solitary confinement

Council President Nelson Pushes Back Against Experts’ Opinions

Seattle News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I wrote at The Urbanist:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The entire article is well worth the read.

Other News:

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

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

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

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

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

Recent Headlines:

 

Council President Nelson Pushes Back Against Experts’ Opinions Read More »

SPD Sure is Excited About Increasing Surveillance in Seattle

Seattle News:

In a quick and dirty recap, Seattle City Council approved the budget on November 21, and Mayor Harrell signed it into law on December 1. The Stranger had this to say:

Last week, the Seattle City Council passed its supplemental 2023-2024 budget without any clear solutions for the looming 2025 budget shortfall but with about $385 million allocated for the Seattle Police Department (SPD), or about 24% of general funds. The Council made no mid-term adjustment to SPD’s staffing budget, despite the department failing to meet any of its staffing projections from 2023. SPD vowed to hire a record number of officers next year, and the Council allowed the department to keep all the funds for this potential influx of officers, all while other City workers continue to fight to bump their pay increase from 1% up to 2.5%.”

City Council ended up following the Mayor’s lead in not addressing the large budget gap the city will be facing in a year’s time. Yes, that’s right, no new progressive revenue options have been passed, which means next year’s budget season might get very interesting (and not in a good way).

City Council also passed the SPOG MOU on Tuesday, which I’ve written about previously and also discussed in a Hacks & Wonks podcast. The MOU passed in a 5-2 vote, with CMs Mosqueda and Morales voting against and CM Sawant and CP Juarez absent. It’s worth remembering the $8.1 million this MOU will cost the city over the next two years is NOT coming from SPD’s already bloated budget but instead is being drawn from a reserve that is meant for general labor expenses, meaning this money could have been spent on contracts for other city workers and/or to cover at least some of the large amount of backpay that is expected to be due when a new SPOG contract is agreed upon.

House our Neighbors, which ran the successful I-135 social housing initiative that passed this February, will be running a new initiative in 2024 focusing on obtaining funding for social housing in Seattle.

In participatory budgeting news, six projects were selected through the voting process and will be receiving funding over the next six months or so. One project selected will spend $2 million towards a “people not police crisis response team.” 

A timeline for adoption of the ShotSpotter (or similar) surveillance technology has been announced. The city will begin soliciting bids from technology companies by early next year. The plan remains to complete the surveillance impact report (SIR), including a racial equity analysis, in the first quarter of 2024, in the hopes of launching the use of the technology by summer. The City Council will need to vote to approve the SIR before the new tech can be deployed. 

In more surveillance news, SPD is planning to massively expand their surveillance of where people drive their cars through automatic license plate readers (ALPRs). SPD currently only has ALPRs installed in 19 SPD and parking enforcement vehicles, but this expansion would place an ALPR in all 300 vehicles in SPD’s fleet. Any data these license readers pick up would be stored for 90 days and accessible via public record request. Other states require law enforcement agencies to purge their files of license plates not connected to any crime much more rapidly (in New Hampshire, within 3 minutes). But SPD has said they cannot connect the license plate data to potential crimes within 48 hours.

Before this technology is installed in all 300 vehicles, it must go through another SIR, for which public comment is required. You can provide public comment at this site, and all comment is due tomorrow (12/8).

SPD officer and SPOG guild president Mike Solan has complained that the OPA conducting a second interview with him as the sole witness of the conversation he had with Officer Auderer regarding the death of Jaahnavi Kandula, who was hit by a patrol car driven by another SPD officer, is “union discrimination.” He claims the OPA was trying to intimidate the guild by asking for this second interview. 

Publicola published a piece on SPD’s emergency driving policy, which is vague and doesn’t specify what kind of calls justify emergency driving:

“While much of the recent debate over police driving has focused on whether or not to limit pursuits, similar risks associated with responding to emergency calls have largely slipped under the radar. Publicly available data on high speeds and risky behavior by SPD officers is virtually nonexistent.”

King County and Washington State News:

The Stranger published an op-ed giving an inside look into what happened with the bill banning solitary confinement in this last legislative session. It’s worth reading the entire piece, but I do want to call out something I found interesting at the time, namely that the bill was stymied by a large fiscal note being attached to it. The Department of Corrections claimed phasing out solitary confinement would cost the state a lot more money than continuing the status quo. This is in spite of data showing that solitary confinement is actually more expensive than housing someone in a prison’s general population:

Calculated by the Office of Financial Management using models constructed by the DOC, the note advised that reducing solitary would cost $78 million in the next fiscal period, and an additional $98 million in each of the two following fiscal periods.

These were curious numbers. The average cost of housing a person in solitary is three times higher than housing that same person in general population, $25,000 annually versus $75,000 dollars annually, according to UC Irvine professor Keramet Reiter.  

