Seattle Municipal Court

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 “The last time the Council passed an ordinance undercutting the commission’s independence it had to be repealed,” she said, after a state appeals court ruled that the city council acted outside its authority when it passed a law moving many of the PSCSC’s “substantive”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.

Recent Headlines:

All Kinds of Power Struggles in Seattle This Week Read More »

Are $230 Million in Seattle Budget Cuts Even Possible? Budget Director Says No.

Seattle News:

This week at Seattle’s Public Safety committee meeting, the committee discussed SPD testing, recruiting, and retention. Then on Thursday night, Mayor Harrell hosted a public safety forum at the Seattle Public Library. He plans to hold more informal public safety forums by precinct in the month of April.

Fascinating things were said at both of these meetings, and I’m currently working on a longer piece analyzing them more thoroughly. More on this, hopefully next week! 

City Council is teed up to vote on a resolution at next week’s 3/19 meeting that appear to eliminate several Statements of Legislative Intent (SLI) passed by last year’s Council. One of the SLIs not appearing on the new list is the request for an evaluation of Seattle’s current gun violence prevention programs. More specifically, the SLI requested that “HSD and CSCC/CARE perform a gap analysis of the City’s current and priority investments in gun violence prevention as compared to the recommendations in the King County Regional Community Safety and Wellbeing (RCSWB) Plan, and identify complementary, duplicative, or gaps in services provided by the City and King County.” 

It is ironic that at a time when the city is trying to pressure through three concerning surveillance technologies with the justification that the city is struggling with gun violence, they are not willing to even finish a basic evaluation of already existing investments that won’t cost a penny.

Following up on the news about the City Attorney trying to disqualify Judge Vaddadi from hearing cases, the Seattle Times reports that certain defense attorneys are independently trying to find a way to fight back by having Vaddadi sign subpoenas and then arguing her signature on these documents means she shouldn’t be unilaterally removed from hearing the cases:

In an interview, Vaddadi confirmed attorneys had sent her “fewer than a hundred” subpoenas to sign, which she did, but said she was unaware of any strategy by attorneys to get her back on the calendar. She, and at least some of her colleagues, interpret the court’s rules to mean that any judge can sign any subpoena sent to them.

“I would never strategize with one party or another, that would be incredibly unethical,” she said.”

Regarding Seattle’s upcoming enormous budget deficit, Crosscut recently reported that Julie Dingley, the city’s budget director, had said they will not be able to make $230 million worth of cuts by the beginning of 2025, and has suggested they will have to come up with one-time strategies to stagger implementation of such a large amount of cuts. It’s worth noting that Seattle is required by law to have a balanced budget. 

The same article reports that Councilmember Kettle supports having JumpStart tax funds go directly to the general fund to help balance it instead of honoring the spending plan for the tax that is currently in city statute. The JumpStart tax is currently the top source of funding for affordable housing in the city, so redirecting it in such a way would have consequences to the already meager store of affordable housing. 

Election News:

Tanya Woo has officially declared her candidacy for the Seattle City Council seat that she currently holds as an interim appointee. No other candidates for the seat have yet filed.

Perennial state lawmaker Frank Chopp has announced his retirement, and Shaun Scott has announced his candidacy to take over the 43rd Legislative District seat. And he is coming out swinging! Here is the first paragraph of his press release announcing his candidacy:

“The past four years have dealt a lifetime of challenges to residents of the 43rd Legislative District. The working class has seen costs of living increase, while major corporations dominate local elections and evade taxes. Renters can’t afford rent. For young people, the reality of a permanently altered climate lingers like smoke. Students are punished for attending state universities with a life sentence of debt. Disabled and immunocompromised Washingtonians enjoy few public accommodations, and Long COVID looms as a public health emergency. While Washingtonians hope a Democrat-controlled State Legislature and Governor’s office will support staple programs such as special education funding and the resumption of free meals in public schools, MAGA Republicans in cahoots with the billionaire class have launched initiatives to rollback recent state-level wins on climate sustainability and fair taxes.”

Scott is the Policy Lead at the Statewide Poverty Action Network, which is the advocacy arm of Solid Ground, which was founded by his predecessor Chopp. He is known for his run for City Council for D4 in 2019, a race he lost to Alex Pedersen by 4 points while being wildly outspent. Scott also authored the state-level guaranteed basic income (GBI) pilot in 2022.

King County News:

The Washington State Bar Association recently passed new standards for public defenders that will reduce their caseloads. While these standards will affect the entire state, they particularly impact King County because attorneys in King County are required to follow standards that the WSBA adopts.

Publicola reported that Executive Constantine was “alarmed enough” about this possibility that he had his general counsel send a letter to the WSBA asking them not to adopt these new standards. It is likely he is concerned about how this will impact funding for public defense, given the County is currently facing a two-year $100 million budget deficit. 

Publicola said: “According to DPD director Anita Khandelwal, that means the county must either hire enough attorneys—along with support staff like paralegals, social workers, and investigators—to meet the new standards or invest in alternatives to prosecution and incarceration, reducing caseloads by reducing the number of cases.” But Khandelwal argues it doesn’t have to be a budget question, as the County has three years to potentially ramp up alternative programming that would reduce their dependence on the traditional criminal legal system.

