OLEO

The End of the Consent Decree is Tied to the Next SPOG Contract

Seattle News:

The push for a new war on drugs continues. Publicola reports that DESC will be running the new overdose recovery center from its Morrison hotel building on Third Avenue. King County has committed $2 million to renovating the second floor of this building for this purpose, and Seattle will spend $2 million on construction (out of the $7 million total the Mayor said he’d be using on capital projects related to the fentanyl crisis). What the remaining $5 million will be spent on is currently unclear. The slightly more than $1 million Mayor Harrell has been talking about investing every year for services would not be able to fund operations at this overdose recovery center 24-7. This response seems inadequate given King County is about to surpass 2022’s number of overdose fatalities with four months remaining in the year. 

The Public Safety and Human Services committee is scheduled to discuss and vote on the new drug war legislation at 9:30am next Tuesday 9/12, and there will be an opportunity for the public to give public comment at that time (one script is here). If the legislation passes out of committee, it could be voted on by the Full Council as soon as September 19. If, however, the legislation were to stall in committee, the upcoming budget season could potentially delay a final vote until after Thanksgiving.

Speaking of, budget season is coming up fast, with Mayor Harrell’s proposed budget expected on Tuesday, September 26. Solidarity Budget is having their launch event this Saturday from 1-3pm at Rainier Playfield in Columbia City, where attendees can enjoy food, music, a photo booth and more while learning about the city’s budget process and Solidarity Budget’s demands for nine guarantees. For those who wish to volunteer with Solidarity Budget, there will be a volunteer orientation on Thursday, September 14 from 6-7:30pm over Zoom. 

One of the hot topics we can expect to be discussed during budget season is the upcoming gap in Seattle’s General Fund and how and whether the city should pursue additional progressive revenue to fill this gap. Real Change offers a few different opinions on this issue here and here.

A hearing for the consent decree was held on Wednesday, with a written ruling released on Thursday morning. Judge Robart opted to terminate many sections of the consent decree, but not all; he wrote: “As a result, the court finds and concludes that the City and SPD must meet additional milestones to demonstrate sustained full and effective compliance with the use of force and accountability requirements of the Consent Decree and to achieve final resolution of this matter.” He is specifically concerned with use of force as it pertains to crowd control after SPD’s actions in 2020. 

The ruling goes on to lay out a timeline of various tasks that must be completed in order for the consent decree to be fully and finally terminated. Several of the deadlines fall in December 2023, with additional deadlines in the first few months of next year, culminating in a report from the Monitor due March 29, 2024. 

Pivotally, it sounds as though Judge Robart’s willingness to end the consent decree rests on the contents of the next SPOG contract, how it deals with issues of accountability, and specifically whether it enables the 2017 Accountability Ordinance to finally go into full effect. This is an interesting twist, as both Mayor Harrell and SPD are highly incentivized to close out the consent decree, so this warning on the Judge’s part could have ramifications at the bargaining table. In his comments on Wednesday, Judge Robart mentioned that he doesn’t believe issues of discipline and accountability should be a part of bargaining in the first place.

Judge Robart also took another shot at the defund movement, blaming it for Seattle’s struggles to recruit more police, even though police departments across the country are having the same problem. As The Stranger’s Ashley Nerbovig reports, “Defend the Defund organizer BJ Last called it “extremely disingenuous” for the judge to blame the defund movement as the reason why people don’t want to join a profession that increases a person’s likelihood of suicide by 54%.” She also mentioned the Judge’s comments that cop TV shows are “the worst enemy of good police work.” 

For more analysis on how the consent decree has failed in its promise, you can read my op-ed at The Urbanist, where I discuss the high cost of the decree, its removal of community agency, and its failure to address biased policing, including a reminder of Dr. Sherry Towers’s analysis that 1 out of 10 killings in Seattle are committed by a police officer.

King County and Washington State News:

The Seattle Times published a positive piece on the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO)’s director Tamar Abouzeid, calling him “an unapologetic reformer who thinks America’s criminal legal system is racist and broken, and needs to be radically changed or scrapped.” OLEO recently released its 2022 annual report. There was a 22% drop in complaints for the year, with the bulk of the drop being for complaints initiated by Sheriff’s Office employees. The number of investigations OLEO declined to certify more than doubled from 2021 to 13% (OLEO certified 101 investigations and declined to certify 15). Deputies with three or more allegations account for approximately 5% of the sworn force, but approximately 40% of all allegations. The number of allegations of excessive force rose from 58 in 2021 to 73 in 2022, but none of the allegations that were closed were sustained.

Meanwhile, over at King County’s Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD), the staffing issues are so bad that sometimes corrections officers must work up to 16 hours a day for multiple days, with one officer registering 1000 hours of overtime last year. 60% of officers have doctor’s notes that protect them from having to work overtime, up from 15% in 2018. As Ashley Nerbovig reports, “The jails have what amounts to a 29% job vacancy rate due to the number of actual open positions combined with the number of officers restricted to “light duty.””