Why DOC would need a supplemental $274 million dollars to house prisoners in substantially less expensive living units has never been satisfactorily explained.”

What has also not yet been adequately explained is why the state legislature allowed a mysterious fiscal note not backed up by available data to be the deciding factor in halting a much needed bill protecting the human rights of Washington residents.

In news on juvenile solitary confinement in King County, the new ordinance has been paused as some legal issues have come up, so it will be returning to committee instead of receiving a final County Council vote.

Recent Headlines:

SPD Sure is Excited About Increasing Surveillance in Seattle Read More »

Alternative Response in Seattle is Behind…Again

Seattle News

There’s a lot to catch up on, so let’s start off with the big news that the Social Housing Initiative 135 has passed! Next steps include bringing together a board of directors and seeking funding.

Mayor Harrell gave his State of the City speech last week. Apparently the white paper about a third public safety department that was supposed to be completed last year is still forthcoming. As this was supposed to be the main tangible step forward in 2022, the failure to deliver this white paper in a timely fashion is disappointing to say the least. But at least the new department has a name now, which obviously took many hours of painstaking work: CARE, the Civilian Assisted Response and Engagement Department. Apparently we’ll also be hearing more about police officer hiring this year, which is hardly a surprise, although given the difficulty police departments across the country are having hiring, these are conversations that seem unlikely to deliver the desired results.

Last week the Adley Shepherd case was dismissed by a U.S. District Court Judge. Adley Shepherd is a former SPD officer who was fired after punching a handcuffed woman in the back of a squad car. His case has been filtering through arbitration and courts ever since, most recently as a suit brought by him against the City of Seattle.

The City of Seattle settled the CHOP lawsuit for $3.65m, $600k of which was due to the missing texts of former Mayor Durkan, former SPD Chief Best, and others. This money, as well as additional costs of defending the lawsuit, comes from taxpayer dollars.

At this week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, the CSCC presented on their 911 Protocols Software that would enable them to dispatch calls to responders other than the police. Right now the plan is to implement dual dispatch including SPD, although CM Herbold was quick to remind us that dual dispatch doesn’t necessarily mean a police officer will be on the scene in every instance, but rather in some cases SPD would simply be situationally aware of the dispatch of a civilian responder. That being said, it was made clear at the meeting that the nature of the dual dispatch model has yet to be determined

Shocking no one, given we’ve been holding our breath for a particular white paper since December, all the work on alternative response appears to be behind schedule. None of the deliverables outlined on the term sheet regarding developing alternative response between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff appear to be complete. Some of this delay was attributed to the hiring and on-boarding of the new interim Director of the CSCC, Rebecca Gonzales, although of course everyone already knew when deliverable dates were set that a new director would need to be found. CM Lewis was frustrated enough to say that if more progress isn’t forthcoming in future briefings, the Council might need to take a more assertive role in this work. Given Seattle has been waiting two and a half years for alternative response with nothing to show for it, this reaction seems quite measured.

The protocols and work flow of the new triaging dispatch system also won’t be complete until late this year. CM Herbold called out that we continue to be told of reasons why we can’t move forward on implementation of alternate response: SPD’s RMD analysis, the overdue white paper from the Mayor’s Office outlining the new third public safety department, and now this triage dispatch system. She expressed her hopes that launching an alternate response pilot for person down and wellness checks won’t depend on the dispatch system being complete. CM Lewis pointed out other cities with alternative response have triage systems that dispatch to fully civilian responses, not just dual dispatch. And so the slog to push alternative response continues sluggishly forward as Seattle continues to fall behind many other cities who have been able to do this work.

Due to objections from SPOG, SPD discontinued use of Truleo software that analyzed police body-cam footage to look for potential police misconduct. Unfortunately, SPD’s use of several other surveillance technologies was approved by the Seattle City Council earlier this week, including “cell phone and laptop extraction tools, a geospatial analysis technology called GeoTime, remotely operated vehicles, crash retrieval forensics and hidden GPS trackers and cameras.” Seattle has its own Surveillance Advisory Working Group, and the CMs failed to implement many of this work group’s recommendations relating to the use of these technologies.

A recent report shows that Seattle’s automated traffic cameras disproportionately target Communities of Color. In fact, 65% of automated traffic cameras are placed in neighborhoods with relatively more people of color and immigrants; Seattle’s most dangerous roads tend to be in these communities because of displacement. In 2022, Seattle’s automated cameras issued almost 200,000 traffic tickets, which is almost fifty times more than the number given by police. It’s also worth noting that these camera-generated tickets currently require review by police, meaning such a large volume requires additional resources given to SPD in order to review them; to do otherwise would require a law change. An op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald by Ethan C. Campbell and Nura Ahmed outlines several ways to address issues of equity surrounding traffic cameras in Seattle. 