Recent Headlines:

 

Are $230 Million in Seattle Budget Cuts Even Possible? Budget Director Says No. Read More »

The Seattle City Attorney Has Been Busy

Personal News:

I had a novel come out this week! My Stars Shine Darkly is a YA science fiction novel and a dystopian romance. 

Book cover of My Stars Shine Darkly by Amy Sundberg, showing a teenage girl in a fancy dress and a golden Venetian mask

“In a story awash with Shakespearean intrigue and hijinks, join our intrepid heroine as she struggles against the dystopian patriarchy of her world.”

You can purchase it here or request it from your local library.

Seattle News:

Soon after I hit publish on my issue last Friday, the news dropped that the Seattle City Attorney’s Office would be filing an affidavit of prejudice on Seattle Municipal Court Judge Pooja Vaddadi on all criminal cases going forward. I dug more deeply into the issue with my story at the Urbanist. Perhaps most concerning is how this decision undermines the independence of the court from other branches of government.

Meanwhile the court is also in turmoil because of the rollout of a new case management system this week that has been bumpy at best. As The Seattle Times reports: “Court hearings have been exceedingly slow. Where it previously took a half a day to work through first appearances, when a judge sets bail, it’s now taking a full day, meaning some people are spending longer in jail than they otherwise would.

Yesterday at the State of Downtown event hosted by the Downtown Seattle Association, City Attorney Ann Davison said shesupports setting a limit on the number of times a person is allowed to overdose in public before they’re arrested and booked into jail.” While this law would supposedly only go into effect if a person refused treatment after an overdose, in practice treatment is often unavailable.

The City Attorney’s Office also announced they would be charging SPD Officer Kevin Dave, the officer who struck and killed Jaahnavi Kandula, with what amounts to a traffic ticket. Publicola reported that Dave received a hiring bonus of $15k after being hired in November of 2019: “Dave was previously an officer in Tucson, Arizona, but was fired from that previous position in 2013 after failing to meet minimum standards during his 18-month probation period.”

Daniel Auderer, the SPOG vice president who got caught in a recording laughing at Kandula’s death, was scheduled to have his disciplinary hearing with Chief Diaz this past Tuesday. Auderer has not yet had his pre-termination or “Loudermill” hearing, which would be required before he could be fired.

In other news, Publicola reported that SPD is continuing to operate under a crowd control policy that is against the law. SPD ignored the city’s new less-lethal weapons law (passed in 2021) for a few years before finally submitting a proposal in December 2023:

“Accompanying the policy: A memo from SPD denouncing their own proposal as “dangerous” and unworkable and asking the court to instead approve the department’s existing “interim” crowd control policy, which does not ban or substantially restrict the use of a single less-lethal weapon.”

The article goes on to state, “Antonio Oftelie, the court monitor overseeing the consent decree, told PubliCola that his office and the DOJ have decided to step back and see if SPD, working with the mayor and new city council, can come up with a policy in the first quarter of this year that complies with the consent decree and is something all sides can live with.

One example of SPD ignoring the new law was back in February when they dispersed a Pro-Palestine rally with pepper balls, which wouldn’t have been available for use if SPD had a policy in line with the existing legislation.

Mayor Harrell announced a new contract with the Coalition of City Unions with the following specifications:

“The proposed contracts include a 5% Annual Wage Increase (AWI) retroactively applied for 2023 and a 4.5% AWI for 2024, totaling a two-year 9.7% adjustment. The 2025 AWI will be based on a two-year average of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue-area with a 2% floor and a 4% cap. The 2026 AWI will be calculated similarly but then be increased by 1% with a 3% floor and a 5% cap.”

The contract has already been approved by union members and will now go for a final vote before City Council. It is currently unclear to me whether this increase in wages has already been calculated into the city’s looming deficit for 2025. According to Publicola, city departments are preparing plans to lay off employees (while already operating under a hiring freeze).

King County News:

This week Executive Constantine announced a five-prong strategy for addressing the fentanyl crisis and preventing overdoses. The five prongs are as follows:

  1. Treatment: launching a 24/7 buprenorphine prescribing line; increasing staffing for both the youth and adult mobile crisis programs; hiring 6 new community navigators to connect people with treatment
  2. Behavioral health beds: partnering with Pioneer Health Services to open 16-bed residential treatment program for people with both mental health and substance abuse disorders; re-opening a 24/7 SUD sobering center; opening post-overdose recovery center
  3. Overdose reversal meds and fentanyl testing: distributing more naloxone kits and test strips; testing drug samples; increasing number of fire depts providing leave-behind naloxone
  4. Behavioral health workforce: adding 100 apprenticeships statewide with half in King County
  5. Reduce disproportionality in overdose: investing $2 million in disproportionately impacted populations

KUOW reported that no new money is being allocated for this project, and when exactly any of this will happen is unknown. Neither Executive Constantine nor anyone else at the press conference would specify a timeline. Clint Jordan of Pioneer Human Services, however, did comment on when a 16-bed residential treatment program could open.

