SPD salary savings

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 »

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

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

Redmond City Council approves $7.5M settlement to family of woman killed by police in 2020 | The Seattle Times

Crime is up in Seattle. So why are city residents less fearful? | The Seattle Times

Arguments Flare Over SPD Hiring Incentives Read More »

Digging into Seattle’s SPD and Public Safety Budgets

Seattle Budget Meetings

Today was the last of the Seattle Select Budget committee meetings on issue identification related to the 2022 budget.
This first thread is on alternatives to police response and the criminal legal system:
Amy Sundberg
Good morning! I’m here live tweeting at today’s Seattle select budget committee meeting where they’re about to discuss issue identification for alternatives to police response and the criminal legal system.

The second thread finishes up the alternatives conversation and then covers the SPD presentation:

Amy Sundberg
Okay, we’re back with Seattle’s select budget committee, finishing alternatives to police response and the CLS. We’re talking about subsidies for electronic home monitoring.
The City Council has a bunch of decisions related to public safety to make regarding next year’s budget. Here are some things to watch for:
CM Mosqueda sounds dedicated to clawing back as much as possible of the JumpStart funding the Mayor used in the proposed 2022 budget; she wants to implement the JumpStart spending plan passed by the Council last year and avoid future spending cliffs. Unfortunately, this seems to entail taking $27.2m of PB, leaving $30m to spend in 2022 rather than the much larger $57.2m in the proposed budget; some large amount from the Equitable Communities Initiative so they’d have exactly $30m to spend in 2022; and possibly some money from the HSD community safety capacity building program so they’d have exactly $10m to spend in 2022. This means we’re seeing the above priorities be pitted against JumpStart spending plan priorities. For anyone who is generally in favor of both sets of spending, the effect is a bit dampening, to say the least. Of course, for the former priorities, any additional money beyond the ongoing annual amount would need to be spent on one-time projects and investments.
There is a lot of question as to which alternatives to police response should be funded in the new budget, as well as disappointment expressed by CMs that more investment isn’t already in the budget in this area. The new Triage One program, which is being proposed to be housed in SFD, will not be able to be implemented until December 2022, which is still fourteen months away; if it were instead to be housed in CSCC, it would take even longer. Other alternatives being considered by CMs include contracting with an outside community organization for these services or beginning a new different pilot project within CSCC. CM Lewis in particular is in favor of experimenting with a few different approaches in 2022 and then deciding in future budgets which efforts to scale up or down. Several CMs agreed on the urgency of this work.
There was also a bit of discussion about administrative responders, which would be civilians who answer certain calls to take reports, for example for minor traffic accidents or damages/burglaries when the insurance company requires a police report be filed. This could potentially be a body of work taken on by the CSOs or another group. And of course, there’s the perennial question of where the CSOs should be located: within SPD or within the new CSCC.
CM Herbold suggested they might be able to take a different approach to moving certain bodies of work outside SPD. Because there is such a staffing shortage at SPD at present, this may be creating extenuating circumstances that create a different legal framework for having civilians do certain tasks because the City is otherwise unable to get the work done at all. This could have potential implications for parking enforcement officers, community service officers, and even for things like how much work the fire department does in Harbor Patrol compared to SPD.
Response times to 911 priority one calls have been going up, but it turns out the number of sworn officers responding to calls hasn’t changed between this year and last year. (This is because Chief Diaz has moved a number of officers onto patrol duty to make up the difference.) That indicates the greater response times might not be because of SPD’s staffing woes, but rather because of management problems, the way responders are being deployed, increased traffic, increased number of calls, etc.
The SPD appears to be saying they want to spend around $1m on technology to do even more analysis on the NICJR report about which 911 calls could be responded to by people other than police officers. They anticipate having a risk analysis done on the 29 call types that are being considered “low hanging fruit” by the end of quarter one of 2022…so a bit more than five months from now.
There continues to be a somewhat antagonistic relationship between SPD and the Council in that Greg Doss from Central Staff, when discussing technology investments for which SPD wants to spend salary savings, said that SPD appears to be telling the Council what they’re going to do rather than asking. They’ve already entered into some commitments regarding these technology investments even though they haven’t yet received budgetary authority for them. In better (?) news, it does appear SPD might not overspend their overtime budget in 2021, although given that we’re still in a pandemic, that isn’t perhaps as big an achievement as it would have been in other times, especially when we also consider the fact that other city departments aren’t generally in the habit of overspending their budgets and then asking for more money after the fact.
Then there is the issue of SPD’s salary savings spending plan. In the proposed budget SPD will have 1357 sworn officer positions funded, but will only be able to actually fill 1223 of those positions (and that’s if they can meet a very ambitious hiring plan, hiring more officers in 2022 than they have in any of the last ten years, and have the lower attrition rate in 2022 they’ve estimated). This will result in an estimated salary savings of $19m. The Council has to decide, first, whether to continue funding those additional 134 sworn officers positions that will remain empty in 2022. If they do, then they have to decide whether to approve of SPD’s plan of how to spend this salary savings, including on another squad of CSOs; $1.1m on hiring bonuses in an ongoing program; and $5m on various technology projects. Additionally there is the issue that funding for the proposed Triage One team and the Peacekeeper’s Collective is currently coming from this salary savings; this means that if SPD staffs those unfilled positions in the future, there will no longer be a funding source for those two programs.
Meanwhile, some details pertaining to sustaining and/or expanding the pre-filing diversion program seem to depend on the upcoming election for City Attorney. The City Attorney, for example, gets to decide when to charge somebody and how much diversion to practice. CM Lewis once again pushed for the Council to pass legislation to require the City Attorney to maintain a diversion program. The City Council could also theoretically pass legislation to decriminalize certain crimes (although not those on a state level), which may save money that could then be spent on the diversion program.
The next budget committee meetings are on October 26-28, starting at 9:30am, when the CMs will be discussing their proposed amendments to the 2022 budget. There will be time for public comment at the beginning of each of these three meetings.

