PSCSC

SPD Expects More Separations than Hires for Another Year, in Spite of Huge Raises

Seattle News:

First off, my piece on gun violence, student mental health, and the debate on whether student resource officers should return to Seattle schools was published in The Urbanist this week. The Seattle Times also ran an interesting piece reviewing ideas for improving safety in schools.

Last Friday Councilmember Cathy Moore asked interim SPD Chief Sue Rahr to place two members of SPD command staff currently under criminal investigation on leave: Assistant Chief Tyrone Davis and Deputy Chief Eric Barden. Davis is under investigation for alleged sexual assault and Barden is under investigation for alleged domestic violence. As King 5 reported: “Multiple law enforcement experts who spoke with KING 5 called it unusual for an officer under criminal investigation not to be placed on leave.” However, Rahr has said she hasn’t seen substantiated evidence to justify placing either man on leave at this time.

SPD has announced it will end the year with a net loss of officers once again. So far this year, SPD has experienced 40 departures and hired 15 new officers. Their revised projection says there will be 918 deployable officers at the end of 2024. 

Harrell’s office released an interesting statement to KOMO regarding this news: “It is incredibly disappointing that the PSCSC concluded that [the] Public Safety Test (PST) is not a valid exam option for the City of Seattle and did not complete an independent validation study to determine if another entry-level exam would meet our needs and maintain high standards. The PSCSC report indicates that PST declined to participate in their review, yet the PSCSC report also concludes that the PST test is flawed despite this information gap and despite PST expressing interest in partnering with Seattle. We reject PSCSC’s unsubstantiated conclusions.”

This statement appears to exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of the report PSCSC released last week, which stated that PST asked not to be considered as a testing vendor for Seattle. Furthermore, the PST did participate in some preliminary parts of the review.. And the reasons why the PSCSC recommends against the PST test are clear-cut: a different custom PST test would have to be developed for SPD specifically, which would mean officer candidates would still not be able to submit the results of the same PST they would be taking for smaller jurisdictions. In addition, there are significant legal difficulties with Seattle offering two different tests with such different pass rates. 

That being said, Public Safety Chair Bob Kettle is also upset about the PSCSC report, beginning this week’s public safety committee meeting with remarks about “misleading media reports” regarding the council’s attempts to replace the current police entrance exam with a different exam with a higher pass rate. As reported by PubliCola, “Kettle said he liked the idea of ranking applicants by their test scores and hiring only highly ranked applicants, but added that the city no longer has that luxury because the previous council drove down police applications.”

PubliCola goes on to point out the lower staffing at police departments is a nationwide trend. The Seattle community needs to consider whether we are willing to significantly lower standards for police officers because of this trend.

At the public safety committee meeting this week, councilmembers also discussed Seattle waterways safety and City Attorney Ann Davison’s proposed legislation instituting a $500 fine for street racing.

In legal news, Auburn officer Jeffrey Nelson was found guilty of murder and assault for shooting Jesse Sarey. He is the first police officer in Washington state to be found guilty of murder for on-duty actions. And the city of Seattle must pay $680,000 to four people arrested for writing chalk graffiti onto temporary concrete barricades outside SPD’s Western Precinct. As PubliCola reported:

 ““Based on the evidence presented at trial, the jury found the defendants arrested and booked the plaintiffs because of the content or viewpoint of their speech,” an attorney for the four plaintiffs, Braden Pence, said in a statement. “We hope this verdict will be a warning and a lesson to police officers and other government officials across the country who violate the First Amendment—that they are and will be held accountable when they arrest and jail people for protected speech.””

On Wednesday, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the CARE pilot program of dual dispatch alternative response will expand, with plans to hire 18 new responders and 3 supervisors. This expansion is being partially paid for by a federal grant. More on this soon. 

Erica C. Barnett of PubliCola wrote about how the new council hasn’t passed a single substantial piece of legislation since taking office at the beginning of January. 