“We’re targeting a six month open,” Jordan said. “I think that puts us in October, November, somewhere in there.””

WA State Legislature News:

Initiative 2113, which changes the state-wide policy on vehicular pursuits, was passed in the state legislature on Monday. Unlike the reform on pursuits passed in 2021 and then weakened in 2023, this initiative doesn’t restrict pursuit based on type of violation in any way. Opponents say this change will almost certainly cause collateral damage, likely leading to more deaths and injuries. As Publicola reported, “Going back to 2015, Morris found that of 379 people killed by police in Washington state, 26 percent involved vehicular pursuits. Of the 32 deaths in Washington caused by collisions during pursuits, more than half were bystanders, passengers, or officers.”

Crosscut reported on two new gun control laws that are likely to make it through this year’s legislative session: one on reporting stolen guns and another on gun dealer security measures. 

Speaking of, this year’s legislative session is officially over. The WA State Standard reported that “Republicans had a pretty good year” and “big progressive priorities flared out.” 

Recent Headlines:

The Seattle City Attorney Has Been Busy Read More »

Wrapping Up 2022

Seattle News

Some big Seattle City Council election news this past week! Both CM Herbold and CP Juarez have announced their intention not to run for re-election for their City Council seats next year. CP Juarez has always been clear about her intention to serve two terms, but much has been said about CM Herbold’s remarks about her decision. When comparing the upcoming D1 race to last year’s City Attorney race, it is important to remember a few key points. First, a district race is very different in character from a city-wide race. Second, one of the issues in the City Attorney’s primary was the lack of campaigning from Pete Holmes until the last second. And finally, Ann Davison’s campaign massively outspent Nicole Thomas-Kennedy’s campaign. So while the 2021 City Attorney’s race was certainly very interesting, we need to be cautious about the parallels we draw between these two races.

It does seem like the moderate council members, of which CM Herbold is one, face a messaging problem in this upcoming election. More conservative voters might disapprove of these CMs committing to trying to remove up to 50% from the police budget to reallocate for other public safety strategies back in 2020 (never mind that they never came close to this number), while very progressive voters might be disappointed at what could be characterized as a wishy-washy follow-through to that commitment.

It is interesting to note that CM Mosqueda, who is typically seen as a more progressive CM, won her city-wide race handily in 2021; she was one of seven council members to back the 50% defund pledge in 2020, but she has been more consistent and effective in her messaging and explaining her values than many of her colleagues.

The Public Safety committee voted unanimously to appoint Interim Chief Diaz as SPD’s new police chief. This is in spite of his lack of support of police alternatives, including the seemingly never-ending analysis of 911 calls the SPD has undertaken in spite of the fact that many other comparable cities have somehow managed to figure out how to implement civilian response programs without drowning in violence and death as a result. In addition, as Erica C. Barnett reports in PubliCola:
While transferring some low-risk work to trained civilian responders would be one way to free up SPD officers for police work and investigations, another option could be reducing the amount of overtime police burn through directing traffic and providing security for sports events, which added up to more than 91,000 hours through October of this year. Diaz didn’t seem particularly open to this suggestion, either, noting that there is always a risk of violence at large events, such as someone trying to drive through a barricade.
Meanwhile, in an act of breathtaking pettiness, the Seattle Municipal Court elected their new presiding judge without allowing recently elected new judge Pooja Vaddadi and recently elected returning judge Damon Shadid the chance to vote. As Erica C. Barnett in PubliCola says:
According to local court rule 10.2, the municipal court judges are supposed to elect a new presiding judge “within 30 days after [a] vacancy occurs.” Because Eisenberg will not vacate his position until next January, Vaddadi told PubliCola, “this action… was not appropriate, nor was it in line with [the local rule] for a minority of the judges to hold a secret vote to elect a presiding and assistant presiding judge.”

This action by the other sitting judges seems to exhibit both a lack of professionalism and respect for the law governing the institution.

Regional News

The Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer was found not guilty of false reporting today. While the verdict is not surprising in a country that rarely holds police accountable, this case appeared like a clear example of police overreach:

An investigation led by former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran, commissioned last year by the Pierce County Council, found Troyer had violated policies on bias-free policing and other professional standards. Moran’s report, released in October 2021, noted that Troyer had given shifting statements about the encounter to media, his neighbors, and police.

The King County Auditor released a report on the County’s incarceration alternative and diversion programs this week that found a lack of strategic direction and data coordination between the 12 existing programs. This deficit makes it hard to tell whether the County has implemented the right programs, how they could complement each other, or if they need more capacity. It also found the County’s criminal legal agencies collect race data in different ways, making it difficult to meaningfully analyze racial disparities in those agencies.

The King County Sheriff’s Office is looking for applicants for their Community Advisory Board. Applications will be accepted through the end of January. It is unclear why King County is forming a new advisory board instead of continuing the extant King County Public Safety Advisory Committee, although it is possible for members of that body to apply for the new board.

Governor Inslee introduced his proposed 2023-25 budget today. Included in his proposal are additional investments in law enforcement training. Washington State currently runs two academies in the state, the main one in Burien and a smaller one in Spokane. The governor is proposing funding for seven additional Basic Law Enforcement Academy classes per year, including four at two new regional campuses, in order to reduce the waiting time for training and increase the output of trained officers per year. He also wishes to invest in grants to help local agencies pay for their share of training costs and increase recruitment efforts. The total proposed investment for these additions would be $16.16m.

