SPD overtime

Will Seattle Pay SPOG a Premium to Let Others Help SPD with its Staffing Woes?

Seattle News

Most of this week has been elections, elections, elections. As of this writing, a few Seattle councilmember races are still too close to call, but we’re seeing a definitive shift to the right.

It looks like CM Mosqueda will be moving over to the King County Council next year, and she has announced she intends to step down from Seattle City Council at the beginning of next year, when the new Council will be able to appoint a replacement. In the meantime, she’ll be busy getting the 2024 budget passed as well as finishing up other budget work.

SPD Detective Cookie Boudin has followed up her spring tort claim by suing the City. She is seeking an unspecified amount of damages, saying she’s spent her whole career dealing with a pattern of racist harrassment. The trial date has been set for November 4, 2024. 

KUOW reported that a cooking show/class at PCC hosted by SPD Chief Diaz and special guest former Chief Best cost the city $2000 in overtime this past Saturday, as five other SPD employees were paid to attend: two bodyguards, a community outreach officer, a patrol officer, and an executive assistant. Four more similar events have been scheduled and in total could cost more than $9000 in overtime. “Current numbers show the department will be between $1.5 to $4.6 million over budget by year end, Jamie Housen, spokesperson with the mayor’s office, wrote by email. He said overtime costs were mostly to blame.”

The Firefighters have reached a tentative contract with the city that isn’t good news for workers. It gives minimum annual wage increases of 2-4%, as well as a 4.5% raise in 2022 and a 5.5% raise in 2023. Given these rates don’t keep up with the rates of inflation during those same years, this represents a wage cut in real terms. This could bode poorly for the Coalition of City Unions, who have currently been offered a 2.5% wage increase. As Erica C. Barnett writes:In contrast, Seattle police officers received a 17 percent pay increase after their last contract negotiation, with retroactive pay increases between 3 and 4 percent a year for the years they worked without a contract. The city council approved hiring bonuses of up to $30,000 for police last year.”

Seattle Budget and the SPOG MOU 

Seattle’s Budget Committee will be meeting on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week to discuss budget-related legislation and councilmember amendments. Votes on amendments are expected on Tuesday 11/14, with Wednesday’s meeting most likely to consist of discussion of budget proposals and progressive revenue options that aren’t needed to balance the 2024 budget.

There will be an opportunity to give public comment on Monday, November 13 at both 10am and at the public hearing at 5pm. Solidarity Budget will be hosting a budget rally outside City Hall on Monday starting at 4pm. Suggested talking points for public comment and emails are available here.

Solidarity Budget co-hosted a webinar on Wednesday with ACLU Washington on the problems with the ShotSpotter surveillance technology that is currently being given funding in the 2024 budget. You can watch the webinar here, look at the slides, and find more talking points about ShotSpotter here. One of the amendments slated to be voted on next week will require a racial equity toolkit be done on this technology whenever it is moved to a new neighborhood, as opposed to the original plans announced by Senior Deputy Mayor Burgess to only require an omnibus Surveillance Impact Report (SIR). Another amendment would take the $1.5 million currently allocated for this technology and instead spend it on mental health services for tiny house villages, which are currently funded at significantly lower levels in 2024 than they were in 2023.

This week the city also announced a proposal for a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). You can read the Central Staff memorandum on the MOU on page 42 and the full text of the MOU on page 51 of this packet.

The MOU accomplishes three things:

  • It would allow the city flexibility to sometimes use parking enforcement officers to staff special events.
  • It would allow the city to implement its dual dispatch emergency alternative response program. In spite of all the hype around the launch of this pilot, it turns out that until and unless this MOU is agreed upon, police can actively request CARE members only after they’ve arrived at and secured a site for Wellness Check and Person Down Calls, meaning it’s not even a true dual dispatch yet.
  • It would allow the city to use park rangers at parks outside of the downtown area.

There are several problematic aspects of the MOU. Perhaps the biggest one is the agreement to give officers who volunteer to staff special events an additional $225 bonus for each shift worked (in addition to any relevant overtime pay). This bonus is projected to cost $8 million in additional funds through the end of 2025. So here we have a situation in which firefighters are taking a pay cut in real terms if they accept their proposed contract while police officers are getting further bonuses beyond overtime for working special events, increasing SPD’s budget bloat even further at the expense of other core city services.

The rationale behind this odd choice is that right now SPD can only staff these special events through mandatory overtime, which is putting a strain on their workforce. But SPOG is only willing to give these officers relief by allowing other people to do some of the special events work if their officers get paid an extra bonus. Meanwhile, SPD once again went significantly over their overtime budget this year and yet are still willing to spend $2000 in overtime for a cooking class, as mentioned above. 

I’ll also note that once a new section involving extra pay is added to police guild contracts, it tends to be very, very difficult to remove later. Not to mention that this doesn’t appear to show particularly good negotiating tactics on the part of the city, who are still working with SPOG to agree upon a new contract almost three years after its expiration.

Another problematic aspect of the MOU has to do with the new dual dispatch pilot. This MOU restricts the number of responders that can be hired by CARE to 24 FTEs, meaning SPOG gets to determine the size of the pilot. It restricts the call types to which they can respond to only Person Down and Welfare Check calls, hence the Director’s reluctance to suggest response to any other call types. In addition, according to the MOU, dispatching CARE responders is not to affect the number of police dispatched to any given call. And CARE responders will be required to write a report that is available to SPD officers, which could potentially dissuade people who are already wary of the police from being willing to use this new program.