King County and Washington State News:

King County’s Law and Justice committee met on Wednesday to discuss Councilmember Reagan Dunn’s motion declaring the King County Council’s intention to maintain operations at the county’s youth jail. Councilmember Jorge Barón proposed a striking amendment that states the King County Council intends to maintain operations of the youth jail until viable alternatives become operational, supports priorities that emerged from the Care & Closure work, and supports continued engagement with Executive Dow Constantine around this work. 

The committee didn’t have three votes to move anything forward. Councilmember Dunn opposed the motion to table, but Councilmember Claudia Balducci said it was important to be deliberate. Councilmembers Balducci, Barón, and Dembowski voted to table this discussion until the next meeting. 

Also at the meeting, the Office of Law Enforcement (OLEO) presented on their 2023 annual report.

After being rolled out almost two years ago, Washington State’s 988 is answering 91% of calls received. This is slightly better than the national average of 88%.

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SPD Expects More Separations than Hires for Another Year, in Spite of Huge Raises Read More »

Seattle City Council Pushed for Easier Police Officer Entrance Exam that the Company Doesn’t Even Want to Provide

Seattle News:

Seattle City Council voted to pass the expansion of license plate readers (ALPRs). Currently installed in 11 of SPD’s vehicles, the expansion will lead to 360 of SPD’s vehicles having ALPRs. This vote took place in spite of the fact that 3 of the 9 councilmembers were not present at the meeting. Councilmember Cathy Moore asked for a delay of the vote but received no support from her colleagues. It sounds like she intends to abandon her legislation limiting data retention to 48 hours due to the opposition for this data security  measure from the majority of the Council. 

In spite of a few amendments, and without a 48-hour retention limitation, privacy concerns with this expansion still abound, especially for those seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare and undocumented immigrants. At the council meeting, Councilmember Bob Kettle apparently stated that folks are not coming to Washington State for abortions, a statement that is patently untrue.

The Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) released their report on police officer entrance exams this week. The recommendation about the test remains the same, that Seattle should continue to use the NTN test as opposed to the PST test (that has a significantly higher pass rate). Of particular note, PST asked to not be considered as a testing vendor for Seattle. 

It is also clear that even if PST was willing to work with Seattle (which they are not), their standard test used by smaller agencies in the region would be inappropriate for SPD, and a new test would need to be developed. This would mean that law enforcement applicants would still have to take a separate test to be considered as an SPD officer, which defeats the stated purpose for switching tests. There are also significant legal difficulties involved with Seattle offering both the NTN and PST tests, which would prevent candidates from being ranked equitably and fairly based on their test results, especially given the large difference in pass rate between the tests (NTN has a 73% pass rate while PST has a 90% pass rate). 

Why the City Council spent so much time pushing for a test that the provider doesn’t even want to provide is an interesting question, particularly given the glaring problems with SPD’s backgrounding process that have come to light over the past several months due to the case of Officer Kevin Dave. PubliCola has now reported that Dave, who struck and killed Jaahnavi Kandula last year, did not have a valid Washington State driver’s license at the time of the collision. 

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison announced legislation that would bring Seattle into line with new state law around the definition of street racing. However, her legislation would also institute a $500 fine, which is not required by state law. This legislation will be discussed at the public safety committee meeting this coming Tuesday.

Deputy central staff director Aly Pennucci will be leaving the city after 11 years, to become one of two deputy county executives in Whatcom County. Following Julie Dingley’s departure as director of the city’s budget office, this feels like a painful brain drain before the city has to grapple with the 2025 budget deficit. Readers will remember that Esther Handy was also removed earlier this year from her position as head of Central Staff.

PubliCola reported on the hiring of a new head of the Council’s communications office, Brad Harwood, who has an interesting political past, including being quoted as a spokesperson for the state Republican party.