The Washington Coalition of Police Accountability (WCPA) announced four new bills related to policing that will be discussed during the upcoming legislative session (which begins on January 9). The most promising might be the “Traffic Safety for All” bill that would limit traffic stops and provide a pool of money for low-income drivers to keep their vehicles in compliance with traffic laws. The other three are: a Washington Attorney General pattern-or-practice law that would allow the state to sue departments that systemically violate the law, not unlike federal consent decrees but at the state level; the establishment of an independent prosecutor to investigate and prosecute police misconduct at the state level; and revoking qualified immunity for police officers on the state level. I’m also hoping we’ll see the bill for ending solitary confinement in Washington again this session.

Housekeeping

The Seattle City Council has their Winter Recess from December 19 through January 1st.

Revue, the host of this newsletter, will be discontinued as of January 18. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve already begun the process of researching alternatives, and I’m hoping to use the City Council break to make some real headway in setting up a new delivery system for Notes from the Emerald City. My plan will be to automatically add my subscribers’ email addresses to the new system to keep the changeover as painless as possible.

For those of you who are paid subscribers, first of all, thank you for your support! On December 20, Revue will set all outstanding paid subscriptions to cancel at the end of their billing cycle. I expect to be setting up some new kind of payment system, and I’ll let you know the details when I have them.

In the meantime, I’m wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season. I hope you find some time to rest and rejuvenate; I have a feeling 2023 is going to be an eventful year!

Recent Headlines

Seattle Is Ignoring Major Support for Social Housing - The Stranger

King County jail diversion programs not collecting enough data | The Seattle Times

Is Burlington, Vermont suffering a crime wave because "woke" officials cut police funding? Probably not.

A wave breaks? In downtown Seattle, crime is now falling | The Seattle Times

Former Office of Police Accountability director files a lawsuit alleging city interfered with former BPD chief investigation

Wrapping Up 2022 Read More »

Harmful Body-Worn Camera Policy Being Considered in King County

King County News

As reported last week, King County just approved their police union contract with KCPOG, an agreement that included 20% raises for deputies over the next few years and finally gave the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) subpoena power and independent investigative authority. The agreement also paved the way for use of body-worn cameras (BWC) for the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). While some studies have shown body-worn cameras do not reduce use of force by police, making their use by law enforcement bodies controversial, their adoption was part of a settlement between King County and the family of Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens, a 17-year-old killed by police in 2017.
However, two troubling issues regarding these body-worn cameras have recently come to light. First, OLEO requested that in the new King County budget, they be given twelve additional positions, and four additional positions if a contract agreement was reached that included the use of body-worn cameras (coming to a grand total of sixteen new positions). This is because reviewing body-worn and dash camera footage is a time-consuming process that requires more personnel. Instead, only five new positions were included for OLEO in the new budget, and only TWO for 2023, meaning OLEO will be under-resourced to exercise the new breadth of its powers under the ratified contract. It is interesting that the Executive is willing to spend over $50m in salary increases for deputies in the new budget but is unwilling to spend a fraction of that amount to prioritize police accountability and capitalize on hard-won concessions in the police union contract.
Second, the current body-worn camera policy has numerous flaws. As this is the first time body-worn cameras will be used by KCSO, this policy will set departmental norms and expectations. It is important to understand that without a strong and enforceable body-worn camera policy, this technology can actually be used to further shield King County deputies from accountability. Body-worn camera usage will be held up as an example of how accountability is being prioritized, while gigantic loopholes in the policy that render their adoption ineffective will not receive equal time in the spotlight.
As it currently stands, the policy has two major issues that will act as a large impediment to accountability, as well as a few smaller issues, as highlighted by OLEO:
  1. The best practice for more serious incidents is for a deputy to be interviewed before they get a chance to watch any video footage. That this is best practice is not in dispute. However, in the current policy, deputies will submit an initial written statement and then be allowed to watch any video before being interviewed. For less serious incidents under the current policy, deputies will be allowed to watch the video as they are writing their initial report, whereas OLEO would like them to write the report first, then watch the video, and file a supplemental report if needed after viewing.
  2. The current policy regarding discretionary recording is purposefully vague, stating that deputies don’t have to record if there is any circumstance that would justify a decision not to record. This lack of specificity will serve as a gigantic loophole, making the stated purpose of mandatory recording toothless, as in practice this will mean deputies can stop recording at any time and command staff can simply shrug and say they miscalculated and need more training.
  3. Smaller issues include training being required “as needed” instead of on an annual basis, giving cover to deputies making “mistakes” and a policy around what happens if a body-worn camera isn’t working properly, which allows a deputy to wait a week before handing in the faulty equipment and not necessarily receive a replacement while waiting for repair, creating large potential gaps of no video recording.
In addition, King County created the Community Advisory Committee on Law Enforcement Oversight (CACLEO) to advise both the Sheriff’s Office and the King County Council on issues related to equity and social justice. However, CACLEO hasn’t been an integral part of the process in advising on the new body-worn camera policy.
There will be a chance for the public to give comment about the body-worn camera policy at a King County budget committee meeting tomorrowThursday, November 10 at 9:30am either in person or via Zoom. You can find more information about how to give comment and a sample script here. You can also email the King County Council before November 15 to give them feedback about this policy.

