policing bias

Court Ruling Yet Another Example of SPD’s Racial Bias in Action

Personal News:

We’ll dive into the news of the week in just a moment, but I did want to take the opportunity to mention I had a book come out last week! I was supposed to write about it in last week’s newsletter, but I was so distracted by learning that the new drug criminalization legislation was almost exactly the same as the previous version that I forgot to include it.

Book cover of TO TRAVEL THE STARS with a couple dancing in close embrace with a starry space background

TO TRAVEL THE STARS is a Young Adult science fiction novel that is a retelling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE in space. If that sounds appealing either to yourself or a teenager in your life, I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy.

Seattle News:

The Seattle Times reports: “A federal judge has found evidence Seattle police stopped and detained a Black delivery driver at gunpoint because of his race, then illegally searched his trunk in a 2020 incident detailed in a civil rights lawsuit now headed for trial.” Incidentally, SPD doesn’t have a policy for what is known as a “high-risk vehicle stop” as took place in this incident, and when the OPA suggested SPD develop one, Chief Diaz refused. This ruling means the City has been found liable for the illegal search, and the trial would determine the amount of damages owed.

Captain Brown, one of the officers named in the case and the new acting commander of the South Precinct, recently wrote a letter of his expectations to his officers and supervisors. Erica C. Barnett at Publicola reported that this letter “included an exhortation to “take care of our own” by handling “minor misconduct” internally, rather than reporting it to the Office of Police Accountability. The letter also said officers should view themselves as forces of “good” whose job is to “intervene and stop evil” in the world.” When questioned about the letter, Brown said he didn’t intend to disparage the OPA. 

Brown has been the subject of 14 complaints since 2015. The OPA investigated the case involving the Black delivery driver detailed above and dismissed the racial bias complaint against Brown as unfounded, a decision the federal judge obviously disagreed with. This discrepancy between the OPA’s findings and the Judge’s ruling is another blow to the legitimacy of Seattle’s accountability system.

Seattle’s three accountability bodies all sent representatives to the joint Public Safety and Human Services committee and the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) public hearing on Tuesday night about expectations around a new Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) contract. The purpose of the meeting is for the LRPC to consider the public’s input before establishing bargaining parameters. The old SPMA contract expires at the end of this year, and a public hearing must be held at least 90 days before the City and the SPMA enter negotiations.

The public meeting was sparsely attended, with many commenters noting the insufficient amount of notice they received that the meeting was taking place and one commenter suggesting the hearing was “performative and pointless.” The Community Police Commission (CPC) had a few requests for the Council to consider, including details around the 180-day clock for OPA investigations, how long and in what situations personnel files should be preserved, and reform to secondary employment of officers, while also noting their concern about the biased culture prevalent within SPD. 

Still centered in conversation was the 2017 police accountability ordinance that has never been fully implemented due to conflicts with the SPMA and SPOG contracts. Unfortunately this failure has sometimes meant a continued focus over the past several years on trying to implement this ordinance instead of pushing for greater gains or other ways in which public safety in Seattle might become more equitable.

There will be a special meeting of the Public Safety and Human Services committee on Monday, August 14th at 2pm to discuss the new drug criminalization legislation. Now is the perfect time to email your councilmembers or plan to give public comment. I’ve already written at length about some of the problems with this legislation the last time it was introduced in early June. BJ Last has a new op-ed in The Stranger about some of the budgetary concerns with this bill.

The bill won’t be voted on in Full Council until sometime in September after the City Council’s two-week summer recess from August 21 to September 4.

The Revenue Stabilization Workgroup has issued a final report on options for further City revenue and will be delivering a presentation on Thursday, August 10th to the Finance and Housing committee. Among the options identified for revenue are increasing the Jumpstart payroll tax, instituting a city-level capital gains tax, and instituting a high CEO pay ratio tax. 

I particularly recommend you check out the Transit Riders Union’s Revenue Options Report, which outlines 26 different revenue options and how to make them more progressive. For example, the City could institute a flat 1% income tax, which would not be inherently progressive, but by pairing this tax with tax credits, rebates, or a basic income program, it could be made more progressive.

The mid-year supplemental budget passed out of Full Council yesterday. The package includes $1 million to expand opioid addiction treatment in Pioneer Square and $1.6 million to the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC) to hire new staff for their dual dispatch pilot.

A state appeals court issued a stay that will allow Seattle to continue its practice of no-notice sweeps–for now.

The Public Safety and Human Services committee met this week and heard reports from the Seattle Community Safety Initiative (SCSI) and the King County Regional Approach to Gun Violence. The Regional Peacekeepers Collective (RPCK) is expanding into Skyway, as well as adding service hubs in Kent and Burien.

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75% Approval of Unarmed Emergency Response in Seattle

Seattle News:

The Seattle Times printed the results of an interesting poll they conducted with Suffolk University. It was conducted by phone, so adjust your opinions about it accordingly.

First of interest is that 75% of respondents support shifting emergency calls away from police to workers who aren’t armed. Only 18% oppose this change. This is a huge majority, reflecting how popular the idea of alternate response has become while underscoring the absurdity that Seattle continues to only pursue dual dispatch.

The other response I found interesting was that 61% of responders said the statement “The Seattle police generally do a good job and treat people of different races fairly, even if there are a few bad apples on the force” comes closer to their views than the opposite. This shows a key area ripe for further political education, as recent data from SPD itself shows 1 out of 20 of its Terry stops are unconstitutional, 1 out of 7 of its frisks are unconstitutional, and Black and Indigenous people are 5-7 times as likely to be stopped as white people. Meanwhile, the idea that any problem with American policing is because of “a few bad apples” has been repeatedly challenged; a few examples are here, here, and here.

Meanwhile, command staff at SPD has been undergoing changes, with a new deputy chief role and a “Relational Policing Innovation Team.” Two assistant chiefs who had applied for the Police Chief job were demoted to captain. Going forward there will be five bureaus instead of six. And perhaps of most interest, a new Chief of Staff position was added for former TV news anchor Jamie Tompkins who started at SPD just a few months ago as head of Communications: your tax dollars hard at work.

And there’s a little election scandal in the ongoing City Council races: 26 out of 40 ARTS staff wrote a letter complaining about the leadership shown by Maritza Rivera–who is running for the open seat in D4–and her boss, royal alley-barnes. The letter complained that leadership “disregarded City policies, created a toxic work environment, and hindered staff’s ability to do its work and deliver for the community.” Rivera has denied the letter’s claims, but several workers have “recalled a pattern of defensive, hostile, and condescending interactions with Rivera” and the department had (and continues to have) a high rate of turnover. Half the people who had left at the time of the letter were people of color.

Recent Headlines:

 

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