to change these standards if expectations of the community regarding police officer conduct change
Also concerning is the lack of transparency and clear communication around this new contract. As a subject of significant public impact and interest, I would have expected to see more attempts to engage with the community and educate them on what the changes in the contract meant. Instead the only public discussion of the new contract took place today, twenty-four hours before the Full Council is scheduled to make a final vote on the contract. There was no public hearing on the contract, no passing through committee, no CPC community engagement meeting, and very little chance for the public to learn about the contract and give feedback. While CP Juarez made the point that this contract only affects 81 employees, this understates the importance of a contract that sets the stage for what might be achieved in the SPOG contract currently under negotiation.
In better news, hopefully the flood of emails the CMs received on this topic served to demonstrate that the public is in fact still deeply interested in police union contracts and in police accountability overall. The protests of 2020 may no longer be top of mind, but people have not forgotten.
If you would like to add to the flood before Tuesday at 2pm, you can use this action alert or quickly send this email. While a few of the provisions asked for in these letters are in fact met by the new contract, it is important for CMs to know how much these issues matter to the larger community so they continue to fight for greater accountability and more investment in community alternatives.

Seattle News

The rest of recent Seattle public safety news is kind of a hot mess:
To quote Will Casey in that last Stranger article:
Has anyone even asked if police are effective at solving crime? Yes. In fact, there’s a well-developed body of research showing they’re not. From the American Prospect: “Clearance rates have dropped to all-time lows at the same time that police budgets have swollen to all-time highs, suggesting that more funding has actually resulted in police being less effective.” I am slowly going insane watching nearly everyone in a position of power on this issue operate in a public safety debate increasingly detached from reality.
You’re not alone, Will.
Meanwhile, a recent nationwide Gallup poll shows that 78% of Americans still support the idea of promoting “community-based alternatives such as violence prevention” as part of changing how policing is done in this country. Seventy-eight percent. Community-based alternatives, alternate emergency response, and providing more behavioral health care and addiction services all continue to be incredibly popular, both locally and around the country.

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Final Vote on the SPMA Contract Tomorrow Read More »