In state redistricting news, a federal judge ruled Washington must redraw one of its legislative districts in Yakima Valley and set a progress report deadline of January 8. This deadline means the state legislature would have to convene a special session in order to vote to reconvene the state redistricting commission; if they do not, the court can decide on a new legislative map instead. At present it is not even certain whether the legislature would have the necessary votes to reconvene the commission, even if they were to hold a special session. Therefore, a court decision on a new map seems likely.

Recent Headlines:

 

OLEO Finally to Get Its Subpoena Power

King County News

We’ll start off with some big news: King County has finished negotiating their police union contract with the King County Police Officers Guild (KCPOG). While I have not yet read through the contract (oh, what fun weekend reading I have ahead of me!), the big headline here is that the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) has finally been given the powers King County voters decided to grant them that have been blocked by the old contract. OLEO will be able to issue subpoenas and conduct independent investigations of alleged misconduct and use of force cases involving the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). Until now OLEO has had their hands tied without access to the information they would have needed to perform solid investigations, but this contract would change that.
The new contract will have to be voted upon by the King County Council before going into effect. It will cover the 3-year period of 2022-2024.
Meanwhile, the King County Jail is still having water problems, and inmates are still drinking bottled water. These problems first began more than three weeks ago, and there are questions as to whether inmates are getting sufficient bottled water for their needs.

Election in Two Weeks

The election is coming up, ballots have been mailed out, and voting guides are being published. Here are a few worth checking out:

Seattle News

As expected, it looks like CM Mosqueda is not supportive of permanently changing how the Jumpstart tax funds are allowed to be used in Seattle’s budget.
Budget amendments relating to SPD, the CSCC, and HSD will be discussed this Thursday so expect more on that in the next newsletter. The next opportunity for public comment will not be until the morning of Tuesday, November 8 at 9:30am. Budget Chair Mosqueda’s balancing package will drop the previous day, Monday, November 7. And there’s a tight turnaround for any amendments CMs might want to add to that package.
There will be a Rainier Beach Public Safety town hall this Thursday, October 27 from 6-8pm at the New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave South. The proposed gunfire detection system (likely ShotSpotter) will be discussed. Masks are required, and dinner, child care, and translation will be provided.
We are not quite done with the Seattle redistricting process. The final map vote will take place on Monday, October 31, and the final map and resolution from the committee will be confirmed on Tuesday, November 8. Apparently a new map not favored by the Seattle Redistricting Coalition was introduced at a meeting earlier today, and you’ll have a last chance to give public comment about the map options on Monday 10/31 at 12pm at this Zoom link. You can find a script (that will probably be updated before that meeting) here.

Other Resources

City Leaders Fight over Policing Pirates - The Stranger

Policing Seattle

Continued Accountability and Transparency Problems

The theme of today’s newsletter seems to be a lack of accountability and transparency, so buckle up!

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing. CP González is excused today so CM Herbold is serving as CP pro tem.
The big Seattle news today is, of course, CM Sawant’s recall election. So far it’s looking like turnout is better than expected, which could be a sign in favor of CM Sawant.
This week there is a special Public Safety and Human Services Department committee meeting on Thursday morning at 9:30am. Among the topics under discussion will be legislation requiring the City Attorney’s office to give quarterly and annual reports on data related to its diversion programs in an effort to increase the transparency of the office. If passed through committee, this legislation should receive its Full Council vote on Monday the 13th, the last Full Council meeting before winter recess.
Also in Seattle City Council news, apparently CM Herbold and CM Juarez both wish to be considered for the role of next Council President. Committee chair assignments will be reshuffled as well.
The OIG has released its year-long audit on SPD’s disciplinary system, and surprise, surprise, they’ve found several shortcomings. For example, SPD’s police chiefs chose the least severe discipline possible in almost half the cases from 2018-2021, officers with a history of misconduct don’t typically have any trouble being promoted, and supervisors cannot track suspended officers’ overtime work, meaning officers can make up for any required disciplinary time off with overtime. Many of the identified holes exist either because of Seattle’s police union contracts (both of which are currently expired) and/or the discretion of SPD’s police chief. In 2022, the police union contracts will continue to be negotiated and Mayor-elect Harrell is expected to appoint a new police chief, both of which will have ramifications to SPD’s disciplinary system.
Speaking of the OIG, Carolyn Bick has a new article out in the South Seattle Emerald today digging further into the whistleblower complaint from within OIG. It appears the Seattle City Council is responsible at this point for commissioning an investigation looking into the complaint, and more specifically Public Safety and Human Services committee chair Lisa Herbold. There seems to be a lot of resistance to actually taking the complaint seriously and launching a thorough investigation; only one aspect of the complaint, the allegations about an OIG auditor who appears to have been certifying cases without thoroughly reviewing the evidence, is currently being investigated. While challenging to summarize their article briefly, Carolyn Bick chronicles a trend of obfuscation, confusion as to actual OIG and OPA policies and procedures, and a general lack of true oversight by the Seattle City Council on this issue.
In another instance of a lack of transparency in Seattle, the City has now spent a whopping $407k on contractor fees to analyze the matter of Mayor Durkan’s missing text messages. The private contractor was hired over a year ago by the City Attorney’s Office to produce a forensic report on the matter, a report that has yet to be delivered. That’s a lot of money for taxpayers to pay for no results as Mayor Durkan prepares to leave office.

