ShotSpotter and Diaz are out, Equitable Development funds for BIPOC communities are at risk

Surveillance Tech:

Hot off the presses: Seattle will not be adopting ShotSpotter or other acoustic gunshot location system (AGLS) technology at this time. 

A two-year pilot announced by the Mayor’s Office will adopt new real time crime center (RTCC) software as well as CCTV cameras in three neighborhoods: Aurora Avenue North, the downtown Third Avenue corridor, and the Chinatown-International District (CID). The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will manage an evaluation plan for these new technologies to evaluate effectiveness. No mention was made as to whether potential disparate impacts will also be analyzed. 

The Public Safety committee is currently reviewing the expansion of automated license plate readers (ALPR). The City Council will also get a chance to weigh in on the new CCTV and RTCC technologies before they are purchased and implemented. 

More on this soon! 

Diaz Ouster:

SPD Chief Adrian Diaz is out and interim Chief Sue Rahr is in! This news was broken by Ashley Nerbovig late on Tuesday evening, followed by a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. 

It seemed clear from the press conference that it was Mayor Bruce Harrell and his executive team who made the call to oust Diaz and bring in Rahr. However, they are keeping Diaz on to do unspecified “special projects” at an unspecified salary. Harrell mentioned the multiple lawsuits and the independent investigation many times, as well as his concern that those remaining at SPD might be afraid of retaliation for coming forward with allegations of discrimination and harassment were Diaz to remain as Chief.

Rahr was the King County Sheriff for many years, followed by a stint as the Executive Director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. She has come out of retirement to take on this job and stated she doesn’t wish to be considered as the next permanent Chief of Police. She is known for being good on accountability issues and for her work on the 30×30 Initiative encouraging women in policing.

Rahr has said she has no plans to make personnel moves, especially of command staff and her focus will be to increase SPD staffing.

The search for the next Chief will start right away, and Harrell said he expected it would take 4-6 months. Both Rahr and former SPD Chief Katherine O’Toole will be involved in the search, and Harrell strongly suggested he was most interested in an external candidate to change the culture of SPD. 

SPD Q1 Staffing Update:

Tuesday was also a busy day at City Hall. At the morning’s Public Safety committee meeting, councilmembers heard presentations on SPD’s Q1 staffing, overtime, and response times and the 30×30 Initiative.

For Quarter 1 of 2024, SPD’s staffing plan called for 31 new hires, but they only achieved 11 new hires. They had planned for 27 separations and only realized 22, a number that caused everyone real excitement as it was the first time since 2020 estimated separations came in fewer than projected. However, it’s important to remember it was common knowledge at the beginning of this year that the new SPOG contract would likely be completed soon, so it seems likely some officers contemplating leaving would have decided to hold on the extra few months to receive the lump sum of backpay the new contract was known to be coming with. SPD now projects hiring 100 officers and having 100 separations in total in 2024.

Council Central Staff member Greg Doss concluded from this data that SPD retention is completely shifting but hiring is still difficult. Out of the original goal of SPD hiring 120 new officers this year, he expects them to in reality hire fewer than 61.

70 officers are currently on long-term leave, which can be contrasted to the 140-180 officers on long-term leave in 2021. 

At the end of Q1, there were 1053 FTE (full time employees) as sworn members of SPD and 23 additional vacant FTE, creating salary savings of around $3 million for the year. It looks like SPD will probably run over their budget paying overtime. 

After the MOU signed last year giving special event pay bonuses to officers, the number of officers working events is up and the number of parking enforcement officers (PEOs) working events has fallen, which is more expensive for the city. 90 of the 105 PEO positions are currently filled. Citywide, event spending is up 23% over last year, probably because of the double time overtime pay given to officers with the new MOU. Council Central Staff member Greg Doss said if this trend continues, then overtime spending in this event category could be up a great deal by the end of the year. 

Priority 1 call times sit at a median of 7.9 minutes; SPD’s goal is 7 minutes. Council President Sara Nelson asked if the CARE team might reduce these response times, which seems unlikely due to the continuing dual dispatch nature of the pilot and how few responders the CARE team currently employs. 

Councilmember Cathy Moore called for expanding the Community Service Officers further since they can’t hire officers quickly enough. Councilmember Rob Saka wondered if the Chief of Police really requires his or her own security and also wanted hiring laterals to be more of a priority. Councilmember Bob Kettle pleaded with current SPD officers who might be thinking of retiring once they receive their backpay to stay longer. Councilmember Joy Hollingsworth critiqued SPD’s recruitment website. 

