SPD hiring bonuses

Does SPD Staffing Impact Crime Rates? Looks Like Not So Much.

Seattle News:

My piece on police hiring bonuses and incentives was published in The Urbanist this week. Of particular note are the following:

  • The Council is discussing several potential incentives and perks for SPD officers, including housing subsidies. In spite of the backdrop of the $230 million budget deficit for 2025,they do not seem concerned by how much this might all cost. I’ll be interested to see how much SPD’s total percentage share of the General Fund grows in the next proposed budget.
  • The Councilmembers do not seem to want to explicitly say they’re looking into lowering standards for becoming a police officer, but they are discussing measures that have the potential to do exactly that, even before the consent decree is entirely closed out.
  • Chief Diaz said the robustness of Seattle’s accountability system is having a negative impact on officer morale, and he wants to move more minor offenses away from the OPA.
  • Last week’s public safety forum poll showed community most wants expanded addiction treatment and gun violence reduction. The latter of these would require further investment in gun violence prevention programs. 
  • Both SPD and most of the Council seem happy to ignore the report on the poor and discriminatory treatment of women officers that came out last year. In further updates, Publicola reported that SPD has lost its sole female command staff member to retirement. The article includes this interesting tidbit: “Last year, Cordner reportedly left SPD’s Before the Badge program, where she was one of the program leaders, because of one of the instructors’ views on what he called the LGBTQ “lifestyle,” including his opposition to same-sex marriage.”
  • You can read the Stranger’s take on this issue here.

While both Seattle City Council and governor candidate Bob Ferguson want more cops (more on the latter in a moment), Guy Oron of Real Change ran some numbers and found that SPD staffing and crime rates don’t correlate at all. This is critical information to understand given how many other programs Seattle may defund at the end of the year in a desperate attempt to hire more officers.

The deadline for folks to turn in their comments about the three new surveillance technologies being considered in Seattle is today at 5pm. Marcus Harrison Green wrote an op-ed for the Seattle Times entitled: ShotSpotter: Why waste money we don’t have on technology that doesn’t work? 

He says, “Demanding a technology proves its effectiveness before we purchase it does not mean we are any less outraged about the gun violence in our city. It means we very rationally would rather allocate funds toward something with demonstrable efficacy.”

On Tuesday, City Council un-did 20 out of the 36 budget statements of legislative intent (SLIs) passed with the 2024 budget. As Publicola says, “For the council to reverse most of the accountability and transparency measures imposed by a previous council is an extreme move that may be unprecedented.”

Next Tuesday’s Public Safety committee meeting will feature introductory reports from Seattle Municipal Court and the City Attorney’s Office. 

The Urbanist published a new review of protest-related events from 2020, with new footage showing SPD kettling protesters. SPD’s commander in the field was later promoted and also served on the OIG’s sentinel event review of the 2020 protests, which meant he had influence over the report’s findings. Per the article:

Only four out of 133, or 3%, of investigations completed by the Seattle Office of Police Accountability (OPA) into SPD’s 2020 protest conduct have resulted in officer suspensions without pay, according to a review of OPA files.”

WA State News:

Bob Ferguson, who is running for WA governor, unveiled his public safety plan this week. It includes boosting funding to hire more WA State Patrol troopers and give $100 million in grants for city and counties to increase police staffing. He wants to achieve universal adoption of body-worn cameras for police and improve and expand access to law enforcement data, although he doesn’t say if he’d consider using real-time crime centers to achieve the latter. You can read more about concerns about real-time crime centers here

From his website: “As Governor, Bob will build upon his work within the Criminal Justice Training Commission to expand and improve training for community-based policing, expanding co-response and non-armed responders rooted in de-escalation and behavioral health training, and improve data collection and reporting to improve public trust. He will also use the bully pulpit of his office to highlight good works by law enforcement across the state.”

He also wants to implement a crisis response plan to the fentanyl epidemic.

The Washington Observer says Ferguson’s biggest vulnerability in the governor’s race is public safety, hence this plan.

 Recent Headlines:

 

Does SPD Staffing Impact Crime Rates? Looks Like Not So Much. Read More »

Budget Decisions Come Home to Roost

 Seattle News

 

A recent article in My Northwest reported that money is not the reason SPD officers are leaving the department. In fact, in exit interviews 60% of departing officers stated their salary was competitive, and around another 20% stated their salary would have been sufficient if not for the “additional hurdles” of being a cop in Seattle. With 60% of the analyzed exit interviews being because of retirement as opposed to resignations, and given the trend of lower staffing in police departments across the country, it appears another factor in SPD’s current staffing trends might be demographic: there are simply a lot of officers who have reached retirement age.

In tragic news, an officer driving a patrol SUV struck and killed a twenty-three-year-old woman on Monday evening. SPD’s account of what took place is unclear, but it sounds like it’s possible the officer didn’t stop after hitting the woman, as the SPD Blotter states, “Just after 08:00 p.m., officers arrived and located the 23-year-old female victim with life-threatening injuries.” Erica C. Barnett reported on Twitter that the intersection where this fatal crash took place was the site of a long-planned protected intersection that the Mayor and SDOT put on hold last year.