Former Senior Deputy Mayor (and niece to Mayor Bruce Harrell) Monisha Harrell was pulled over for a traffic stop on Sunday, June 16 that she called “frightening”, because of her car having a license plate cover:

“Harrell, who is Black, said the stop was a clear example of the kind of racial profiling the Seattle Police Department pledged to reduce in 2022, when the department adopted a new policy barring police stops for some minor violations, including missing registration stickers and obscured license tabs.

“Despite the gestures SPD has made toward ending racial profiling, Harrell said, it seems like nothing has changed. “We just went through this whole [process of asking], can we do things to minimize unnecessary stops … because it increases the rate of violence between people and law enforcement,” she said. “Sandra Bland,” the Texas woman who died in a jail cell in 2015 after police pulled her over for a minor traffic violation, “was not that long ago. … I get ‘two steps forward, one step back,’ but I cannot explain to you how far back this goes.””

Data collected by SPD themselves shows they continue to struggle with racial disparity in their stops and frisks, with Black and Indigenous community members five times to seven times more likely to get stopped and six times to seven times more likely to be frisked than White community members. 1 out of every 20 Terry stops conducted by SPD is unconstitutional.  

Former SPD Chief Adrian Diaz came out as gay this week in an interview with conservative talk show host Jason Rantz. He appears to be using this news as a defense against allegations against him of sexual harassment, discrimination, and creating a hostile work environment for Black and women officers. He is also now up for a job as Chief of Police in Austin, Texas.

But as PubliCola reported this week, “several current and former Seattle Police Department officers say Diaz established a “dictatorship” at the department in which officers who speak out against the chief and an inner circle of leadership have been demoted or subject to retaliatory investigations.” It is important to note that this behavior, in addition to the previously stated allegations, is not impossible just because a person is gay.

After the recent shooting and death of a student at Garfield High School, there are discussions about whether school resources officers (SROs) should be put back into Seattle schools. One parent wrote an op-ed in The Stranger about the poor experience her son had with Garfield’s SRO back before they were removed from schools in 2020.

Jail News:

Another person in custody at the SCORE jail in Des Moines died on May 9, PubliCola reported. This is the 6th death since March 2023 and the second death in the last two months. This is a very high rate of deaths for a jail, and particularly concerning given ongoing discussions in Seattle to contract with SCORE.

Crosscut reported on the “grim conditions” at the Patricia H. Clark Children & Family Justice Center–the King County youth jail. Staffing shortages there continue to impact youths’ access to programming, including educational programs and enrichment sessions. Youth go long periods without visitors (including attorneys) and are worried about the quality of their drinking water. As I reported in February, this youth jail was originally slated to be closed by 2025, but Executive Dow Constantine has since walked back this commitment, saying it will now be closed by 2028 at the earliest. 

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Seattle Homicides Down in 2024 in Spite of SPD Staffing “Crisis”

Seattle News:

PubliCola broke the news this weekend that SPD knew while he was still in training that Officer Kevin Dave, the officer who killed Jaahnavi Kandula last year, had a “checkered history” at the Tucson Police Department, which fired him in 2013. As a lateral hire, Dave received one of the controversial $7500 hiring bonuses from Seattle. His history in Tucson included a possible drunk driving incident and a “preventable collision,” and he was the subject of five other investigations in his 18 months there, including one for violating general standards of conduct. 

As of the end of March, homicides have decreased in Seattle by 36%, Axios has reported. In hard numbers, there were 9 homicides in the first three months of this year that took place in Seattle, as compared to 14 that took place during the same period last year. And Axios further reported that “Detective Brian Pritchard, a spokesperson for the Seattle Police Department, told Axios that as of April 9, there have been 12 homicides in the city this year, compared to 19 in the same period in 2023.” Axios also said “at this pace, the homicide rate in the U.S. could match its level in 2014, when many cities saw 30-year lows in violent crime and homicides.”

This backs up local journalist Guy Oron’s numbers finding that SPD staffing and crime rates don’t correlate at all.

