pink umbrella case

SPD Asks for More Money for Hiring Bonuses in 2021

National Policing News

Let’s start off today’s newsletter with a look at some national trends. The Washington Post began tracking fatal shootings by on-duty police officers back in 2015, and has discovered the fatal shootings reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program are vastly lower than shootings the Washington Post has been able to substantiate–indeed, less than half the number. When reading about UCRP numbers, remember that these are voluntarily self-reported by law enforcement agencies, which is why projects like that being done by the Washington Post are so valuable. In fact, it reports that in 2020, only 27 percent of American law enforcement agencies contributed data to the National Use-of-Force Data Collection Program, covering 42 percent of officers. 
The Washington Post‘s data shows a new high of 1,021 fatal shootings by on-duty police officers in 2020. This is in spite of the pandemic and all the protests against police brutality that took place last year. The data shows police shoot an average of almost 3 people per day, and usually about 1,000 people per year. As the article states:
Since Ferguson, departments across the country have taken steps toward reform, but these efforts have been inconsistent and incomplete. Most police departments still do not use body cameras. Experts in law enforcement and criminal justice say there have not been the large-scale policy or legal shifts that might reduce uses of force. And sending mental health teams in response to people in crisis, alongside or instead of armed officers, remains the exception.
The article goes on to say that racial disparities have been documented in police use-of-force, and that Black people are shot and killed at higher rates than White people.
Meanwhile, over at FiveThirtyEight, Samuel Sinyangwe, the founder of the Police Scorecard, says the data shows that cities that have reduced arrests for minor offenses saw fewer police shootings. Indeed:
Reported crime fell in jurisdictions that cut low-level arrests; in fact, it fell by just as much as those cities that made more low-level arrests. Consistent with recent research, cities that reduced low-level arrests did not experience an uptick in violent crime — or murder, specifically — compared to other cities during this period. Moreover, cities that made fewer arrests for low-level offenses did not see a substantial reduction in violent crime arrests, suggesting a more lenient approach to low-level offenses has not resulted in police being less responsive to serious public safety threats.
So much for the broken windows theory of policing. And there is still room for improvement. Sinyangwe says low-level arrests still made up 55 percent of all arrests reported in the nation’s largest cities, and 69 percent of all arrests nationwide, in 2019. It’s possible that further reducing these arrests might reduce the number of police shootings even more, while continuing the move away from criminalizing poverty, mental illness, and drug addiction.

SPD Asks for More Money for Staffing, Again

Mayor Durkan has proposed new legislation that would reinstate $15,000 hiring bonuses for lateral transfers into SPD from other cities, as well as $7,500 bonuses for new recruits to SPD, in addition to adding other incentives to boost hiring, such as mental health professionals for officers. The total legislative package comes in a bit over $15m, which would be accessed by lifting provisos and using SPD attrition salary savings. $1.54m is proposed for Triage One, a CSCC protocol dispatch system, and the Peacekeepers Collective (under the subheading “Community Safety Reinvestments”), with the remaining $13.75m being spent on various SPD budget adjustments including the hiring bonuses.
Because this legislation is being presented as being in response to the recent gun violence in Seattle, the Mayor has emphasized this legislation needs to be passed as soon as possible. CM Pedersen is on the record as saying he wants to vote for the legislation next week. If you don’t wish to see SPD’s budget grow or increased hiring of police officers beyond the current staffing plan in 2021, now would be a good time to write or call your CMs.

The Pink Umbrella Case Strikes Again

Back in May, SPD Chief Diaz raised eyebrows when he overturned the OPA’s decision to discipline Lieutenant John Brooks for the part he played during the Pink Umbrella Protest in the summer of 2020. After saying he had evidence the OPA didn’t have–a claim he later walked back–Chief Diaz eventually disciplined Captain Steve Hirjak for the incident instead by demoting him from Assistant Chief.
Well, now Captain Hirjak has filed a discrimination and retaliation claim against the City of Seattle. He argues that he has been treated unfairly because of his race, and points to errors made by white command staff that have not been disciplined, as well as promotions for Lieutenant John Brooks, among others. The Seattle Times discusses the letter accompanying Captain Hirjak’s claim, saying:
Those identified include Brooks, who received a de facto promotion and pay raise despite racking up 14 misconduct complaints during the protests; Assistant Chief Thomas Mahaffey, who hasn’t been disciplined for ordering officers to abandon the East Precinct; and Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette, who faced no consequences for failing “to gather and understand relevant intelligence” and leaving the department unprepared, according to the letter.
Following the lawsuit brought against the University of Washington by its Black campus police officers earlier this summer claiming unbearable racism, this continues to raise questions as to how minorities are treated when they join law enforcement.
The City and Chief Diaz have until August 11 to agree to mediation in this case; otherwise Captain Hirjak will most likely file a lawsuit.

Recent Headlines

What new WA police accountability laws do and don’t do | Crosscut

SPD Asks for More Money for Hiring Bonuses in 2021 Read More »

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.