I bring up that last point because it’s important to remember that budget decisions have real-world consequences. It’s easy to get caught up in the weeds of process and politics and forget to link the process to its later impacts. But the reality is, the 2023 budget prioritizes items like hiring incentives for police officers and sweeping those who are houseless while defunding pedestrian and biker safety projects and food assistance programs. 

Meanwhile, Seattle city election news continues apace as more candidates for City Council announce their runs. We have more new candidates running in D3 along with Joy Hollingsworth, who is shaping up to be the business candidate: first-time candidate Ry Armstrong and Andrew Ashifou, a Black immigrant with experience being homeless who intends to run from a renter’s perspective. On Ashifou’s views on public safety, The Stranger reports:

Ashiofu envisions a public safety system that offloads police responsibilities to unarmed responders. To fund those programs, he’d funnel money out of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) budget and into alternatives such as REACH and other social worker nonprofits. 

Meanwhile, there’s talk of a potential socialist slate to run for the seven open City Council seats, but it’s still early days in this election season, and it’s too soon to say how the various races will shape up.

WA State Legislature News

HB 1025, a bill concerning civil liability for police and HB 1445, a bill that would give the state’s Attorney General powers of investigation & reform both received their first public hearings today. HB 1024, which would enact a minimum wage for prison labor, has been sent to appropriations. HB 1513, the traffic stops bill, hasn’t had its public hearing yet, but the ACLU WA has already written in its support

HB 1363, the high speed vehicular pursuit bill, will have its first public hearing on Tuesday, January 31. 

Currently enjoying bipartisan support, SB 5361 has been making some waves this week. This bill would allow municipalities to enact a sales and use tax of 0.10% to be used to fund law enforcement and public safety. If the jurisdiction in question does not meet a certain per capita officer rate that is tied to national rates, the proceeds from this tax would be required to go to hiring officers. If it does meet the specified rate, then the proceeds could be used for a few additional uses such as domestic violence programs. 

This bill is using a regressive sales tax that disproportionately impacts those with lower incomes to fund further investments in law enforcement, even though evidence suggests more officers do not tend to meaningfully reduce crime rates. Further, because crime rates are directly reported by police departments, they are open to manipulation, and many crimes aren’t counted, either because of low reporting rates or because officers choose not to pursue them. And as previously discussed, money doesn’t appear to be the main barrier in hiring more officers in any case. Meanwhile, we are struggling with a housing crisis, fentanyl overdose numbers continue to rise, our public education system continues to suffer from underfunding, and people are unable to access health care. None of these problems would be meaningfully addressed by hiring more police.

There will be a vote in the Senate about this bill tomorrow morning, January 26. If you want to email key legislators on the Senate Law & Justice committee to let them know your thoughts on this bill, there are instructions on how to do so, as well as a suggested script, here.

The Washington Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments about the capital gains tax tomorrow. The Court’s final ruling on this legislation, likely to be delivered sometime this spring, will have huge impacts on Washington State’s tax policy in the future.

King County News

Both King County Councilmember Joe McDermott and Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles have announced they do not intend to run for re-election this year, meaning there will be a few more interesting elections to watch this fall.

Meanwhile, King County’s new prosecutor Leesa Manion has announced a new gun violence prevention unit and a new division focused on gender-based violence. As the Seattle Times reports:Manion said the office plans to expand the efforts of a Harborview Medical Center pilot program that offers services to people who have been harmed by proximity to gun violence.” Canny readers will remember this program is partially funded by the City of Seattle; CM Herbold asked for additional funding in the 2023 budget to start a new pilot program to expand its age range and received about half of what she requested.

Recent Headlines

Budget Decisions Come Home to Roost Read More »

A Road Map for the Fall

Seattle News

Hannah Krieg
Today the council will vote on hiring bonuses for cops. An organizer, TK, from Every Day March called into public comment to accuse the council of lying to Black organizers about their commitment to police accountability and reform during the summer of 2020.

Yesterday the Seattle City Council voted to pass the SPD hiring incentive legislation 6 to 3, with CMs Morales, Mosqueda, and Sawant voting against it. You can see CM Morales’s remarks about why she didn’t support this bill here:

Councilmember Tammy J. Morales
We have a LOT of challenges in this city that cannot be solved with a badge and a gun: inadequate housing options, homelessness, limited behavioral health services.