Election News

The prophesied red wave failed to materialize yesterday, and locally we elected several more progressive candidates. On the Seattle Municipal Court, which had two contested judge races this cycle, both winning candidates were the more progressive choice who have less punitive philosophies and will be less likely to criminalize poverty. King County also selected the less punitive prosecutor, Leesa Manion, who will continue investment in proven diversion programs.
The Stranger has announced that fearmongering failed this election cycle, which is frankly a breath of fresh air. Democrats seem newly energized about the upcoming state legislative session, which begins on January 9. The Stranger reports that Senator Pedersen is “working on a bill to make gun manufacturers liable for the “damage their dangerous products cause,” and Dems will also be running a bill to ban sales of assault weapons. “Who knows where we’ll be in terms of the budget, but we’re going to be in a pretty strong position to defend the work we’ve done and to go further in terms of climate and carbon reduction. We’ll also continue to have a good discussion on progressive taxation … and it’s pretty hard to see a mandate out of these results for a dramatic rollback on the police accountability bills,” he said.“ It looks like it could also be a productive session in terms of housing. So get ready to roll up your sleeves and communicate with your state legislators come January.

Seattle News

The budget balancing package will be released next Monday, November 14 at 11am, and the last budget public hearing will be held on Tuesday, November 15 at 5pm. Then final amendments to the budget, which must be self-balancing, will be heard on Monday, November 21.
The final Seattle redistricting map was passed yesterday in a victory for the Redistricting Justice for Seattle coalition. However, it didn’t pass without a final flare of drama, with Commissioner Nickels the sole vote against the final map, saying, “Retribution [against] Magnolia because it is an older, wealthier and whiter community—I think that’s not something that the redistricting commission ought to be engaged in.” Luckily the other commissioners had a strong vision that the commission should be engaged in equity, and thus we have our final map.

Recent Headlines

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: 'An open letter to our King County neighbors' - The B-Town (Burien) Blog

Harmful Body-Worn Camera Policy Being Considered in King County Read More »

Mayor Harrell Has Been Saying Some Interesting Things at SPD Roll Calls

The news didn’t slow down THAT much at the end of August, so let’s dive in and get caught up!

Seattle News

There will be a public Q&A session for the top three candidates for SPD police chief on the evening of Thursday, September 15. You can submit questions for the event here and you can watch it on the Seattle Channel.
Andrew Myerberg was removed from his position as Director of Public Safety for Seattle. He is now “Special Projects Director” and is apparently still working on “safety related legal work, police chief search, accountability issues, etc.” Publicola reports that “Harrell said removing Myerberg from his position was just part of a six-month evaluation that involved “moving people around,” but declined to say more about what Myerberg will do in his new role.” The Mayor’s Office appears to be searching for a replacement for the Public Safety Director position.
Social Housing Initiative 135 qualified to be on the ballot in February 2023.
In MyNorthwest.com, Jason Rantz wrote about how Mayor Harrell has been visiting police precinct roll calls and speaking candidly about his thoughts on Seattle: “I don’t think anyone has a right to sleep in a public space. I don’t think anyone has a right to sleep on a sidewalk and I don’t think anyone has the right to sleep in the park.” Now there’s a quote that gets people to sit up and take notice.
There’s a lot more going on in this article though. It confirms Mayor Harrell’s commitment to ending the consent decree, and it’s the first time I’ve heard the possibility floated that the new SPOG contract negotiations could be done by the end of the year. In addition, the Mayor seems to have indicated he’s getting involved with the City Council races next year, when 7 of the 9 council members will be up for election. Hannah Krieg at The Stranger did some digging and found that Seattle’s big business faction is recruiting candidates to challenge Lisa Herbold in District 1 and Tammy Morales in District 2. Lisa Herbold currently serves as the Chair of the Public Safety and Human Resources committee, and Tammy Morales is one of the most progressive members of the Council. The Mayor also seems to be taking shots at the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (to which Seattle provides a large amount of funding) and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), which has been shown to reduce recidivism.
Lastly, Jason Rantz reports that, talking to SPD officers, “many question the mayor’s recruitment and retention plan. They do not think sign-up bonuses will make a difference and they believe the only thing to retain officers would be a fair contract.” It seems not even SPD officers agree with the Mayor’s recruitment bonus plan, legislation for which passed in August.
In other news, now’s your chance to become more informed about an important race that Seattle residents will vote on in November, for Seattle Municipal Court Judge. There are two judicial positions coming to the ballot this year, and The Stranger ran profiles last week on the race between incumbent Adam Eisenberg and challenger Pooja Vaddadi:
It’s Eisenberg’s day-to-day administration of his courtroom and perceived friendliness towards prosecutors, not his work on diversion programs, that attracted an unusually well-funded opponent in this November’s general election.
In a recent survey, Eisenberg was rated lowest for impartiality amongst all his judicial colleagues. He is known for leading the development of the Domestic Violence Intervention Project, which takes a less court-focused and more rehabilitative approach to those accused of domestic violence.
Pooja Vaddadi has her own plans when it comes to supporting diversion programs from the bench:
If she does prevail in November, Vaddadi says she wants to use the relationships she’s built with elected officials on the campaign trail to advocate for more funding for diversion programs so that more low-income people can access them. She also plans to push for expanding diversion programs that prove successful at the King County Superior Court level so that people in Seattle Municipal Court can benefit from them as well.
For Vaddadi, her focus on diversion programs stems from her belief that no one is beyond help, and from a recognition that the criminal legal system creates much of the harm its proponents say they want it to prevent.
Meanwhile, cases at Seattle Community Court are surging as a result of City Attorney Davison’s policy to prosecute more cases than Pete Holmes. Low-level misdemeanors that are eligible for community court are automatically sent there, and in Q2 2022 cases sent to community court have doubled compared to Q2 of 2021. As Josh Cohen in Crosscut writes:
Though court reformers see community court as a more humane alternative to booking people into jail, they don’t necessarily see the increase in community court referrals as positive. Instead, many want to see more cases diverted into alternatives that provide social services and support before they enter the court system. According to city attorney office data, pre-filing diversions and pre-trial diversions are both down significantly compared to years before the pandemic and prior to the creation of Seattle Community Court.

