police not effective at solving crime

The Fight Over a Seattle Alternative Response Pilot Continues

Seattle News

Yesterday morning Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee received their long-awaited update from the Mayor’s Office regarding the development of alternative responses in Seattle.

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. CM Mosqueda is excused from this meeting.
And the news, while not surprising, was not good. The Mayor’s Office continues to drag their feet on standing up any kind of pilot for alternative response like other similar cities have already done. Indeed, other cities’ alternative response have had time to launch pilots and begin to scale up their programs in the time it has taken Seattle to…string together a lot of empty words. The Mayor’s Office said they expect SPD’s risk management report any day now, and promised to share it with City Council very quickly…which turned out to mean in August, at least a full month after its expected receipt. CM Herbold asked for this to happen at the end of July instead.
Both CM Herbold and CM Lewis pushed multiple times for more urgency in this work, although their arguments seemed to have little visible impact on Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell and Director of Public Safety Andrew Myerberg. The white paper regarding standing up a third public safety department was once again referenced as being expected “by the end of the year”, with no apparent plans for any pilot program in the meantime. CM Lewis said he’d had a pilot priced out, and it would only cost $700k-$1m, which is a drop in the bucket of Seattle’s overall budget.
Council members also pushed for CSOs (Community Service Officers) to potentially be given the task of answering certain low-acuity 911 calls, at which point we learned the hiring pipeline for CSOs is apparently having difficulty. CM Lewis cautioned against giving the CSOs work that didn’t fit with their “culture” of being a police auxiliary, but CM Herbold shared the news that this culture has shifted since last year, and there is now more diversity of opinion within the CSO unit as to what their duties should entail and perhaps even where they might best be housed. Moving the CSOs out of SPD so they are able to develop their own culture separate from SPD matches more closely to what many advocates have been asking for when it comes to alternative response.
Meanwhile, while the Mayor’s Office has promised to work together with City Council’s Central Staff on these issues, it came out that the interdepartmental team (IDT) that would include Central Staff hasn’t been active, and they’re still working to put meeting dates on the calendar. You can read more about all these issues from Will Casey at The Stranger.
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The meeting also featured a presentation on the new 988 behavioral crisis system, which launches on July 16. It is being handled by King County Behavioral Health and Crisis Connections, with opportunities for partnership with Seattle. They have a three step plan for implementing the 988 vision: first, making sure the state hotline is fielding 90% of calls by next year; next, that 80% have access to a rapid crisis response by 2025; and lastly that 80% have access to community-based crisis care by 2027. There has been some money allocated to help make this happen. However, the mobile crisis team, while in the process of being doubled, is still quite small, and one of the biggest identified gaps in the system right now is the lack of enough mental health crisis facilities, so this development of a continuum of behavioral health supports is going to take time.
Meanwhile, Initiative 135 for social housing collected enough signatures to go onto November’s ballot…hopefully. They need 26,500 signatures and were able to collect 29,000, which doesn’t give much buffer should some of those signatures prove to be invalid. Cross fingers! Unfortunately Washington State Initiative Measure No. 1922, which would have decriminalized personal drug possession and provided funding for additional prevention, treatment, and recovery services, did not collect enough signatures to make the ballot this year.
Finally, Publicola‘s Erica Barnett published an article with a gem of a headline this week: Times Columnist Wants Seattle to Have So Many Cops, They’ll Rush Across Town to Arrest IPhone Thieves.

Nationwide News

CBS released a news story this week that everyone is talking about. They reviewed US murder clearance rate statistics from the FBI and found that the rate for 2020 was at around 50%, its lowest rate in more than fifty years. Murders involving Black and Hispanic victims were much less likely to be solved than those involving white victims during this time. While the usual culprits of not enough police staffing and backlogged courts are blamed for this low rate, CBS’s story says that “police are also contending with a breakdown in trust between their officers and the communities they serve, a result of decades of tensions that spilled over during high-profile cases of police misconduct in recent years.”

Recent Headlines

The Bright Side of SPD's Staffing Shortage - The Stranger

Seattle Might Soon Defund a Promising Police Alternative - The Stranger

The King County Jail knew these bunks were a suicide risk. And still, more people died | The Seattle Times

Seattle police officers won’t march in Pride Parade, frustrated chief says | The Seattle Times

The Fight Over a Seattle Alternative Response Pilot Continues Read More »

Final Vote on the SPMA Contract Tomorrow

SPMA Contract

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

Seattle News

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

Recent Headlines

New Hope for People with a Criminal Record in Washington - The Stranger

Uvalde Shooting: A Case for Defunding the Police and Disarming Teens | Teen Vogue

Prison Reform Is Undermining Public Health and Safety | Time

Final Vote on the SPMA Contract Tomorrow Read More »