The budget amendment funding this MOU will be voted on next week and provide $4.5 million of funding to cover SPD special event bonuses for October thru December of this year and 2024. It is unclear how this extra expenditure will be balanced in the budget. The legislation related to the MOU will be on the Introduction & Referral calendar on November 21 and is expected to be voted on at Full Council sometime during the first half of December.

Recent Headlines:

Will ShotSpotter CCTV Cameras Roam Seattle’s Streets Next Year?

Seattle Budget News

Budget-Associated Events

If you’re interested in learning more about Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI), you can view the presentation and panel of local experts from this week here. If you’d like to contact your councilmembers in support of a publicly funded GBI program in Seattle, you can find talking points here.

If you’d like to read talking points from the Seattle Solidarity Budget, you can read them here. These should be updated to reflect new information learned during issue identification by the end of the day Monday.

Seattle Solidarity Budget is also hosting a virtual public comment workshop on Monday, October 16 from 6-7:30pm. An overview of Solidarity Budget’s call to action will be provided, as well as help writing up and giving public comment. You can register here.

There are two chances to give public comment related to the budget next week. A public hearing for public comment will be held on Wednesday, October 18 at 5pm. CM Nelson also pushed strongly for a public comment period to be added to the budget meeting on Monday, October 16 at 10am. As always, you can also email or call your councilmembers and share your budget priorities and concerns with them.

Investments associated with the New War on Drugs Bill

I finally have a breakdown on the plan for the $7 million for capital costs and $1.4 million for services that Mayor Harrell promised during the discussion of the New War on Drugs bill. 

The $7 million will be spent on two facilities; we’ve already spoken about the post-overdose site at some length, but the other facility will be an outpatient treatment center for individuals with opioid use disorder and/or other drug dependencies that will offer low-barrier access.

As for the $1.4 million, it will be spent for the following:

  • $470k for existing programs for drug user health and harm reduction
  • $325k for 2 new positions at Health One as well as relevant supplies
  • $582k one-time investment to support service delivery at the post-overdose stabilization center
  • $516k for ongoing costs at the post-overdose stabilization center
  • $164k administrative costs
  • $164k for a planning & development specialist to oversee the work supported by these monies

It is unclear where the money needed to operate the low-barrier access outpatient treatment center will come from.

CM Nelson objected to the use of the funds for harm reduction programs.

Meanwhile, SPD has estimated the requirements from this new legislation will result in it making 700-800 new diversion referrals every year. Right now LEAD is funded with $9.9 million, which allows it to serve 750 program participants. HSD believes this funding level will be sufficient, but how this can be the case when LEAD might not even have enough funding to serve all the new SPD drug referrals, let alone their normal caseload, is something of a mystery at present. Pre-filing diversion programs are also not receiving any increase in funding. 

SPD Budget Issues

The budget issue identification pertaining to SPD was discussed by City Council on Friday afternoon. You can see the presentation and the associated memo

Between January and September of 2023, SPD missed its hiring goals by 36, only hiring 46 officers and only 6 of those being lateral hires (meaning those officers are experienced and can be deployed quickly). They had 77 officer separations during that same time period (the projection was 72). Therefore, they experienced a net decrease of officers of 27.

At best, SPD’s staffing will remain flat for 2024, but this depends on an ambitious plan to hire 120 officers next year, with a full 30 being lateral hires. Unless something changes vastly in the next few months, this projection appears to be removed from reality. Iin 2024, SPD is proposing to fund 1,131 sworn FTEs.

SPD expects to exceed their overtime budget by $9.3 million for 2023, reaching a total of $40.6 million for overtime. The total number of events worked by SPD in 2023 was greater than that in 2019 before the pandemic began. Interestingly, Chief Diaz reported the department uses a combination of sworn officers and parking enforcement officers (PEOs) to staff events. 

SPD has been having trouble staying ahead of attrition while hiring new parking enforcement officers (PEOs) this year, so there might be as much as $1.5 million in PEO salary savings to help plug this overtime spending gap. Yes, now that the PEOs have moved back to SPD, it gets to use PEO salary savings as well as sworn officer salary savings. There are 22 open PEO positions right now, and these are planned to be filled by April 2024. 

Finally there was much discussion of the crime prevention pilot, for which the Mayor is asking for a $1.8 million investment that is being paid for by salary savings (the rest of the $8.1 million in projected salary savings for 2024 is being proposed to be spent on additional SPD overtime). $280k would be spent on additional automatic license plate reader technology. The remainder, $1.5 million, would be spent on deploying CCTV cameras with acoustic gunshot locator capabilities (aka ShotSpotter with cameras). 

The Mayor’s Office has chosen the 3rd Avenue corridor, Belltown, and/or Aurora Ave N as potential locations to deploy this new technology, although they are not yet sure how many locations they will be able to cover with the money available. These locations were chosen from SPD data, looking for places where gun violence, human trafficking, and high felony crime concentration are present. There is also no information available on what a scaled up version of this pilot might look like or how much it would cost. 

The Mayor has suggested this new technology would be deployable by March of 2024, even though it would first need to undergo a surveillance technology review and a racial equity analysis. 

