risk managed demand analysis

Real Change Reporting Reveals Federal Monitor Oftelie Getting Cozy with SPD

Seattle News

In a fascinating piece of reporting in Real Change, Glen Stellmacher wrote about how SPD and the City of Seattle controlled the media narrative around the 2020 protests and the Defund Movement. I highly recommend reading the entire article, but here are some key points:

  • In a June 19, 2020 survey, SPD leadership recommended at least 12 areas of service within SPD that would be better with civilian employees.
  • In the face of defund demands, SPD claimed they would have to cut the SW precinct, SWAT, or traffic enforcement if cuts went too far. However, this narrative was shown to be false by both the June 19, 2020 and June 27, 2020 surveys of SPD leadership.
  • By August 2020, SPD and the City were aware that 45% of SPD patrol service hours didn’t require an officer. However, Mayor Durkan requested a second IDT; the results, not available until June 2021, also said nearly half of calls could be handled by a civilian response. At that point, you may remember SPD insisted on a risk managed demand report, which wasn’t completed until September 2022.
  • SPD played with the numbers to make the loss of diversity in the force, should there be layoffs, seem as bad as possible.
  • It appears then-SPD Chief Strategy Officer Chris Fischer may have ghost-written a Crosscut op-ed for Antonio Oftelie; Crosscut says they didn’t know SPD was involved and has since removed the op-ed from their site. Two days after publication, SPD’s Executive Director of Legal Affairs was pushing for Oftelie to be named the new Monitor of the consent decree. He was named the new Monitor the next month, beating out several qualified candidates. 

This Sunday, July 23 from 12-7pm in Othello Park, there will be a Participatory Budgeting cookout to launch the idea collection phase of participatory budgeting. You can also submit a proposal here.

In a court ruling this week, a judge ruled the City of Seattle has been using an overbroad definition of “obstruction” to justify its sweeps activity, writing that it constitutes “cruel punishment.” The definition was expanded in 2017, increasing obstruction removals in the City. The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in September.

On Tuesday, an SPD officer shot a man downtown. SPD is supposed to release video footage of what happened within 72 hours.

The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) is investigating the incident of the mock tombstone of a man killed by SPD police displayed in an SPD breakroom. Chief Diaz has ordered inspections of precinct HQs for other potential inappropriate displays. At a CPC meeting this week, Chief Diaz had very little information to share.

And finally, it’s supplemental budget time! The proposed supplemental budget includes around $815k in additional funding for SPD, including increasing overtime to pay for more downtown emphasis patrols, paying for additional online crime reporting, and hiring six civilian positions, including four new public disclosure officers. It also adds an additional $19 million for the City to pay for lawsuits, many of which are related to police misconduct. The City already added $11 million to the 2023 for lawsuits last year, but apparently that wasn’t enough.

In addition, the supplemental budget funds a graffiti clean-up team, and because the contracts have already been executed, the Mayor’s Office has potentially forced the Council’s hand into cutting other Seattle Public Utilities programs to pay for this. More money is also being requested for the CSCC for its dual dispatch pilot and updating its call center technology and for OIG to take over the consent decree’s Monitor duties. 

There is a vote scheduled on the supplemental budget on the morning of August 2. 

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Real Change Reporting Reveals Federal Monitor Oftelie Getting Cozy with SPD Read More »

