SPD staffing

SPD Expects More Separations than Hires for Another Year, in Spite of Huge Raises

Seattle News:

First off, my piece on gun violence, student mental health, and the debate on whether student resource officers should return to Seattle schools was published in The Urbanist this week. The Seattle Times also ran an interesting piece reviewing ideas for improving safety in schools.

Last Friday Councilmember Cathy Moore asked interim SPD Chief Sue Rahr to place two members of SPD command staff currently under criminal investigation on leave: Assistant Chief Tyrone Davis and Deputy Chief Eric Barden. Davis is under investigation for alleged sexual assault and Barden is under investigation for alleged domestic violence. As King 5 reported: “Multiple law enforcement experts who spoke with KING 5 called it unusual for an officer under criminal investigation not to be placed on leave.” However, Rahr has said she hasn’t seen substantiated evidence to justify placing either man on leave at this time.

SPD has announced it will end the year with a net loss of officers once again. So far this year, SPD has experienced 40 departures and hired 15 new officers. Their revised projection says there will be 918 deployable officers at the end of 2024. 

Harrell’s office released an interesting statement to KOMO regarding this news: “It is incredibly disappointing that the PSCSC concluded that [the] Public Safety Test (PST) is not a valid exam option for the City of Seattle and did not complete an independent validation study to determine if another entry-level exam would meet our needs and maintain high standards. The PSCSC report indicates that PST declined to participate in their review, yet the PSCSC report also concludes that the PST test is flawed despite this information gap and despite PST expressing interest in partnering with Seattle. We reject PSCSC’s unsubstantiated conclusions.”

This statement appears to exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of the report PSCSC released last week, which stated that PST asked not to be considered as a testing vendor for Seattle. Furthermore, the PST did participate in some preliminary parts of the review.. And the reasons why the PSCSC recommends against the PST test are clear-cut: a different custom PST test would have to be developed for SPD specifically, which would mean officer candidates would still not be able to submit the results of the same PST they would be taking for smaller jurisdictions. In addition, there are significant legal difficulties with Seattle offering two different tests with such different pass rates. 

That being said, Public Safety Chair Bob Kettle is also upset about the PSCSC report, beginning this week’s public safety committee meeting with remarks about “misleading media reports” regarding the council’s attempts to replace the current police entrance exam with a different exam with a higher pass rate. As reported by PubliCola, “Kettle said he liked the idea of ranking applicants by their test scores and hiring only highly ranked applicants, but added that the city no longer has that luxury because the previous council drove down police applications.”

PubliCola goes on to point out the lower staffing at police departments is a nationwide trend. The Seattle community needs to consider whether we are willing to significantly lower standards for police officers because of this trend.

At the public safety committee meeting this week, councilmembers also discussed Seattle waterways safety and City Attorney Ann Davison’s proposed legislation instituting a $500 fine for street racing.

In legal news, Auburn officer Jeffrey Nelson was found guilty of murder and assault for shooting Jesse Sarey. He is the first police officer in Washington state to be found guilty of murder for on-duty actions. And the city of Seattle must pay $680,000 to four people arrested for writing chalk graffiti onto temporary concrete barricades outside SPD’s Western Precinct. As PubliCola reported:

 ““Based on the evidence presented at trial, the jury found the defendants arrested and booked the plaintiffs because of the content or viewpoint of their speech,” an attorney for the four plaintiffs, Braden Pence, said in a statement. “We hope this verdict will be a warning and a lesson to police officers and other government officials across the country who violate the First Amendment—that they are and will be held accountable when they arrest and jail people for protected speech.””

On Wednesday, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the CARE pilot program of dual dispatch alternative response will expand, with plans to hire 18 new responders and 3 supervisors. This expansion is being partially paid for by a federal grant. More on this soon. 

Erica C. Barnett of PubliCola wrote about how the new council hasn’t passed a single substantial piece of legislation since taking office at the beginning of January. 