A particularly disturbing detail of the plan is the desire to develop an omnibus surveillance policy. This policy would allow any CCTV cameras in the pilot to be moved around the city at will, without having to undergo any oversight from the City Council. The Mayor has said he will engage with each community to which the cameras are moved, but given some of the community engagement efforts we’ve seen in the past from this administration, this loose commitment doesn’t exactly ease fears of potential issues with this policy.

Several councilmembers, including CMs Nelson, Pedersen, Lewis, and Strauss signaled their potential support for this Shotspotter CCTV pilot. 

I will try to cover the new CARE department budgetary issues next week, but in the meantime, you can see their presentation and memo.

Overall Budget Issue

The critical conversation about potential new progressive revenue sources for 2025 and beyond has yet to truly begin, but Pubicola reports the Mayor’s proposed 2024 budget increases the projected 2025 deficit from $212 million to $247 million. 

And what about the JumpStart tax revenues?Harrell’s budget transfers $27 million from the Jumpstart tax fund to the general fund, an ongoing practice that the council has approved every year for the past several years to keep COVID-era programs going. Much of that includes new spending beyond what the council approved last year in the “endorsed” 2024 budget.”

Other News

The City of Seattle settled with the estate of Derek Hayden, a man killed by SPD in January of 2022. To resolve this wrongful death claim, they paid $1.5 million

The trial of the police who killed Manuel Ellis continues in Tacoma. Before she testified on Monday, Ellis’s mother says she found an AirTag tracking device on her car, as well as having her tires slashed earlier on the weekend. As a result, Ellis’s sister alleged witness intimidation.

Recent Headlines

 

Real Change Reporting Reveals Federal Monitor Oftelie Getting Cozy with SPD

Seattle News

In a fascinating piece of reporting in Real Change, Glen Stellmacher wrote about how SPD and the City of Seattle controlled the media narrative around the 2020 protests and the Defund Movement. I highly recommend reading the entire article, but here are some key points:

  • In a June 19, 2020 survey, SPD leadership recommended at least 12 areas of service within SPD that would be better with civilian employees.
  • In the face of defund demands, SPD claimed they would have to cut the SW precinct, SWAT, or traffic enforcement if cuts went too far. However, this narrative was shown to be false by both the June 19, 2020 and June 27, 2020 surveys of SPD leadership.
  • By August 2020, SPD and the City were aware that 45% of SPD patrol service hours didn’t require an officer. However, Mayor Durkan requested a second IDT; the results, not available until June 2021, also said nearly half of calls could be handled by a civilian response. At that point, you may remember SPD insisted on a risk managed demand report, which wasn’t completed until September 2022.
  • SPD played with the numbers to make the loss of diversity in the force, should there be layoffs, seem as bad as possible.
  • It appears then-SPD Chief Strategy Officer Chris Fischer may have ghost-written a Crosscut op-ed for Antonio Oftelie; Crosscut says they didn’t know SPD was involved and has since removed the op-ed from their site. Two days after publication, SPD’s Executive Director of Legal Affairs was pushing for Oftelie to be named the new Monitor of the consent decree. He was named the new Monitor the next month, beating out several qualified candidates. 

This Sunday, July 23 from 12-7pm in Othello Park, there will be a Participatory Budgeting cookout to launch the idea collection phase of participatory budgeting. You can also submit a proposal here.

In a court ruling this week, a judge ruled the City of Seattle has been using an overbroad definition of “obstruction” to justify its sweeps activity, writing that it constitutes “cruel punishment.” The definition was expanded in 2017, increasing obstruction removals in the City. The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in September.

On Tuesday, an SPD officer shot a man downtown. SPD is supposed to release video footage of what happened within 72 hours.

The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) is investigating the incident of the mock tombstone of a man killed by SPD police displayed in an SPD breakroom. Chief Diaz has ordered inspections of precinct HQs for other potential inappropriate displays. At a CPC meeting this week, Chief Diaz had very little information to share.

And finally, it’s supplemental budget time! The proposed supplemental budget includes around $815k in additional funding for SPD, including increasing overtime to pay for more downtown emphasis patrols, paying for additional online crime reporting, and hiring six civilian positions, including four new public disclosure officers. It also adds an additional $19 million for the City to pay for lawsuits, many of which are related to police misconduct. The City already added $11 million to the 2023 for lawsuits last year, but apparently that wasn’t enough.

In addition, the supplemental budget funds a graffiti clean-up team, and because the contracts have already been executed, the Mayor’s Office has potentially forced the Council’s hand into cutting other Seattle Public Utilities programs to pay for this. More money is also being requested for the CSCC for its dual dispatch pilot and updating its call center technology and for OIG to take over the consent decree’s Monitor duties. 

There is a vote scheduled on the supplemental budget on the morning of August 2. 

Recent Headlines

Seattle to Decide Whether to Launch a New ‘War on Drugs’

Seattle News

As a result of the new state level drug legislation, the Seattle City Council is on track to vote on a bill giving the City Attorney the authority to prosecute drug possession and the new crime “public use of drugs” as soon as Tuesday, June 6, without running the legislation through committee. Drug possession is currently prosecuted by the King County Prosecutor, and in practice, King County has stopped prosecuting cases involving the possession of small amounts of drugs. Criticized by opponents for reigniting a new War on Drugs in Seattle, this legislation would further criminalize poverty while turning away from evidence-based strategies of drug treatment. Furthermore, because this is the first time Seattle would be prosecuting such crimes, the City currently has neither a drug court nor prosecutors and judges with experience in these matters. There is also the open question of how much putting new structures in place, as well as increasing prosecutions and jail use due to the new legislation, would cost the City. 