Mayor Bruce Harrell has announced he has submitted emergency legislation to amend Seattle’s Fire Code and allow the fire department to order and execute demolition of vacant buildings that present a fire hazard. There were 130 fires in vacant buildings in Seattle last year. The legislation will be co-sponsored by CM Bob Kettle and CM Tammy Morales and will go through the public safety committee.

City Attorney Ann Davison has hired Fred C. Wist II to fill the Criminal Division Chief position. Wist comes from the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, where as PubliCola reported, he came under fire for investigating a special drugs investigations unit, several members of whom later sued him, another deputy prosecutor, and several sheriff’s department officials. Wist uses a sheriff’s badge with a “thin blue line” mourning band as his profile picture on Facebook.

The Criminal Division Chief at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office was previously held by Natalie Walton-Anderson, who notably wrote the memo outlining the strategy for the office to file affidavits of prejudice in all criminal cases against Seattle Municipal Court Judge Pooja Vaddadi. Walton-Anderson resigned soon after the hung jury in the case the office brought to trial against a Stop the Sweeps protester. 

Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) Director Andrea Scheele attended a Community Police Commission (CPC) meeting this week, where she pushed back against several assertions made by Council President Sara Nelson. She said Seattle using the NTN test instead of the PST test in the past has never been a deterrent for applicants, that the PSCSC already has regular contact with applicants as soon as they apply, and that customizing the PST test would not take 8 weeks as Council President Nelson suggested but more likely 6-12 months. 

The CPC will be holding a community meeting on Tuesday, April 23 from 5:30-7:45pm at Van Asselt Community Center on 2820 S Myrtle to discuss the recent proposed SPOG contract in a “guided conversation.” And there will be light snacks!

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Council President Nelson Pushes Back Against Experts’ Opinions

Seattle News:

At this week’s Governance, Accountability, and Economic Development Committee meeting, Council President Sara Nelson hosted a discussion on draft legislation of an “SPD Recruitment Ordinance.” The ordinance as currently drafted would do the following: 

  • make permanent an SPD recruitment and retention program, moving 3 positions created by a previous ordinance for a recruitment manager and two recruiters into SPD
  • encourage the Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) to consider the use of the entry level police officer exam used by multiple other agencies in Puget Sound region (known as the PST test)
  • asks PSCSC to make personal contact with officer candidates within 48 hours
  • requests PSCSC increase frequency of eligibility rosters to every 2 weeks
  • add to police exams unit in HSDR a new position for more robust candidate support (a position that will be paid for in 2024 with vacancy savings in SPD recruitment and will cost $146k/year extra starting in 2025)

There appears to be a small amount of friction between city council members and the Mayor’s Office over the details of this bill, as the Mayor’s Office would like to move only 2 of the recruitment positions to SPD, with the third going to PSCSC. However, the Mayor’s Office is reportedly looking to see if they can accommodate the council members’ desire in their reorganization plans. 

Council President Nelson said that while PSCSC Director Andrea Scheele had expressed concern that switching entrance tests would lower standards, she doesn’t believe that would be the case. It is unclear why she believes this, given it is Director Scheele’s literal job to review and assess these exams.

She also said that only 5 jurisdictions within Washington State are using the test used for SPD officers-–the NTN test-–although Council Central Staff member Greg Doss later corrected her, saying 27 cities in Washington use the NTN test, as well as all the West Coast Seven cities. 

Councilmember Kettle suggested using both tests, and while Doss said three jurisdictions in Washington do use both tests, he suggested doing so would be complicated and have legal ramifications. All three jurisdictions who do so have developed a special pre-employment process to make sure using both tests remains fair. It seems likely SPD would likewise have to develop a new pre-employment process in order to use both tests.

Council President Nelson also discussed how this legislation was changed to use discretionary language when it came to the PSCSC after receiving input from the law department. However, she says she has been closely reading the City Municipal Code herself and thinks it is unclear who gets to select the test. 

There have been many stories about the new proposed SPOG contract, on which SPOG members are currently voting.

The headlines sum up the situation: the contract represents a huge raise for SPD officers (we don’t yet know the full fiscal impact on Seattle’s overall budget) and almost no accountability improvements.