County and State News

 

King County’s Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) is expanding next year, adding two new positions to the office. One of the new staff members will join the investigation review team, and the other will join the policy analysis team. This is part of OLEO Director Abouzeid’s “push to expand his office’s role as a quasi-think tank on police oversight policy for Washington state. “We would like to see statewide policy to codify the roles of civilian oversight bodies, because otherwise oversight becomes a hodgepodge of what police unions negotiate into their contracts,” he said.” This is a good reminder that not only will a new Sheriff be chosen by Executive Dow Constantine next year, but the current KCPOG contract expires at the end of this month, meaning new negotiations on the horizon.
Following up on the redistricting debacle of November, the State Supreme Court has refused to take on redistricting themselves, instead accepting the redistricting commission’s late maps. We may be seeing several lawsuits about these new maps in coming months. Meanwhile, we are left with the troubling disregard of the Open Meetings Act shown by the commission’s behavior leading up to their deadline.

Local Media Shakeups

 

Not only as Crosscut‘s opinion section been shut down (although a new effort to provide a greater diversity of voices has been promised), but Kevin Schofield at SCC Insight has announced he’s discontinuing his reporting at the end of the year, further shrinking the area’s sources of independent journalism. As you know, I often link to Kevin’s work in this newsletter, and he reports on Seattle issues not covered by any other news outlet.
Especially in light of these recent developments, I urge you to consider donating to Publicola, whose reporting I also often share here. They are looking to expand their coverage next year and could use your financial support. Their goals for expansion are admirable and would be valuable to the community. Similarly, you might also consider donating to the South Seattle Emerald, another source of excellent local reporting. As Kevin eloquently says, “Every journalist working the local government beat can tell you that it is both physically and mentally exhausting.” Local independent journalism is crucial for holding government accountable and increasing transparency; these venues both need and deserve your support.

Recent Headlines

Tacoma City Council to vote on appointment of next police chief | KNKX Public Radio

Prosecutors can photograph tattoos of Auburn officer charged with murder, judge rules | The Seattle Times

Rev. Harriett Walden speaks out against hate crimes after she says she was targeted | The Seattle Times

Law enforcement officers and the COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Need a little break from budget talk? This is the issue for you!

Vaccine Mandate and the KCSO and SPD

In order to be fully vaccinated by the date mandated, law enforcement officers needed to get their second shot by yesterday, Monday, October 5. There has been a lot of speculation as to how many officers will refuse to get vaccinated.
At this morning’s King County Law & Justice meeting, Councilmember Dunn said 50-100 KCSCO officers may leave as a result of the vaccine mandate.
Paul Faruq Kiefer
Per councilmember Dunn, some 50-100 KCSO officers may leave the department in response to the county’s vaccine mandate; he says that police departments in his district have received applications from some of those officers.
But wait, there’s more! Carolyn Bick reported on a lengthy email sent yesterday by Sergeant Lefler to the entire King County Sheriff’s Department offering to “lead the charge” against the vaccine mandate and claiming there are thousands who have requested exemptions. To be clear, KCSO employs about 750 deputies.
Meanwhile, over in Seattle, reporter Brandi Kruse of FOX13 says SPD has told her that as of today, 354 sworn officers haven’t yet submitted proof of vaccination. Paul Kiefer breaks down next steps in the tweet thread below:
Paul Faruq Kiefer
In theory, the at-risk letter for city employees goes out tomorrow – and the letter going to SPOG members will be unlike the letter sent to other employees. In less than two weeks, the city will have the option to implement the mandate without reaching an agreement with SPOG. https://t.co/KH1grAzwQ6

