A Revealing Lens into the WA State Legislature
WA State News
There are two big pieces of news related to the state legislature this week.
First, Kirsten Harris-Talley wrote a revealing op-ed that ran in the South Seattle Emerald about why she’s choosing not to run again for her representative seat. In particular, she writes about what happened with the rollback police accountability legislation HB 2037 and SB 5919 during this year’s session. She relates how she was strongly discouraged by party leadership from proposing two amendments to 2037, thus at least allowing a conversation to take place about issues with the bill and setting up for improvements to the bill to take place in the Senate; leadership told her if she did this, it would interfere with their plan to block 5919 from passing in the Senate.
Of course, it turned out 5919 passed in the Senate anyway, only to quickly pass in the House. The only reason it didn’t get passed into law was because the Senate held it up at the last minute. Not the House, who was purportedly only passing 2037 to prevent 5919.
As Harris-Talley writes, “it took us years to get a little bit of justice for police accountability, but they are willing to reverse it in less than a year of these laws being on the books.” This action caused great harm to impacted families, who had given so much of their time and energy and emotion in service to getting 1054 and 1310 passed last year and then defending them this year.
Second, the state Criminal Justice Training Commission voted that last year’s 5051 decertification bill could be applied to past misconduct by police officers, not just to misconduct committed after July 25, 2021 when the law took effect. It is interesting to note the commission recently added six new members to their number, with more members being from the community and fewer representing law enforcement. There is still an open question as to whether some use cases of this law could be found to be unconstitutional, but for now, current certification decisions can be made based on 5051 even when applicable events happened before July 2021.
Mayor Harrell announced a nationwide search for a new police chief and encouraged Interim Chief Diaz to apply. The mayor must choose three finalists for the position, and whoever he chooses must be approved by the City Council. We can probably also expect to see some kind of engagement with the public during this process. The popular wisdom at present is that this is Diaz’s position to lose.
Meanwhile, SPD’s former Chief Carmen Best just got hired by Microsoft as director of global security risk operations, which is especially interesting given the recent released text message audit, in which it was clear she had deleted some of her text messages and initially lied about doing so. Apparently this behavior was not enough to give Microsoft qualms about making this hiring decision.
The House Our Neighbors coalition recently announced their ballot initiative to create a new public development authority to build social housing. Initiative 135 would also create a process for public land to undergo a feasibility study before being sold to determine whether it could be used for social housing. The initiative will need to collect around 35,000 signatures (26,500 plus a buffer for invalid signatures) to make it on the ballot this November. You can check out ways to volunteer for this effort here.
Starting tomorrow, the bus stop at Third and Pine in downtown Seattle will be temporarily closed. How effective this move will be to “increase visibility [by Seattle police] into criminal activity … and to reduce areas of congregation,” as mayoral spokesperson Jamie Housen put it, is unclear, but we can expect to hear more about it in the future.
King County News
The King County Council is considering draft legislation that would give adults the right to consult with an attorney before being searched by officers from the Sheriff’s Office. The purpose of such a bill would be to help people understand their constitutional rights regarding such searches. Many people are not aware they are allowed to refuse a search or may be afraid to do so, so being able to consult with a public defender could help. It’s important to note, as Erica Barnett reports in Publicola: “The new requirement wouldn’t apply when police have a warrant; when police have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person has committed or is about to commit a crime; or when police have reason to believe delaying a search would result in a loss of evidence or harm to the public or police, among several other exemptions.”
Whether and when this draft legislation might move forward in the process is not yet clear.