Opponents of the bill, including the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, ACLU Washington, SEIU 925, Real Change, Collective Justice, and VOCAL-WA,  are hosting an Emergency Teach-In virtually on Tuesday, May 30 at 6:30pm. You can register for the webinar here to learn more about the legislation and how to take action.

Carolyn Bick has uncovered yet more SPD chain of command confusion regarding the use of tear gas during the 2020 George Floyd protests.

SPD has announced they are beginning their pilot use of the BOLAwrap, also described as a high-tech lasso, a less-lethal weapon that “uses a Kevlar rope aimed at the legs or arms of an individual to detain them.” Its design was inspired by a hunting technique of nomadic peoples in Latin America and has been criticized for being cruel and dehumanizing. Guy Oron at Real Change News reports that we don’t know how much these BolaWrap weapons cost and writes: “In a 2020 Human Rights Watch report, researchers found that the BolaWrap and other weapons like stun guns could result in increased police violence against populations who are stigmatized by society, including mentally ill, poor, Black, Brown and Indigenous people.”

The OPA released its 2022 Annual Report this week. Some highlights: 454 cases were opened (compare this to 929 cases opened in 2019), and 13% of investigations had sustained allegations. Force allegations were down 36%. 411 SPD employees had at least one complaint in 2022, 94% of whom were sworn officers (385), and 142 employees received more than one complaint. 945 sworn officers were in service during Q4 of 2022, which means about 40% of sworn officers received at least one complaint.

This week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting featured a presentation about overdose trends and harm reduction programs in the city and the Q1 2023 SPD staffing and overtime report. In the first quarter, SPD had 26 hires and 28 separations, with 2023 estimates of the force having 928 deployable sworn officers out of 1028 total sworn officers (the difference are those on long-term leave, such as disability, parental, etc.). CM Herbold reported that police hiring is picking up across the country but still not able to keep up with the number of officers leaving. That being said, the rate of separation at SPD does appear to be slowing.

SPD is expecting around $3m in salary savings this year, and they’re also expecting to exceed their overtime budget, possibly by more than their realized salary savings. Not very much of the money allocated (with much fanfare) for recruitment and retention has been spent, but the Mayor’s Office says they’ll start spending much more in the second half of the year, probably mostly for their big new marketing campaign that is supposed to launch around August. Stay tuned!

King County News

The quarterly King County Firearm Violence Report is out, showing gun violence in King County is continuing to decrease from its high in mid-2022:

“Compared to the average of the previous five quarters of data, shots fired incidents in Q1 (348) were down around 3% (-12) and the number of shooting victims (50) were down 34% (-35). More specifically, the number of fatal shooting victims declined almost 17% (-3) and nonfatal shooting victims declined 41% (-35) over those averages.”

Recent Headlines

King County Able to Produce Risk Index of 911 Calls With Little Fuss, Unlike Seattle

Seattle News

The Seattle City Council’s final vote on the SPMA contract was delayed for a week to allow both CMs and community more time to understand the ramifications of this new contract. The CMs voted to approve this contract yesterday with an 8-0 vote (CM Sawant was not present.) You can read more about the new contract here.
The forum for the finalist candidates for OPA Director was changed from June 23 to June 8 with very little notice to the public. The Mayor’s Office didn’t tell CMs about the new forum date until late the preceding Friday, when such details were likely to slip through the cracks. After public complaint, the Mayor’s Office finally published a press release about the forum late on the day of June 7. People Power Washington has asked for the selection process to begin anew with greater community engagement. That being said, an announcement on the selected candidate is expected in early July.
At Tuesday’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, CMs discussed SPD’s quarterly report on finances and overtime. SPD’s use of overtime is up, creating worries that the department will overspend their annual budget on overtime, something they have a history of doing. The bulk of overtime in the first quarter of the year was used for emphasis patrols, but as we move into the summer season, more overtime is typically used for big events. CMs asked questions related to the prioritization of officer hours and the possibility of transferring certain kinds of work to civilian workers.
We learned that SPD’s new scheduling and timekeeping software solution has run into implementation issues that have led SPD to decide not to deploy this solution after all, after spending many years working on this project. The original auditor’s report referencing this project came out, in fact, in 2016. SPD is now exploring a different software solution, and in the meantime continue with their abysmal timekeeping system. The SPD has also implemented a new call triage policy called Z-Disposition Clearing. Finally, 911 call response time is up.
CM Herbold announced that at the committee’s June 28 meeting, there will be a briefing on the next steps around the analysis of which 911 calls could be handled by alternative response. She said this report will be less about the outcome of the analysis and more focused on the process and who is involved and next steps. The length of time this analysis is taking is fascinating, particularly in light of the fact that the King County Auditor’s Office has already been able to create a risk index of 911 calls answered by the King County Sheriff’s Office. More on that in a bit.
Meanwhile, the City Council is also working on a new bill that would close a loophole in the police accountability system when complaints are lodged against the Police Chief; a substitute bill is expected to be introduced in an upcoming meeting. Will Casey’s article in The Stranger explains how the loophole played out following the 2020 protests:
What the OPA manual didn’t account for is what Mayor Durkan did next. Instead of following through on OPA’s recommendation to secure an outside investigator, Durkan did … nothing. By simply failing to act at all, she effectively covered up any alleged misconduct in which her police chief engaged for the rest of her term in office.