OPA News

Yesterday the OPA released its report on the abandonment of the East Precinct that took place in June 2020, leading to the creation of CHOP/CHAZ. It did not find that either former Chief Best or Assistant Chief Mahaffey neglected their duty nor that the department should be found at fault for waiting as long as it did to reoccupy the East Precinct.
What does come across in the OPA report is the complete chaos and mess involved in the abandonment of the East Precinct. From an interview with a witness:
“Upon arriving at the East Precinct, WO#1 described a “gut-wrenching situation” as officers in an “absolute panic” were “ripping open lockers” and “kicking in doors in the offices” in order to secure weapons, computers, and hard drives. WO#1 stated that he organized the supervisors to get them to “take a breath” and approach the situation in a “methodical manner.” The overall effect on the officers was “hugely demoralizing,” according to WO#1. WO#1 described seeing “a lot of officers […] crying” that day and that the situation was “one of the more difficult events that I’ve been though in my life.””
There is also a lack of clarity as to whether then Chief Best (NE#1) was aware of the plan to abandon the precinct, or whether it was entirely Assistant Chief’ Mahffey’s (NE#@2) decision:
“Ultimately, the evidence is conflicting as to whether NE#1 explicitly approved the plan to evacuate the East Precinct, or if NE#2 made this decision independently. OPA believes it much more likely that this ambiguity was the result of a number of complicated decisions being made during a highly stressful, rapidly evolving situation. However, regardless of this dispute of fact, the evidence is clear—predominantly based on NE#1’s statement—that, even if NE#2 decided independently to evacuate the East Precinct, he had full discretionary authority to make that decision.”
The OPA’s only policy recommendation is regarding improvement of external communications, which seems like an obvious place to focus. However, the OPA refrains from offering any guidance on creating guidelines for when and how SPD should evacuate precincts in future. As Kevin Schofield writes:
But what is perhaps more unsettling is the lack of any recommendations for how decisions should be made around SPD’s potential abandonment of facilities, regardless of whether the emergency is a riot, a fire, an earthquake, or some other form of natural or man-made event. Crisis-response experts make clear that as much as possible planning and decision-matrices should be done in advance, when the pressure of the moment isn’t clouding judgement. In this case, it’s clear that SPD did not (and probably still does not) have clear criteria for when (or how) to evacuate a precinct building, and how to do so in a manner that minimizes impacts and maintains public safety and police services. If that isn’t fixed, then the city will have truly learned nothing from last summer’s events.
In related news, OPA Director Andrew Myerberg is interviewing for a job in Phoenix, Arizona so he’s actively looking for other opportunities.
Amy Sundberg
Hmm, Andrew Myerberg is interviewing elsewhere. Interesting. https://t.co/goqu029k8j

Quick News Bullet Points

  • This week’s Seattle Council Briefing was blessedly short!
Amy Sundberg
Good morning! Welcome to today’s Seattle Council Briefing. The Council has a few days executive sessions this morning so with any luck this meeting will be on the brief side this time. 😂
  • An opinion piece in Crosscut by Katie Wilson opines that in the current redistricting process, it might be best if the partisan commissioners cannot reach agreement by November 15, as the State Supreme Court could then hire an independent expert who would draw the maps based on constitutional standards instead of political considerations. The piece also gives a good summary of some of the issues currently at play in this process.
  • The King County Public Safety Advisory Committee has released their report with recommendations for hiring a new sheriff and improving public safety at the county level. You can read it yourself here!
  • Another tidbit from today’s King County Law & Justice meeting: the new director of OLEO reported that the King County Sheriff’s Office has not moved forward on the majority of OLEO recommendations for policy and procedural changes. He also mentioned the need to remove barriers for oversight from collective bargaining.
Paul Faruq Kiefer
Another note from Dir. Abouzeid (as part of OLEO’s annual report): KCSO has not moved forward with the vast majority of policy/procedure changes recommended by OLEO.
There’s a steeply declining curve starting at a one minute reporting delay after a crime that predicts whether or not a rapid response will directly lead to an arrest. At five minutes, a rapid response is no more effective than one taking an hour.
Out of 274,000 911 calls in 2019, just about 3,200 were classified as “In Progress / Just Occurred” (“IPJO”) on the public SPD crime dashboard. Some of them weren’t crimes (such as risk of suicide or injury accident, where “someone with a gun” might not really be the optimal responder). So on the order of 1% of 911 calls are cases where a rapid response by an armed officer is highly likely to lead to an arrest as a result.
This is particularly relevant during the current SPD budget discussions since 911 call response times are generally held up as a compelling reason why SPD staffing numbers should be maintained/increased versus being shrunk.

Recent Headlines

Police killings of civilians in the US have been undercounted by more than half in official statistics

How Tacoma mayoral candidates compare on the issues | Crosscut

Understanding the Mayor's Proposed 2022 Budget, Part III: Expenses

Compassion Seattle is No More

It’s hard to believe it’s already September. Let’s catch up on the happenings of the last few weeks, shall we?

Election News

Perhaps the biggest news of the past few weeks involves Seattle’s charter amendment Compassion Seattle. First a judge said the charter amendment couldn’t be on the November ballot, saying it went beyond the scope of the initiative process. Then the amendment’s backers said they wouldn’t appeal this decision. Then they changed their minds and did appeal after all. And finally, the appeals court denied that motion as well. That’s all, folks. The Compassion Seattle charter amendment will officially NOT be on the ballot in November.
Also not on November’s ballot: the Sawant recall decision. The deadline for the campaign to turn in their signatures to make that ballot has passed. This most likely means a special, low turn-out election in the winter, which the proponents of the recall doubtless hope will help the recall pass.
In Seattle mayoral election news, the CPC canceled their planned mayoral candidate debate on public safety because Bruce Harrell declined to participate. This decision fails to build confidence in his ability to take police accountability seriously. Bruce Harrell also held a press conference at Green Lake last week, during which he said he’d implement many key parts of the Compassion Seattle plan if he is elected Mayor, including spending 12% of the city’s General Fund on homelessness (at only 1% more than current spending, this is certainly not enough), building 2000 shelter beds within one year, and keeping parks, sidewalks, etc clear of encampments, aka implementing sweeps:
“I just think that there has to be consequences for that kind of action,” Harrell said, referring to people who don’t accept the services or shelter they’re offered, “because many people—and I’m very close to the world of people struggling with drug and alcohol treatment, people that have challenges—many of them are in denial. Many of them do not know what they need. They just do not.”
But wait, there’s more! It came out that Bellevue school board candidate Faye Yang believes that race is linked to IQ scores, touting the debunked racist pseudoscience preached in The Bell Curveby Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. Since this information was revealed, Faye Yang has said she no longer believes this to be true, but the fact that she’s just had this realization about these racist ideas doesn’t fill one with confidence.
Washington state is also undergoing its redistricting process, which could have large ramifications on elections going forward. The commissioners expect to have their suggested maps completed by the end of September, and there will be two public meetings (Oct 5 and Oct 9) where the public will have a chance to give feedback on the proposal.