CM Herbold wrote the following about violent crime in Seattle in 2022:

Although, over the entire year, the data shows violent crime higher than it’s been for years, the SPD Crime Dashboard shows that there were 363 violent crimes reported in December 2022; this is the lowest number of violent crimes reported for a month since February 2021, when 329 violent crimes were reported. The December 2022 figure is lower than the 403 violent crimes reported in December 2019 (before COVID-19, before the murder of George Floyd, and before 500 officers left SPD).

A further review of the SPD dashboard shows that moving into 2023 (the report only covers 2022), 371 reported violent crimes in January, slightly lower than January 2020, with 373 reported violent crimes.

Shots fired, while higher overall in 2022, are also dramatically declining, according to the Chief.”

When discussing violent crime in 2022, it would be remiss not to reiterate the increasing violence experienced by unsheltered people.

The turmoil at the Seattle Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the Community Police Commission (CPC) continues. Two more SHRC commissioners have recently resigned as commissioners continue to receive legal threats from the City Attorney’s Office about trying to seek amicus status in the consent decree, and the CPC Executive Director Brandy Grant resigned on February 10. Cali Ellis has been named as the interim director. After events at a CPC community engagement meeting on February 14 and the CPC’s regular meeting on February 15, both Castile Hightower and Howard Gale have filed complaints with the OPA about SPD Officer Mullens, who also sits on the CPC. 

King County News

The ACLU of Washington filed a lawsuit on Friday against King County and Executive Constantine arguing they are in breach of a settlement agreement regarding the King County Jail mandating certain staffing levels and inmate access to medical care and court hearings. Advocates held a press conference and rally outside the jail on Monday morning.

Election News

Becka Johnson Pope, who has spent the last three years managing King County’s budget, announced her run for the King County Council seat for District 4. Sarah Reyneveld has already announced her run for the same seat.

Seattle CM Dan Strauss has announced his intentions to run for re-election in District 6.

ChrisTiana Obeysumner has declared their candidacy in District 5. They are one of six filed candidates so far for the district.

WA State Legislature

Sadly, the bill banning solitary confinement has died again this year. The new drug possession bill also doesn’t look promising.

HB 1513 (traffic stops), HB 1025 (qualified immunity), HB 1579 (independent prosecutor), and HB 1445 (AG investigations & reform) are all headed for floor votes. March 8 is the cut-off date for bills to be voted out of their house of origin. 

Recent Headlines

Alternative Response in Seattle is Behind…Again Read More »

The Cycle of Police Violence Continues Unabated

National News

Front of mind is the recent video footage release of the Memphis police killing Tyre Nichols. 

I was particularly struck by something Courtney Milan, writer and lawyer, shared on Twitter:

“We’re threatened with random, stochastic crimes by faceless criminals to justify the senseless violence that is being dealt by officers of the state. It keeps happening, and we keep doing the same thing. It’s not just that we should defund the police and fund social services. It’s that funding social services—things that could house the unhoused, really treat addiction, etc etc—would remove the visible markets that are used to keep us in fear.

So many people have died in pain and the only thing that happened was that the backlash to people saying “we should not do this, let’s stop” meant that police got even more money.”

The cycle of police violence is very apparent, and it will continue unabated until enough people work together to stop it.

I will leave you with a quote from journalist Derecka Purnell in the Guardian:

“I immediately noticed that almost all of the reforms that liberals suggest will save Black lives were present in Tyre’s death. Diversity was not an issue: the five cops who killed him are all Black. The body cameras strapped to their chests did not deter their fists from delivering blow after blow. Memphis has about 2,000 cops, and if this were a “few bad apples” in the department issue, then maybe they all happened to be working on the same shift. Cops did not shoot Tyre; they opted for a less deadlier force: they beat him for three minutes, shocked him and pepper-sprayed him.

In fact, Memphis police department boasts that they have met all of the features of Campaign Zero’s #8CantWait campaign, which includes a requirement for officers to intervene when other officers are using excessive force and a requirement to de-escalate encounters with civilians. The department has been under a consent decree for decades. MPD hired its first Black woman police chief in 2021 and holds Black History Knowledge bowls and basketball programs to “build trust” and relationships with local teenagers.”

Other relevant articles:

Seattle News

The officer who killed Jaahnavi Kundala, a graduate student who was in a crosswalk when hit by his SUV, has been identified as one Kevin Austin Dave. The watchdog group DivestSPD was the first to release this name, which was later corroborated by SPD. There are still many unknowns outstanding about this incident, including how fast Dave was driving and whether he stopped after hitting Kundala.