King County and Washington State News:

King County’s Law and Justice committee met on Wednesday to discuss Councilmember Reagan Dunn’s motion declaring the King County Council’s intention to maintain operations at the county’s youth jail. Councilmember Jorge Barón proposed a striking amendment that states the King County Council intends to maintain operations of the youth jail until viable alternatives become operational, supports priorities that emerged from the Care & Closure work, and supports continued engagement with Executive Dow Constantine around this work. 

The committee didn’t have three votes to move anything forward. Councilmember Dunn opposed the motion to table, but Councilmember Claudia Balducci said it was important to be deliberate. Councilmembers Balducci, Barón, and Dembowski voted to table this discussion until the next meeting. 

Also at the meeting, the Office of Law Enforcement (OLEO) presented on their 2023 annual report.

After being rolled out almost two years ago, Washington State’s 988 is answering 91% of calls received. This is slightly better than the national average of 88%.

Recent Headlines:

SPD Expects More Separations than Hires for Another Year, in Spite of Huge Raises Read More »

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 »

A Day in the Life of Seattle City Council

A Day in the Life of Seattle City Council:

The day: Thursday, April 25, 2024

In the morning, Councilmember Martiza Rivera led the Librairies, Education, and Neighborhoods committee meeting, where she blamed the recently announced rotating library closings and reduced hours on the benefits librarians won in their most recent contract. The expense of ebooks were also mentioned as a culprit. Downplayed was the impact of this year’s hiring freeze.

In the afternoon, Council President Sara Nelson led the Governance, Accountability, and Economic Development committee meeting. During public comment, a commenter brought attention to a possible conflict of interest Nelson has with the new gig worker minimum wage rollback legislation, and she interrupted him, attempting to derail his request for her to recuse herself by asking which item on the agenda he was referencing. (It was obvious which item he was referencing.)

During the discussion on the police officer recruitment bill, Nelson brought up the overwhelming nature of climate change, saying because there is no magical solution to climate change, we do nothing. But apparently hiring new police officers is not tough like climate change, hence this new bill, which seems unlikely to have a strong impact on hiring numbers, although it will give the Council someone to yell at if numbers don’t get better of their own accord. 

In the evening, two councilmembers held town halls in their district: Robert Kettle in District 7 and Cathy Moore in District 5. Kettle had friends Council President Sara Nelson and Councilmember Tanya Woo in tow. 

At Kettle’s event, he once again stated his belief that the SPD is the best police force in the nation. A few hours later, the news broke that four more women officers at SPD have filed a tort claim alleging sexual harassment and sexual discrimination by Chief Adrian Diaz, Lt. John O’Neil, and human resource manager Rebecca McKechnie. This is the third suit brought against the SPD for gender discrimination in the last six months. Meanwhile, SPD has been under a federal consent decree for twelve years and the new proposed SPOG contract does not make the accountability changes the presiding judge has indicated he wanted to see before fully ending the decree. And this is the best police force in the nation?

Worse yet, when asked whether the city has ever discussed bringing in the National Guard for “the most dire parts of this community,” Nelson said, “The short answer is yes.” She referenced Gavin Newsom calling in the National Guard in San Francisco. 

Meanwhile, at Moore’s event, she announced she’ll be introducing legislation reinstating the old law against “prostitution loitering” that was unanimously repealed by the Council back in 2020. Yes, even Alex Pedersen voted to repeal this law. 

As PubliCola reports, “The council repealed the laws against prostitution loitering and drug loitering after the Seattle Reentry Workgroup, established to come up with recommendations to help formerly incarcerated people reenter their communities, recommended repealing both laws on the grounds that they disproportionately harm people of color and amount to “criminalization of poverty.””

Moore says she hopes the law will allow officers to approach prostitutes, look for diversion opportunities, and see if they’re being trafficked or not. It is not clear whether this law is actually needed in order for officers to do these things.

Moore also said she’d be voting to approve the new SPOG contract that gives 23% raises to police officers while making few improvements to accountability.

Other News:

The first SPD killing of the year happened last week

The King County Law and Justice committee met this Tuesday to discuss the Superior Court’s Jury Participation and Diversity Report and to hear from the Auditor’s Office on the audit they recently performed on the Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center (CCFJC), otherwise known as the youth jail. They also got an update on implementation of recommendations for all criminal legal system audits since 2020. 

