City Council Talks SPD Staffing While Ignoring Damning Report on the Department’s Treatment of Women

Seattle News

My article on the three new surveillance technologies currently undergoing impact reports is up now at The Urbanist: Harrell Plans Hasty Rollout of Massive Surveillance Expansion. And here’s another great resource for learning more about these technologies.

I strongly encourage you to get involved in this conversation by doing one or more of the following:

  • You can sign on as a group or individual to this letter.
  • You can attend a public meeting that is part of the SIR process and give public comment on Tuesday, February 27, from 6-7pm at Bitter Lake Community Center (or remotely)
  • You can fill out survey forms for each of the three technologies. More possible talking points are here.

Last year SPD commissioned a report that describes the harassment and discrimination faced by their women officers. The report describes womens’ difficulties being promoted, discrimination about getting pregnant, sexist behaviors and comments, being excluded, and sexual harassment, among other issues. 14.4% of SPD sworn officers are women, down 1% since 2017

Publicola reported that in 2023, out of 61 new officers hired, just five were women, according to Jamie Housen. One of the talking points of the Executive’s Office seems to be that “almost half” of SPD’s command staff is women, but actually only 5 out of 13 are women, with only one being a sworn officer. The other 4 hold civilian positions that are typically held by women. 

In addition to last year’s lawsuit brought by Detective Cookie Boudine, another lawsuit was brought against SPD last month by Deanna Nollette alleging gender discrimination.

The Seattle Times reported: “Most of the report’s interviewees would not tell other women to join the department, James wrote.

“Well, if I were to tell my daughters or, you know, my friends, I tell them to run in the opposite direction, you know, because of the experiences that I’ve had,” one participant said.”

While SPD’s Chief Diaz mentioned wanting to specifically recruit more women at the year’s first Public Safety committee meeting this week, not one council member saw fit to ask him about this report. This lack of oversight fit nicely with the committee’s new attitude of bending over backwards to support SPD.

New Public Safety Chair Robert Kettle emphasized how the problems in Seattle stem from a “permissive environment” and named 6 pillars to address this: police staffing, legal tools, unsecured vacant buildings and lots, graffiti, public health, and “One Seattle engagement with the County and the State.” As Publicola points out, this is in stark contrast to the previous mission of this committee, which “previously highlighted police accountability, alternatives to arrest and jail, and “programs to reduce the public’s involvement with law enforcement and decrease involvement with the Criminal Legal System.”

In other words, it’s all about deterrence and punishment now, with strains of broken windows theory coming round yet again to haunt us.

CARE department head Amy Smith, who everyone called Chief, said that she’d like to expand the hours of the alternate responders. They now cover from 11am-11pm, and she’d like to cover the 11pm-2am window as well. She also mentioned that the responders sometimes have joint trainings with SPD officers.

SPD gave an update on 2023 crime numbers and staffing. In 2023, there was a 9% reduction in overall crime, a 10% reduction in property crime, and a 6% reduction in violent crime. There was a 1% decrease in total shots fired and shooting events, a 23% increase in homicides (although apparently some of these were delayed deaths, the Chief said), and a 3% increase in shooting events alone. The first month of 2024 saw a large reduction in homicides from previous Januaries. The number of rounds fired has increased recently due to high capacity magazines that hold many more rounds.

SPD lost 36 more officers than they were able to hire in 2023. This is a smaller decrease in staffing than any year since 2019, when they had a net gain of 16 officers. Over the last five years, they have lost 715 personnel. For January of this year, they are breaking even in terms of officers leaving vs officers being hired.

The average response time to a Priority 1 911 call is seven and a half minutes; their goal is seven minutes even.

He mentioned they want to close out the consent decree in 2024 and expressed pride that SPD would be one of the first departments to be able to do that. 

There was a lot of discussion of how to increase officer morale, make them feel more supported, increase staffing, and help them recover from the trauma they endured after George Floyd. There was also talk about how not having a new contract is harming SPD in terms of recruiting since officers aren’t being paid enough compared to other agencies. Chief Diaz mentioned doing a lot of recruiting from nearby military bases, citing Portland’s success in increasing staffing in this way. 

CM Moore said they were going to allow police to police and not engage in the micromanagement of the past. She complained that the city is paying for jail space it’s not getting, saying they are paying for 190 jail beds per night but only getting 40, which is a problem, as she wants to send a message of holding people accountable. She suggested the idea of the city looking elsewhere for jail space, which could mean another spotlight on the SCORE jail in Des Moines. As of October 2023, 4 people had died in the SCORE jail in 2023, a very high number.

Publicola ran an article about SPD and the City Attorney’s Office continuing to crack down on sex work:

“Criminalizing sex work is broadly unpopular; during jury selection, echoing national sentiment, 23 of 25 potential jurors said they didn’t think sex work should be illegal. But the city remains deeply invested in penalizing the practice—and pouring resources into prosecuting men who patronize sex workers.

Like James, most of the people prosecuted for patronizing prostitutes are men of color, and defense attorneys say many are immigrants—mostly Latino—who don’t speak English fluently or at all.”

The article also explores what a huge amount of resources these stings and trials take (a single sting can involve as many as 20 officers), and how in City law and SPD policy, sex work and human trafficking are practically the same thing. 

WA State Legislature:

A quick update here. HB 1579–the independent prosecutor bill–and SB 6009–a bill banning hog tying–both passed their houses of origin. Unfortunately, the traffic safety bill HB 1513 has died. HB 1445–the bill giving the Attorney General investigatory power over systemic practices of police agencies–is also dead. HB 2065–the bill about juvenile points–passed out of its house of origin and has a hearing and an executive session scheduled for next week. 

HB 1932 –the bill to allow even year elections–has passed from its house of origin.

Housekeeping:

I’m on vacation next week, so you’ll be hearing from me next in early March. 

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