Seattle News

The scandal involving the Mayor Durkan’s texts being deleted from her phone continues, with The Seattle Times reporting that when the Mayor’s office attributed the loss of the texts to “an unknown technology issue,” they’d actually known for months why the texts were gone. Durkan’s chief of staff also appears to be involved in keeping the public in the dark about these missing texts. City Attorney Pete Holmes has said, “Someone changed the mayor’s settings from retain to delete — that is a deliberate act.”
The city employees who blew the whistle on the missing texts sued Seattle on Friday, The two employees left their jobs earlier this year. Between this lawsuit and the one filed by the Seattle Times, the new City Attorney will be kept busy cleaning up Mayor Durkan’s mess–all on the taxpayers’ dime, of course.
Mayor Durkan has instituted a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all city employees by October 18, which has set off a brouhaha with unions, including SPOG. Any city employees who do not comply could face termination, and SPOG is saying this mandate could drive a further exodus of SPD officers. At the same time, SPD has been experiencing a spike in COVID-19 infections of officers, with 29 officers testing positive during the first three weeks of August. It is unknown what percentage of SPD officers are already vaccinated at this time.
In OPA news, the officer who shot Terry Carver last year is serving a 20-day detention for failing to properly follow de-escalation practices but is not being held accountable for killing Carver. Paul Kiefer’s article on the case documents a track record of bad decision-making for the police officer in question. In addition, Director Myerberg highlighted an ongoing pattern with SPD officers killing people carrying knives; however no SPD policy changes in this area have been implemented, even though Terry Carver was killed more than a year ago, in May 2020. For more analysis of the OPA’s decision on this case, you can read the following Twitter thread:
Phil
So why is SPD investigating itself? Because SPD got the state legislature to exempt SPD from that provision so long as they are under the consent decree. The decree was supposed to be a sword to reform SPD but has been turned into a shield to protect SPD.
Finally, no Seattle City Council meeting this week, although a few committees are meeting. We’ll be back to the normal schedule starting next week, with budget season kicking off on Monday, September 27.

King County News

King County’s OLEO (the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight) concluded their investigation of the 2019 shooting of Anthony Chilchott, during which two officers shot Mr. Chilchott; one was subsequently fired, but the other one is still serving as a deputy in the department. The report criticized the Sheriff’s office for failing to learn from several past similar shootings, such as that of 17-year-old Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens in 2017, and provided a long list of policy and training recommendations.
An editorial in the South Seattle Emerald by Angélica Cházaro and Anita Khandelwal recommends that both King County and the City of Seattle adopt two new pieces of legislation to address racial disparities in law enforcement’s treatment of Black and Indigenous people. One piece of potential legislation would de-prioritize any traffic stops where the driver does not pose an imminent danger of physical harm to others, and the other would ban consent searches. Many people don’t know their rights around consent searches, ie that they’re allowed to say no, and BIPOC people in particular may feel further pressure to comply in order to keep themselves safe. You can write to your King County council member and your Seattle council members to support the introduction of this legislation.

Recent Headlines

King County’s rise in gun violence doesn’t have an easy explanation | Crosscut

This City Went From ‘Defund’ to Planning a Massive New Police Fantasyland

2021 Policing and Public Safety Voter Guide Is Out!

Policing Voter Guide is Out!

People Power Washington is pleased to present the 2021 Policing and Public Safety Voter Guide for Seattle, King County, and Burien to help you know where local candidates stand as you make voting decisions in the August 3rd primaries. (This week is the time to fill out your ballot if you haven’t already!) Key races will determine who sets the course in areas that impact all of us including choosing heads of our law enforcement departments, setting budget priorities, and negotiating collective bargaining agreements with police guilds.
Many local candidates responded to our questionnaires about public safety and the criminal legal system; you can read their on-the-record answers at the website and work to hold them accountable if they are elected. The website also includes explainers to provide context to the critical issues at stake this year. If your own jurisdiction is not covered by the current guide, you can contact People Power Washington at wapeoplepower@gmail.com if you’d like to help them add it for the general election in November.
I’m on the steering committee of People Power Washington and worked directly on some of the questionnaires and issue explainers. I hope you find them helpful!

A New Director for King County’s OLEO

Today the King County Council selected a new Director for OLEO (Office of Law Enforcement Oversight): Tamer Abouzeid, an attorney, mediator, community organizer and policy professional. He is replacing previous Director Deborah Jacobs. He is starting on September 20.