My colleague at People Power Washington, Dr. Shannon Cheng, appeared on Hacks & Wonks this week to discuss the SPOG contract: why it’s important, bargaining challenges past and present, and what to look for in the next contract.

Carolyn Bick at the South Seattle Emerald has uncovered evidence suggesting former Mayor Durkan and her office were interfering in Seattle’s police accountability process by trying to either delay or prevent the OPA from investigating then-Chief of Police Carmen Best for her role in handling the 2020 protests.

Will Casey, who has been doing an excellent job covering the “Criminal Justice” beat at The Stranger, has unfortunately left the paper. While I look forward to the work of his replacement, whoever that may be, this is another loss for local news coverage in the Puget Sound area. While the importance of media coverage is widely understood, journalists often receive relatively low pay and work long hours, making it difficult to retain them and provide quality local news coverage. Consider this your regular reminder to contribute to local publications the South Seattle Emerald and Publicola if you are able.

Election News

We’ve made it to February, and there’s so much election news!

CM Morales has announced she will be seeking re-election in Seattle’s District 2. She is only the second Seattle CM to decide to run again, and now we’re waiting for CM Strauss to have a complete picture of which seats are open.

In District 1, Maren Costa has announced her candidacy, meaning there are now three declared candidates. District 3 has five announced candidates thus far, and in District 4, in addition to early announcer Matthew Mitnick we now have Kenneth Wilson, who ran against Teresa Mosqueda for a city-wide seat last year, and urbanist Ron Davis, who comes into the race with a slate of endorsements and after publishing several op-eds over the last few months.

Meanwhile, in the King County Council races, Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld has declared her candidacy for District 4, and there are rumors CM Mosqueda is considering a run for the District 8 spot. If she were to be elected to the King County Council, the two years remaining in her Seattle City Council term would be served by someone appointed by the Council, a body that will be largely reshaped by the elections this November.

The King County Council voted to put the new crisis center levy on the ballot, and residents will vote on this initiative this April (April 25, to be precise). This property tax levy would go into effect in 2024, and over a nine year period it could raise as much as $1.25b to fund the construction of five much-needed walk-in crisis centers that would be open twenty-four hours.

And don’t forget Initiative 135 for social housing! The ballots have been mailed, and the deadline for voting is February 14.

WA State Legislature News

HB 1579 to establish an independent prosecutor had its first hearing in the House on Tuesday, and HB 1513 regarding traffic stops had its first hearing in the House on Monday. HB 1024 regarding minimum wage for prison labor had a hearing in the Appropriations Committee on Monday afternoon. HB 1045, the basic income bill, was referred to Appropriations. SB 5383 regarding jaywalking still hasn’t had its first committee hearing. 

HB 1087 to end solitary confinement has a hearing in the Appropriations Committee tomorrow afternoon. You can sign in PRO here or find a script to email the committee members here.

As for a new bill to address the Blake decision on drug possession, while a bill has been introduced by Senator Dhingra based on the recommendations of SURSAC that would decriminalize most “personal amounts” of drugs, she has said she doesn’t have the votes to pass it. Instead what is likely to pass is a bill re-criminalizing drug possession but encouraging diversion programs.

Recent Headlines

The Cycle of Police Violence Continues Unabated Read More »

Recent Drop in Violent Crime Takes the Wind out of Fearmongers’ Sails

We’ve Moved!

As you know, I’ve been working on finding a new home for Notes from the Emerald City. And here’s what I’ve got for you!

Newsletter subscribers will continue to receive every issue emailed to them through Substack. Yes, I have feelings about Substack. Yes, this is the compromise I referenced having to make last week. But you as the readers should experience a seamless transition. 

But there’s more! There is now an official WEBSITE of Notes from the Emerald City. I am really excited about this because it provides a searchable archive of all the articles I’ve written. I’m also tagging posts with relevant topics, a process that I expect to become more fine-tuned over time. I hope this will make Notes from the Emerald City even more useful as a community resource. I used it just this weekend to quickly pull up recent SPD staffing numbers, and it worked beautifully.

For those of you who had paid subscriptions in the past, I have new options for you! You can set up a monthly subscription payment through either Patreon or Paypal. You can also give one-time donations through Paypal. (This same information can be found on the new website’s Donate page.)

If you have any trouble with the transition, please don’t hesitate to reach out and I’ll do my best to get you sorted.

Seattle News

Speaking of those SPD staffing numbers, let’s talk about Danny Westneat’s recent column in the Seattle Times: Seattle’s pandemic crime fever may finally be breaking. I’m glad it’s finally becoming mainstream to admit that the increase in certain types of violence we’ve seen over the past few years is very probably closely related to living through a historical and deadly global pandemic. Westneat reports that violent crime started dropping in October, and December saw the fewest number of violent crimes reported since March 2020. 