During the 30×30 Initiative presentation, SPD General Counsel and Executive Director of Analytics and Research Rebecca Boatwright said SPD had been receiving 5.3 applications per day, which had increased to. 9-10 per day in the run-up to the new SPOG contract being signed. She said in the two weeks since the contract was approved, there had been 15.29 applications per day. In his comments at the press conference announcing the departure of Diaz, Harrell agreed that last year the department had been receiving 5-6 applications per day, but said since the signing of the SPOG contract (only two weeks prior) that number had been 17-19 applications per day. 

Tanya Meisenholder, a member of the 30×30 steering committee, said police department culture change comes from first understanding the culture you already have. Components of culture change she cited included messaging from the top, what the department allows to fester and be tolerated within the organization, how officers are held accountable for their actions, understanding and engaging with employees, and thinking about what you can do to make changes. She said when a new administrative team comes into a department (by hiring an external Chief of Police) there is more of an opportunity to make change.

Kettle said it was important for the city to acknowledge the 30×30 report and not try to explain it away. Hollingsworth gave a shout-out to Detective “Cookie” Boudin’s efforts in the community without mentioning that Boudin filed a lawsuit against the department last year alleging decades of gender and racial discrimination. Moore expressed a wish to change SPD’s culture from warrior to guardian mentality.

Rivera’s EDI Amendment:

Then on Tuesday afternoon, the full Council was set to vote on a technical budget bill, to which Councilmember Maritza Rivera had added a last minute amendment on Friday afternoon before the long weekend. This amendment would freeze around $25 million of 2024 funds for the Equitable Development Initiative (EDI), and unless certain impossible conditions were met by the end of September, it seemed likely the money would get rolled back into the city’s general balance. Although these funds are currently restricted by statute to go to only specific purposes, there is both a reasonable chance this statute could be changed by the Council this fall and even if not, the community would still lose out on the $25 million investment this year. You can read my op-ed on this issue for more details.

Between the attack on the EDI funds and a last minute deletion of the Pay Up ordinance from the agenda, the meeting’s public comment ran over three hours, with numerous community members speaking out against the surprise amendment and speaking in frank terms about their disappointment with Councilmember Rivera. As The Seattle Times reported, “Advocacy organizations and several of Rivera’s colleagues seized on the bill as a betrayal of the city’s promises to uplift communities facing displacement because of the high cost of living in the city.”

After Rivera left in the middle of public comment along with colleagues Councilmember Moore and Council President Nelson in what was clearly a move to figure out their response in private, Rivera moved for the entire budget bill to be removed from the agenda to be taken up again next week on June 4. 

The Council vote to delay this agenda item passed 6-3, with all but Councilmembers Tammy Morales, Dan Strauss, and Joy Hollingsworth voting in favor. 

Both at the meeting and in a statement, Rivera stated that she desired the delay in order to “have time to correct disinformation that was irresponsibly given to community about the proposed amendment.” 

This may prove difficult for Rivera to accomplish, however, given that there don’t appear to be any media reports that claim the EDI program would be cut in its totality, which is the disinformation she appears to be trying to correct. There was an email to constituents from Morales saying, On Friday afternoon, our office discovered that an amendment is being introduced to freeze funding for ongoing Equitable Development Initiative projects,” and it is perhaps this slightly vague statement that the Councilmember objected to. However, given she has provided no details, it is hard to say.

Rivera first complained that the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) was taking too long in executing EDI projects. When this objection was answered with examples of reasonable timelines for some of these capital projects and the explanation that many of these projects are deliberately being taken on by community organizations who are slower due to their small size and lack of expertise, she wanted to hear more from the OPCD about how they are helping community get the expertise and assistance they need for these types of EDI projects. How freezing all 2024 funds would help community get more assistance with their projects is a mystery that has not been adequately answered.

We also know from the public login sheet that Rivera met with the OPCD on May 8, May 17, and May 20.

Councilmember Cathy Moore added from the dais that there had been misinformation and fearmongering spread about this amendment. There were reports that those who had come to speak felt gaslit by the response of Councilmembers to their heartfelt comments.

Recent Headlines:

ShotSpotter and Diaz are out, Equitable Development funds for BIPOC communities are at risk Read More »