Even The Seattle Times editorial board agrees the proposed contract would be a mistake, writing, “To strengthen bonds between cops and communities, Seattle leaders must ensure that any new labor agreement fully implements the city’s landmark 2017 Police Accountability Ordinance.”

An attached MOU to the proposed contract lists some duties that could, were this to be approved, be taken on by civilian employees. As The Stranger reports, “Instead of creating serious police alternatives that could save the City money and help alleviate staffing shortages at the department, the MOU outlines civilian roles that look more like personal assistants to cops and that protect cushy positions wholly unsuited for some of the City’s highest-paid employees.”

As I wrote at The Urbanist:

Noteworthy in this list is the item regarding wellness checks. The MOU with SPOG passed last year allowed the new Community Assisted Response and Engagement (CARE) team to respond to two call types: person down and wellness checks. This new MOU places additional restrictions on wellness check response, saying civilians can only respond to these calls “where the identified individual known to the caller does not have any history of or current suicidal ideations, significant health problems including mental health, history of or fighting addiction, history of or concerns of domestic abuse, or is living in one of the City’s ‘wet houses.’” Some advocates are concerned these additional parameters could mean wellness checks able to be performed by CARE civilian responders will be few and far between. Indeed, this definition appears to preclude the idea of an alternate civilian emergency response to mental health crises, a policy strongly supported by Seattleites.” 

This concerning news comes at the same time that U.S. Rep. Adam Smith has begun touting a new federal investment of $1.926 million into Seattle’s CARE program. He says, “This funding will help launch the CARE Department, which will support the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Fire Department by diverting health mental health, substance use disorders, and related wellness services calls to this new civilian-run department.” Apparently he hasn’t read the new SPOG proposal nor The Stranger’s reporting on how CARE’s dual dispatch is currently going.

Meanwhile, PubliCola reports that many city workers who just had a new contract approved, including retroactive pay raises for 2023 and 2024, won’t be receiving those payments until at least October, which would be six months after agreeing to the bargaining agreement. It is unclear whether a new contract with SPOG would face the same delay in payout.

At this week’s Public Safety committee meeting, councilmembers heard a report on the OIG’s latest use of force assessment for SPD. Some noteworthy points from the presentation:

  • The counts of force against Black, Hispanic/Latino, and other minorities increased. 
  • Unknown race for both subjects with complaints of pain and civilians subject to pointing of a firearm increased substantially in 2023.
  • 2022 and 2023 years had no Type III and no Type III use of force in response to behavioral crisis for the first time since 2015.

At the presentation, Chief Operating Officer of SPD Brian Maxey bemoaned that “the same communities that complain about over policing complain about under policing.” He said the goal is to police based on need rather than by demographics. The presenters stated that the data showing increased use of force against Black and Latino community members wasn’t enough to draw conclusions of bias in what came across as “thou doth protest too much.” The Inspector General of the OIG, Lisa Judge, said they want to do a deeper dive to better understand what is driving “that particular snapshot of use of force.” 

A female lieutenant at SPD, Lauren Truscott, has made a complaint against SPD’s Lt. John O’Neil, the head of public affairs. The OPA has opened an investigation around this complaint. 

As KUOW reported, Truscott believes SPD’s acceptance of sexual harassment and discrimination comes from the very top and has called for new leadership: ““Women are being marginalized and dismissed, and no one is listening,” Truscott said. “We should never be treating employees as though they’re disposable. They are our most valuable commodity, but especially during a staffing crisis.””

The Loudermill hearing for Officer Daniel Auderer, the SPOG VP who was caught on bodycam joking about Jaahnavi Kandula’s death, was supposed to be held on April 1, but it was delayed.

The City Attorney’s Office finally filed a complaint against Seattle Municipal Court Judge Pooja Vaddadi for a case in which an assistant city attorney was disqualified from a case. A Superior Court judge found that Judge Vaddadi had acted properly. Nevertheless, the City Attorney’s Office is still continuing to prevent Judge Vaddadi from presiding over criminal cases.