King County News

There will be a forum on Thursday, September 8 at 7pm discussing the role of the King County prosecutor in the criminal punishment system and particularly, how much discretion prosecutors have. This is timely given King County will be electing a new prosecutor in November’s election. You can register for the forum here or watch it live on the League of Women Voters Youtube page.
Speaking of the King County Prosecutor, current prosecutor Dan Satterberg has asked King County Sheriff Cole-Tindall to investigate the deletion of text messages of Seattle city leaders in 2020, including then-Mayor Durkan, then-SPD Chief Best, and SFD Chief Scoggins. While this response seems a bit delayed, to say the least, it is possible Satterberg felt more able to act given his term as prosecutor will be ending shortly. You can read more about it at Axios.
Sydney Brownstone over at The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle jail (run by King County) has had an extreme suicide rate over the past year.
“It’s astronomical,” said Frances Abderhalden, an expert on jail suicides and an assistant professor of criminal justice at California State University, Los Angeles. “It begs the question to me: Why this facility? That’s a lot of death in general in one facility per year.”
In July of 2020, Executive Constantine promised to close this jail, but it is unclear what the timeline of such a closure would be, or if the promise will be kept now that the narrative around the criminal legal system has shifted due to a backlash that, if allowed to prevail, handily protects the status quo.

National News

President Biden has a new crime plan called the “Safer America” plan. Ah, does he finally intend to crack down on gun control, a problem that we know how to solve given the large number of countries that have in fact solved it? No, no, why do the obvious thing to make the US safer when you can hire more police officers instead? The plan consists of hiring 100,000 more police officers and allocating at least an additional $13 billion to America’s police budgets, which are already the largest in the world by far.
Here is Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing, on the plan:

And as Eric Reinhart starts out his piece in Time Magazine:

The “war on crime” is the highest-casualty, most expensive, and longest-lasting war in American history. This coordinated assault on the nation’s poorest communities has led to tens of millions of individuals locked up in cages with deadly long-term health consequences, at least 31,000 people killed directly by police, and trillions of dollars spent on pointless punishment. For over 50 years, repeated increases to public spending on police and prisons have continually bankrolled this war while failing to ensure safety, leaving the U.S. one of the least safe countries among all wealthy nations.

Recent Headlines

What's in a Movement? Understanding Resistance, Justice & Allies

Texas Bail Reform Reduced Jail Time and Crime, New Study Says - Bloomberg

We Probably Do Not Need Cops Directing Traffic at Sports Games - The Stranger

Seattle Fire Department staff shortage forces extreme hours, $37.7M of OT | The Seattle Times

Seattle police has big backlog of open requests for public records; slow responses persist - Axios Seattle

For some, community court reduces jail bookings by 87% | Crosscut

The role WA courts play in mental health care when someone is in crisis | The Seattle Times

'We are the alternative': A growing movement aims to disrupt violence by connecting incarcerated youth with mentors | CNN

5 agencies create task force to target violent, gun-related crimes in Snohomish County

NYC's Rise of Low-Level Arrests Worry Critics of 'Broken Windows' Era - Bloomberg

Mayor Harrell Has Been Saying Some Interesting Things at SPD Roll Calls 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.