Seattle City Council Meetings

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing!

On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted to pass a clerk file to make sure facial recognition technology is included as part of the City’s surveillance technology ordinance. CM Herbold reported that last week the Mayor’s Office announced committing $2m in next year’s budget to a regional response to gun violence, the Regional Peacekeepers, and CM Herbold would like to try to get some of that money out the door this year instead of next year.

Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting.
At today’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, we heard about OIG’s phase one sentinel review report on the protests last year, as well as Summary Findings on the Executive Order on Re-imagining Policing and Community Safety from the executive branch (Central staff presentation here/Executive branch presentation here). The live tweet of this meeting is of more than usual interest given the topics covered.
This first phase of the OIG’s sentinel review report only covers the first few days of the protests last summer, focusing on five primary events during those days. The report offers 54 recommendations that they hope are actionable for SPD. (As a side note, one of the most interesting things about the sentinel review report process is the use of a peacemaking circle within the selected panel to try to facilitate trust building and peace, as well as listening and reconciliation. I do question whether trust can be built between community and an organization with such deep systemic issues, but am interested in other applications for this process.)
One of the OIG report’s main critiques comes from Decriminalize Seattle, who tweeted that while the focus of the report is on fixing the system, the brutal police response of last summer IS the system, and the recommendations made in the report are “almost laughably pro-cop.”
Decriminalize Seattle Coalition (Official)
The only problem:
Last summer’s brutal police response to protest IS the system
As for the summary findings for re-imagining public safety, the IDT involved in this work says they learned three things from community engagement: that community is not a monolith, that public safety extends beyond policing, and that people want more visible patrol presence, especially in the International District, Belltown, and Pioneer Square.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the report was that the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) was contracted to do an analysis of Seattle’s 911 call data, and they found 174 call types they thought could be answered by alternative responses instead of sworn officers, which Chris Fisher from SPD said would equal about 49% of calls. However, SPD did their own analysis and decided only 12% of those calls (28-30 call types) could actually be answered by alternate responses, including person down and welfare check calls. They said part of this was due to labor and legal issues (aka the police contract and local laws).
CM Herbold brought up the point that 12% of 911 calls is 48,000 calls a year, but the Mayor’s Triage One proposal (the new emergency response pilot) is only designed to answer 7,000 calls per year. She asked about the additional 40k calls in that 12% and why they weren’t included in the Mayor’s proposal. Julie Kline from the Mayor’s office said that Triage One is just a first step, what they see as “low-hanging fruit.” It is noteworthy seeing just how small a first step it is.

Recent Headlines

Mental Health Response Teams Yield Better Outcomes Than Police In NYC, Data Shows

Report: Seattle police stop Black people, Native Americans at far higher rate than white people | The Seattle Times

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

ACLU WA comes out against the Compassion Seattle initiative

Seattle City Council Meetings

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to the Seattle Council Briefing!
This week’s Seattle Council Briefing didn’t cover much about policing or investments into public safety, but CM Lewis did introduce a letter in support of decriminalizing psychedelic drugs. All CMs signed onto the letter except CM Strauss, who was absent, and CM Pedersen, who said he needed more time to review the letter. The Stranger reports:
Lewis said he will “almost certainly” drop an ordinance to make psychedelics the lowest-level enforcement priority for law enforcement at the city level after the task force releases its recommendations, but both he and Herbold stressed the opportunity here for state-level action.
CM Mosqueda also mentioned the possibility of using psychedelic drugs as a treatment for TBIs (traumatic brain injuries), otherwise known as concussions, a subject area where I have a personal interest, having suffered from a concussion for quite some time myself without receiving any real recommendations for treatment.
Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting!

This morning’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting included a Crisis Response Continuum Roundtable with representatives present from SFD and Health One, Crisis Connections, Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), LEAD and REACH, and the SPD crisis response unit. All these providers agree they don’t have enough capacity to meet the high demand for their services, and they don’t have enough service providers either. They also briefly discussed the new 988 system that comes online in July 2022, for which funding has been provided by the state legislature, which will make a better response possible, although they expect a much higher demand as well. CM Lewis said they need to consider LEAD as an indispensable leg of the stool of overall public safety and treat it as a standing budget priority.

Also at this morning’s meeting, Carlos Lugo of Central Staff presented his report entitled “Realigning Seattle’s Criminal Legal System through a Public Health Approach.” This report, reflecting two years of work, represents the academic piece of the conversation, while a community task force also worked on recommendations that will be presented at a later meeting. The report suggests shifting our criminal legal system from being punitive to using a public health model, using the RNR model to understand factors of why violence occurs and what prevents violence, followed by implementing interventions and monitoring their impact. He also used the sequential intercept model that we’ve seen before in Council meetings during the last year. The intercept model looks at points where it’s possible to divert people from the criminal justice system to alternatives.