More Resources on these Budget Discussions

Digging into Seattle’s SPD and Public Safety Budgets Read More »

Seattle Public Safety Committee narrowly agrees to move forward with substitute bill cutting less from the SPD budget

Happy Spring! Let’s get right to it.

If you want to catch up with this week’s Council Briefing, you can take a look at the Twitter thread.

This morning the Public Safety and Human Resources Department met to discuss the possible cut of $5.4m to SPD’s 2021 budget.

CM Herbold proposed a substitute bill. The actual salary savings from SPD they are discussing has increased from $5.4m to $7.7m, and the new substitute would keep $4.85m of these funds within the SPD and redirect $2.83m to other departments. The SPD says they want to spend their part of this money on separation pay, technology improvements, a few public disclosure positions, and several civilian positions including four CSOs. Of the amount transferred outside SPD, $2m would be allocated to participatory budgeting and the rest would be used for better evidence storage, another public disclosure position in IT, and five additional mental health responders for the SPD crisis unit hired through HSD.

The substitute bill does not put a proviso on how the SPD is required to use the $4.85m, which Greg Doss of Central Staff says will allow them flexibility to deal with arising issues. Instead it places a new proviso that would release this money in monthly increments dependent on the SPD giving the Council a monthly staffing report. CM Herbold signaled her intent here is to increase SPD budget accountability in spite of not taking away the $5.4m to reckon with their overspend of last year.

The Monitor for the consent decree sent a list of questions to the SPD regarding these funds and this bill, and CM Herbold doesn’t want to pass the bill out of committee before that oversight takes place. Instead she suggested the committee vote on replacing the original bill with the substitute to signal their intent. The committee voted to adopt the substitute with a narrow margin, 3-2. CM Herbold, CM Lewis, and CP González were in favor, and CM Morales and CM Sawant were opposed.