Lisa Daugaard, Co-Executive Chair at Purpose Dignity Action, tweeted that the program CoLEAD, which provides lodging for unhoused people with behavioral health issues, has “shrunk from 250 rooms to 130 and a year from now will likely be down to 60.”

PubliCola published an update on how things are going with the new Seattle drug ordinance criminalizing public drug use and possession, saying that it doesn’t seem to have made more than superficial changes to the level of drug use. And there are other problems: “According to municipal court records, the average time between an arrest under the new drug law and when the city attorney files charges is about 70 days; more than half of the people charged under the new law had to wait 90 days or more for Davison’s office to file charges. This is in sharp contrast to Davison’s promise, in 2022, to decide whether to file charges in all criminal cases within five business days after her office receives a referral from the police department.”

The entire article is well worth the read.

Other News:

The Renton City Council has increased the hiring bonus for lateral police hires for the Renton Police Department. Formerly lateral hires received $10k upon hire and $10k after completing a one-year probation period. Now they will receive $20k upon hire and $20k after completing a one-year probation period, for a total of $40k per lateral hire.

Gun sales in Washington, which increased last year as the legislature passed new gun control laws, have plummeted so far in 2024. As measured by background checks, gun sales in January and February were cut in half this year compared to last year, and March gun sales were down 70%. You can read more about gun sales in the state here.

King County officials are considering whether they can begin their own corrections officer training program, with Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion asking Attorney General Bob Ferguson whether counties have the legal authority to do so. The state Criminal Justice Training Center does not support this idea. 

A man who died at the ICE facility in Tacoma last month had been held in solitary confinement for nearly all of his 4-year internment there. He spent nearly a decade in solitary confinement in state prisons before being transferred, so all together he spent more than 13 years in solitary confinement. ICE said he was in solitary confinement for “disciplinary reasons.” The Department of Correction reports 8 people have been held for over 500 days in the most severe restrictive housing. 

The Seattle Times reports: “The agency’s disclosure about Daniel’s time in state custody calls attention to the broad use of solitary confinement, not just by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And it raises more questions about whether Daniel’s prolonged periods of solitary contributed to his March 7 death at the Northwest ICE Processing Center.”

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All Kinds of Power Struggles in Seattle This Week

Seattle News:

This week there are some interesting follow-ups on developing stories we’ve discussed in the past.

First, Publicola reported that CM Nelson plans to propose legislation that would require the Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) to switch police officer tests to the Public Safety test. The current National Testing Network test is more rigorous and was developed with the City of Seattle’s consent decree in mind. The Public Safety test, on the other hand, has a 90% pass rate on the first try. Contrary to what Nelson said in the previous public safety committee meeting on the topic, this seems likely to in fact compromise the standards for police officers in Seattle.

But the plot thickens! The PSCSC has sole authority over developing and holding testing, and changing this would require a law change. From the Publicola article: “Courts have upheld the PSCSC’s authority in the past, Scheele notes. “The last time the Council passed an ordinance undercutting the commission’s independence it had to be repealed,” she said, after a state appeals court ruled that the city council acted outside its authority when it passed a law moving many of the PSCSC’s “substantive” duties, including officer testing, to the city’s Human Resources Department.” So a court case regarding this issue may be in our future. 

Meanwhile, hiring new officers has become difficult across the country and is much more likely to be related to the fact that perceptions of being a police officer have shifted and people aren’t as interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement. 

Relatedly, SPD issued a tepid and disingenuous defense of their treatment of female officers. On the same day, KUOW published an investigative report on sexism and harassment within the department that emphasized how scared these female officers were to even speak to the press: “These women started talking with each other and agreed to speak with KUOW on condition of anonymity, because they feared retaliation. Floyd was the only one to let KUOW identify her. The women said that if found out, they could be investigated for speaking to the press without permission. One woman shook through her interview with KUOW. Five women declined to speak with KUOW, saying through intermediaries that they were scared of retaliation.”