It is important to note that while violent crime is now dropping, SPD staffing of officers in service was significantly lower in October of 2022 than it was in 2019 before the pandemic, or even in 2020. This is a powerful argument against the story that “defunding the police” or even just run-of-the-mill staffing woes caused the spike in violence. 

graph of SPD staffing showing a drop from a bit over 1200 officers in service in 2019 to a bit under 1000 officers in service in 2022 YTD.
Slide from SPD budget presentation given in October of 2022

As for media’s incessant fear-mongering over crime throughout 2021 and 2022, which we’re already seeing being walked back by the likes of a Walmart executive saying they might have cried too much over retail theft last year, what reflections does Westneat offer? “Crime going up is a story that grabs you; crime going down will either be ho-hummed or outright disbelieved, especially by Seattle’s many national critics. It’s also one of the riskier stories one can do in the news business, as the next big shooting or killing, which is certainly coming, will make me look like an idiot.” Translation: don’t expect improvement in the quality of the media discourse any time soon. 

Today’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting was unavailable to watch due to technical difficulties at the Seattle Channel, but you can read about OIG’s 2023 work plan here and here. They are gearing up to take over some of the SPD monitoring duties currently covered by the Court Monitor and his team as Mayor Harrell continues to try to maneuver the city out of a consent decree that has now lasted more than ten years. Given their staffing difficulties, it remains to be seen how taking over some of these duties will affect the organization as a whole.

A head’s up that SPOG President Mike Solan is almost finished serving his three-year term that began in March of 2020. Mike Solan ran against incumbent Kevin Stuckey and won in what Seattle Times referred to as a “landslide vote” of more than 500 out of 750 total votes. Mike Solan made the news in 2021 when he blamed the January 6th insurrection on Black Lives matter protesters, prompting 8 out of 9 city councilmembers (all but CP Juarez) to call for his resignation. 

Matthew Mitnick, a member of Seattle’s Human Rights Commission who is running for the open councilmember seat in District 4, announced that at their Feburary 2nd meeting, the HRC will be seeking amicus status with the federal court overseeing the consent decree. About this decision, he says on Twitter, “The only way to inform the court about what is actually happening here is by allowing those most impacted by police violence to speak out.” The HRC has been trying to take this step since last year, which ultimately resulted in several members resigning in protest in the fall. 

Meanwhile, the City of Seattle has been named in a lawsuit claiming its anti-graffiti statute is unconstitutional and that the SPD selectively enforce it against those creating anti-police graffiti. 

WA State News

The Washington State legislative session began yesterday, huzzah!

Legislators are attending a public hearing this afternoon on HB 1087, the bill that would ban long-term solitary confinement. It might be too late by the time you read this to do the quick bill signing on PRO that you may remember from prior years, but it is never too late to email the legislators on the appropriate committee to tell them you support it.

Kari Plog reports that the state’s new Office of Independent Investigations, which was supposed to start reviewing cases last July, has only filled 15 of its 80 positions. There is no timeline on when they will have enough staff to actually begin conducting investigations. 

National News

The Guardian reported that killings by US police reached a record high last year; at least 1,176 people were killed by police in 2022, which comes out to more than 3 people every day of the year. Only 31% of the incidents leading to the killing began with an alleged violent crime. Racial disparities in who is getting killed by police also remain, with Black people making up 24% of those killed by police while only being 13% of the general population. 

Recent Headlines

Recent Drop in Violent Crime Takes the Wind out of Fearmongers’ Sails Read More »

The WA Redistricting Commission Gets Slap on the Wrist

WA State Legislature News

Senator Peterson has gone on the record saying he intends to pursue legislation similar to this year’s solitary confinement bill next year. The bill was bogged down partly because the Department of Corrections gave it a >$115m price tag, even though advocates for the bill think that number is overly high.
Meanwhile, the two policing bills that would roll back reforms made last session, HB 2037 and SB 5919, had an executive session today so are continuing to move along.
The WA Redistricting Commission settled in the two lawsuits against them pertaining to violation of the Open Public Meetings Act.
Jim Brunner
NEW: WA Redistricting Commission @RedistrictingWA settles open-meetings lawsuits. Each commissioner will pay fines of $500, and commission will pay more than $120k for @WashingtonCOG legal fees and costs. Read settlement: https://t.co/xNPgg3MxaB

The $500 fine per commissioner amounts to a slap on the wrist, with no real accountability forthcoming beyond a formal admission of violating the Open Public Meetings Act. The commission won’t reconvene until 2031, so it’s unclear what, if anything, will have changed or improved at that time.