This new bill will still need to be voted out of committee to be voted upon by the full Council, and the committee vote will need to be held after the Court has been advised on these changes by the Monitor. The next Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting isn’t until Tuesday, April 13.

During his remarks CM Lewis also signaled an interest in the Council identifying separate funding to stand up a low acuity crisis response system like CAHOOTS in Eugene, OR and STAR in Denver, CO. He mentioned how cost effective systems like this have proven to be compared to hiring more police officers. He wants the Council to spend more time emphasizing there are great alternatives out there for public health and public safety challenges.

And that’s what I have for you so far this week!

Seattle Public Safety Committee narrowly agrees to move forward with substitute bill cutting less from the SPD budget Read More »

Two Calls to Action and Two Possible Timelines for Upcoming SPOG Negotiations

Happy rainy Thursday! First up, a few opportunities for action.

In WA state: ESSB5226, which would end debt-based license suspension, has a hearing in the House on Monday. Because it needs an amendment to truly end debt-based license suspension, submitting written testimony or testifying live are highly recommended, but you can also sign in to note your support. Sample scripts for comments are available for your use here, but you’ll need to scroll down until you reach the ESSB5226 section on that page.

In Seattle: The Seattle Public Safety and Human Resources committee meets on Tuesday 3/23 at 9:30am to discuss whether they will cut $5.4m from the SPD’s 2021 budget. The Seattle City Council agreed unanimously to cut this money last December (via Resolution 31962) to effectively pay for the SPD’s overspending in 2020 using SPD’s 2021 budget. But now the CMs are wavering on this commitment.

Where would this $5.4m go? The CMs decided last year it would go to participatory budgeting. The reality is, participatory budgeting is expensive, and Seattle’s process could use the extra funds to pay the people serving on its steering committee and various workgroups. These are people who are often not paid a commiserate amount for their time and labor, instead being expected to work for free or a pittance. The goal is to pay them a reasonable fee for their work,while maintaining as much money as possible to allocate to different public safety projects.

You can contact your CMs to encourage them to stand firm on their commitment from last year to hold the SPD accountable for its spending. All the information you’ll need to email, call, or give public comment is available here.


In election news, we have two new mayoral candidates in Seattle.

Bruce Harrell served for many years on the Seattle City Council as well as serving as interim Mayor for less than a week back in 2017. He failed to call for then-Mayor Ed Murray to step down on serial child rape allegations and in fact defended him for months, unlike the majority of his colleagues in public service, which doesn’t exactly build confidence in his ability to lead an entire city.

Jessyn Farrell served in the WA state legislature for four years and previously ran for Mayor in 2017, coming in fourth place in the primary. She seems to have a similar stance on public safety to current Mayor Jenny Durkan and is positioning herself as a kind of outsider.


There have been conflicting reports of when the City of Seattle’s contract negotiations with SPOG are likely to begin. At the CPC meeting yesterday morning, the Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said the next round of bargaining will probably start sometime next year after this year’s elections. He went on to say that sometime in early January we’re going to inaugurate a brand new mayor, and the city will be negotiating a new contract and just starting to set parameters for that new contract.

However, the Mayor’s office does not agree with this assessment. They say that once the LPRC has set the parameters of negotiations, the City will begin bargaining with SPOG, and that they expect this to occur “well before November.”

In practice, this means we have two different possible timelines the SPOG negotiations might take. Holmes’s assessment is based on historical precedent, but there is additional urgency this year that might add pressure to speed up the timeline of the negotiations.


Finally, Washington State is making national news for the progressive decisions coming out of its Supreme Court. This article explains the recent decisions wiping the state’s existing drug possession law off the books entirely and forbidding mandatory sentencing of life without parole to offenders under age 21, both of which have sweeping ramifications to the criminal justice system here in Washington State. It’s worth a read to greater understand how much influence the courts, and specifically judge appointments, wield in which laws are allowed and how they are enforced.