Big Seattle City Council meeting on Tuesday June 1! Read More »

Chief Diaz’s reversal of the Pink Umbrella case decision continues to cause concern

Seattle: Participatory Budgeting News

 

CM Morales has said the partipatory budgeting program is now clearly delayed until next year. An updated agenda for the Community Economic Development meeting taking place tomorrow at 2pm was released this morning, re-introducing a participatory budgeting discussion as an agenda item, where we will hear from a NYC Councilmember as well as Sean Goode from Choose 180. You can read the related draft legislation lifting the PBP proviso here, which I believe is still being reviewed by the law department.
At the Council Briefing this morning, CM Morales said the plan is to give around $1m to the Office of Civil Rights to hire three people to issue an RFP to an outside administrator for the PBP process, as well as to provide various support functions. Kevin Schofield said on the Seattle News & Brews episode released today that the OCR is quite a small department budget-wise so this is huge for them, and CM Morales hasn’t been talking to the Office of Civil Rights to see if they want to do this work.
Nevertheless, CM Morales is pushing forward and said she hopes this proviso lift can be voted on during a special meeting of her committee on June 3, leading to a Full Council vote. Both tomorrow’s meeting at 2pm and the June 3rd meeting would be good times to plan to give public comment in support of this participatory budgeting process.
CM Herbold signaled she might be adding an amendment to the legislation to move the 911 call center and PEOs out of the SPD to allow the PEOs more time to resolve differences and figure out which department would be best suited as their new home.

Seattle Scandals

 

Controversy surrounds Chief Diaz’s recent decision to overturn the OPA finding regarding the pink umbrella case. At this morning’s Council Briefing, CM Herbold, the Chair of the Public Safety committee, spoke about her correspondence with the Chief over this matter, including the bombshell that there is new evidence that has surfaced that wasn’t in the OPA investigation. CM Herbold says she is holding her judgment until she finds out more about what happened up the chain of command, but CM Lewis asked some pointed questions about whether this new information had been turned over to the OPA and whether the Chief is taking it upon himself to continue this investigation or whether the OPA will be doing so, as well as concerns that norms aren’t being followed. You can find all the related emails of this exchange over at SCC Insight along with a summary of the issues involved.

The most caustic article yet has been published on the scandal involving the missing text messages of Mayor Durkan, former Chief Best, and Chief Scoggins, saying:
…the context suggests a coverup. These suspicions are bolstered by the fact that five members of senior command at the Seattle Police Department also deleted their text messages. That means the question of who ordered the abandonment of East Precinct hasn’t been definitively answered, with both Durkan and former Police Chief Carmen Best denying they gave the order. It’s possible a subordinate made the call independently as they claim, but without the text messages to confirm this story, it’s a very convenient explanation.

Meanwhile, in King County…

 

The South Seattle Emerald has started an excellent series of investigative journalism by Carolyn Bick on the pushback and internal pressure faced by former OLEO Director Jacobs, OLEO being the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight for King County. She appears to have faced a years-long campaign against her by the King County Sheriff’s Office and the King County Police Officer’s Guild. Here are a few key quotes:

They said that this culture of law enforcement pushback against civilian oversight and closing ranks had always been present but has grown much more pronounced under Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht. These same sources also said that the KCPOG had been particularly hostile towards Jacobs over a similar period of time.
The pressure and roadblocks Jacobs faced during her tenure aren’t unique to Jacobs and the KCSO, according to civilian law enforcement oversight experts who spoke with the Emerald. Even former Sheriff Urquhart, who sat down with the Emerald for an interview on May 10, 2021, agreed that Jacobs faced an internal campaign to oust her and said that “there’s something about a reformer … they just don’t last long here [in King County].
and
In other words, the new contract appears to prevent investigators from consulting or commissioning reports from any expert whose findings KCSO determines are critical of findings by an expert KCSO consulted in its original administrative investigation of a matter, such as a police shooting. The contract seems to block OLEO from including rebuttal experts in their investigative reports or testimony.
The entire article is worth a read and puts into clear relief why an elected sheriff can sometimes be unfortunate , leading to internal politicking and backstabbing and getting in the way of much-needed reform. In an interview with Publicola, King County Executive Dow Constantine says, “I think that the ability of the executive and the council to hire and fire the sheriff dramatically increases accountability. Having the sheriff be elected creates deep rifts within the sheriff’s office, it creates these political camps that continue to war long after the election is over. And that is profoundly unhealthy. So I think this is a real step forward.”
As a reminder, King County’s Sheriff is supposed to change over to a new appointed Sheriff (as opposed to an elected one) at the beginning of next year because of a measure that passed in last November’s general election.