King County News

Also this week, the King County Auditor’s Office gave a presentation and delivered their report looking at racial disparities in arrests and use of force and looking into alternative response for King County.
In their work around alternative response, the Office produced their own risk index of 911 calls based on calls answered by the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) over the last few years. They determined that 58% of these calls fall into the lowest-risk category of call outcomes and that about 15% of calls could be answered by an alternative response. They studied alternative response programs in Denver, Phoenix, Austin, and Albuquerque to develop a list of best practices the programs have in common. King County is currently working to develop a pilot alternative response program.
Regarding racial disparities, KCSO only collects racial data on about 4% of its service calls, which is obviously insufficient. From the small data set available, Black people are more likely to be arrested and more likely to be subject to use of force. White officers are also much more likely to use force. You can read more about this here. The Auditor’s Office recommended that KCSO begin collecting and analyzing data on all calls for service where an officer stops someone, begging the question as to why this wasn’t already being done.

Washington State News

Last week in a landmark decision, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that race and ethnicity must be taken into account when the police stop someone. As David Gutman wrote in The Seattle Times:
The court also clarified state law to say police have seized a person if an objective observer would conclude that the person was not free to leave or refuse a request. But, the court wrote, that “objective observer” must be aware that discrimination and biases “have resulted in disproportionate police contacts, investigative seizures, and uses of force against Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.”

Recent Headlines

Officers seek ban on video livestream of Charleena Lyles' inquest - Axios Seattle

Ex-Seattle police chief testifies she deleted text messages in bulk - Axios Seattle

Kent to pay $1.5 million to settle dispute with assistant police chief who displayed Nazi insignia | The Seattle Times

Assistant police chief gets $1.5 million settlement after displaying Nazi symbols - The Washington Post

Eight weeks of therapy, plus some cash, can change the lives of violent men - The Washington Post

Special edition: California elections roundup

Seattle News Salad

I was on vacation last week, and quite a lot happened! Get ready because this newsletter is a bit on the long side.

East Precinct Abandonment Last Summer

Yes, we finally found out what happened on June 8, 2020 when the SPD abandoned the East Precinct on Capitol Hill, thanks to KUOW’s investigative report. It turns out Assistant Chief Tom Mahaffey, the incident commander, was the one who made the call, without the knowledge of Chief Best or the Mayor’s office. The OPA’s report on this incident is expected shortly.

More on the 6 SPD Officers at “Stop the Steal”

There have been a flurry of articles about the findings of the OPA’s investigation of the six SPD officers who were in Washington DC for the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6. A key point of contention being discussed is whether simply attending the rally constitutes protected speech for police officers (meaning speech protected by the first amendment), which would determine whether the four officers not found to have behaved illegally should also be disciplined.
CM Lisa Herbold had this to say:
Whether they were “directly involved” in the insurrection, or if they attended with the intent to passively support the unlawful insurrection and violent assault of our nation’s Capitol, neither act is an example of protected free speech nor should our support of free speech shield accountability for these acts.
If public employees knowingly travelled to a location in support of people whom they knew were intending to attempt an insurrection, even if their participation was as a passive observer, that is a ‘clear connection between conduct and duties or…responsibilities’ and is an offense that merits termination. I will review the OPA investigation with an eye towards whether questions were asked of the four officers without sustained findings, and whether evidence was sought, to determine the advance knowledge they had of the planned violent events at the Capitol insurrection of January 6.
CP González has said the remaining four officers should be disciplined. You can also find out what other current candidates think about the case.
Another interesting aspect of this case is the way it highlights the limitations placed on the OPA by not having the ability to subpoena SPD officers, especially since SPOG has filed a grievance against the OPA for instead ordering the officers to give them personal documents related to their activities in DC. OPA Director Myerberg said:
In practice, we’re very limited in how we can obtain information and documents from officers…but we’ve been told repeatedly that we don’t need subpoena power because we can just order officers to turn over records. And obviously, given the union’s objections to the order we issued, that’s not really the case.
Next up, there will be a due process hearing on August 5 for the two officers with sustained complains against them, after which Chief Diaz will decide whether to terminate their employment. They will then have the opportunity to appeal his decision through arbitration. There is an open OPA case about one of the other officers who refused to provide his personal records when ordered to do so; there may also be another OPA case addressing the fact that the two officers with sustained findings against them appear to have lied during the original OPA investigation.

OPA and OIG News

The South Seattle Emerald has obtained several additional OIG partial certifications on OPA investigations, after reporting on the one for the protest at SPOG HQ last September. Of six completed investigations that received only a partial certification, all six were certified “not thorough” and one was also certified “not objective.” Four of these cases were protest-related. The “thoroughness” issues tend to involve insufficient questioning, overlooked witnesses, and ignoring certain parts of cases.
Meanwhile, the OPA investigation of Officer Ron Willis, the officer who made $414,543.06 in 2019 while working several 90-hour weeks and more than one greater than 24-hour day, has been completed. He was suspended for one day without pay. Meanwhile, SPD’s system of tracking overtime has still yet to be overhauled, and the new promised automated timekeeping system has yet to go live, five years after an audit that called attention to these problems.