Recent Headlines

Last Call for a Progressive King County Prosecutor Candidate - Slog - The Stranger

District Court Judge Who Used Racist Language Has Been Taken Off Cases, Court Says | South Seattle Emerald

Families of Those Killed by Police Honor Their Memories | South Seattle Emerald

Attorney General Bob Ferguson on using his platform to pursue justice | Crosscut

Black police, blue line: What happened when a Tacoma officer challenged institutional racism | The Seattle Times

Continued Institutional Resistance to a Civilian Alternate Response Service in Seattle Read More »

More on data and disparity in Seattle’s policing and criminal legal systems

Seattle News

Guy Oron reports that data from the Seattle Municipal Court shows the City Attorney’s Office has disproportionately prosecuted Black and Indigenous people during the first three months of 2022. 31.7% of the people charged were Black during these months, compared to 7.1% of the total Seattle population.
Speaking of the City Attorney’s Office, it sounds like it is struggling to deal with a large number of misdemeanor cases, leading to this week’s announcement that they are dismissing 2,000 misdemeanor cases. They will be making the argument to City Council that they need more funding in the mid-year supplemental budget to hire more staff to address the backlog of cases, starting with a presentation discussing the backlog at next week’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting.
Also scheduled for the Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting on Tuesday, April 26 at 9:30am will be the continued discussion about hiring incentives for police officers. There will be an opportunity at the beginning of this meeting for public comment or you can call or email your council members to give them your feedback about this proposal.
At this week’s Council Briefing, CM Herbold reported on the finding in the Court Monitor’s recent use of force assessment, saying that SPD had looked into the matter of officers failing to report subjects’ race and discovered a technical error was responsible for the lack of data, which the officers actually had been reporting. SPD expects to correct the error. The assessment relies completely on SPD-reported data to come to its conclusions.
The CPC released a statement yesterday stating its concerns over this data error, saying “Concerns about data validity underscore larger issues, namely that SPD manages its own data and conducts its own self-reporting, as well as how the Federal Monitor has been overly dependent on SPD data.” They went on to recommend an independent data management body to increase transparency and trust with the community and are calling for a special meeting with the Monitor and SPD about the data malfunction. In regards to the ongoing consent decree, they say:
By painting an inaccurate picture of the realities of communities who are disproportionately impacted by policing, the Monitor and SPD are losing sight of a key goal of police accountability. Further, by relying on inaccurate race data and while prematurely pushing end the Consent Decree, the Federal Monitor and SPD are dismissing the real harm and impact of Seattle policing on communities of color.
The OIG recently released a report finding the OPA routinely dismissed public complaints about SPD officers not wearing masks as required, finding this noncompliance was a “cultural problem” within the department. As Erica Barnett reported, the OPA didn’t sustain any of the 98 complaints about officers not following the mask mandate, and supervisors rarely disciplined officers even after their fourth or fifth violations of the mask mandate. The report itself says:
“Director Myerberg stated that no one in headquarters wore masks and related that someone had sent OPA a photo of multiple lieutenants, captains, and chiefs celebrating an event at headquarters without any masks. Director Myerberg explained that he perceived the mask non-compliance as indicative of a serious culture issue within SPD and stated that it was not sustainable for OPA to be the ‘thought police’ of the Department.”
Erica Barnett attempted to get a statement from Andrew Myerberg, but: “a spokesman for Harrell’s office referred questions about Myerberg’s role in dismissing mask complaints to the OPA, saying, “Public Safety Director Myerberg does not comment on his past role and previous OPA work.””
If you would like to sign up to participate in dialogues between community and police that are being conducted by Seattle University through their Micro-Community Policing Plan Research Team, you can do so here.
If you’re interested in getting some additional insight about media coverage and how reporting tends to dehumanize and criminalize people who are houseless, struggling with mental illness and/or addiction, Tobias Coughlin-Bogue wrote a piece about recent local coverage in Real Change that you may want to check out.
Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about what happened at this week’s CPC meeting, CE Bick linked to a video recording and did a Twitter thread, which starts here:
CE Bick
I was unable to attend yesterday’s @SeaCPC meeting, but I wanted to create a thread about it in light of yesterday’s press release (QT below). 🧵 1/ https://t.co/ZE1WzEV72d

King County News

This week King County held its two public forums with the three final candidates for King County Sheriff. At this morning’s forum, eyebrows were raised when candidate Charles Kimble, Police Chief from Killeen, Texas, suggested that an innovation for King County to consider might be a program that would provide bumper stickers for people to be able to inform police they have a mental illness. Of course, these stickers also proclaim that same information to the general public. One wonders if support of such a problematic program might lower Charles Kimble’s chances of receiving the final offer.

Erica C. Barnett
I’ve been watching the King County Sheriff candidate forums (#2 is happening now) and nothing much jumped out until one of the finalists, Killeen Police Chief Charles Kimble, touted a program that provides bumper stickers for people to inform police they have a mental illness.

Recent Headlines

WA prosecutors who withhold evidence rarely face discipline | Crosscut

Progressive Lane Wide Open in King County Prosecutor Race - Slog - The Stranger

More on data and disparity in Seattle’s policing and criminal legal systems Read More »

On the Budget Meeting Overviews

Are you ready to talk about budget meetings?

First, the relevant Twitter threads.

This Twitter thread covers the budget overview presented on Wednesday morning.

This Twitter thread covers the SPD budget presentation this morning.

And this Twitter thread covers the Reimagining Public Safety presentation and Seattle Municipal Court presentation.