It’s Almost as if Seattle Doesn’t Want to Reimagine Public Safety After All

Seattle Budget: Parking Enforcement Officers

Last Thursday, the Council held budget meetings about the potential parking enforcement officer (PEO) transfer from SDOT to SPD, SPD’s proposed budget, and the Community Safety and Communications Center’s (CSCC) proposed budget. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s dive in.
First up are the PEOs. The move to SDOT about a year ago has not thus far been a success, and labor issues have resulted. The PEOs are vastly understaffed, both as a result of general unhappiness over a botched move and SDOT’s decision to keep some positions open so as to use the money this freed up to pay for their overhead costs (more about that in a minute.) There are only 80 PEOs right now, for a department that calls for the staffing of 123 FTE. The PEOs are still housed within the physical structures of SPD, they still wear SPD uniforms, and they still have SPD emblazoned on their vehicles. They no longer have access to SPD databases (well, really it’s the FBI’s CJIS, more about this in a minute). And then of course there was the debacle where, due to “mistakes” made by SPD and potentially the last Mayor’s Office, the PEOs weren’t given their special commissions when they were moved to SDOT, and therefore $5m worth of traffic tickets had to be either voided or refunded earlier this year.
Whether it was sabotage or simply shocking incompetence, nobody can argue that this has been a smooth transition. Hence the Mayor’s proposal to move the PEOs back into SPD.
Because of the way SDOT calculates its overhead, which is complicated due to its multiple funding sources, it costs an additional $8m from the General Fund to keep the PEOs in SDOT, a fact that the Mayor’s Office and SDOT, who both lobbied heavily for the PEOs to move to SDOT rather than the CSCC, somehow failed to mention at that time.
Another issue is the PEOs’ lack of access to the CJIS database. Right now SPD provides them with a static hot sheet with a list of vehicles by license plate that are stolen, but the PEOs can’t call in to get at-the-moment information from the database, which includes information such as registered owner and address. It is unclear how large a problem the lack of access to this database actually is, but it is interesting to note that even if they were to move to the CSCC, the PEOs wouldn’t be granted access to it; the 911 dispatchers have this access, but WASPC, the state body who decides these matters, has said the PEOs aren’t performing a criminal justice purpose and therefore are ineligible. No outside legal analysis of this issue has been completed.
The SPD, unsurprisingly, is happy to welcome back the PEOs with open arms, especially as they’ll come with funding for the entire 123 FTE. Because there are only currently 80 PEOs, that means SPD will get an extra $4.2m; while they will use part of this sum to hopefully pay for additional hires, there will be some left over, for which they will inevitably find an indispensable use within the department. The PEOs themselves took a poll and overwhelmingly expressed a desire to be back in SPD rather than in SDOT.
A third option not explored in the aforementioned poll is to move the PEOs to the CSCC, which was the Council’s original plan back in 2020. Aside from the issue of database access, the CSCC is a new department that would need lead time to prepare to receive the PEOs, which would nearly double their headcount. There would probably be some extra overhead involved with this as well, although nowhere near SDOT’s staggering $8m price tag. However, this move would preserve the Council’s intent to move civilian functions outside the police department in response to the protesters that were in the streets for so much of 2020.

Seattle Budget: Seattle Police Department

SPD is enjoying being able to say they’re taking the largest cut of any department. This is misleading rhetoric, of course; the actual size of their budget will be larger than it was in 2022 if the proposed budget doesn’t change. Much time was spent in the SPD budget meeting discussing the $250k increase to Harbor Patrol, which moved into a discussion of whether certain aspects of Harbor Patrol might be more suitable for a civilian response (namely, search and rescue and water safety). In response to this suggestion, Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell mentioned that houseboat piracy was a problem.
Moving past the serious piracy issue facing Seattle, Central Staff projects 153 officers will be separating from the department in 2022 by the end of the year. Once again, SPD’s projections for separations and hiring for 2023 seem overly rosy, although the high rate of separations has been going on for long enough at this point that people can now bring up the point of diminishing returns, ie that in a smaller police force, there will also be a smaller number of people leaving. The 80 positions not being funded for 2023 are not being permanently cut (abrogated) but rather underfunded for now.
There was also a discussion of the gunfire detection system (which will probably be ShotSpotter). Interestingly, CM Nelson brought up a study by Edgeworth Analytics that found a high accuracy rate for ShotSpotter, but didn’t disclose that this study had in fact been funded BY ShotSpotter. Luckily CM Mosqueda brought up that point. CM Nelson also stated that if even one life were to be saved by a gunfire detection system, then the financial investment would be worth it, even though it had been emphasized earlier in the presentation that these detection systems are not intended to reduce gun violence in any way, but rather to help capture evidence about gun-related crimes after they happen. Regardless, the city surveillance ordinance would require the completion of a surveillance impact report (SIR), which Central Staff thinks would take more than 12 months to complete, meaning this budget item may well be premature.