The main findings from the audit on the youth jail were that while the facility was designed for short stays of 30 days or less in mind, most of the youth now held in the jail are staying for longer. 84% of youth have stays of more than 30 days, more than half are there for at least 3 months, and about a third are there for six months. The youth are housed in the CCFJC while waiting for the resolution of their cases.

This is a problem because the facility is not designed with ample green spaces, a big enough gymnasium, and flexible programming space, all of which are needed if youth are staying there longer. Youth staying longer tend to have greater needs as well, and CCFJC doesn’t offer all the appropriate programming. Longer stays in the youth jail have also been shown to increase recidivism. 

The other issue uncovered by the audit was the impact of staff shortages on the care of the youth staying at the facility, as well as on staff morale. Staff shortages lead to modified staffing schedules, which means more time the youth are spending in their cells. During a normal schedule, a youth will spend 11-13 hours in their cell, whereas they will spend at least 14.5 hours in their cell during a modified schedule. 

There have been times when educational class time has been so shortened teachers have worried about meeting state educational requirements. Short staffing can also cause recreation programs to be canceled and make it difficult for youth to meet with mental health counselors. Both teachers and juvenile detention officers end up being stretched thin. 

Right now 79 out of 91 total positions for juvenile detention officer are filled. The low staffing point thus far was in March of 2023, when there were only 68 juvenile detention officers. 

Recent Headlines:

A Day in the Life of Seattle City Council Read More »

Are $230 Million in Seattle Budget Cuts Even Possible? Budget Director Says No.

Seattle News:

This week at Seattle’s Public Safety committee meeting, the committee discussed SPD testing, recruiting, and retention. Then on Thursday night, Mayor Harrell hosted a public safety forum at the Seattle Public Library. He plans to hold more informal public safety forums by precinct in the month of April.

Fascinating things were said at both of these meetings, and I’m currently working on a longer piece analyzing them more thoroughly. More on this, hopefully next week! 

City Council is teed up to vote on a resolution at next week’s 3/19 meeting that appear to eliminate several Statements of Legislative Intent (SLI) passed by last year’s Council. One of the SLIs not appearing on the new list is the request for an evaluation of Seattle’s current gun violence prevention programs. More specifically, the SLI requested that “HSD and CSCC/CARE perform a gap analysis of the City’s current and priority investments in gun violence prevention as compared to the recommendations in the King County Regional Community Safety and Wellbeing (RCSWB) Plan, and identify complementary, duplicative, or gaps in services provided by the City and King County.” 

It is ironic that at a time when the city is trying to pressure through three concerning surveillance technologies with the justification that the city is struggling with gun violence, they are not willing to even finish a basic evaluation of already existing investments that won’t cost a penny.

Following up on the news about the City Attorney trying to disqualify Judge Vaddadi from hearing cases, the Seattle Times reports that certain defense attorneys are independently trying to find a way to fight back by having Vaddadi sign subpoenas and then arguing her signature on these documents means she shouldn’t be unilaterally removed from hearing the cases:

In an interview, Vaddadi confirmed attorneys had sent her “fewer than a hundred” subpoenas to sign, which she did, but said she was unaware of any strategy by attorneys to get her back on the calendar. She, and at least some of her colleagues, interpret the court’s rules to mean that any judge can sign any subpoena sent to them.

“I would never strategize with one party or another, that would be incredibly unethical,” she said.”

Regarding Seattle’s upcoming enormous budget deficit, Crosscut recently reported that Julie Dingley, the city’s budget director, had said they will not be able to make $230 million worth of cuts by the beginning of 2025, and has suggested they will have to come up with one-time strategies to stagger implementation of such a large amount of cuts. It’s worth noting that Seattle is required by law to have a balanced budget. 

The same article reports that Councilmember Kettle supports having JumpStart tax funds go directly to the general fund to help balance it instead of honoring the spending plan for the tax that is currently in city statute. The JumpStart tax is currently the top source of funding for affordable housing in the city, so redirecting it in such a way would have consequences to the already meager store of affordable housing. 