That’s why I voted no on hiring incentives for SPD yesterday. It passed @SeattleCouncil 6-3. Remarks below:

1/10 https://t.co/AtkCR6oq5f

I-135, Seattle’s social housing initiative, has turned in more signatures and is now aiming to be on the ballot in February 2023, pending signature verification.
The Seattle Times reported that in Q2, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office filed 1,708 cases, an increase of 124% from the same quarter last year.
At Wednesday’s Finance and Housing committee meeting, CMs received the city’s revenue update, and it’s not looking great for 2023 and 2024. The August forecast for 2022 comes in at $1,745,610,000. whereas the August forecast for 2023 is $1,519,120,000 and the August forecast for 2024 is $1,557,310,000. It’s worth noting those forecasts for 2023 and 2024 are the baseline forecasts, not the pessimistic ones.
Erica C. Barnett
Seattle Councilmember @CMTMosqueda has proposed using some JumpStart payroll tax revenues to once again pay for general-fund services in light of the city’s ongoing budget shortfall; funding would come from excess/higher-than-anticipated JS revenues. /1

CM Mosqueda has proposed using some of the JumpStart tax revenues to continue paying for general fund services in 2023 and 2024 to help fill the revenue vs. expenditure gap. The Mayor is also pulling together a progressive revenue task force to look for potential new sources of revenue for the city (think more in the 2025 range for when this could kick in). This news sets the stage for the upcoming budget season.

Looking forward….

The City of Seattle goes on its two week summer break starting on Monday, August 22. Unless something mind-blowing happens during that time, I’m not planning another edition of the newsletter until after Labor Day. But fear not, Budget Season will be upon us before we know it.
Upcoming Dates of Note:
9/13 9:30am: Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, where there will be a Q&A with OPA Director nominee Gino Betts
9/20 2pm: potential final Council confirmation vote of Gino Betts as OPA Director
9/25 11am: People Power Washington’s General Meeting; come if you want to hear me talk about budgets (and honestly, who doesn’t want to hear that?)
9/27: Mayor Harrell transmits Seattle’s proposed 2023 budget; Executive Constantine transmits King County’s proposed 2023-2024 budget
10/21: Ballots for the General Election are mailed out to WA voters
11/8: Election Day!
11/22: potential final Council vote for Seattle’s 2023 budget

Recent Headlines

WA state delays watchdog reports on prisons, concerning advocates | Crosscut

TV News Is Ignoring the Eviction Crisis - by Adam Johnson

Local Leaders Announce New Coalition to Address Behavioral Health Crisis - The Stranger

A New Agency Seeks to Hold Washington’s Killer Cops Accountable - The Stranger

A Road Map for the Fall Read More »

People Still Don’t Want to Work for SPD

Seattle Public Safety Committee Meeting

Amy Sundberg
Good morning and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. Four are present (CM Mosqueda absent).
Yesterday morning Seattle had its last Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting before the summer break. The Mayor’s proposed new Director of the OPA, Gino Betts, was present for a drive-by introduction, and he will be back before the committee for a Q&A and committee vote on his appointment on September 13, which would potentially tee up the Full Council vote on his appointment for September 20, conveniently right before the madness of budget season is upon us. You can read his appointment packet here.
But the real interest of yesterday’s meeting was Greg Doss’s quarterly update on SPD’s staffing, finances, and call response times. Surprising nobody who has been paying attention, there have been 109 separations of sworn officers from SPD in the first six months of 2022, at odds with SPD’s previous projection that there would be 94 separations for the ENTIRE YEAR. Yes, you read that right. There have been 30 hires so far in the first six months of 2022, which doesn’t exactly put SPD on track for reaching their hiring projection of 125 for the year either.
These numbers mean there will be significantly more salary savings for 2022 than anticipated. However, SPD thinks they will burn through all this extra salary savings and might need even more money by the end of the year, primarily because of overtime spending, although also because of the costs of the hiring incentives bill the committee discussed at this meeting.
In a particular feisty moment, CM Lewis agreed that we don’t have the capacity to stand up alternative responses in the next few months because we should have taken the actions other cities took two years ago, a fairly safe political shot at now departed Mayor Durkan. The Council’s continued frustration at the lack of alternatives is palpable, although CM Herbold reported the joint workgroup on the subject between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff has finally begun, and it sounds like the Mayor’s Office may be softening towards the idea of trying one or more alternative response pilots, an idea that has been memorialized in the latest consent decree filing.
As for the hiring incentives legislation being discussed, it was more of the same as has already been discussed this year, offering hiring bonuses for new recruits and lateral hires as well as providing money for more HR staff/support for SPD, more marketing, and the police chief search. It’s just now a slightly higher amount than previously discussed. One cannot help remembering CM Nelson’s comments earlier this year that it didn’t matter what the money was spent on as long as they did something, and this bill definitely feels more like a performative “Look! We’re doing something!” than a tangible, data-backed plan to actually improve public safety in Seattle. Indeed, rumors have been circulating that hiring bonuses or no, it could easily take ten years to return to pre-pandemic SPD staffing levels, meaning alternative plans are going to be needed to address public safety regardless of where on the defund spectrum any particular elected official may fall.
The legislation passed 4-1 with CM Mosqueda casting the only nay vote. In order to display “urgency,” the legislation will probably be voted on next week at Full Council on August 16 even though it would normally be delayed due to the split vote (otherwise the vote wouldn’t be until September because of the Summer Recess). You can read another account of the meeting here.