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. This morning we will hear from SPD on their 2021 year end staffing report and crime report, and we will hear about their retail theft program.
This week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting in Seattle covered the following topics:
If you remember the controversy about SPD staffing projections in 2022, with SPD estimating 94 separations and the Council’s Central Staff estimating 125 separations, conveniently in line with their hiring estimate for the year (also 125), we now have a slightly clearer picture. After January, which had a higher attrition estimate due to the vaccine mandate, it looks like Central Staff’s estimate is right on target thus far.
It looks like staffing isn’t a problem unique to SPD, but that police departments both regionally and nationally are also having trouble recruiting new officers. Right now there is a $1.24m estimated salary savings in SPD for 2022, and a new proviso prohibits SPD from spending any of these dollars elsewhere without Council permission.
In terms of the crime report, which relies on SPD data, shootings and shots fired increased by 40% from 2020, and violent crime increased by 20% (mostly from aggravated assault and robbery). The rate of property crime climbed slightly and larceny-theft was also up, probably driven by catalytic converter thefts. It is also worth noting that crime was up nationally in 2021, in both red and blue areas and regardless of whether any police funding had been cut.
CM Lewis mentioned his concern that big homeless encampments can become focus points for gun violence, and also noted there haven’t been any shootings at the tiny house villages or Just Care shelters.
Meanwhile, a bill currently working itself through the state legislative session could potentially incentivize officers to take earlier retirements, increasing SPD attrition. CM Herbold is holding the line, waiting for a report from the Mayor’s Office making recommendations about hiring incentive programs for all city departments before deciding what to do about SPD-specific hiring bonuses. The report is due at the beginning of March.
CM Herbold and CM Lewis also announced a new project of the City Auditor’s office to audit organized retail crime (ORC).

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Inside a police training conference - The Washington Post

The WA Redistricting Commission Gets Slap on the Wrist Read More »

More Police, and Let’s Allow Them to Use More Force Too

WA State Legislature News

 

SB 5919 and HB 2037 both passed out of their respective chambers late last week. As those following along know, both of these bills roll back some of the accomplishments passed in the last legislative session through HB 1054 and HB 1310. You can read more about all of these bills in Rich Smith’s excellent overview.
This is a real setback for police accountability and reducing police violence in Washington State. In addition, the impacted families who have been advocating for these issues, often reliving their trauma repeatedly in order to do so, are feeling betrayed by their elected representatives. The fear-mongering around crime has once again resulted in government turning away from the very real harm that police violence causes, especially amongst more vulnerable populations.
What happens next? These two bills must now move through the opposite chamber in the legislature, where there will be another opportunity to add amendments that might limit the harm caused by these changes. But whether our lawmakers, many of whom are up for re-election this November, have the will to do so seems in doubt.
HB 1756 on solitary confinement needed to be called for a floor vote today in order to remain viable, and I’ve heard no reports that this happened. That probably means the bill is dead for this session.
HB 1630 passed out of the House yesterday and will now move to the Senate. This bill would prohibit firearms and other weapons from places like election-related offices and school board meetings, as well as forbid open carry at government buildings used for public meetings.

Seattle News

Mayor Harrell delivered his State of the City address this afternoon. He said he believes in going back to the basics and once again talked about his hot-spots policing strategy. He promised more details soon about his public safety plan, which will require more police officers and involves rolling out a new campaign to recruit the next generation of Seattle police. He mentioned his interest in a third kind of public system department staffed by “masters of de-escalation” and said he’s intrigued by the creation of the CSCC. He will share further steps when they get into the budget process (which doesn’t ramp up for several months).
Speaking of the budget, he also said there is a $150m predicted budget gap for 2023 and mentioned using the higher-than-expected Jumpstart revenue ($31m higher) to alleviate that gap. Sound familiar, anyone?
For more information about the speech, you can check out The Seattle Times’ coverage.
The report on the forensic analysis regarding those pesky missing text messages in Seattle was released late last week. The report determined that the setting on former Mayor Durkan’s phone would have defaulted to retaining her text messages forever and therefore must have been changed by someone to retain for only 30 days. Former Chief Best periodically deleted her texts in spite of originally saying she didn’t know how her texts had disappeared.
As the article states: “Under state law, anyone who willfully destroys a public record that’s supposed to be kept is guilty of a felony.” It seems that former Chief Best did just that, a fact that will hopefully quell the continuing talk of her being rehired as Police Chief in Seattle. The article continued by sharing Mayor Harrell’s response:
Spokesperson Jamie Housen added Harrell “believes any potential investigation should involve a neutral third-party investigator,” rather than Seattle police, “to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Also last week, Seattle’s Economic Development committee met, chaired by CM Nelson, and hosted a roundtable of business representatives to discuss crime and homelessness in the city. It is worth noting that Seattle already has both a Public Safety committee and a Public Assets and Homelessness committee. No legislation was discussed. CP Juarez also took the opportunity to share how she feels unsafe in Pike Place Market except in broad daylight on a Saturday, which was confusing since the market closes at 6pm and is still reportedly well frequented by people, a condition that generally makes locations safer.
SPOG announced they are launching a new Seattle Public Safety Index, accompanied by the hashtag #RefundSPD. I was unable to locate the actual index on the internet thus far, but perhaps it is coming soon. Opponents of SPOG could perhaps be forgiven for suspecting such an index of being yet another way of fear mongering about crime in Seattle.