Seattle Budget: CSCC

During this meeting, Ann Gorman of Central Staff presented the results thus far of the collaboration between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff over alternative response as memorialized in a term sheet. There is agreement that the $1.9m for a near-term pilot of alternative response in Seattle could be spent in 2023 on some combination of the following:
  1. Direct dispatch of SFD Health One units
  2. Intelligent non-emergency reporting: this is instant reporting that doesn’t require an SPD officer to come to the scene. In practice, this would be improvement of online reporting or reporting by phone, for example, by providing better support of other languages.
  3. Expansion of CSO duties: currently the CSOs serve as liaisons between SPD and community and don’t have law enforcement authority. It may be possible to expand their role in a way that lessens the workload of SPD officers.
  4. Dual (SPD/civilian) dispatch to augment current mental/behavioral health response: This means that two separate units would be sent to the scene, one from SPD and one that is a city-staffed team with relevant clinical and procedural training. In other words, this response would still involve officers with a gun coming to the scene, although CM Herbold mentioned that perhaps the SPD officers could sometimes stage themselves nearby instead of arriving directly on the scene.
For proponents of a mental health crisis response alternative in Seattle, this list will doubtless be less than inspiring, as none of these options is what has been asked for, including the co-response detailed in option 4. However, both CM Herbold and CM Lewis, who have previously been strong proponents of a civilian alternative response such as STAR in Denver, were both effusive in their praise. CM Herbold went so far as to walk back some of her criticism of the Risk Management Demand report delivered by SPD a few weeks ago. (This is the system SPD has spent large amounts of time and money developing only to have to go in and manually correct more than 50% of call type classifications provided by their new system. The system was also meant to assess risk to responders but instead used risk to the subject as a proxy.)

King County Budget

The next opportunity for public comment on the biennial 2023-2024 King County budget is tomorrow, Wednesday, 10/19 at 6pm. More details and a script can be found here. If you can’t make the meeting, you can also email your King County council members.

Election News

People Power Washington’s voter guide is out! You can see questionnaires about public safety answered by candidates for state legislature, for King County prosecutor, and for Seattle Municipal Court Judge. Information about races for prosecutor and judge in particular can be hard to come by, so this is an excellent resource for helping you make an educated decision come Election Day.
There is a King County prosecutor candidate debate this Thursday, 10/20 from 6-8pm in Federal Way. More details and sign up can be found here.

Other Seattle News

Also in the budget: Mayor Harrell’s proposal to spend $38m on the Unified Care Team and the Clean City Initiative. As Erica C. Barnett reports:
memo accompanying that presentation adds that, legally speaking, there’s no guarantee that the new funding won’t be used to “accelerate encampment removals.”
In redistricting news, Seattle’s redistricting commission voted on a new map today. They passed a map that divides Magnolia along the west-east ridge and doesn’t divide Fremont into three(!) different districts. All but one commissioner voted in favor of this new map, and you can see it here. The exact dividing line in Magnolia might change, but other that that, Erica Barnett reports this will be the map, which represents a heartening victory for Redistricting Justice for Seattle and their bid for an equitable map.
You might remember that earlier this year, the Human Rights Commission tried to initiate a data collection project on behalf of those impacted by police violence, including wanting to file for amicus status with the court overseeing the consent decree process, only to be shot down by the City Attorney. Well, now four commissioners, including three co-chairs, have resigned in protest. You can read their passionate open letter here.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released Wave 3 of their Sentinel Event Review report on the 2020 protests, which covers June 8 – July 1, 2020. And it is quite damning, showing that in addition to miscommunication and sloppy police work, the SPD indulged in flat-out lying in their infamous ruse in which they tried to make protesters believe armed Proud Boys were headed to CHOP. As Justin reports:
The Wave 3 report includes … SPD officials either mistakenly or intentionally making statements about unsubstantiated and not fully investigated allegations of armed checkpoints and shakedowns of area businesses in press conferences and statements to the media as evidence of bad decisions and a lack of leadership that hindered the city’s response — and set it on a permanently flawed course contributing to the growth of dangerous conditions in the CHOP zone.
It is worth reading the entire article, which also provides access to the full OIG report.
Finally, CM Dan Strauss held a community meeting about safety in Greenwood last night, at which he told attendees they weren’t allowed to record and barred journalists from entry until the end. Not exactly the best way to promote an environment of transparency and accountability.
Isolde Raftery
@CMDanStrauss are you seriously preventing the media from attending your PUBLIC meeting on safety in Greenwood???