Election News

How do the endorsements of The Stranger and The Seattle Times stack up?
Seattle Mayor: M. Lorena González vs. Bruce Harrell
King County Executive: Joe Nguyen vs. Dow Constantine
SCC Position 8: Teresa Mosqueda vs No Endorsement
SCC Position 9: Nikkita Oliver vs. Sara Nelson
Seattle City Attorney: Nicole Thomas-Kennedy vs. Ann Davison
King County Council #3: Sarah Perry vs. Kathy Lambert
King County Council #7: Saudia J. Abdullah vs. Pete von Reichbauer
King County Council #9: Chris Franco vs. Reagan Dunn
We also have some new polls! In the race for Seattle City Attorney, Pete Holmes is coming in at 16% and his opponents Nicole Thomas Kennedy and Ann Davison are both coming in at 14%, with 53% undecided. For an incumbent who won by a large margin last time, this is a surprisingly weak showing for Holmes. And in the Seattle mayor’s race, Bruce Harrell is coming in with 20%, M. Lorena González with 12%, and Colleen Echohawk with 10%, with 32% undecided.
Meanwhile, this poll (it’s important to note the polling size is only 524) asked respondents who they would vote for in different head-to-head Seattle mayor’s races:
Echohawk 51% vs Harrell 49%
Harrell 65% vs González 35%
Echohawk 69% vs González 31 %
Washington Research Group, who conducted the poll, had this to say about the upcoming race:
WaResrchGrp
There are two major factors driving this election:
1) Extreme voter anger – targeted at the Seattle City Council.
2) ONE ISSUE (next tweet).
I’ve been fielding and reading polls for 30 years and I’ve never seen people this pissed. 1994 wasn’t this bad. https://t.co/Xz7sZjite4

The one issue referenced above? Homelessness.

News Tidbits

The Seattle City Council finally passed their new less lethal weapons bill out of committee. However, it won’t be voted on by the Full Council until after a consent decree status conference with Judge Robart on August 10.
Seattle City Council’s Central Staff wrote a memo analyzing how much the Compassion Seattle proposed charter amendment might cost. As Kevin Schofield writes, “…The answer is complicated, because there are varied interpretations of vague language in the bill. At the low end: $30 million up-front capital costs, and $40 million annually in ongoing operational costs. At the high end: $839 million in capital costs and $97 million annually for operations.” This is a huge spread, of course, which shows how widely the amendment can be interpreted.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of the families of people killed by police officers, restoring reforms to the inquest process in King County that have been on hold for the last few years.
King County is looking at two finalists to become the new Director of OLEO (Office of Law Enforcement Oversight): Eddie Aubrey and Tamer Abouzaid. Both are similar in their outlook for the organization, although only Abouzaid said he’d support a state law prohibiting police unions from negotiating on issues of oversight.
The City of Seattle has filed a countersuit against The Seattle Times. If you’ll remember, the Times filed a suit against the City because of mishandled public record requests, including Mayor Durkan’s missing text messages. It’s also worth noting the City’s legal strategy for this matter is decided by City Attorney Pete Holmes, who is up for re-election.
Remember Mayor Durkan’s pot of $30m in this year’s budget for the Equitable Communities Initiative? Well, she has asked the Seattle City Council to lift the proviso on those funds, unveiling her spending plan proposal based on recommendations from the task force. Most of the funds will be dispersed through the RFP process. This legislation will be discussed at the Finance and Housing committee meeting on July 20.

Recent Headlines and Tweets

Paul Faruq Kiefer
Some stats from this report: Native people are nine times more likely to be stopped by SPD than white people (and Black people are five times more likely), but white people were more likely to be carrying a weapon when they were stopped. https://t.co/LnHZTDL8Nm

Seattle City Council attempts to hold SPD accountable for excessive overtime usage

An update on yesterday’s Finance & Housing committee meeting:

There were three items of note discussed at this meeting that pertained to the SPD:

  • Legislation involving the acceptance of grants included a few grants given to the SPD, including one from the Department of Homeland Security. There was some concern over exactly what a loudspeaker listed was (although everyone seemed pretty confident it wasn’t a weapon) and concern over the type of training that would be funded. I haven’t read the list of equipment funded, but it sounded like most, if not all of it, was related to emergency preparedness as opposed to militarization. The Mayor’s Office and SPD are supposed to report back on the few open questions remaining about said equipment and training before this legislation is voted on at Monday’s Council meeting.
  • The SPD is asking for an additional $5.4m for 2020. While the stated costs that need to be covered are parental leave, FEMA reimbursement, and separation costs for larger than anticipated attrition, it is clear the reason these costs haven’t yet been paid is because the SPD already spent this money on overtime. The Council has been trying to rein in the SPD’s use of overtime for many years. They were reluctant to simply refuse them the money at this time due to issues of liability, but instead they passed a statement of intent that they will trim the 2021 SPD budget of at least $5.4m early next year so the SPD still faces consequences. The Council hopes that monthly reportage of SPD overtime that should start next year will help keep these costs in check in future.
  • The Council was supposed to vote on legislation that would lift the provisos on $2.9m of the SPD’s 2020 budget placed during the summer rebalancing efforts. The Mayor’s Budget Office projects the SPD will need exactly this much money to meet their expenses through the end of 2020, but some of the CMs suspect the SPD might underspend more than anticipated and therefore don’t want to release the money until after the true spending figure for the year is known. After some debate CM Mosqueda won her point and they tabled this topic until early next year, when any discrepancies can be fixed with the annual exceptions ordinance that they pass every year to clean up loose strings. This means the Council will be able to recover the maximum amount of money from the SPD that is possible, if in fact the SPD does underspend by any amount.