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More Police, and Let’s Allow Them to Use More Force Too Read More »

The WA State Legislature session is heating up

WA State Legislature News

There are lots of bills that you can support this week! Hopefully having them listed all in one place will make your life a little bit easier.
First, HB 1756 (solitary confinement) has a hearing in the House Appropriations committee on tomorrow at 3:30pm.
Next is SB 5919, which would expand the use of high-speed vehicular pursuits, lower the expectations for officer de-escalation, and expand the use of physical force by officers. Fun times! People Power Washington – Police Accountability opposes this bill.
Next is SB 5485, which would end traffic stops for certain low-level violations. It has a hearing in the Senate Transportation committee on Thursday, February 3 at 4pm. It is a bit late in the session to get this bill through, but it’s still important to signal support.
Lastly, HB 1788 and HB 2037 are scheduled for an executive session in the House Public Safety Committee on Thursday, February 3rd at 10am. HB 1788 lowers the threshold for when officers can engage in high-speed vehicular chases, and HB 2037 would allow officers to use force anytime someone is fleeing from a Terry stop. People Power Washington – Police Accountability opposes these bills, as does the Washington Coalition of Police Accountability. You can email the members of the Public Safety committee to urge them to NOT to pass these two bills out of committee. Email addresses and a script are available here.
There is also a rally against all these rollbacks planned for Thursday, February 3 at the Capitol building in Olympia at 11am.

Seattle News

Even more information about what was going on behind the scenes during the summer 2020 protests was revealed by the Seattle Times this weekend. As the article states: “The summer of 2020 was an impactful period, yet many City Hall deliberations — such as work on a potential East Precinct transfer — happened behind closed doors, leaving journalists and residents in the dark.”
Apparently there was talk in the Mayor’s Office of transferring the East Precinct building to Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County. A draft resolution to make this happen was prepared for Mayor Durkan’s review. There is some disagreement as to whether FAS drafted the resolution independently due to its director’s “can-do spirit” or whether the Durkan administration contacted FAS to outline the process of transferring the property. Of course, in the end, SPD moved back into the East Precinct on July 1, but the fact that details of that time period keep coming to light more than a year and a half later is very disturbing and speaks to a pervasive lack of transparency between local government and Seattle residents.

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Much of America wants policing to change. But these self-proclaimed experts tell officers they’re doing just fine.

The WA State Legislature session is heating up Read More »

More State Bills to Support, More News on the Proud Boys Ruse

WA State Legislature News

First up we have HB 1756, a bill to end (or at least strictly limit) solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is considered to be a form of torture and is currently still practiced in WA state.
We also have HB 1507, a bill to establish an independent prosecutor within the Office of the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute any alleged offense involving the use of deadly force by a police officer. This would avoid conflicts of interest with both police investigating police and county prosecutors investigating police with whom they work closely.

Seattle News

In the newest development of the 2020 SPD Proud Boys Hoax, reporter Carolyn Bick uncovered an email from the Seattle Public Utilities’ Emergency Manager in which he discusses an EOC (Emergency Operations Center) meeting he attended on June 8 and said, “SPD is preparing for a possible counter protest at Volunteer Park that could lead to significant volatility in the area. Intelligence reports that the Proud Boys group may be active in the area.” As Bick says, this means: “either other members of SPD were also in on the hoax, or they believed, at this point, that there really were Proud Boys in the City.” This has troubling implications, to say the least, especially since it appears city officials might have fallen for the SPD hoax as well.
Also troubling is that the OPA completely missed this email in their investigation of the Proud Boy ruse. Meanwhile, OPA Director Myerberg has been promoted to Public Safety Director for Seattle. It is unclear exactly how his role will mesh with that of Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell’s, but as Paul Kiefer reports in the Twitter thread below, it seems likely his duties will include contract negotiations with the police unions.
Paul Faruq Kiefer
At a press conference at city hall (happening right now), Mayor Harrell notes that he can’t make comments on the people responsible for the Proud Boys ruse that might influence the Loudermill hearing to which those officers are entitled before SPD determines discipline.