Other Seattle News

CE Bick
Tonight’s @SeaCPC Community Engagement Meeting in which incoming @SeattleOPA Dir. Gino Betts starts in a few minutes. I’ll be live-tweeting the meeting on this thread. 🧵
Last night the CPC held a “community conversation” with proposed Director of the OPA Gino Betts, which you can read about in more detail in the Twitter thread above. Why did I put community conversation in quotations? Because partway through the meeting, Felicia Cross, the Community Outreach Manager at the CPC, said the purpose of the meeting was actually to welcome Mr. Betts to Seattle as opposed to giving community a chance to ask him substantive questions, an assertion that showed a lack of respect for all the community members who took time from their busy schedules for what had been advertised as a conversation. To give a bit of flavor, earlier in the meeting, a retired SPD officer appeared to suggest the public needs to participate in training so as to avoid being harmed or killed by the police, and an impacted family member of someone killed by SPD was told the only way to get things done (read: possibly slightly improve things) was to agree to sit down with Betts at a later date, even though they had already clearly articulated the actions they wished to see. All in all, not the most successful meeting.
The contract for Seattle’s participatory budgeting project was finally signed last week, with a community vote on potential proposals projected for March-April of 2023.
There are two more community conversations about the new SPD police chief scheduled for this week:
Will Casey at The Stranger wrote an analysis of the Seattle City Attorney Office’s High Utilizer Initiative (HUI), finding more than half of the prolific offenders targeted by this program have a history of mental illness that means they are ineligible for misdemeanor prosecution. The initiative also replicates the criminal legal system’s racial disparities. Oops. Casey suggests a potential alternate course of action for the City Attorney’s Office:
On a systemic level, the City Attorney’s Office could use its influence within Seattle’s public safety debate to make the case that the city, the state, and the federal government needs to spend more money to build more supportive housing and to expand behavioral health services now.
Those investments would take time to change the daily conditions on Seattle’s streets, but they would also make clear for the public that the people who should be “held accountable” for our public safety crisis are the politicians at every level of government who have repeatedly defunded our social safety net since the Reagan administration.
Last week the Seattle Redistricting Commission did indeed agree on a final proposed map, which follows the proposal given by the Redistricting Justice for Washington coalition fairly closely. You can read more analysis on the new proposed map here and here. There will be two more public forums coming up to give feedback on the map.
Finally, Carolyn Bick published a retrospective of the last year of their work on problems with Seattle’s police accountability system, which is a great review and resource.

Recent Headlines

Recent criminal justice news and commentary 8.8.22

CE Bick
INBOX: From @kcexec Dow Constantine’s office, a media statement regarding a person who died in custody. This statement says that the person’s death was announced this week and that King County jail staff are investigating this death — which, again, occurred under KC jail’s watch. https://t.co/Mc252xfdSi
Mistaken detention of Black Seattle driver prompts lawsuit | The Seattle Times

People Still Don’t Want to Work for SPD Read More »

SPD Asks for More Money for Hiring Bonuses in 2021

National Policing News

Let’s start off today’s newsletter with a look at some national trends. The Washington Post began tracking fatal shootings by on-duty police officers back in 2015, and has discovered the fatal shootings reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program are vastly lower than shootings the Washington Post has been able to substantiate–indeed, less than half the number. When reading about UCRP numbers, remember that these are voluntarily self-reported by law enforcement agencies, which is why projects like that being done by the Washington Post are so valuable. In fact, it reports that in 2020, only 27 percent of American law enforcement agencies contributed data to the National Use-of-Force Data Collection Program, covering 42 percent of officers. 
The Washington Post‘s data shows a new high of 1,021 fatal shootings by on-duty police officers in 2020. This is in spite of the pandemic and all the protests against police brutality that took place last year. The data shows police shoot an average of almost 3 people per day, and usually about 1,000 people per year. As the article states:
Since Ferguson, departments across the country have taken steps toward reform, but these efforts have been inconsistent and incomplete. Most police departments still do not use body cameras. Experts in law enforcement and criminal justice say there have not been the large-scale policy or legal shifts that might reduce uses of force. And sending mental health teams in response to people in crisis, alongside or instead of armed officers, remains the exception.
The article goes on to say that racial disparities have been documented in police use-of-force, and that Black people are shot and killed at higher rates than White people.
Meanwhile, over at FiveThirtyEight, Samuel Sinyangwe, the founder of the Police Scorecard, says the data shows that cities that have reduced arrests for minor offenses saw fewer police shootings. Indeed:
Reported crime fell in jurisdictions that cut low-level arrests; in fact, it fell by just as much as those cities that made more low-level arrests. Consistent with recent research, cities that reduced low-level arrests did not experience an uptick in violent crime — or murder, specifically — compared to other cities during this period. Moreover, cities that made fewer arrests for low-level offenses did not see a substantial reduction in violent crime arrests, suggesting a more lenient approach to low-level offenses has not resulted in police being less responsive to serious public safety threats.
So much for the broken windows theory of policing. And there is still room for improvement. Sinyangwe says low-level arrests still made up 55 percent of all arrests reported in the nation’s largest cities, and 69 percent of all arrests nationwide, in 2019. It’s possible that further reducing these arrests might reduce the number of police shootings even more, while continuing the move away from criminalizing poverty, mental illness, and drug addiction.

