SPD not wearing masks

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

Seattle News

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

King County News

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

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

Recent Headlines

WA prosecutors who withhold evidence rarely face discipline | Crosscut

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

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CPC meetings this week and a review of various state bills

Let’s take a look at what’s been happening in Washington and Seattle, shall we?

In CPC news, the CPC will be having a town hall on SPD policy changes tonight at 6pm. This community-led conversation will be about changes the Seattle Police Department is proposing regarding how officers are allowed to use force and police protests and will be live-streamed by Converge Media, which can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

The CPC will also be having their regular meeting tomorrow at 9am. I know there’s a certain significant event taking place at that same time, but if you’re interested in attending, you can use this Zoom link and you can also look at the agenda. From 10:20-10:40am, they will be “addressing current events with OPA & OIG (Plans and processes for investigating recent misconduct connected to the violence in Washington DC)” with OPA Director Andrew Myerberg. Will they be able to get many straight answers from him? Wellll, perhaps not. But it’s still worth supporting the only police accountability agency in Seattle that is fighting the good fight.

I don’t have a Twitter thread on today’s Council Briefing, but we heard from the City’s state legislature lobbying team. They spoke about the hearing I testified at last week about SB5055 and SB 5134. The presenter echoed my own feelings that overall the hearing had gone well, but that 5055 has a much better chance of moving forward than 5134, mostly because labor strongly opposes the elimination of arbitration when dealing with serious misconduct by law enforcement.

It is worth noting that the ACLU Washington supports 5134 and opposes 5055. My understanding of 5055 is that it embraces incrementalism instead of making true structural change, hence my own preference for 5134. CM Herbold asked if it might be possible to get support from stakeholders, especially labor, for certain provisions in 5134 if its elimination of arbitration was abandoned. The City’s lobbying team is also pushing for the inclusion of amendments to 5055 that would place further guardrails around the arbitration process. So we’ll see how things develop with these two bills.

Other bills of interest in the police reform/criminal justice space:

  • HB 1078, introduced last week, would make felons automatically eligible to vote once they are released from incarceration. It is important, particularly with our current broken and deeply racist criminal justice system, that we not disenfranchise citizens who are re-entering society after serving their time.
  • SB 5127, a bill prohibiting assault weapons. There are apparently some other bills limiting open carry that are also being discussed.
  • HB 1267, regarding police use of force and establishing a state-wide office to address use of deadly force, will probably have a hearing sometime next week.
  • HB 1054 addresses police tactics. This bill was first heard last year, and insiders expect amendments to be introduced that might help it get through.
  • HB 1082 and SB 5051 are companion bills addressing decertification of police officers, which would basically create a licensure system for police officers and seek, among other things, to prevent discharged officers from being able to go get a job at a different department. There were hearings for these two bills in the last few days.

A big story from the weekend was an SPD officer who refused to wear a mask while inside a local hospital ER. CM Herbold is checking with Interim Chief Diaz as to whether there’s another approach that doesn’t rely on the OPA to resolve the issue and cause corrective action, possibly involving chain-of-command becoming involved for cases of mask non-compliance.

At the next Public Safety and Human Services meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, January 26 at 9:30am, the CMs will be learning about the investment of the $3m provided by them in the summer rebalancing for community organizations with expertise in crime prevention. The additional $12m in funding from the summer rebalancing, to be focused on community capacity public safety investments, is still pending. With the veto etc. this money has still not been allocated, but they hope to be able to fund agencies by the end of the second quarter, aka by summer. This would represent a ten-month process to actually get that money out the door, which is not great given the urgent need to ramp up community organizations’ capacities.

Finally, Nikkita Oliver is teaching a course at Seattle University on policing and prison abolition this semester, and they are providing the syllabus and related materials to the community if you want to learn along with their class.

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