Standing outside the @TaprootTheatre with @king5 …

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Questions About SPD’s Risk Managed Demand Report Overshadowed by the Start of Budget Season

If you want to read about SPD’s Risk Managed Demand presentation, you can skip straight down to the “Seattle’s Public Safety Committee Meeting” section. But first, budget news!

Seattle’s Proposed Budget

Amy Sundberg
The first Seattle Select Budget committee meeting of the season has begun. I’m not going to live tweet the whole meeting, but I’ll try to tweet the things I find interesting.
You can see the Mayor’s proposed 2023-2024 budget here and the Budget Office’s presentation on it here. You can read local coverage of the budget here and here, and coverage of the Solidarity Budget here.
Let’s dive in and see what’s in this proposed budget relating to public safety.
First of all, SPD. The SPD budget in 2022 was $353m, and its proposed budget for 2023 is $373.5m, which is close to a 6% increase.
The bulk of this increase–almost $20m–is due to the Mayor’s proposal to move the parking enforcement officers (PEOs) back into SPD from SDOT. The stated reasons for doing so are that it will save more than $5m in overhead costs that SDOT needs to house the PEOs but SPD wouldn’t need, as they didn’t lose any overhead dollars when the PEOs left their department, and the PEOs would regain access to certain SPD databases, which would remove the basis for unfair labor practices. In addition, it sounds like the culture of the PEOs hasn’t yet shifted away from a more police-oriented feel. Mayor Harrell mentioned this might not be the final home of the PEOs. Reasons for keeping the PEOs in SDOT include maintaining promises made to community in 2020 to work to move civilian functions outside SPD; allowing closer collaboration between PEOs and SDOT to make our streets safer using more strategies than just ticketing; and leaving the PEOs where they are until a final home for them has been decided (I’m assuming the Mayor was referencing the possibility of housing them in the third public safety department he envisions).
In addition, the Mayor plans to reinvest about $17m of salary savings in SPD back into the department. This salary savings is realized through ghost positions within SPD that remain funded even though they will not be able to be filled during 2023. This money is to be used for the following investments:
  • $1.3m for addt’l police equipment, which is mostly weapons;
  • $4.25m for recruitment and retention bonuses;
  • $2.6m in addt’l overtime;
  • almost $3m for more technology projects;
  • $1m for a gunfire detection system, ShotSpotter;
  • $250k for Harbor Patrol;
  • $490.5k for a mental health practitioner;
  • $168k for a new OPA employee
  • $446k for relational policing, about which we have no details
  • $424.9k to transfer 1 IT employee and 2 LAW employees into SPD
Also in the budget for HSD are $4.3m for the Seattle Community Safety Initiative and $1.5m for the King County Regional Peacekeepers Collective, as well as $502k for victim advocates. The $1.2m allocated for alternative emergency response in the mid-year supplemental is retained, along with an additional $700k, all of which is currently sitting in Finance General until the Council decides which department to move it into. That $700k appears to be the only new investment allocated for community-based public safety alternatives, as the SCSI and the Peacekeepers were already funded in last year’s budget.
Controversially, the proposed budget includes legislation that would cap future liability for inflation-based increases for human service contracts at 4%. For reference, over the 12 month period ending in June 2022, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 9.1 percent. It’s important to understand that these human service providers are public safety workers performing essential public services and already tend to be underpaid and are currently also understaffed. In a budget in which both police officers and fire fighters are being offered recruitment and retention packages, this legislation is a slap in the face to these essential workers, for whom it basically results in a pay cut.
Key Dates in the Seattle Budget Process:
October 11, 5pm: First evening public hearing
November 7: Chair’s Balancing Package introduced
November 8, 9:30am: Morning public hearing
November 15, 5pm: Second evening public hearing
November 16: Budget committee votes on balancing package
November 21: Budget committee vote on budget in the AM; final Full Council vote on the budget at 2pm
Public comment will also be heard at the October 11 and October 25 budget meetings at 9:30am, and probably one or two budget meetings in November as well.