Chief Diaz’s reversal of the Pink Umbrella case decision continues to cause concern Read More »

Seattle City Council Unlikely to Release SPD Provisos Just Yet

Seattle Public Safety and HSD Meeting

 

Let’s start with Tuesday’s Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, shall we? The meeting had two agenda items. The first, regarding moving the 911 call center and parking enforcement officers out of SPD and into the new Community Safety and Communications Center, had disagreement because the management of the PEOs believe they should instead be moved to SDOT, while the rank and file parking enforcement officers prefer a move to the new Center. The CMs passed the bill with a divided report, meaning its discussion and vote in full Council is delayed until May 24, in the hopes the two sides of the issue might reach some consensus by then.

The second agenda item was the substituted bill that originally was regarding a $5.4m cut to the SPD for overspending in 2020. It’s worth noting current estimates say there will be $13m of SPD salary savings due to attrition this year, and if attrition rates remain the same as they have been the first four months of the year, that figure could increase. However, after the Federal Monitor sent a letter to Council opposed to any cuts whatsoever, CM Herbold introduced an amendment she hoped would appease him and the Court, releasing a different SPD proviso of $2.5m regarding out-of-order layoffs to lay off SPD officers on the Brady list. The Council has determined that because of existing state law and current SPD hiring policies (they hire laid-off officers first and are currently hiring), out-of-order layoffs are not feasible at this time. This amendment passed with a 3-2 vote (Herbold, Lewis, and González yes, Morales and Sawant no) and was added to the bill.

The amended bill was brought to a vote, and CMs Morales, Sawant, and González all opposed it, although for slightly different reasons. The bill is moving to full Council on May 24 with a recommendation not to pass. If the bill doesn’t pass, the status quo would be maintained regarding the budget passed last November, and these provisos could be revisited later in the year.
For those keeping track, that means the full Council meeting on May 24 will include a vote on moving the 911 call center and PEOs to the Community Safety and Communications Center; a vote on whether to lift these $5.4m and $2.5m SPD provisos; and potentially the vote on releasing the participatory budgeting funds. It’s definitely a date to mark on your calendars!

Election News

 

Hacks & Wonks continues their electoral interview series with an interview with candidate for Seattle City Council, Position 9, Sara Nelson. In the interview, Nelson says she opposes the Jumpstart tax and wants to focus on jobs and helping struggling small businesses, but then was unaware that the Jumpstart recovery package includes $18m in small business recovery investments. When discussing public safety, she says, “Yeah. I think that we need to bring back the Crisis Intervention Team. Because – that – that, you know – I think his name was Derek – that was a situation that was tragic.” I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions here.
We also have yet another Seattle mayoral candidate, Art Langlie, whose main qualification for the job appears to be that his grandfather was once the governor of Washington. As the Seattle Times reports, “State Public Disclosure Commission filings show he has donated to incumbent Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, as well as the late Republican state Sen. Andy Hill of Redmond, and GOP candidate Jinyoung Englund, who lost a 2017 race for Hill’s seat.”
Finally, Publicola reported SPOG asked its members to participate in signature-gathering events for the Recall Sawant campaign last weekend. If we weren’t clear about whose interests are served by this campaign, this news might elucidate the issue.

Other News of Note

 

Campaign Zero and Tableau have released police department scorecards for municipal and county law enforcement offices across the country, based on the following data: “We submitted public records requests to local police departments and combined the data obtained from these departments with federal databases tracking crime, arrests, financial and personnel records from thousands of municipal and county governments.”
Of ranked Washington state counties, King County has the worst ranking at 36%. Seattle has the worst score of all ranked Washington state cities at 33%. A few key findings for Seattle: SPD has more police funding per capita than 89% of departments. 50% of all arrests made from 2013-19 were for low-level, non-violent offenses. A Black person was 5.7x as likely and a Latinx person was 2.2x as likely to be killed by police than a White person in Seattle from 2013-20. You can dig through the site to find further illuminating statistics.
Interested in some of the problems that have been plaguing implementation of Seattle’s participatory budgeting process? KUOW did an in-depth piece highlighting some of the issues:
The city employee said the issues currently surrounding participatory budgeting implementation aren’t unique.
“This is fundamentally a sort of a pattern that the city has engaged in when it comes to communities of color: not having viable conversations and putting the community in the space of being stuck between the mayor’s office and the council whenever there’s a conflict. And holding up resources that ought to be moving forward.”
Meanwhile, SPD Chief Diaz overturned the OPA’s decision about the pink umbrella protest clash of last summer, deciding not to discipline the officer in question. Unfortunately this decision is likely to continue to erode community trust in the police department and the accountability system that is currently in place.
The saga of Mayor Durkan’s missing text messages continues, as it has been revealed one of her phones was set to delete text messages after 30 days, the quickest delete setting possible.

Recent Headlines

 

King County Council delays vote on facial recognition ban | The Seattle Times

Seattle 911 response times climbed in summer 2020. Now, police and activists debate what comes next. | The Seattle Times

Seattle City Council Unlikely to Release SPD Provisos Just Yet Read More »