police accountability

Seattle’s Dual Dispatch Pilot Doesn’t Sound Like a True Alternative Response to Behavioral Crisis

Seattle News:

Last week the City Council voted 6-3 to pass the drug ordinance that criminalizes simple drug possession and public drug use. CMs Morales, Mosqueda, and Sawant voted against.

The Stranger published a powerful op-ed on #JusticeforJaahnavi

The truth is, our communities have been creating safety with each other outside of policing for a very long time. Getting people housed, helping people into well-paying jobs, increasing access to child care, delivering healthy food and good schools–these are all ways that communities create safety. The “safest” communities are never the ones with the most police, they are the ones with the most resources.  

For those less familiar with the vagaries of police accountability, Ashley Nerbovig writes about how Officer Auderer is unlikely to be fired for laughing at Jaahnavi Kandula’s death.

Meanwhile, SPD is already embroiled in another scandal, with audio being uncovered of an SPD officer, Officer Burton Hill, using racist slurs and sexist language towards his neighbor, an Asian school bus driver. He also threatened her with jail. Chief Diaz has put Officer Hill on paid administrative leave pending the investigation. This is yet another piece of evidence showing the racist and toxic culture of SPD. If you’re wondering why the officer gets paid while on leave, you need look no further than the SPOG contract.

Mayor Harrell had a press conference last Thursday on the CARE department, the new third public safety department replacing the CSCC, which will be led by Amy Smith. The new department will consist of three divisions: emergency call takers and dispatchers, behavioral health responders, and community violence intervention specialists. 

Mayor Harrell is proposing CARE’s budget increase by 30% in 2024’s budget, up to $26.5 million. 

The dual dispatch pilot will launch in October, and it will require officers to arrive at the scene at the same time as the behavioral health responder teams, which is very different than the programs in, say, Denver or Eugene, both of which the Mayor cited as models but which handle the vast majority of calls solely with behavioral health responders. Proponents of alternate 911 response who wanted to see reduced contact of communities with police will be sorely disappointed. 

It sounds as if the pilot will mainly be responding to person down calls and so-called “paper calls” that include things like parking issues and noise complaints. When asked why the behavioral health response teams weren’t going to be dispatched to behavioral health-related calls, Chief Diaz remarked that some person down calls do have a behavioral health component, skillfully dodging the question. But from all we’ve learned thus far, this pilot doesn’t sound like a true alternate mental health response. 

When Erica Barnett asked Mayor Harrell if he could give a preview of his proposed 2024 budget relating to diversion and drug treatment programs, given the recent passage of the drug criminalization law that he supported, he was either unable or unwilling to do so, in spite of the fact this new law and the lack of investment details around it have been front and center in the public discourse for weeks. His exact words? “I don’t have a great answer.”

But we’ll get an actual answer when he introduces his proposed 2024 budget tomorrow. That’s right, budget season is upon us! The Mayor will be giving his budget speech at 12:30pm tomorrow. The first opportunity for public comment will be at 9:30am this Wednesday, September 27, after which the Council will have their first meeting reviewing the proposed budget. After that, expect a slight lull as everyone scrambles to analyze the budget proposal and consider what changes to it they might want to see. 

King County News:

Last week the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD) announced they were ending their contract with SCORE that the King County Council passed in a controversial vote this spring. The contract only began in June and has already been deemed a failure because the number of inmates eligible to transfer to SCORE wasn’t enough to make a dent in the crowding at the King County jail. There have also been four deaths at SCORE since the beginning of the year, an absurdly high number. 

Unfortunately the issues with the King County jail continue, and the failed SCORE contract has meant a delay in addressing them in other ways. The DAJD has now said they plan to reopen bookings at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent on October 2. One can only assume booking restrictions at the King County jail will need to remain strictly enforced, in spite of the new Seattle drug law on the books.

Recent Headlines:

Seattle’s Dual Dispatch Pilot Doesn’t Sound Like a True Alternative Response to Behavioral Crisis Read More »

Seattle’s Accountability Bodies Continue to Struggle; also, MAPS!

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Welcome to this morning’s Seattle Public Safety committee meeting. I’ll be tweeting some highlights as it goes. First is a violence prevention presentation from King County Public Health.
At last week’s Seattle Public Safety committee meeting, there was a presentation on violence prevention from King County Public Health as well as presentations on the mid-year reports from Seattle’s three police oversight bodies: the Community Police Commission (CPC), the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). You can find links to the CPC, OPA, and OIG reports here. The OIG announced they will be changing how they deal with reviewing “contact logs,” an issue recently reported on by Carolyn Bick.
While the accountability reports were all relatively upbeat in tone, it is impossible to ignore that at least two of the three agencies are struggling due to staff shortages. The CPC has had trouble getting quorum for their meetings in recent months, while the OPA is moving to using abbreviated DCMs for unsustained cases for the months of June through October of this year because they are so understaffed. The new proposed Director of the OPA, Gino Betts, will appear before the Public Safety committee next week on August 9th.
In related news, Real Change and The South Seattle Emerald published an editorial calling for heightened police accountability and transparency in Seattle. Following up in Real Change, Guy Oron wrote more about the poor publicity surrounding the OPA Director public forum in June and how it appears that lack of publicity was intentional. Full disclosure, my own tweets and the statement of People Power Washington, of which I am the Co-Chair of the Seattle committee, appear in this article. Meanwhile, Carolyn Bick tweeted about the OIG auditor investigation report (if you recall, this was regarding the auditor who appeared to be certifying OPA reports without actually looking at the related documentation). In the above linked thread, they break down the report and discuss its many findings, showing that all three accountability agencies appear to be struggling.
The Seattle Redistricting Map retreat is taking place today from 5-9pm, after the commissioners all recently released proposed maps. If they can agree on a map today, then the first public forum feedback meeting will be held on August 9 from 12-2pm (Zoom link here), to be followed by two additional public forums TBA. The Seattle district maps only get redrawn once a decade so this is an important opportunity to weigh in to prioritize people and communities, especially traditionally underrepresented communities. One way you can get involved is by supporting the Redistricting Justice For Washington Coalition and their vision for what they’d like to see in the new Seattle map. Individuals can sign onto their petition here and you can also send an email in support of the coalition’s map to the commissioners by using this template. The final map will be approved and filed in November.
Finally, in a divided decision, the Washington State Public Employee Relations Commission reversed a decision that allowed the University of Washington to have unarmed responders patrol their dorms instead of armed campus police. This means armed campus police will be returning to the dorms. This decision also has troubling implications for the struggle to divert from police armed response to civilian unarmed response elsewhere, including in the City of Seattle.

Washington State News

Today is primary day! As the results roll in tonight and in following days, expect to be inundated with analysis and November election predictions.
Kevin Schofield wrote about the Crime in Washington 2021 Annual Report in The South Seattle Emerald and gives some good examples of how data can be manipulated with misleading graphics and can be subjected to weak analysis. One interesting fact he gleaned from the report:
The statewide aggregate arrest data shows clear, ongoing racial disparities. Less so for white people: Statewide, about 78% of the population is white, and in most categories of arrests, the percentage of white people is near that figure (excepting extortion, bribery, and liquor law violations). But for Black persons, only 4.3% of the state population, the disparity continues to be large: 33% of arrests for robbery; 22.5% of prostitution arrests; 21% of aggravated assaults; 20.9% of arrests for intimidation; and 15.9% of weapons law violations.

Recent Headlines

Seattle mayor orders plan for stalled sexual assault investigations as advocates demand deadline | The Seattle Times

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Seattle’s Accountability Bodies Continue to Struggle; also, MAPS! Read More »