My takeaway from his presentation? He suggests investing in programs that reduce criminogenic needs and ACEs (adverse childhood events), possibly through participatory budgeting and possibly using money saved by negotiating to reduce jail services purchased from King County. When asked specifically by CM Morales, he said they should absolutely use funds diverted from SPD as well, calling out as an example the fact that if you use summons instead of arrests for misdemeanor crimes, that would save a lot of officer time.

Other News

Charter Amendment 29 (CA-29) would enshrine Seattle’s current ineffective and harmful practice of sweeping unhoused residents and their homes from public places into the City’s Charter, while doing nothing to meaningfully address homelessness. The criminalization of poverty is not only unconstitutional, but an inappropriate way to address the long-standing and intersecting issues of housing affordability, Seattle’s racial wealth divide and community displacement, and the history of structural inequity in housing.
A reminder: mayoral candidates Bruce Harrell and Jessyn Farrell are on the record as supporting this charter amendment, and Casey Sixkiller has said he supports continued homeless sweeps. And speaking of the mayoral candidates, you can read how they would address structural racism if they are elected to office.
Meanwhile, SPD has the largest new officer class in 20 years. They are trying to increase hiring to as fast a rate as possible to keep up with their high rate of attrition.
Carolyn Bick finished their excellent series on OLEO and its former director’s troubled relationship with the KCSO and KCPOG. The article includes a discussion of the recent police scorecard data released, where the King County Sheriff’s Office got an unimpressive 39% out of 100. Its police accountability score was 10%.OLEO

Recent Headlines

A lesson from my losses: We cannot afford to completely dismantle the police | The Seattle Times

Big Seattle City Council meeting on Tuesday June 1!

Seattle News

We have a big Seattle City Council meeting coming up on Tuesday, June 1. Both the bill moving forward participatory budgeting and the bill that will lift some provisos on SPD’s budget this year, giving over $10m of additional spending power to SPD and an additional $2m to participatory budgeting, are on the agenda. Now is a good time to contact your council members about these bills and consider making public comment at the June 1 meeting; comment starts at 2pm, with sign-ups at noon. #DefendtheDefund is arranging a campaign to read first person accounts of SPD violence that are currently part of the ACLU lawsuit against SPD into the record during public comment at this meeting on Tuesday; you can sign up to be a part of that effort here.
SPD Chief Diaz followed through on the pink umbrella case by demoting Assistant Chief Hirjak to Captain. He also clarified that there was no additional evidence in the case, but, in his words, that “my assessment included more broadly concerns raised by OPA in management action recommendations stemming from related cases, on-going analyses generated through the Office of Inspector General’s Sentinel Event Review, and my consideration of the totality of the events beginning on May 29th, 2020, when the Chinatown/International District was the target of destructive protests, and continuing over the days thereafter.” 
DivestSPD, a Twitter watchdog account, made a public disclosure request for the Incident Action Plan for June 8, the day the SPD abandoned the East Precinct. This plan seems to contradict former Chief Best’s recent interviews about how events unfolded on the day in question. You can see the plan yourself here.
Students at UW and Seattle University have been organizing to change how policing works on their campuses. So far, UW has cut its police department staff by 20%, launched a new online reporting system, and begun a new campus safety responder team. Students are now pressing for more significant changes.
Crosscut has an excellent article reviewing where we are with Seattle’s consent decree and the police reform process, saying:
At a time of tremendous grassroots organizing for change, the consent decree is heavy from the top down. The decree, a preferred tool of former President Barack Obama and possibly President Joe Biden, has a singular goal: to ensure that local policing is constitutional. But it doesn’t go deep enough to meet the demands of people advocating systemic change.

Election News

If you’re curious what an abolitionist City Attorney would look like, you might want to take a look at The Stranger‘s recent interview with candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy.
The Seattle mayor’s race is heating up, with the Daily Kos speculating whether Andrew Grant Houston, as the furthest left candidate, might be well positioned to get The Stranger’s endorsement and make it to the final two candidates. Meanwhile, Jessyn Farrell’s campaign has released news of a poll showing Bruce Harrell as the frontrunner of the race, while Lorena González’s campaign says their polling shows a frontrunner tie between Harrell and González. Each of these polls has a margin of error of more than 4 percent.
And Compassion Seattle, the homelessness initiative that many opponents are saying would codify sweeps, has been claiming endorsements from organizations that have not in fact endorsed it. The campaign listed FIVE organizations on its website as endorsers who have since confirmed they haven’t endorsed it. Oops!

Elsewhere in Washington State

 

National News

In discouraging news, nearly seven out of 10 Black Americans say police treatment has gotten worse in the past year. Just four out of 10 Black Americans say they have favorable views of police and law enforcement, while 75% of white respondents say they have favorable views.
Meanwhile, The Root reported that according to a review of pledges of corporations to donate money to social justice organizations, less than ONE PERCENT of that money was actually donated. Support of Black Lives Matter has also plunged since last summer, with Republicans and white people actually being LESS supportive now than they were before George Floyd was murdered. A lot of the talk about fighting against racial inequity last year was unfortunately just that–a lot of talk with little substance. All the more reason for us to step up!
And Simon Balto writes in the Guardian:
It strikes me that we are now living in an era defined not so much by “racial reckoning” but more so by the desperate, gasping grasps at reclaiming white innocence from the perils of such a reckoning. Do not teach us or our children honestly about our past or our present, the opponents of racial justice demand. Do not question our allegiance to an openly white supremacist political leader. Do not impugn the institutions that uphold white supremacy and do violence to those not like us. But most of all, they ask that we absolve them of their sins for having made all those demands. Affirm our innocence, they ask. We are not racist, men like Arnold Schlei demand we understand in spite of the evidence.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for staying engaged and committed to making a difference. Thanks so much for reading, and have a great weekend.