Election News:

Tanya Woo has officially declared her candidacy for the Seattle City Council seat that she currently holds as an interim appointee. No other candidates for the seat have yet filed.

Perennial state lawmaker Frank Chopp has announced his retirement, and Shaun Scott has announced his candidacy to take over the 43rd Legislative District seat. And he is coming out swinging! Here is the first paragraph of his press release announcing his candidacy:

“The past four years have dealt a lifetime of challenges to residents of the 43rd Legislative District. The working class has seen costs of living increase, while major corporations dominate local elections and evade taxes. Renters can’t afford rent. For young people, the reality of a permanently altered climate lingers like smoke. Students are punished for attending state universities with a life sentence of debt. Disabled and immunocompromised Washingtonians enjoy few public accommodations, and Long COVID looms as a public health emergency. While Washingtonians hope a Democrat-controlled State Legislature and Governor’s office will support staple programs such as special education funding and the resumption of free meals in public schools, MAGA Republicans in cahoots with the billionaire class have launched initiatives to rollback recent state-level wins on climate sustainability and fair taxes.”

Scott is the Policy Lead at the Statewide Poverty Action Network, which is the advocacy arm of Solid Ground, which was founded by his predecessor Chopp. He is known for his run for City Council for D4 in 2019, a race he lost to Alex Pedersen by 4 points while being wildly outspent. Scott also authored the state-level guaranteed basic income (GBI) pilot in 2022.

King County News:

The Washington State Bar Association recently passed new standards for public defenders that will reduce their caseloads. While these standards will affect the entire state, they particularly impact King County because attorneys in King County are required to follow standards that the WSBA adopts.

Publicola reported that Executive Constantine was “alarmed enough” about this possibility that he had his general counsel send a letter to the WSBA asking them not to adopt these new standards. It is likely he is concerned about how this will impact funding for public defense, given the County is currently facing a two-year $100 million budget deficit. 

Publicola said: “According to DPD director Anita Khandelwal, that means the county must either hire enough attorneys—along with support staff like paralegals, social workers, and investigators—to meet the new standards or invest in alternatives to prosecution and incarceration, reducing caseloads by reducing the number of cases.” But Khandelwal argues it doesn’t have to be a budget question, as the County has three years to potentially ramp up alternative programming that would reduce their dependence on the traditional criminal legal system.

Recent Headlines:

 

Are $230 Million in Seattle Budget Cuts Even Possible? Budget Director Says No. Read More »

City Council Talks SPD Staffing While Ignoring Damning Report on the Department’s Treatment of Women

Seattle News

My article on the three new surveillance technologies currently undergoing impact reports is up now at The Urbanist: Harrell Plans Hasty Rollout of Massive Surveillance Expansion. And here’s another great resource for learning more about these technologies.

I strongly encourage you to get involved in this conversation by doing one or more of the following:

  • You can sign on as a group or individual to this letter.
  • You can attend a public meeting that is part of the SIR process and give public comment on Tuesday, February 27, from 6-7pm at Bitter Lake Community Center (or remotely)
  • You can fill out survey forms for each of the three technologies. More possible talking points are here.

Last year SPD commissioned a report that describes the harassment and discrimination faced by their women officers. The report describes womens’ difficulties being promoted, discrimination about getting pregnant, sexist behaviors and comments, being excluded, and sexual harassment, among other issues. 14.4% of SPD sworn officers are women, down 1% since 2017

Publicola reported that in 2023, out of 61 new officers hired, just five were women, according to Jamie Housen. One of the talking points of the Executive’s Office seems to be that “almost half” of SPD’s command staff is women, but actually only 5 out of 13 are women, with only one being a sworn officer. The other 4 hold civilian positions that are typically held by women. 

In addition to last year’s lawsuit brought by Detective Cookie Boudine, another lawsuit was brought against SPD last month by Deanna Nollette alleging gender discrimination.

The Seattle Times reported: “Most of the report’s interviewees would not tell other women to join the department, James wrote.

“Well, if I were to tell my daughters or, you know, my friends, I tell them to run in the opposite direction, you know, because of the experiences that I’ve had,” one participant said.”