SPD Asks for More Money for Staffing, Again

Mayor Durkan has proposed new legislation that would reinstate $15,000 hiring bonuses for lateral transfers into SPD from other cities, as well as $7,500 bonuses for new recruits to SPD, in addition to adding other incentives to boost hiring, such as mental health professionals for officers. The total legislative package comes in a bit over $15m, which would be accessed by lifting provisos and using SPD attrition salary savings. $1.54m is proposed for Triage One, a CSCC protocol dispatch system, and the Peacekeepers Collective (under the subheading “Community Safety Reinvestments”), with the remaining $13.75m being spent on various SPD budget adjustments including the hiring bonuses.
Because this legislation is being presented as being in response to the recent gun violence in Seattle, the Mayor has emphasized this legislation needs to be passed as soon as possible. CM Pedersen is on the record as saying he wants to vote for the legislation next week. If you don’t wish to see SPD’s budget grow or increased hiring of police officers beyond the current staffing plan in 2021, now would be a good time to write or call your CMs.

The Pink Umbrella Case Strikes Again

Back in May, SPD Chief Diaz raised eyebrows when he overturned the OPA’s decision to discipline Lieutenant John Brooks for the part he played during the Pink Umbrella Protest in the summer of 2020. After saying he had evidence the OPA didn’t have–a claim he later walked back–Chief Diaz eventually disciplined Captain Steve Hirjak for the incident instead by demoting him from Assistant Chief.
Well, now Captain Hirjak has filed a discrimination and retaliation claim against the City of Seattle. He argues that he has been treated unfairly because of his race, and points to errors made by white command staff that have not been disciplined, as well as promotions for Lieutenant John Brooks, among others. The Seattle Times discusses the letter accompanying Captain Hirjak’s claim, saying:
Those identified include Brooks, who received a de facto promotion and pay raise despite racking up 14 misconduct complaints during the protests; Assistant Chief Thomas Mahaffey, who hasn’t been disciplined for ordering officers to abandon the East Precinct; and Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette, who faced no consequences for failing “to gather and understand relevant intelligence” and leaving the department unprepared, according to the letter.
Following the lawsuit brought against the University of Washington by its Black campus police officers earlier this summer claiming unbearable racism, this continues to raise questions as to how minorities are treated when they join law enforcement.
The City and Chief Diaz have until August 11 to agree to mediation in this case; otherwise Captain Hirjak will most likely file a lawsuit.

Recent Headlines

What new WA police accountability laws do and don’t do | Crosscut

SPD Asks for More Money for Hiring Bonuses in 2021 Read More »

The New Proposed SPMA Contract Is Out

Seattle News

This week, the Seattle Full Council passed both CM Nelson’s resolution on SPD hiring incentives and CM Herbold’s legislation on SPD moving expenses, a recruiting advertising campaign, etc. Both passed with a vote of 6-3, with CMs Nelson, Herbold, Lewis, Strauss, Pedersen, and Juarez voting yes. In covering this resolution in The StrangerHannah Krieg wrote, “The resolution does not indicate a specific dollar amount or fund a specific bonus program from the $4.5 million in salary savings, but rather leaves it up to the Mayor to develop one with council’s approval. “Frankly, whatever. I don’t really care what it’s used for,” Nelson said.” I quote this to confirm that CM Nelson actually did say those words during one of the discussions on the resolution, proving that I do indeed still have the capacity to be shocked by what elected officials say in public meetings.
In any case, that resolution might be a bit of a moot point because the new SPMA contract was just released this week. In Central Staff’s summary of this contract, they note that “the Executive has indicated that it intends to instead use sworn salary savings in SPD’s Adopted Budget to fund the $3.39 million that is required to pay SPMA members for retroactive and current wage adjustments through the end of 2022.” That would leave only $1.11m of salary savings on the table, and CM Herbold’s legislation has already allocated $1.15m of that. Yes, the math already doesn’t entirely add up there.
The SPMA contract has already been referred to Full Council so we can probably expect a vote on it sometime in June. More details on this when I have them.
At this week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, council members heard a public safety presentation from neighborhood business districts. CM Lewis said he appreciated the support and advancement of some sort of alternative response model to supplement first response options. He sounded eager to work together with the business community to amplify this message and asked to promote it together publicly with the same level of enthusiasm that the business community promotes police staffing levels. He also mentioned SPD has spent $700k so far this year on overtime for traffic direction, a function that doesn’t need an armed officer with a badge.
Finally, Will Casey covered the brouhaha between the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and the Human Rights Commission. If you feel you could use a brush-up on the history of the consent decree and what the Human Rights Commission is attempting to do right now, this article will get you up to speed.
All of this leads to the obvious conclusion that no one mired in this controversy wanted to say on the record: The only reason for the City agencies involved in this process to try to intimidate the Human Rights Commission in this way would be to prevent Judge Robart from hearing what the commission had to say. And, given the congratulatory tone of the monitor’s latest preliminary report, it certainly sounds like the people responsible for delivering community feedback want the judge to hear that SPD is doing just fine – aside from that one outlier period of wantonly abusing people’s civil rights in the summer of 2020.