King County Proposed Budget:

Executive Dow Constantine proposed his King County 2023-2024 budget on Tuesday. You can read about new investments being made in the law & justice category of the budget here and the complete rundown on the law, safety, & justice can be found here.
Some highlights:
  • $9m to the Regional Peacekeepers Collective
  • $2.3m to the Sheriff’s Office for a new gun violence unit and for detectives for the major crimes unit
  • $21m for 140 Metro “transit security officers” whose duties are not yet clear
  • $2.1m for behavioral health co-response unit expansion, which still involves sending armed officers to behavioral health crises
  • $5m for body cameras (this will take some years to implement)
  • $6.3m for jail-based opioid treatment programs and services for people being released from jail with substance abuse disorder
You can make public comment on the budget in person or virtually on the evening of Wednesday, October 5 at 6pm, and there are two in person only public comment opportunities on October 12 and October 19 at 6pm. There is one additional opportunity for public comment on November 8 at 9:30am. You can also email the King County council members directly about the budget. Suggested scripts are forthcoming from People Power Washington.

Seattle’s Public Safety Committee Meeting

The last Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting until the end of budget season was held this Tuesday. Among other issues, the CMs discussed the City Attorney’s Office Q2 report and the SPD’s long-awaited Risk Managed Demand report.

Amy Sundberg
Good morning and welcome to Seattle’s special Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. We’re starting with a bunch of appointments.
The City Attorney’s Office Q2 report showed how much faster the office has been making its filing decisions. The number of filed cases has more than doubled, in spite of misdemeanor referrals from SPD being down. They have also been declining fewer cases. Just as filed cases have risen dramatically, so have referrals to Community Court and Mental Health Court.
You can see the Risk Managed Demand (RMD) presentation here and the technical brief here. SPD requested to do this research before an alternative emergency response program was designed here in Seattle.
The analysis looks at injuries associated with the final 911 call type using a matrix of likelihood and severity. SPD had to manually upgrade or downgrade slightly more than 50% of the 356 call types, meaning the matrix worked less than half of the time, which caused some concern to CMs. Also causing concern was the belief this report was supposed to be analyzing the risk to call responders, while instead it uses the risk to the subject as a proxy for that, leaving out data from calls that involved use of force. If this sounds convoluted to you, you are not alone.
CM Mosqueda questioned whether, given the issues with this new report, the NICJR findings weren’t just as sound while also giving concrete policy changes that this new report doesn’t give. CM Herbold was concerned, given that 50% of the time call types were either upgraded or downgraded, that we need to understand what policies, principles, or rules lead to those judgment calls of how to change call type classification.
CM Lewis brought up Denver’s successful STAR program that answers calls that this new RMD report would suggest should go to some kind of co-response instead. In response, Dan Eder of the Mayor’s Office said the RMD report can’t answer CM Lewis’s questions, explaining that this risk analysis isn’t determinative of the most appropriate kind of program to design or call types to assign to a new program. Which begs the question: if this research doesn’t answer these questions, why are we a.) spending tons of taxpayer money on it, and b.) allowing it to drastically delay implementation of any alternative emergency response program?
CM Herbold said this RMD report shouldn’t hold up implementation of a new alternative response as discussed in the term sheet between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff, and announced the next Public Safety committee meeting will take place on Tuesday, December 11 at 9:30am.