While SPD’s Chief Diaz mentioned wanting to specifically recruit more women at the year’s first Public Safety committee meeting this week, not one council member saw fit to ask him about this report. This lack of oversight fit nicely with the committee’s new attitude of bending over backwards to support SPD.

New Public Safety Chair Robert Kettle emphasized how the problems in Seattle stem from a “permissive environment” and named 6 pillars to address this: police staffing, legal tools, unsecured vacant buildings and lots, graffiti, public health, and “One Seattle engagement with the County and the State.” As Publicola points out, this is in stark contrast to the previous mission of this committee, which “previously highlighted police accountability, alternatives to arrest and jail, and “programs to reduce the public’s involvement with law enforcement and decrease involvement with the Criminal Legal System.”

In other words, it’s all about deterrence and punishment now, with strains of broken windows theory coming round yet again to haunt us.

CARE department head Amy Smith, who everyone called Chief, said that she’d like to expand the hours of the alternate responders. They now cover from 11am-11pm, and she’d like to cover the 11pm-2am window as well. She also mentioned that the responders sometimes have joint trainings with SPD officers.

SPD gave an update on 2023 crime numbers and staffing. In 2023, there was a 9% reduction in overall crime, a 10% reduction in property crime, and a 6% reduction in violent crime. There was a 1% decrease in total shots fired and shooting events, a 23% increase in homicides (although apparently some of these were delayed deaths, the Chief said), and a 3% increase in shooting events alone. The first month of 2024 saw a large reduction in homicides from previous Januaries. The number of rounds fired has increased recently due to high capacity magazines that hold many more rounds.

SPD lost 36 more officers than they were able to hire in 2023. This is a smaller decrease in staffing than any year since 2019, when they had a net gain of 16 officers. Over the last five years, they have lost 715 personnel. For January of this year, they are breaking even in terms of officers leaving vs officers being hired.

The average response time to a Priority 1 911 call is seven and a half minutes; their goal is seven minutes even.

He mentioned they want to close out the consent decree in 2024 and expressed pride that SPD would be one of the first departments to be able to do that. 

There was a lot of discussion of how to increase officer morale, make them feel more supported, increase staffing, and help them recover from the trauma they endured after George Floyd. There was also talk about how not having a new contract is harming SPD in terms of recruiting since officers aren’t being paid enough compared to other agencies. Chief Diaz mentioned doing a lot of recruiting from nearby military bases, citing Portland’s success in increasing staffing in this way. 

CM Moore said they were going to allow police to police and not engage in the micromanagement of the past. She complained that the city is paying for jail space it’s not getting, saying they are paying for 190 jail beds per night but only getting 40, which is a problem, as she wants to send a message of holding people accountable. She suggested the idea of the city looking elsewhere for jail space, which could mean another spotlight on the SCORE jail in Des Moines. As of October 2023, 4 people had died in the SCORE jail in 2023, a very high number.

Publicola ran an article about SPD and the City Attorney’s Office continuing to crack down on sex work:

“Criminalizing sex work is broadly unpopular; during jury selection, echoing national sentiment, 23 of 25 potential jurors said they didn’t think sex work should be illegal. But the city remains deeply invested in penalizing the practice—and pouring resources into prosecuting men who patronize sex workers.

Like James, most of the people prosecuted for patronizing prostitutes are men of color, and defense attorneys say many are immigrants—mostly Latino—who don’t speak English fluently or at all.”

The article also explores what a huge amount of resources these stings and trials take (a single sting can involve as many as 20 officers), and how in City law and SPD policy, sex work and human trafficking are practically the same thing. 

WA State Legislature:

A quick update here. HB 1579–the independent prosecutor bill–and SB 6009–a bill banning hog tying–both passed their houses of origin. Unfortunately, the traffic safety bill HB 1513 has died. HB 1445–the bill giving the Attorney General investigatory power over systemic practices of police agencies–is also dead. HB 2065–the bill about juvenile points–passed out of its house of origin and has a hearing and an executive session scheduled for next week. 