Recent Headlines

I Want to Live in a Society That Doesn’t Need Community Court - Slog - The Stranger

Seattle community leaders have a lot to say about public safety | Crosscut

Spokane backs plan to offer defendants services in place of jail time | Crosscut

3 lessons Washington can learn from how Arizona helps people in mental health crisis | The Seattle Times

The New Proposed SPMA Contract Is Out Read More »

Seattle To Get Alternate Response Service in…2024? 2025?

News from the Seattle Mayor’s Office

This week my favorite podcast, Hacks & Wonks, featured a conversation between host Crystal Fincher and Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell on the topic of public safety. I highly recommend listening to the entire podcast or reading the transcript to get insight into what the Mayor’s Office is thinking at this time, but I’ll pull out a few highlights for you.
First, it sounds like the Mayor’s Office is serious about instituting a new third department of public safety to go along with the fire and police departments. While this idea sounds great in theory, the timeline is less inspiring: Senior Deputy Harrell said they hoped to have a white paper on this by the end of the year (2022), would then begin structuring the department in 2023, with hopes of deploying the new department in 2024. If the Mayor’s Office decided to work with existing community groups, much of this work could be expedited, but that doesn’t seem to be the way they’re leaning at this moment.
If that timeline makes you feel sad, the news only gets worse from there. When asked about the current SPOG contract negotiations, Senior Deputy Harrell said the priority for this contract is definitely accountability; one reason for this, of course, is the Mayor’s desire to exit the consent decree. [She] went on to say: “…some people will want to jump ahead and say, well, let’s negotiate what the third department looks like and the trading off of those roles. The police contract is only three years and we’re already one year into a three-year contract. We can negotiate the roles of that next contract in the next cycle.”
Let’s break that down a bit, shall we? The contract currently being negotiated will run till the end of 2023. The subsequent contract could easily take another year or more to negotiate, meaning it might not be done until the end of 2024 or even into 2025, which would be after the next mayoral election. Any related state legislation is likely to focus on accountability, not alternate response, at least if we’re going by past years’ efforts. So we might be waiting several years before bargaining about alternate responses could bear fruit.
Another option not discussed on this podcast episode might be making the argument that SPD cannot currently meet its functions due to its staffing shortage, making alternate response necessary to meet the public safety obligations in the City’s Charter. UW saw some success in defending its recent alternate response against officers’ objections, although it used a different defense due to its status as an educational institution. Regardless, alternate response in Seattle continues to face an uphill battle.
Well, you might say, at least we’ll get a better contract as it pertains to accountability. But Senior Deputy Harrell says, “It will probably take us, it will take us more than this contract to get to a fully civilianized team, investigative team at OPA.” So keep those expectations lowered for now.

Seattle News

Seattle City Council is expected to vote on the resolution and legislation about SPD hiring incentives/moving costs/etc. next Tuesday, May 24 at 2pm. You can give public comment at the meeting or call/email your council members to give feedback. More information and scripts are here.
Also on Tuesday is the next Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting at 9:30am. The agenda has not yet been released, but we might be hearing from the Mayor’s Office about their work on analyzing alternate response, as detailed above.
At this week’s council briefing CM Herbold reported the OPA Director search committee will be meeting again sometime this week and is getting ready to start interviewing candidates.
Carolyn Bick has released a few valuable Twitter threads recently. One of them is a live tweet of this week’s CPC meeting:
CE Bick
Today’s @SeaCPC meeting agenda has a review and vote on an MAR for Terry Caver and a “community conversation” regarding stop-and-frisk (and, presumably, the racial disparity data in the Monitor’s most recent Comprehensive Assessment). Meeting 🧵
https://t.co/qEs0fXduds

The other is a helpful overview of Monitor Oftelie’s Comprehensive Assessment of the SPD submitted to the court overseeing the consent decree. For more about the assessment, you can also read Will Casey’s scathing review, which he concludes with the fiery “This is all to say that when you bungle the only tool that could theoretically compel at least some real police reform, you don’t leave accountability advocates many options other than Becoming Abolitionists.”

CE Bick
Okay! As promised, here is a longer thread breaking down the revamped @monitor_seattle @AntonioOftelie‘s Comprehensive Assessment (May 2022). 1/
https://t.co/BVlGUi7jtw

Meanwhile, Carolyn Bick also received three leaked communications for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office regarding that pesky Seattle Human Rights Commission voting to apply for amicus status with the federal court overseeing the consent decree. It looks like someone really doesn’t want that to happen. Two commissioners have been forced to resign following the vote, as their employers deemed their service to constitute a conflict of interest. Exactly what the Seattle Human Rights Commission will do going forward remains unclear.