Other News of Note

Seattle’s Redistricting Commission voted to approve an amendment that unites Magnolia into District 6 and divides the Fremont neighborhood into three districts: D4, D6, and D7. As Doug Trumm writes: “[Commissioner] Juárez also pointed out that this was a significant departure from the Redistricting Justice for Washington Seattle maps that had the most positive comments throughout the process, which is why the commission’s initial proposal had largely been based on that map.”
It is worth noting that Magnolia is predominantly zoned for single family housing, while a large part of Fremont is within an urban village and is more renter-friendly. You can give public comment on this new plan on Saturday, October 8 from 10am-12pm via Zoom or in the Bertha Knight Landes Room on the City Hall 1st Floor.
King County leaders held a press conference to announce a $1.25B plan to address the behavioral health crisis, which will involve a new property tax levy that will be on the ballot in April 2023.
Last Friday Seattle’s Neighborhoods, Education, Civil Rights & Culture committee discussed the participatory budgeting process, and they’ll be back to discuss it further on December 9. The timeline for PB is as follows: planning and design will happen in fall of 2022; idea collection and proposal development will happen in winter of 2022-2023; proposal development and voting will happen in spring of 2023; and funding will be provided to the winning projects in summer of 2023.
A forum was held for Seattle Municipal Court judge candidates Pooja Vaddadi and Adam Eisenberg. You can watch it here.

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Questions About SPD’s Risk Managed Demand Report Overshadowed by the Start of Budget Season Read More »

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.”

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

Continued Institutional Resistance to a Civilian Alternate Response Service in Seattle

Seattle Public Safety Committee Meeting

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting! Everyone is here, and we’ll be hearing about the 911 call type for civilian response report status, CM Nelson’s resolution re SPD hiring incentives and CM Herbold’s related legislation.

We had a doozy of a Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting yesterday morning.

911 Call Types and Risk Management Status Report

First the committee members listened to a presentation on the status of SPD’s 911 call analysis/risk analysis, attempting to determine which calls could be answered by a civilian response. Present for this report were Director of Public Safety Andrew Myerberg and SPD’s Brian Maxey and Loren Atherley. As you may recall, last year a NICJR report on this subject found that almost 50% of 911 calls could be eligible for a non-officer response. At that time SPD agreed on 12% of calls that could benefit from this type of response, a consensus that led to the proposal of the (now probably defunct before it even started) Triage One program.
Now, however, SPD is walking back from even that low 12% number, saying it was simply a rough estimate and that the analysis they’re doing now is much more sophisticated. So sophisticated, in fact, that instead of classifying call types into 300 call types like NICJR, they’ve broken them into 41,900 types. No, those zeroes aren’t typos. Unfortunately, SPD’s highly technical presentation was not made available to the public ahead of time and is still unavailable at the time of this publication.
This presentation raised a few salient points. First, SPD has already been working on this analysis for quite some time, and they’re still not finished. They hope to have a populated risk matrix to present to the Council in July. Meanwhile, in spite of council member encouragement to stage the work (most of the CMs seem eager to move forward after two years of unmet promises to community), Andrew Myerberg sounds reluctant to push forward with much of the work until the SPD report is entirely finished…which may be July or even later. He mentioned he might be able to provide a timeline of when the City will stand up related work groups (not, you may notice, when they might be able to launch an actual pilot program).
Second, CM Lewis brought up the excellent point that several other cities have managed to stand up successful alternate response programs without doing this complex risk analysis: most notably, the STAR program in Denver, a comparably-sized city that has had such success with STAR they’re in the process of greatly expanding it. CM Pedersen also referenced a similar pilot that launched in Oakland, CA last month. CM Lewis asked why we weren’t visiting Denver and other relevant cities and learning from the work already done there.
The answers were revealing, to say the least. Andrew Myerberg’s response was that they had been studying such programs but wanted to wait until the data analysis and risk mitigation work was done. SPD’s Brian Maxey said he’d met with Denver’s STAR and that they’d developed call center protocols for triaging calls but hadn’t done a risk assessment like SPD is doing now.
However, Brian Maxey had two reasons to offer as to why Denver’s success wasn’t relevant to Seattle. First, he said in Denver there was an organic group that said they were interested in providing such an alternate response service. To this, CM Lewis said he was aware of several such groups in Seattle and would be happy to coordinate connections in this regard. Second, Brian Maxey said STAR mostly responds to calls that police didn’t historically respond to. CM Lewis rebutted this false claim, saying that of 2700 calls answered in the STAR pilot, 2294 of those calls would have in fact been responded to by the police. For those not wanting to do the math, that’s almost 85% of the total calls answered by STAR.
Over the course of the meeting, it became increasingly clear that SPD is going to continue dragging their feet and throwing up whatever obstacles come to mind to delay or prevent any meaningful non-police alternate response from being stood up in our city. It is popular to blame the city council members for such failures, but in this case it will ultimately be up to Mayor Harrell as to whether we push through this resistance and stand up an alternate response pilot program on a reasonable timeline.