HB 1932 –the bill to allow even year elections–has passed from its house of origin.

Housekeeping:

I’m on vacation next week, so you’ll be hearing from me next in early March. 

Recent Headlines:

City Council Talks SPD Staffing While Ignoring Damning Report on the Department’s Treatment of Women Read More »

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

 

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

“Stealth Jail Expansion”: The Fight Over the SCORE Jail Contract Continues

Let’s take a moment to celebrate that the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the capital gains tax!

Seattle News

On Tuesday the City of Seattle and the Department of Justice filed a request to replace the 2012 Consent Decree with a new “Agreement on Sustained Compliance” that would focus on SPD’s use of force particularly related to crowd control and accountability. Among other measures, SPD would need to adopt a revised crowd management policy, and the City would need to hire a consultant to make recommendations about the accountability system. In addition, Mike Carter reports the city also acknowledges that it must address racial disparities that have shown up in reviews of both police use of force and investigative stops.” 

Mayor Harrell’s office has calculated the consent decree, lasting 11 years thus far, has cost the city $200m. The motion asks Judge Robart to find the SPD has reached “substantial compliance” with most of the original consent decree requirements. As Erica C. Barnett reports, ongoing labor negotiations with SPOG, including whether important accountability advances agreed upon in the recent SPMA contract are included in the next SPOG contract, play an important role as to whether the city will be able to be found in compliance with the accountability piece of either the original consent decree or any new agreement.

This new “agreement on sustained compliance” would be anticipated to be completed in about a year, and unlike the original consent decree, it wouldn’t require a two-year sustainment period before exit, which would give Mayor Harrell his coveted exit before the end of his term. The next step in this process is for Judge Robart to schedule a hearing.

Advocates in Seatle have often had mixed feelings about the consent decree in recent years. In the last three years in particular, it has often been seen as a barrier to more systemic change and a way to potentially apply a veneer of respectability to the SPD while maintaining the status quo. The SPD’s budget has grown substantially from when Seattle entered into the consent decree, from $252.2m in 2012 to its present size of $374.3m. 

Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting on Tuesday had a surprise addition to the agenda: a project update on SPD’s recruitment and retention. While the council members received a memo on March 14 detailing current progress with the hiring incentives passed last year, none of this information was presented at the meeting, with Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell saying “it’s too early to draw a definitive conclusion.” 

In 2021 SPD hired one officer for every 12 applicants; these figures aren’t yet available for 2022. In spite of all its new hiring, recruiting, and retention efforts, the department is still struggling to maintain its size: as of 3/16, SPD’s hiring numbers are at -6, a number that was amusingly omitted from the presentation. SPD has hired 19 officers and experienced 25 separations since the beginning of the year. 

No mention was made at the meeting of the difficulties of retention given the recent suit filed by Cookie Bouldin alleging racial and gender discrimination or last year’s lawsuit in which an SPD officer was awarded $1.325m in damages due to getting carbon monoxide poisoning on the job.

The team presenting to the CMs announced their goal of 30% of officers being female by 2030 with no mention of the Bouldin lawsuit. CM Nelson also stated the importance of “having a positive place to work at” without addressing the implications of these suits.

When considering SPD’s attrition rate, it’s important to remember some people leave the department because they’re under investigation for less than savory reasons. For example, the OPA released a report last week about the case of Officer Cleades Robinson. As DivestSPD reported: “OPA found there was more than enough evidence to show that Robinson committed at least two gross misdemeanors: patronizing a prostitute and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.” Robinson resigned before final discipline was handed down in January. Another SPD Captain was arrested in November 2019 for trying to buy sex and retired before the investigation was completed. 

Once Mayor Harrell took the helm of the city at the beginning of 2022, sweeps of homeless people substantially increased, Guy Oron reports. The City of Seattle performed 943 sweeps in 2022, which means sweeps were happening on average twice or more every day. Of these sweeps, 771 sweeps–almost 82%–were obstruction sweeps, meaning the City wasn’t required to give notice to those being swept. To get an idea of how much sweeps have increased, there were 158 sweeps in 2022 where notice was given, whereas in 2021 there were 53 sweeps done with notice, meaning the rate of sweeps with notice has TRIPLED. Many locations were swept multiple times, including 66 sweeps in Occidental Park, 53 sweeps near the Ballard Library, and 18 sweeps at the Ballard Commons.