State and County News

If you’re interested in the new 988 service being rolled out in July, there was a great piece about a recent fact-finding mission to Arizona led by legislators Manka Dhingra and Tina Orwall who want to overhaul the way Washington State deals with mental health crises. “Senator Dhingra’s ultimate goal involves standing up a statewide crisis response infrastructure that operates 24/7 with enough capacity to treat every person who needs medical help during a crisis.”
And Crosscut‘s Brandon Block wrote a piece about American Rescue Plan Act money (federal relief money due to the pandemic) being used by local jurisdictions for law enforcement, including: buying new squad cars, buying new body cameras, giving $10k retention bonuses to sheriff’s deputies in Pierce County, paying officer salaries, and buying new tasers. Not exactly the first use of money that comes to mind when thinking about addressing the huge amount of need that has arisen as a result of the pandemic.
Oh, and the King County Council confirmed Patti Cole-Tindall as King County Sheriff yesterday.

Recent Headlines

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Seattle To Get Alternate Response Service in…2024? 2025? 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

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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 »

It’s Police Union Contract Negotiation Time in King County

Seattle News

 

The tensions between CMs Herbold and Nelson over SPD hiring incentives continued this week at both Council Briefing and the Full Council meeting. CM Nelson spent the bulk of her Council Briefing time talking about it, in fact, including offering the claim that she had the approval of the Executive (a claim that Publicola fact-checked and found a bit misleading.) However, CM Herbold prevailed, meaning the Public Safety committee will vote on both CM Nelson’s resolution and CM Herbold’s legislation next week on 5/10, while CM Nelson’s conflicting legislation will not receive a vote until a later date (if at all). If you would like to give public comment on 5/10 about this issue or email your council members, you can find some talking points here.
Also originally on the schedule for the 5/10 meeting is the report on SPD’s analysis of 911 calls and which types could be fielded with non-police response. If this schedule plan stands, the meeting will be jam-packed.
CM Herbold also reported the first meeting of the search committee for the new OPA director happened last Friday 4/29.
When asked where they think the city should direct its resources to deal with crime, 92% of respondents said funding for more addiction and mental health services. Eighty-one percent want to see more de-escalation training for police officers, 80% want more social programs to address crime’s root causes, 75% want to add more nonpolice staffing, and 73% want to see an increase in court staffing to process the caseload.
Particularly striking is that 92% of respondents wanted to see more funding go to addiction and mental health services, suggesting a broad base of support for scaling up the City’s offerings in these areas. Respondents were fairly equally divided between thinking crime is underreported in the media, overly reported in the media, or accurately reported in the media.
Meanwhile, in consent decree news, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office appears to have tried to pressure the Seattle Human Rights Commission into not seeking amicus curiae status on the consent decree.
CE Bick
NEW: Federal Monitor @AntonioOftelie just filed to extend the deadline for filing his compliance status update for the @CityofSeattle to May 13, in order to allow for “additional time for the Monitor and parties to validate the data in the Comprehensive Assessment, 1/

The Monitor’s compliance status update deadine was extended until May 13 (next Friday). This apparently has to do with the data error I reported on here; while the error is being fixed, there is speculation that the new data might rise additional questions. Stay tuned!

King County News

The bargaining process with KCPOG (King County Police Officer Guild) has begun. Once an agreement on a new contract is reached, it will need to be accepted or rejected by the King County Council. This contract will determine how much authority OLEO (Office of Law Enforcement Oversight) will have to hold officers accountable for misconduct, as well as the transparency and fairness of the disciplinary process. People Power Washington – Police Accountability has drafted some priorities for what should be included in this contract, and I encourage you to email your King County council members and let them know that you care about this issue. You can find more information and talking points here.
King County released its poll on “Reimagining Public Safety in Urban Unincorporated King County,” and as Will Casey pointed out in The Stranger, “More than half of the written comments from people surveyed expressed a desire to have an unarmed behavioral health professional available to respond to emergencies.” The County will spending around $500k to fund pilots for alternate emergency response programs that they expect to launch in mid-2022. Let’s hope Seattle isn’t far behind.
Earlier this week Executive Dow Constantine announced his choice for the next King County Sheriff, Patti Cole-Tindall, who is currently serving as interim Sheriff. The King County Council will vote on whether to confirm this nomination later this month.
Meanwhile, over in Bothell, which straddles King and Snohomish Counties, the City Council has voted 5-2 to approve federal funding of police body cameras.
#VeryAsian #American Han Tran
Bothell City Council voted 5-2 to approve federal funding of police body cameras while we were out protesting for abortion rights. 1/

If you’d like to learn more about police-worn body cameras and why their usage can be problematic, you can read more here.

Washington State News

Yet another survey of 832 Washingtonians (‘tis the season) found majority support (53%) for Initiative 1992, which is currently collecting signatures to be placed on the ballot later this year and would decriminalize drugs (while allowing cops to continue to seize them) and allocate $141m in pot revenues to drug outreach and recovery services. You can read a little more about it over at The Stranger.

