police accountability

Mayor Refuses to Acknowledge the Clear Roadmap of How Police Accountability Can be Improved in the SPOG Contract

Seattle News:

Mayor Bruce Harrell recently sat down for an interview with Cascade PBS and spoke at length about issues relating to public safety. The whole thing is worth a read, but I do want to call out one thing he implies, that people asking for more accountability in SPD aren’t being specific: “So rather than people saying nebulous claims that we want more accountability, tell me specifically.”

Police accountability advocates in Seattle have in fact been incredibly specific, even in the face of really technical issues that can be fairly opaque. For example, asking for the ability to implement the 2017 Accountability Ordinance is a very specific demand, and the details of what that would take have been laid out many times by many people and organizations. People Power Washington sent an incredibly detailed letter in 2022 laying out exactly what accountability improvements Seattle needs to make, a letter that has been circulated widely to the Mayor’s Office, last year’s City Council, this year’s City Council, and the OPA, among others. It is incredibly disingenuous for Harrell to say people are “saying nebulous claims” of wanting more accountability. There is nothing nebulous about what people are asking for.

Speaking of Mayor Harrell, his office announced a shakeup of staff this week. Budget Director Julie Dingley has resigned and her last day will be Friday, May 17. As a reminder, the Mayor usually presents the proposed budget the last week of September, so this is interesting timing for the resignation of the person in charge of preparing said proposed budget, particularly considering the looming $241 million budget deficit. 

A new hire is Natalie Walton-Anderson as the Mayor’s new director of public safety. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Walton-Anderson recently left her job at the City Attorney’s Office as the Criminal Division Chief. During her time at the City Attorney’s Office, she wrote the infamous memo laying out the office’s new policy of filing an affidavit of prejudice on Seattle Municipal Court Judge Pooja Vaddadi for all criminal cases. She announced her departure soon after the mistrial of the Stop the Sweeps protester who was tried for attempting to stop the police from moving an RV while its owner obtained a spare tire in order to move it herself. 

PubliCola reported: “Walton-Anderson was known for aggressively filing charges in drug-related cases that would ordinarily get channeled into the city’s pre-booking diversion program, LEAD, and Davison credited her with instituting the “high-utilizer initiative,” which targets people accused of multiple misdemeanor offenses for more punitive approaches than other defendants.”

And on the accountability front, the new SPOG contract, which will only cover from 2021-2023, will receive its final Council vote at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 14 at 2pm, skipping a committee hearing. Per the Central Staff memo, the contract will cost the city $96 million this year, and will add around $40 million per year to the SPD budget starting in 2025. As has been previously reported, the city has negotiated for very few accountability improvements in exchange. If you would like to email your councilmembers or prepare a public comment, there is more information here.

The Governance, Accountability, and Economic Development committee met on Thursday and voted unanimously to pass the SPD officer recruitment bill out of committee. It will likely receive a full Council vote on May 21. A few amendments were added, including one walked on by Councilmember Rob Saka and written by Councilmember Tammy Morales (who does not sit on this committee) that will require more reporting from SPD on how they’re doing with the 30×30 initiative that has to do with hiring women officers. This is in the wake of several women officers coming forward in the last six months alleging sexual discrimination and harassment.

Meanwhile, the Council has been signaling for some months its interest in finding another jail with which to contract due to the King County Jail’s booking restrictions for low-level non-violent misdemeanor crimes, including possibly the SCORE jail in Des Moines. Not only did the SCORE jail experience a large number of inmate deaths last year, but it is inconvenient for public defenders, and doesn’t provide the same access to basic things like video calls that work, privacy for an attorney to speak with their client, and ability to get people to their court appearances. 

The Stranger reported that the King County Public Defender’s union SEIU 925 said if Seattle uses SCORE, it could obstruct defendants’ constitutional right to an attorney. It could also extend case times. The Stranger continued in its usual trenchant fashion:

Sending someone to SCORE for a crime such as criminal trespass—which could mean that an unhoused person tried one too many times to use the bathroom at a grocery store—also seems like a waste of resources. SPD officers would have to drive that person about 16 miles to Des Moines, book them into SCORE, then drive 16 miles back, not to mention all the changes Seattle Municipal Court would need to make, either transporting more defendants or setting up video only appearances for people in jail. All that, so SPD could focus less on crimes with a real public safety risk, and instead boost officers “morale” by throwing people in jail for low-level crimes.”

This week Mayor Harrell announced the organizations who will receive $7 million in capital funds for facility improvements to provide post-overdose care, opioid medication delivery, and case management services. The Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) will receive $5.65 million, and Evergreen Treatment Center will receive $1.35 million, subject to federal approval. DESC will operate a post-overdose stabilization center on Third Avenue, with renovations to begin by quarter 1 of 2025. They will pilot services from their Crisis Solutions Center in the CID starting in June. Evergreen Treatment Center will launch a new mobile clinic this summer.

It is the end of filing week! I sat down for an interview with Alexis Mercedes Rinck, who is running for the City Council at-large seat this November. It also seems that Shaun Scott, who is running to be a state representative for the 43rd LD position 2, now has a challenger in Andrea Suarez, the founder of We Heart Seattle. Suarez first filed for position 1 in the 43rd LD against Nicole Macri, but it turned out she accidentally filed for the wrong position.

Recent Headlines:

 

Mayor Refuses to Acknowledge the Clear Roadmap of How Police Accountability Can be Improved in the SPOG Contract Read More »

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

Seattle Turns Cops Into Abortion Protectors - The Stranger

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