By comparison, there were 1,192 sweeps in 2019, meaning we’re seeing the return of an old status quo that was interrupted by the pandemic and a temporary acknowledgement due to the George Floyd protests that just maybe we should treat people more humanely.

Matthew Mitnick, currently running for Seattle CM for District 4, has been accused by former supporters of breaking child labor laws, wage theft, and creating a toxic work environment

King County News

The King County Council postponed their vote on the SCORE jail contract for the second time this Tuesday. They are working on a variety of amendments (discussed last week) that would limit the size and scope of the transfers from the King County Jail and require various reporting and Council approvals. Unfortunately, none of these amendments would stop the SCORE contract outright; this contract would cause what opponents are calling a stealth expansion of King County’s system of incarceration. 

The sense of urgency around this SCORE contract is interesting given it’s been almost three years since Executive Constantine said he wanted to eventually shut down the “decrepit” King County Jail. In the intervening time, the death and suicide rates in the jail have gone up and the staffing numbers have been in continuous decline, not to mention it was without potable water for a month last fall. However, it’s only since the ACLU of Washington filed a suit against the County due to the appalling conditions within the jail that the County’s message has shifted to sudden action without the necessary time to build a good plan that would not expand incarceration in the County.

To weigh in on the SCORE contract, you can email or call your King County CMs and/or give public comment at the next King County Council meeting on Tuesday, April 4 at 1:30pm. Talking points will be updated at tinyurl.com/TellKCC.

In addition, sources say the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD) is planning to move 50 additional people from the King County Jail to the Maleng Regional Justice Center (MRJC) in Kent this weekend (April 1-2). The DAJD already moved 50 people from the KJC the weekend of March 11-12, a move that has resulted in consequences: those 50 inmates are being double-bunked in cells in which the toilets can only be flushed twice an hour, resulting in unsanitary conditions. And Erica C. Barnett reports on another problem as well:

“Folk says the jail guards’ union has filed a demand to bargain over the decision to move 50 people to the RJC, noting that the 1:104 ratio of guards to inmates is far below the usual “direct supervision” standard of one guard for every residents. Haglund told PubliCola previously that although 1:104 isn’t ideal, the unit will be safe with just one guard because no more than 64 people will be out in the unit’s common area at one time. Folk disagrees, telling PubliCola, “The staffing ratio for this is just not safe.””

Meanwhile, King County reported that as of last week there have been 296 King County residents who have died due to drug or alcohol poisoning since the beginning of the year, a number that exceeds the total number of overdose deaths in 2012. 

Recent Headlines

“Stealth Jail Expansion”: The Fight Over the SCORE Jail Contract Continues Read More »

Budget Decisions Come Home to Roost

 Seattle News

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

WA State Legislature News

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

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

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

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

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

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

King County News

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

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

Recent Headlines

Budget Decisions Come Home to Roost Read More »

Recent Drop in Violent Crime Takes the Wind out of Fearmongers’ Sails

We’ve Moved!

As you know, I’ve been working on finding a new home for Notes from the Emerald City. And here’s what I’ve got for you!

Newsletter subscribers will continue to receive every issue emailed to them through Substack. Yes, I have feelings about Substack. Yes, this is the compromise I referenced having to make last week. But you as the readers should experience a seamless transition. 

But there’s more! There is now an official WEBSITE of Notes from the Emerald City. I am really excited about this because it provides a searchable archive of all the articles I’ve written. I’m also tagging posts with relevant topics, a process that I expect to become more fine-tuned over time. I hope this will make Notes from the Emerald City even more useful as a community resource. I used it just this weekend to quickly pull up recent SPD staffing numbers, and it worked beautifully.

For those of you who had paid subscriptions in the past, I have new options for you! You can set up a monthly subscription payment through either Patreon or Paypal. You can also give one-time donations through Paypal. (This same information can be found on the new website’s Donate page.)