The Minneapolis City Council just passed their new budget, which cuts the police budget by slightly more than 4%, with the $8m cut being allocated to alternate investments in public safety. The City Council there had discussed shrinking the police force from 888 to 750 beginning in 2022, but after the Mayor threatened to veto the budget if they did this, they changed their minds in a close 7-6 vote. Minneapolis has been struggling to make any real progress on reform or defunding since the summer protests, running into repeated roadblocks.

In better news, the new DA of Los Angeles, George Gascón, wants to make sweeping changes to the criminal justice system, including stopping most uses of cash bail, prioritizing re-sentencing inmates who are serving excessive sentences, and calling for a Use of Force Review Board. His office will no longer seek the death penalty in Los Angelos County and will begin reviewing current cases with a judgment of death. While he faces opposition to these reforms, this is an excellent example of how important and transformative local elections have the power to be.

And, finally, an eye-opening chart from the Washington Post:

 

 

Next week the City Council will be trying to tie up some loose ends before the start of the Winter Recess, as well as hearing a presentation on the Black Brilliance Research Project preliminary report. In the meantime, have a great weekend!

SPD and Community Safety Issue Identification

We have a lot to cover this time! This week the City Council’s budget meetings consisted of presentations from Central Staff including issue identification, along with statements from CMs about their Form As. Form As are a preliminary way for CMs to mark their interest in and support of various topics during the budget process. Form Bs, due tomorrow, are the next step in this process, each requiring sponsorship by at least 3 CMs.


SPD Issue Identification and Form As

You can also reference the meeting’s slide deck and related memo.

First, a reminder of where we are. 81% of SPD’s budget goes to personnel and overtime. The Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget changes the following: 1. 1,497 sworn positions reduced/ abrogated to 1,450 sworn positions, only 1400 of which are actually funded, along with associated salary reductions; 2. parking enforcement, 911 call center, and office of emergency management transferred out of SPD, along with some back office support monies; 3. a new OPA inspector supervisor position is funded; and 4. funding for more automated traffic enforcement.

SPD Identified Issues:

Staffing: The Mayor’s plan tries to maintain the status quo on staffing issues, with staffing returning to 2019 levels by the end of 2022. If instead the hiring freeze were to be maintained through the end of 2021, that would result in 1213 fully trained sworn officers in 2022, compared to 1329 in the Mayor’s proposal, which is a significant difference. The Council’s options include: 1. maintaining the hiring freeze and shrinking the force in this manner; 2. reduce SPD budget to capture the savings from unfilled positions/attrition; 3. reduce SPD budget to reflect a target of shrinking the force that involves retirement incentives and buyouts; 4. proviso the SPD budget to reflect layoffs in 2021, potentially specifying out-of-order layoffs.

There was also discussion about Chief Diaz’s redeployment of more officers into patrol, how to decide the proper size of the police force, and how all response times to 911 calls aren’t equal (in that calls vary, most are not criminal, and not all require a fast response). They also discussed Chief Diaz’s intention to continue to prioritize patrol over specialty units should the number of officers continue to decrease, which would potentially mean no change to 911 call response times but less detective and investigative work.

Overtime reductions: The Mayor’s proposal has a small overtime reduction of $2.7m because of fewer special events due to COVID and the elimination of emphasis patrols. The Council needs to decide whether to decrease the overtime budget further and whether to reinstate emphasis patrols.

Consistency with the 2020 revised budget: The Council needs to decide whether to annualize changes in staffing, command staff pay cuts, and travel and professional services budget cuts to carry forward into 2021.

The last two issues are trying to consolidate different dispatch services for economy of scale and fixing some small issues related to moving the Office of Emergency Management outside SPD.

SPD Form As:

The CMs submitted 19 Form As related to the SPD, although one is actually about the fire department. CM Pedersen submitted four asking for various reports. CM Morales submitted one to reduce staffing and use participatory budgeting to invest the savings in BIPOC communities. CM Sawant submitted one to straight out defund the SPD by 50%, as well as one to transfer the CSO program to the Department of Neighborhoods and one that will place more rules around moving encampments in order to reduce harm.

CP Gonzalez is interested in making sure the OIG doesn’t need more resources given all the units moving out of SPD, ensuring officers receive training on how to appropriately engage with sex workers, capturing the spending of any unfilled SPD staffing, and transferring SPD’s Performance, Analytics, and Research unit, at least partially, to the OIG. CM Herbold submitted several Form As: to rename the Seattle Emergency Communications Center and add parking enforcement officers to it; to get monthly reports on SPD overtime spending (she also expressed interest in reducing the budget for OT spending); a similar funds capturing from unfilled positions as CP Gonzalez; potentially transferring some functions of Harbor Patrol to the SFD, although it sounded like there were complications here; and annualizing the changes made in the 2020 revised budget.