SPD Staffing Levels

My report on SPD sworn officers from the last newsletter was not completely accurate, so I want to go over the numbers now. The original 2020 budget included 1497 sworn officer positions but only funded 1422 of these positions, leaving the remainder unfunded and vacant. The proposed 2021 budget includes 1450 sworn officer positions but only funds 1400 of these positions, leaving the remaining 50 positions unfunded and vacant. Hence the confusion about whether the Mayor’s proposed budget includes the layoff of 100 officers called for in the Council’s revised 2020 budget. It doesn’t in practice, but the numbers aren’t straightforward.

SPD says that in order to maintain its current level of service and response times, it needs a minimum of 1400 sworn officers. It is important to note this number represents staffing needed if there is no decrease in the police scope of work. There is disagreement between the Council and SPD as to which staffing models should be used and potentially the timing of the shift of functions. SPD also wants to halt the current hiring freeze and start recruitment and hiring again in 2021 in order to maintain this staffing level. Otherwise with expected attrition they will fall below 1400 officers, and in addition, it takes some time to begin recruitment and training so needs to be planned ahead.

It’s also worth noting, in regards to the revised 2020 budget, the Mayor has asked the Council to reconsider the command staff pay cuts and has noted that the $200k cut to legally obligated hiring bonuses needs to be revisited, as it violates the City charter. You can read more here about the Mayor’s take on implementing the revised 2020 budget, including copies of the three recent letters on this subject from the Mayor’s office.


The Mayor’s Plan to Reimagine Public Safety

In an excellent example of the Seattle process, the Mayor is forming the Community Safety Work Group and the Functional IDT. The work group will formulate policy around reimagining public safety based on data and analysis, and the IDT serves the research and analysis function, as well as hopefully presenting an idea of what community wants from SPD. The Mayor presented a timeline for this work; going through the end of 2021, it is vague and repetitive and doesn’t present a very clear picture of what will be happening when.


Potential Issues

  • Although the General Fund is one big pot and can therefore be confusing to assess, it seems clear the $100m for BIPOC communities is coming from the new JumpStart tax revenue that had already been allocated to other purposes, mostly COVID relief in 2021. There is a lot of confusion around this, and lots of numbers being thrown around. There is concern this is taking money away from BIPOC groups that advocated for various JumpStart spending, therefore pitting BIPOC community members against one another. In response to this, community released a statement entitled “Towards a Solidarity Budget.”
  • Of the $14m the Council allocated for community organization ramp-up and gun violence prevention, $4m will be dispersed this year to organizations with already existing city contracts. Because she believes the rest cannot be spent by the end of the year, the Mayor has decided not to execute the interfund loan that was the major source of most of these funds, which the Council intended to repay next year, either with further SPD cuts or with JumpStart tax revenue. However, the Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget has already allocated all JumpStart tax revenue while ignoring this obligation and has also already allocated any savings from SPD, so the Council will be forced to figure out how to pay for the remaining $10m.
  • A task force is being put together of BIPOC community members to recommend priorities for the $100m worth of investment into BIPOC communities. There is concern that this task force won’t truly be representative of the BIPOC community and doesn’t answer the demands for a true participatory budget process. The counter argument is that a participatory budget process takes about a year, and the Mayor wishes to get these funds out the door sooner, potentially by mid-2021.
  • There is concern about having several parallel processes within the BIPOC community, one through this Equitable Communities task force of the Mayor’s, one through the research/PBP led by King County Equity Now funded by the Council, and potentially one led by the IDT for reimagining public safety. It is not known whether these processes will be complimentary, and how they could work together has not been determined. It is possible that a lot of work might be duplicated, or that work could be done at cross purposes.
  • There is concern that the Mayor’s various efforts divorce divestment (aka defunding the police) from the process of investment. Investment without divestment won’t lead to the same systemic changes overall and therefore will have a greatly reduced impact. In addition, this separation could cause various additional sources of confusion.
  • The Mayor says disbanding the Navigation Team could potentially violate the law as interpreted in the Hooper case and moves the SPD in the wrong direction by expanding its sworn officer duties for what should be services provided by civilians. The Council stated its intentions this summer that the money provided by disbanding the Navigation Team should go to community partners providing homelessness services, but it is unclear whether this investment is reflected in the Mayor’s proposed budget. At her town hall last night, CM Herbold said she was concerned because there was no plan to get this money out the door. This might become more clear at the overview on homelessness response presentation tomorrow morning (although I won’t be covering that myself.)

The Seattle Municipal Court Reforms

The Seattle Municipal Court is enacting various reforms that they think will help address current racial inequity:

  • Ending in-person day reporting
  • Moving to a collaborative Community Court model
  • Eliminating various discretionary court fees
  • Decreasing their Probation Services budget by 25%
  • Adding a contract social worker to help with the new Community Court and service referrals
  • Participating in a 3-year bail project

It will be interesting to see how these conversations develop! In the meantime, there will be a public hearing next Tuesday, October 6 at 5:30pm where you can sign up to give public comment on any issues related to the budget, including reimagining public safety. After the final budget overviews tomorrow, the next scheduled budget meeting currently on the calendar isn’t until October 15, when the Council begins their Issue Identification process. Of course, as always, that is subject to change.

Until next time!

On the Budget Meeting Overviews Read More »