Thank you for reading, and I’m wishing you all a Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day and a Happy Nowruz!

Two Calls to Action and Two Possible Timelines for Upcoming SPOG Negotiations Read More »

State Bills to Support and preliminary SPD budget discussions

First off, a few bills you can advocate for on the state level if you have time:

  • SB 5226, the bill decriminalizing driving without a license, is currently in the Rules Committee. You can send a short (two sentence) email to the Vice Chair Karen Keiser at karen.keiser@leg.wa.gov to ask her to pull this bill. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can email all the members of the Rules committee to make the same ask. Sample script: “My name is <your name> and I am writing to you as a concerned citizen to let you know that I support SB 5226 and want to see the bill scheduled and passed out of the Rules Committee. Pick one reason why you care about this bill and include it here in 1-2 brief sentences [i.e. Debt-based license suspension disproportionately affects poor, rural, and drivers of color while simultaneously failing to make our roads safer and costing Washington tax payers an exorbitant amount. It is time that Washington take a stand and stop the criminalization of poverty.].”
  • HB 1310, the bill determining appropriate use of force by officers, is currently in the Rules Committee. You can send a short (two sentence) email to Chair Laurie Jinkins at laurie.jinkins@leg.wa.gov asking her to pull this bill. You can also email all the members of the House Rules Committee to make the same ask. Sample script: “Chair Jinkins, please pull HB 1310. These days the use of deadly force seems to be the first response by police officers, rather than the last resort. If we’re to even have a chance to redefine public safety, ensure all communities have trust in law enforcement, and decrease/eliminate police killings of unarmed citizens, 1310 needs to be pulled to the floor for a vote. Thanks for reading my comments.”
  • (Both of these scripts are provided by hard-working volunteers who are making a giant effort to stay on top of these bills as they progress through the legislature.)

Today at the Seattle Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting, the legislation to remove $5.4m from SPD’s 2021 budget to reflect their overspend from last year was finally discussed, and is scheduled for further discussion at upcoming meetings. SPD will attend the next meeting to present on uses they have for this money.

The final numbers for SPD officers who left in 2020 are in: 186 officers separated during the course of the year. This is much higher than usual and should result in a salary savings of about $7.7m for 2021. However, the SPD is asking to retain the $5.4m being discussed in order to pay for separation pay for 2021, new civilian hires such as CSOs and violence prevention experts, and technology upgrades. CM Herbold is also interested in addressing the issue of evidence storage, possibly with these dollars.

If we’re simply talking about separation pay, the math doesn’t currently quite line up with the SPD’s request, since the difference between the amount the Council is considering cutting ($5.4m) and the amount estimated to be saved due to 2020 attrition ($7.7m) is $2.3m, which is more than enough to cover the $1.1-1.8m in separation pay SPD says they will need. But we’ll learn more of the details of their proposal in two weeks’ time. Meanwhile, you can read the memo about today’s presentation here.


The Community Economic Development Committee will be meeting this Friday 2/26 at 9:30am. During this meeting the Black Brilliance Project will be presenting their final report on their research. CM Morales has said her office will meet with the Executive’s office this week to begin discussion about implementation of participatory budgeting and to begin creating a spending plan. The Council will also need to pass an ordinance to lift the proviso and release the participatory budgeting funds, and she hopes to be able to move that forward at her committee’s March meeting. So it seems we might be getting at least some preliminary answers to questions about how the participatory budgeting process will move forward in the next month or so.

That’s all for now. Hope you’re having a wonderful week!

State Bills to Support and preliminary SPD budget discussions Read More »

An important Seattle Public Safety Committee meeting tomorrow

Lots of news to cover today!

First of all, we have this morning’s Seattle Council Briefing.

CM Herbold’s report this morning was rather bracing. She spoke about the agenda for tomorrow morning’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting. Included will be the continuation of the discussion about the less lethal weapons draft bill that she’s hoping they can vote to send to the DoJ and Police Monitor to review, as well as a discussion about legislation to reduce the SPD’s 2021 budget by $5.2m to hold them accountable for that level of overspending in 2020. Both of these deserve more discussion.