Community Safety & Violence Prevention Issue Identification and Form As:

Twitter avatar for @amysundberg

Amy Sundberg @amysundberg
Good morning, everyone! It’s almost time for the Seattle City Council budget meeting on community safety and violence prevention issue identification!

You can also reference the meeting’s slide deck and related memo.

This presentation looked at public safety programs that take place before or in place of law enforcement involvement, as well as harm reduction strategies within law enforcement, primarily crisis intervention teams comprised of a mental health professional and an officer. We also briefly went over the complicated structure the Mayor is proposing to reimagine public safety, which involves a work group, a task force, and three IDTs. There’s also a small amount of money that has an unclear purpose and might be available for other expenditures.

Identified Issues:

The City’s Community Safety and Violence Prevention Response: Basically the Council needs to decide how much to invest in each different type of response. Their options include community services that decrease opportunities for law enforcement (CSOs, call-in nurses, crime prevention programs) ; non-law enforcement government response instead of law enforcement response (Health One and similar); and law enforcement response that is paired with crisis response (crisis response units).

Health One expansion: The Mayor’s proposed budget expands this program to add a second team. The Council needs to decide whether to proviso this money until dispatch is adjusted, set it aside and wait for community input, or go ahead with this.

Lack of RSJI Lens and Duplicating Community Efforts: This is the biggest issue before Council in this area. Basically it is not clear that the Mayor’s plan has gone through a racial equity analysis. The worry is that since this analysis has not been done (or at least not been made public), it might (possibly unknowingly) further perpetuate racism in the city. This also covers the concerns about the lack of consistency around money allocated for purposes that disproportionately benefit BIPOC groups now being taken away to be given back in a different form to BIPOC groups.

Suggestions to deal with this issue include putting a proviso on some of these funds (probably on the $100m at the very least) until a racial equity analysis is done and made public; do not allocate these funds at all and instead spend them elsewhere; restore $1.08m to the Office of Civil Rights for criminal legal system alternatives (the issue here is the money in 2020 isn’t being sent out until December, so theoretically that money won’t be spent until 2021, meaning they can resume this funding in 2022 without an actual funding gap); and restore the $30m of the Strategic Investment Fund that we talked about last week that was supposed to go to equitable development and affordable housing from the sale of the Mercer Mega Block.

Another issue discussed is the conflict of interest of having the Office of Civil Rights not being independent. Their purpose is to speak truth to power, and yet their jobs are under the purview of the Executive, so that’s a problem.

Community Safety Form As:

Both CM Mosqueda and CM Lewis are potentially interested in expanding Health One beyond the Mayor’s planned expansion. CM Lewis is also interested in adding funding for a reentry program for the Native community, for a case manager for Native women facing domestic violence and sexual assault, and to SFD 911 dispatch for a consulting nurse. CM Juarez is interested in adding funding for Aurora Commons, which provides commercial sexual exploitation services. CM Herbold is interested in a report about needed funding for LEAD and in legislation that would help decriminalize poverty. CM Sawant is interested in getting draft legislation from legal about forming an elected Community Oversight Board that would have full powers over police accountability.


What does this all mean?

We’ll know more when we see the Form Bs, but we’re seeing a lot of friction play out between the Mayor’s vision and the Council’s vision. In terms of public safety, the Mayor is advocating for a mostly status quo budget while all her planning groups do stuff over the next year or two (some of which seems duplicative), and at the same time she’s moving money around in interesting ways. The Council has been taking a more hands-on approach since the summer and have their own ideas of how to proceed.

Certain CMs are not going to want to fund the Mayor’s promised $100m investment into BIPOC communities with its appointed task force, disregard for participatory budgeting, and her $30m Strategic Investment fund cut that allocated funds for similar purposes (not to mention the concern of where these funds will come from in future years, when JumpStart tax revenues have already been allocated to investments in things like affordable housing). There is a real concern about the lack of a racial equity analysis and an inconsistency of approach here. The Mayor hasn’t presented a plan that inspires a lot of confidence, and we’re seeing a lot of political maneuvering as a result.

CMs might try to capture some savings from the SPD budget to give to BIPOC communities instead, probably through a participatory budgeting process, and possibly less than $100m in order to retain the $30m in the strategic investment fund (and maybe also to fund the $13m gap in the balanced budget because of investments to community organizations for public safety that were supposed to be made this year).

Of course, enacting their own plan could cause more animosity between the Mayor’s office and the Council. Will it spill over and up-end their recent new deal regarding how to replace the Navigation Team, negotiated by CM Lewis? It’s hard to say how strong a commitment the Mayor has to this new plan.

One interesting point to reiterate is that with Chief Diaz’s priority of patrol staffing, a gradual shrinkage of the SPD wouldn’t necessarily impact 911 call response times all that much. Instead it would impact specialty units. This is noteworthy because so much of the public discourse on the subject of downsizing the police department has been focused on call response times.


Next week there is another evening public hearing on the budget on Tuesday, October 27 starting at 5:30pm, with signups beginning at 3:30pm. If you’d like to tell the Council your thoughts about the 2021 budget, this is a great time to share them! The rest of the week will entail budget meetings presenting CM budget actions and statements of legislative intent.