Seattle’s Public Safety committee discussed the Proud Boys ruse at their meeting on Tuesday:

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. The new committee: CM Herbold is chair, and also serving are CMs Lewis, Mosqueda, Petersen, and Nelson.
Also attending the meeting were Director Myerberg, CPC Director Grant, and Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell. Harrell spoke about the importance of focusing on accountability and transparency. CM Lewis reflected on the temporary restraining order issued by Judge Jones in the summer of 2020 in which he determined SPD was specifically targeting protesters and using harsher tactics and more use of force because of the subject of the protests. CM Lewis also pointed to a pattern of people in SPD high command not knowing what was going on.
CM Herbold asked if discipline for officers ought to be left to the Chief, questioning the OPA’s decision to issue findings of “allegation removed” for four named officers involved in the ruse who were further down the chain of command. No solid next steps were outlined in regards to next steps or how these severe accountability issues might be addressed.
Carolyn Bick has also followed up on the 2020 SPOG HQ Labor Day protest story, given the arrest of an involved man late last year. You may remember that in the OPA DCM on this case, there were three different suspects identified by various pieces of clothing. The man arrested, whose name is Moore, was “Tan Gloves” in that DCM. As Bick explains:
Thus, this complaint confirms exactly what the Emerald laid out in that story: Moore was never targeted for arrest, and the OPA incorrectly conflated Moore with what appear to be two other, separate people (though one was never caught on BWV, an issue discussed in said story).

Recent Headlines

More State Bills to Support, More News on the Proud Boys Ruse Read More »

WA State Legislative Session Begins; SPD’s Proud Boys “Ruse”

WA State Legislature News

There are several public safety-related bills that I’ll be talking about during the current session of the Washington State Legislature, which opened today. If you live anywhere in Washington State, you are eligible to give your feedback on these bills.
First up we have HB 1202, the qualified immunity bill. This bill would provide a cause of action for victims injured by police officer violence and authorizes the Attorney General to investigate employers (eg police departments) and police officers engaging in particular patterns of conduct.
Next are a couple of bills related to 2021’s HB 1310, which I referred to last year as the de-escalation bill. A big push from the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability is to OPPOSE HB 1726, which would change for the standard of use of force from that of established probable cause (this is part of what HB 1310 did) to that of reasonable suspicion that requires no evidence.
HB 1735 also relates to last year’s HB 1310, explicitly stating that police officers are not prevented from helping medical professionals and behavioral health providers and must perform live-saving measures such as medical assistance. The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability supports this bill.
On Thursday, January 13, there will be hearings for both the solitary confinement bill and the independent prosecutor bill, so I’ll send out information on Wednesday for how to register your support and submit written comments about these two bills.
For more information on housing, land use, and digital equity bills you might wish to support, please check out Share the Cities Action Fund’s recent newsletter.

Seattle News

Late last week the OPA released a closed case summary revealing the SPD had engaged in an improper “ruse” during the 2020 summer protests. In this misinformation effort, they fabricated radio chatter about armed Proud Boys marching around downtown Seattle and heading to confront protesters in Capitol Hill, information that was relayed to the protesters, further escalating the situation and undermining the protest.
As The Seattle Times explains: “Police are allowed to use a ruse only when undercover, to acquire information for a criminal investigation or to address “an exigent threat to life safety or public safety.” Even then, state law says a ruse can’t be so “shocking” as to violate “fundamental fairness.” None of those conditions applied to the Proud Boys chatter, Myerberg determined.”
This ruse was covered up and only came to light when journalist Omari Salisbury asked for body camera footage related to this at the end of 2020. The OPA launched an investigation when this footage couldn’t be located , completed in September 2021, but the release of the closed case summary was delayed further until last week. No discipline is likely to result from the case as the two officers who ordered and supervised this misinformation effort have both since left the SPD.
If you would like to share your thoughts about this “ruse” and its subsequent coverup, you have a chance to give public comment at Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, January 11 at 9:30am. Signups begin tomorrow morning at 7:30am and can be done online here.
Also tomorrow, Tuesday January 11 from 6-8pm is the first of three joint CPC and Court Monitor community engagement meetings. You can get the agenda and Zoom link here. The topic of this month’s meeting is crisis intervention, and there will be a chance for community members to ask questions and speak about what they’d like to see in terms of crisis intervention in the city of Seattle.
That’s all for now, but you’ll hear from me again in a couple of days to talk about a few state bills and more evidence uncovered in the Labor Day 2020 SPOG HQ protest case.

WA State Legislative Session Begins; SPD’s Proud Boys “Ruse” Read More »