Participatory Budgeting Could be a Seed that Brings Lasting Change

The Latest on Participatory Budgeting

Amy Sundberg
The Seattle Community Economic Development committee meeting has begun, and they are currently hearing comments.
The Community Economic Development committee finally heard an agenda item about participatory budgeting this week. Because the draft legislation hasn’t yet finished going through legal, CM Morales is hoping to vote on it at a special committee meeting on June 3, to be followed by a vote of the full Council. The legislation would release about $1m to the Department of Civil Rights to hire three staff members and start the process, including by issuing an RFP to hire a third-party administrator for the program, as well as releasing further funds (although not all of them) for the process.
Sean Goode from Choose 180 was present at the meeting and spoke eloquently in support of participatory budgeting. He sees the program as an opportunity to construct something new for the community that seeds lasting change and also spoke in favor of equity over expediency. His entire speech (about ten minutes) is worth listening to and can be found here starting at the 1:40:00.
The timeline on participatory budgeting has been moved back, with CM Morales expecting the Office of Civil Rights to hire a third-party organization by the end of the year and hopefully voting to begin around next summer.

Police Contract Bargaining and Accountability

 

Carolyn Bick has released the second part of her investigative series on OLEO and the experiences of its former Director Jacobs, the middle section of which will be of particular interest to those of you following the obstructions inherent with including accountability provisions as working conditions at the police contract bargaining table. Similar to what has happened in Seattle with the OPA, OLEO was granted oversight authority that it then had to bargain for, essentially maintaining the appearance of accountability without the power to provide actual accountability. I am going to quote extensively from the relevant section:

Much of the Guild’s alleged initial treatment of Jacobs appears to have stemmed, at least in part, from Jacobs attempting to bargain with the KCPOG for the oversight rights voters had already afforded OLEO in 2015 via ballot measure. Jacobs said that she had to work with Bob Railton, KCOLR’s deputy director and labor negotiator, who Jacobs said constantly made her feel as though she was a troublemaker and a nuisance and who routinely talked down to her in a sexist and demeaning manner.
This collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was not finalized and signed until April 2020. Its language has made it retroactive from Jan. 1, 2017, but it will expire in December of this year. It was necessary for OLEO to bargain for the rights voters had already afforded the oversight entity, because state law requires bargaining for anything considered “mandatory,” including wages, hours, and working conditions. OLEO’s oversight duties fall into this category.
“The Office of Labor Relations bargainer’s main concern was getting a bargain and not going to arbitration. That did not align with OLEO’s interest of having the voters’ will brought to fruition with the implementation of independent investigations conducted by OLEO,” Jacobs wrote in her email. “There was constant pressure on me to compromise, and some of it was manipulative and, to my mind, unethical.”
Topaz said that Jacobs’ recollection of the dynamic at the bargaining table tracks with what he remembers. Topaz worked as a labor negotiator with the KCOLR from 2014–2020 and was briefly assigned to help negotiate the CBA. Topaz said that from his point of view, for the period of time he worked to help bargain the contract, OLEO was little more than “a political thing that the [King] County Council did that they never really gave the support and authority needed to be successful.
“They created something, gave it limited resources and limited authority, and then expected it to produce something that I am assuming would have given them cover for people to complain about,” Topaz said.
“I don’t think [the Council] really backed [Jacobs] up very well to get done what she needed to,” Topaz continued. “Honestly, I think they have more or less set up anybody who would be in that role [of OLEO director] for failure.”

Other News of Note

 

The MLK Labor Council held a Seattle mayoral forum last night, ushering us into election debate season, and it seems like there were at least a few illuminating (and entertaining) moments, including a rapid-fire Yes/No round in which Bruce Harrell felt the need to quibble with the definition of “sweeps”.

Joe Mizrahi
Live tweeting here @MLKLabor mayoral forum starting now. It’s also on Facebook live. But that won’t have my color commentary so I recommend you stay here
Meanwhile, Crosscut reported on the SPD’s court-mandated (because of the consent decree) early intervention system, designed to predict bad behavior among police officers. “Despite near-universal acknowledgment of its failings, the system remains, largely because a federal judge has not given the green light to ditch it.”
A new system is currently under development, one that focuses on recognizing and addressing past trauma in an attempt to prevent future misconduct rooted in that trauma, which sounds interesting. However, because of the consent decree mandate for the prior ineffective system, both systems will have to run concurrently, meaning both will need to be funded and money will be wasted.
Thank you for your continued support, and I hope you enjoy the end of the week!