Kevin at SC Insight does a good job summarizing where we are right now with the less lethal weapons draft bill. Tomorrow the committee will be discussing an amendment to weaken the ban on SPD using tear gas, so now would be a good time to email your CMs to support the complete tear gas ban and/or to testify during public comment tomorrow (2/9) at 9:30am (sign-ups at 7:30am). Amendments both strengthening and weakening the private right of action (the ability of individuals to sue and hold the SPD accountable for misuse of these weapons) will also be discussed.

The CMs agreed to reduce SPD’s 2021 budget by the amount of their overspending in 2020 late last year and seemed generally in agreement about taking this measure to hold the SPD accountable for a long pattern of overtime overspending. However, today CM Herbold signaled that she was waffling on this course of action, mentioning that the SPD has other funding needs; for example, the SPD needs funds to fulfill public disclosure requests, meet minimum requirements for evidence storage, and to hire civilians for CSOs (community service officers) and the CPC. So there might be a bit of a fight over whether this $5.2m should be left in the SPD’s budget after all to cover these expenses or whether it should be removed and potentially allocated into the pool of money for participatory budgeting. It doesn’t look like there’s a committee vote scheduled for tomorrow on this issue, as CM Herbold said representatives from the SPD will be attending a future meeting to discuss further.

CM Herbold also defended the Council’s actions last year after Judge Robart roundly criticized them during last week’s consent decree hearing. During the hearing the new Police Monitor submitted a new work plan for 2021, about which the Judge appears generally favorable. It will be considered for approval on February 19. In the meantime, Judge Robart said that in this time of flux (the pandemic, the upcoming election with the mayor and two Council seats up for grabs, SPD having an interim police chief, and the upcoming SPOG negotiations) it is going to be hard to continue making progress with police reform. He is particularly upset that the Council acted in various ways in the summer (vocally supporting a 50% defund, for example) that contravened the consent decree.

Meanwhile CM Lewis mentioned that STAR out of Denver, a low acuity response program similar to CAHOOTS in Eugene, just released a six month report and has been quite successful thus far. Out of 748 incidents responded to by the program, none ended up needing police involvement.


In election news, Council President González announced she will be running for Mayor this year, creating a wide-open race for her Council seat. So far the most well-known candidate for that Council seat is Sara Nelson, co-founder of Fremont Brewing. Her top issues involve the hospitality industry (big surprise), economic recovery, and restoring public trust in local government. Ouch. You can read more about her here:

Even though the Seattle council seats are officially non-partisan, most members indicate party leanings. On her official website, Nelson — a lifelong democrat — characterizes herself as a “moderate pragmatist,” and many of her positions seem to be to the right of several current city council members (she said she opposed the recent tax on big businesses, for instance, as well as cutting Seattle’s police budget by 50 percent).


The CPC appointed a permanent director last week, Brandy Grant, who had already been serving as interim director. She was the only one of the three candidates who didn’t have a background as a police officer.

The CPC is also hosting a community conversation on the Seattle Police Contracts this Thursday, February 11 at 4pm. The description of the event is as follows:

A chance for the community members to discuss what they want out of police contract negotiations and how we achieve complete police accountability. This event is hosted by the Community Police Commission. City leaders and staff involved in the negotiations will also be there to listen and speak on specific issues.


Finally, some excellent investigative reporting dropped at the South Seattle Emerald today, an article about SPD officials asking King County Jail officials to override COVID-19 restrictions and book protesters facing nonviolent misdemeanor charges.


Expect an update later this week on tomorrow’s Public Safety committee meeting, along with a possible update on the Pathways to Recovery Act decriminalizing drug use and addiction, which may have a hearing in the state legislature on Friday morning.

An important Seattle Public Safety Committee meeting tomorrow Read More »