In other news, City Attorney Ann Davison charged the six protesters at a City Council meeting in February with gross misdemeanors for trespassing. And we also got some more information about why Davison might have made the decision to disqualify Judge Pooja Vaddadi from all criminal cases at Seattle Municipal Court. The Stranger reported that Davison asked a higher court to review Vaddadi’s decision to disqualify an assistant city attorney from prosecuting a case. The day after this decision of Vaddadi’s was the day then-Criminal Division Chief Natalie Walton-Anderson sent out the infamous memo that I covered here, announcing the new policy of disqualifying the judge from all future criminal cases.

The Stranger published an in-depth piece on the problems currently faced by Seattle’s dual dispatch program, aka the “alternative” emergency response program that doesn’t follow the best practices of such programs run elsewhere. Ashley Nerbovig reports that the program is currently underutilized and mostly getting referrals from SPD instead of from 911 dispatch. Here is a particularly pertinent quote from the article:

Right now, Smith acknowledges the City is watching whether this program can exist without pissing off either the police or fire union. Police union president Mike Solan has expressed a distaste for police alternatives, appearing to view them as an insult to SPD officers. The City’s contract with SPOG prevents it from shifting any work from sworn-officers to civilians without negotiations. Given how much leverage the City has already given away in the MOU, and given the repeated emphasis from the Mayor and the council on hiring more police officers as the only solution to public safety concerns, it seems unlikely that they’ll push hard to take lower-priority work off the plates of officers who constantly complain about having all this low-priority work on their plates. The other lingering question is whether the City plans to actually fund the program long-term.” 

Finally, Publicola reported on two smaller stories. First, the City Council are having embarrassing budget conversations in which they call out problems of efficiency with the budget that do not in fact exist. And second, CM Bob Kettle exposed City Hall to COVID when he knew he’d been exposed but did not choose to work from home until he got a positive test. For those who are unaware, it is in fact possible to spread COVID before you test positive. 

Jail News:

The Seattle Times reported about a 24-year-old who hung himself while in the Klickitat County Jail last year while withdrawing from fentanyl, which highlights how underprepared many Washington jails find themselves for dealing with the current fentanyl crisis. The article says, “As of 2019, Washington’s county jails had among the highest death rates in the nation. Suicide has been the leading cause of death in the state’s jails and in jails nationally.”

And Publicola reported on the death of a woman in the SCORE jail last year. She died of dehydration, malnutrition, low electrolyte levels and renal failure. 4 people died in the SCORE jail last year, which is a very high number given its population. About the fatality report, Publicola had this to say: “The report said Majoor was well-known to staff at SCORE and implied that this may have led to inadequate care: “Over familiarity with the decedent and previous detox experiences were discussed as possible issues.””

At the King County Law and Justice committee meeting this past week, councilmembers discussed the plan to close the County’s juvenile detention facility. In 2020 Executive Dow Constantine promised to close the facility by 2025, but that date has been recently pushed out until 2028, and judging by the committee discussion, is likely to be pushed out even further. Indeed, some councilmembers did not seem convinced that actual achievement of zero youth detention will ever be possible.  

The main points of contention appear to be whether the newly proposed respite and receiving centers for youth would feature locked doors and what the differences might be between security and safety. 

Councilmember Jorge Barón spoke eloquently about the problem, saying, “It strikes me as a failure of our society that we have people at a young age engaged in harm-causing behavior, including very serious criminal behavior. We need to really reflect on that. What kind of society are we creating and how do we change that?” He spoke about how the current system contributes to harm-causing behavior rather than reducing it. 

The County will start public engagement on the Care & Closure plan soon, as well as releasing recommendations for improvements that can be made to the existing facility that can be included in Constantine’s budget proposal this fall. Meanwhile, the advisory committee will continue to meet to hash out the question of security vs. safety.

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