SPD Hiring Incentives/Strategies Resolution and Legislation

The Public Safety committee then moved onto discuss CM Nelson’s resolution on hiring incentives and CM Herbold’s legislation lifting a proviso on $650k of salary savings to pay for another SPD recruiter and moving expenses, primarily for lateral hires, at least to start.
Both of these ended up with amendments. The language of CM Nelson’s resolution was amended to signal intent to release only the amount necessary to fund the incentive program, acknowledging some salary savings could be used to address 2023 budget challenges. CM Herbold’s legislation was amended to release more money from the proviso (for a total of $1.15m) in order to pay for a national search for a new police chief and a national officer hiring campaign.
Both passed out of committee with CM Mosqueda being the sole “No” vote, and because the vote was divided, they will come before Full Council for a vote on Tuesday, May 24. If nothing changes in the interim, we can expect both to pass, potentially with a 6-3 vote. It doesn’t seem like these measures will lead to much of an increase in SPD hiring but are instead passing on the merits of “doing something.” CM Nelson in particular repeated that she doesn’t care about the details as long as they’re doing something right now.

Other News

The City of Seattle settled the Seattle Times lawsuit over former Mayor Durkan and former Chief Best’s missing text messages, agreeing to pay a sum of $199,855 (that is taxpayer money, to be clear), and follow the rules/laws they were supposed to follow in the first place. Not a very satisfying conclusion to a betrayal of the public trust.
At the end of last week the Seattle Municipal Court voted to accommodate City Attorney Davison and exclude her “high utilizers” from using community court. An analysis by the King County Department of Public Defense shows that most of these high utilizers are either unsheltered or experiencing extreme behavioral health issues, neither of which are successfully addressed by a year in the County jail.
Will Casey reported this week on a new public database put together by the American Equity and Justice Group that contains all of Washington State’s adult felony convictions from 2000-2020. Obtaining reliable data about our criminal legal system tends to be dodgy at best, so this is a valuable resource for lawmakers and activists alike. AEJG plans to expand and improve upon their database; if you are a software engineer interested in volunteering your time, you can attend their launch event on May 17.
Finally, Kevin Schofield, lately of SCC Insight, is back with a new site, Seattle Paper TrailHis most recent piece is a breakdown of the 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey conducted by Seattle University. While I always take this survey with a grain of salt, given its troubling weaknesses, he does draw some interesting conclusions from the flawed data:
First, it continues to be the case that the city’s Black neighborhoods are largely not the ones where fear of crime is high, even though they tend to be over-policed to the detriment of Black residents; they have some of the lowest levels of social disorganization in the city, and also some of the lowest fear of crime. Second, police legitimacy dropped across the board, with only a handful of exceptions in places where fear of crime also rose (though most of the places where fear of crime rose did not see an increase in police legitimacy; it seems to be necessary but not sufficient). Third, social disorganization also decreased nearly across the board, for reasons that are unclear though perhaps related to COVID and more people spending increased time working from home and populating their own neighborhood around the clock.

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