Recent Headlines

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It’s Police Union Contract Negotiation Time in King County Read More »

Arguments Flare Over SPD Hiring Incentives

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to today’s Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. Public comments are just wrapping up now.
Fireworks exploded at Tuesday’s Seattle Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting when CM Nelson clashed with Chair Herbold on how the meeting ought to be run. The conflict took place during a discussion on CM Nelson’s resolution regarding hiring incentives for the SPD. Surprising almost no one, SPD is once again having more officer attrition than predicted and less hiring than hoped, leading to the anticipation of between $4. 1m-$4.5m in salary savings for 2022.
CM Herbold introduced draft legislation that would lift a proviso on $650k of that salary savings for SPD to use for moving expenses for recruits and a new recruiter. CM Nelson became visibly upset about this legislation, saying that she’d offered for CM Herbold to co-sponsor her resolution, and after that offer was declined, hadn’t heard anything else. She asked for her own rival draft legislation to be introduced, but as the conversation had already run well over its scheduled time, CM Herbold insisted on closing debate and moving to the next agenda item.
This issue is scheduled for a possible vote on Tuesday, May 10 at 9:30am, when we can see how much further acrimony might be on display. We can expect to see arguments on one side about how incentives haven’t proven to be effective (and indeed, the Mayor has not requested such incentives to be funded) and how we need to spend our money wisely given next year’s anticipated budgetary shortfall versus arguments that most police departments have hiring incentives so they must work and what else would we do with the $4m anyway? (The obvious answer to the latter is, we could in fact do quite a lot with that $4m.)
Perhaps one of the most telling moments of this discussion was when CM Pedersen asked if the City of Seattle has any alternate emergency responses ready to go today. He must have already known the answer, of course, which was a resounding no when it comes to the policing side of things (Health One is on the fire side and responds primarily to non-emergency medical calls.) SPD is slated to present their findings of their 911 call analysis on May 10, a report for which I’m already bracing myself. It is important to remember that much of the power for setting up any such alternate response rests with the Mayor’s Office, which is why so little has been accomplished in this vein thus far due to former Mayor Durkan’s lackluster interest.
Also discussed at the meeting was the case backlog at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, which I’ve previously covered here. The office only has one last position left to fill in its criminal division, but it still has several pre-filing diversion positions to fill. They expect it to take the rest of the year to review the backlog cases that aren’t being dismissed (almost 2000 are being dismissed) and will be asking for extra money to do so.
As Erica Barnett reports, this week City Attorney Ann Davison also asked the Seattle Municipal Court to allow her to deny “high utilizers” of the criminal legal system access to community court, overruling Judge Damon Shadid, who currently presides over said court. This policy change would result in previous criminal history impacting a person’s eligibility to use community court.
King County Department of Public Defense (DPD) director Anita Khandelwal says Davison’s letter “mischaracterizes Judge Shadid’s statements in the meetings,” which Khandelwal has attended, and “causes me concern about the possibility for good faith negotiations with the City Attorney’s Office given the inaccuracies in their statements.”
This issue is both complex and important enough that I recommend reading the complete article in Publicola when you get a chance.
Meanwhile, gotta love this headline:

Other News

I’ve been receiving a lot of questions lately about the new 988 crisis hotline, set to debut this summer, and how it will affect crisis response in Seattle and throughout the state. The answer, for now, appears to be that we’re not sure yet. There seems to be some confusion as to how this system is going to roll out, but it sounds like the launch of the 988 number is being seen as merely the first step in creating a behavioral health system that can provide appropriate and adequate crisis care. You can read more about it in Esmy Jimenez’s article in The Seattle Times.
Also in The Seattle Times recently was Mike Carter’s article on how much money taxpayers in Washington state are forking out because of police misconduct. The article has been rightfully criticized for not mentioning any specific misconduct cases in Seattle:
DivestSPD
Putting aside the fact that *we live in Seattle*, SPD accounted for $~4.5m of the $34.3m in 2021 suits (13%) referenced in the article, and at least that much in 2020.

So it’s odd, to say the least, that SPD is totally absent from this piece. https://t.co/C4subOhvrQ

Minneapolis has made the news recently when the Minnesota Department of Human Rights released a report detailing their investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. As Steve Karnowski and Mohamed Ibrahim report:
The report said police department data “demonstrates significant racial disparities with respect to officers’ use of force, traffic stops, searches, citations, and arrests.” And it said officers “used covert social media to surveil Black individuals and Black organizations, unrelated to criminal activity, and maintain an organizational culture where some officers and supervisors use racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language with impunity.”
As a result of this report, Minneapolis will be entering into a consent decree to address the problems detailed.
Finally, I have two newsletters to recommend. First is Chloe Cockburn’s Just Impact. You can read her latest here, and I particularly suggest checking out the “Solutions and Progress” section if your spirits are in need of some lifting. Second is the new newsletter of Olayemi Olurin, who is a public defender in NYC. His first piece, “America’s Hypocrisy on Violence: The Case of Police Brutality,” is definitely worth a read.

Recent Headlines

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Arguments Flare Over SPD Hiring Incentives Read More »