SPD crowd control weapons

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 »

Public hearing on the budget tomorrow

Very short Council Briefing today! We were through everything in half an hour.

Public Hearing

There is a public hearing on budget-related matters tomorrow, Tuesday, October 6, starting at 5:30pm. Signups begin at 3:30pm. This is one of two hearings in the evening hours if you’d like to comment and can’t make the normal public comment windows during business hours.


King County Equity Now’s Response to the Mayor’s Proposed Budget

KCEN continues to call for defunding the police department by at least 50%. In addition they are asking that the JumpStart spending plan remain the same, and that the Mayor doesn’t touch that money to make good on her promise of the $100m investment into BIPOC communities. They are still calling for a true participatory budgeting process as opposed to a task force, stating on Twitter that “@mayorjenny‘s hand-picked task-force is a tried & true tactic to halt Black progress. But our communities will not accept these anti-Black practices any longer.”

Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda weighs in on the budget process and about the JumpStart revenue package and 2021 spending package with an op-ed at the South Seattle Emerald.


Other News of Note

Washington state ballots are mailed on October 16.

If you’re into podcasts, the latest episode of Crystal Fincher’s Hacks & Wonks podcast is worth a listen. She and guest host Heather Weiner provide an excellent overview of recent Seattle news, the importance of the SPOG contract, and an analysis of Mayor Durkan’s recent actions as well as news around R-90 (the state-level referendum about sex health education), which has some very interesting bankrollers as the Republican party in Washington state attempts to do some list-building and galvanize their supporters to vote. You can read more about it in The Stranger as well.

You can read more about how important the SPOG contract is, as well as how damaging the 2017 contract has been, in Crosscut.

In legal news, the City of Seattle petitioned the court to convert its temporary restraining order regarding the SPD’s use of crowd control weapons into a preliminary injunction. They plan to invoke the the provisions of the Consent Decree in order to change policies, and have stated they want to review and potentially change crowd-control, use-of-force, and crisis intervention policies.

Finally, I know you all know this, but yes, you should be taking precautions against catching COVID-19, including wearing masks, practicing social distancing, doing any socializing out-of-doors, and staying at home. If you catch this disease, you will not in fact feel better than you did twenty years ago, especially given the long-term adverse health effects that are still in the process of being studied.

Stay safe out there!

Public hearing on the budget tomorrow Read More »

An Interview with the Mayor

Not quite as much happening this week, but there are still a few things to note.

King County Equity Now is currently asking anyone who is a resident of King County to take a survey about their research program regarding public safety. It’s a quick five minutes to fill it out.

The City Council Briefing didn’t involve discussion about public safety this week.

The Council should be discussing the vetoed 2020 revised budget next Monday the 21st. The next Public Safety & Human Resources committee meeting will be on Tuesday the 22nd. The Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget is expected on Tuesday, September 29.

What can we expect next week in regards to that veto? The Council has two options at this point: to reach a deal with the Mayor that still results in a balanced budget or to overturn the veto. Here’s an interview with Council President Gonzalez in which she speaks of her hope of reaching a compromise. It’s hard to say exactly what the details of any deal between the Council and the Mayor might be, although I don’t see the Mayor budging on the Navigation Team or indeed, on any officer layoffs whatsoever beyond what they might achieve by attrition. If you would like the Council to overturn the veto or if you have ideas about what concessions would make a deal more acceptable (prioritizing community investment, for example), now is the time to write to your CMs to share your views. What happens next week will set the tone for the ensuing conversation about the 2021 budget.

Today Crosscut held an interview with Mayor Durkan, led by journalist David Kroman.

I much preferred this format to the usual press conferences and was pleased by the caliber of questions asked. In terms of “re-imagining policing,” a buzz phrase from the summer, Mayor Durkan appears to have two main goals: a change to crowd control policies (which are also being called into question by the OPA/OIG/CPC trifecta and the demands of the consent decree) and a revamp of the 911 response system to include the possibility of response by people other than armed police officers. It seems like she doesn’t necessarily expect to fully achieve either within the next year but hopes to make progress in these two directions.

Aside from that, as per usual she prefers to focus on her commitment of $100m to Black and Brown communities in 2021, and she said we should expect to see that commitment fulfilled in her proposed 2021 budget. While I’m pleased about the allocation of these resources, it is worrisome that while she repeatedly states systemic racism is a problem in policing and criminal justice, and that this needs to be dismantled, she is unwilling to speak of how to achieve greater police accountability within the SPD.

It is worth noting that new research shows no evidence implicit bias trainingmental health training, the use of body cameras, or community representation in policing are effective in reducing police violence. (H/t to Campaign Zero for compiling the research.) It would be encouraging to see more discussion of other options by our elected officials, including a strong commitment to negotiating a police union contract that enables greater accountability, an acknowledgement of the flaws and loopholes currently exigent in the current community oversight system (OIG/OPA/CPC); more discussion of ways to effectively demilitarize the SPD; and more acknowledgment of the racism inherent in broken-windows and community policing. Meanwhile Mayor Durkan also isn’t speaking about any ways to ameliorate mass incarceration, even while acknowledging its harmful impacts on Black and Brown communities.

Obviously there is a lot of work to do, and it can’t all be addressed overnight, but these points do have direct bearing on the current conversation in Seattle about public safety and do need to be kept in mind even when they are skillfully talked around.

In related news, it sounds like Mayor Durkan’s main hope for filling the city budget shortfall from the pandemic in the next few years is for Biden to win the presidency and increase federal aid. Otherwise our city services might take a real beating. She is also more on board with regional solutions to increasing revenues and dealing with problems such as homelessness and transit, as opposed to Seattle-specific ones.

Next week should be an interesting one! In the meantime, stay safe and let’s hope some of this smoke clears by the weekend.

An Interview with the Mayor Read More »