If you have any trouble with the transition, please don’t hesitate to reach out and I’ll do my best to get you sorted.

Seattle News

Speaking of those SPD staffing numbers, let’s talk about Danny Westneat’s recent column in the Seattle Times: Seattle’s pandemic crime fever may finally be breaking. I’m glad it’s finally becoming mainstream to admit that the increase in certain types of violence we’ve seen over the past few years is very probably closely related to living through a historical and deadly global pandemic. Westneat reports that violent crime started dropping in October, and December saw the fewest number of violent crimes reported since March 2020. 

It is important to note that while violent crime is now dropping, SPD staffing of officers in service was significantly lower in October of 2022 than it was in 2019 before the pandemic, or even in 2020. This is a powerful argument against the story that “defunding the police” or even just run-of-the-mill staffing woes caused the spike in violence. 

graph of SPD staffing showing a drop from a bit over 1200 officers in service in 2019 to a bit under 1000 officers in service in 2022 YTD.
Slide from SPD budget presentation given in October of 2022

As for media’s incessant fear-mongering over crime throughout 2021 and 2022, which we’re already seeing being walked back by the likes of a Walmart executive saying they might have cried too much over retail theft last year, what reflections does Westneat offer? “Crime going up is a story that grabs you; crime going down will either be ho-hummed or outright disbelieved, especially by Seattle’s many national critics. It’s also one of the riskier stories one can do in the news business, as the next big shooting or killing, which is certainly coming, will make me look like an idiot.” Translation: don’t expect improvement in the quality of the media discourse any time soon. 

Today’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting was unavailable to watch due to technical difficulties at the Seattle Channel, but you can read about OIG’s 2023 work plan here and here. They are gearing up to take over some of the SPD monitoring duties currently covered by the Court Monitor and his team as Mayor Harrell continues to try to maneuver the city out of a consent decree that has now lasted more than ten years. Given their staffing difficulties, it remains to be seen how taking over some of these duties will affect the organization as a whole.

A head’s up that SPOG President Mike Solan is almost finished serving his three-year term that began in March of 2020. Mike Solan ran against incumbent Kevin Stuckey and won in what Seattle Times referred to as a “landslide vote” of more than 500 out of 750 total votes. Mike Solan made the news in 2021 when he blamed the January 6th insurrection on Black Lives matter protesters, prompting 8 out of 9 city councilmembers (all but CP Juarez) to call for his resignation. 

Matthew Mitnick, a member of Seattle’s Human Rights Commission who is running for the open councilmember seat in District 4, announced that at their Feburary 2nd meeting, the HRC will be seeking amicus status with the federal court overseeing the consent decree. About this decision, he says on Twitter, “The only way to inform the court about what is actually happening here is by allowing those most impacted by police violence to speak out.” The HRC has been trying to take this step since last year, which ultimately resulted in several members resigning in protest in the fall. 

Meanwhile, the City of Seattle has been named in a lawsuit claiming its anti-graffiti statute is unconstitutional and that the SPD selectively enforce it against those creating anti-police graffiti. 

WA State News

The Washington State legislative session began yesterday, huzzah!

Legislators are attending a public hearing this afternoon on HB 1087, the bill that would ban long-term solitary confinement. It might be too late by the time you read this to do the quick bill signing on PRO that you may remember from prior years, but it is never too late to email the legislators on the appropriate committee to tell them you support it.

Kari Plog reports that the state’s new Office of Independent Investigations, which was supposed to start reviewing cases last July, has only filled 15 of its 80 positions. There is no timeline on when they will have enough staff to actually begin conducting investigations. 

National News

The Guardian reported that killings by US police reached a record high last year; at least 1,176 people were killed by police in 2022, which comes out to more than 3 people every day of the year. Only 31% of the incidents leading to the killing began with an alleged violent crime. Racial disparities in who is getting killed by police also remain, with Black people making up 24% of those killed by police while only being 13% of the general population. 

Recent Headlines

Recent Drop in Violent Crime Takes the Wind out of Fearmongers’ Sails Read More »