SPD staffing

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:

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

 

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

“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

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

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

It’s Almost as if Seattle Doesn’t Want to Reimagine Public Safety After All

Seattle Budget: Parking Enforcement Officers

Last Thursday, the Council held budget meetings about the potential parking enforcement officer (PEO) transfer from SDOT to SPD, SPD’s proposed budget, and the Community Safety and Communications Center’s (CSCC) proposed budget. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s dive in.
First up are the PEOs. The move to SDOT about a year ago has not thus far been a success, and labor issues have resulted. The PEOs are vastly understaffed, both as a result of general unhappiness over a botched move and SDOT’s decision to keep some positions open so as to use the money this freed up to pay for their overhead costs (more about that in a minute.) There are only 80 PEOs right now, for a department that calls for the staffing of 123 FTE. The PEOs are still housed within the physical structures of SPD, they still wear SPD uniforms, and they still have SPD emblazoned on their vehicles. They no longer have access to SPD databases (well, really it’s the FBI’s CJIS, more about this in a minute). And then of course there was the debacle where, due to “mistakes” made by SPD and potentially the last Mayor’s Office, the PEOs weren’t given their special commissions when they were moved to SDOT, and therefore $5m worth of traffic tickets had to be either voided or refunded earlier this year.
Whether it was sabotage or simply shocking incompetence, nobody can argue that this has been a smooth transition. Hence the Mayor’s proposal to move the PEOs back into SPD.
Because of the way SDOT calculates its overhead, which is complicated due to its multiple funding sources, it costs an additional $8m from the General Fund to keep the PEOs in SDOT, a fact that the Mayor’s Office and SDOT, who both lobbied heavily for the PEOs to move to SDOT rather than the CSCC, somehow failed to mention at that time.
Another issue is the PEOs’ lack of access to the CJIS database. Right now SPD provides them with a static hot sheet with a list of vehicles by license plate that are stolen, but the PEOs can’t call in to get at-the-moment information from the database, which includes information such as registered owner and address. It is unclear how large a problem the lack of access to this database actually is, but it is interesting to note that even if they were to move to the CSCC, the PEOs wouldn’t be granted access to it; the 911 dispatchers have this access, but WASPC, the state body who decides these matters, has said the PEOs aren’t performing a criminal justice purpose and therefore are ineligible. No outside legal analysis of this issue has been completed.
The SPD, unsurprisingly, is happy to welcome back the PEOs with open arms, especially as they’ll come with funding for the entire 123 FTE. Because there are only currently 80 PEOs, that means SPD will get an extra $4.2m; while they will use part of this sum to hopefully pay for additional hires, there will be some left over, for which they will inevitably find an indispensable use within the department. The PEOs themselves took a poll and overwhelmingly expressed a desire to be back in SPD rather than in SDOT.
A third option not explored in the aforementioned poll is to move the PEOs to the CSCC, which was the Council’s original plan back in 2020. Aside from the issue of database access, the CSCC is a new department that would need lead time to prepare to receive the PEOs, which would nearly double their headcount. There would probably be some extra overhead involved with this as well, although nowhere near SDOT’s staggering $8m price tag. However, this move would preserve the Council’s intent to move civilian functions outside the police department in response to the protesters that were in the streets for so much of 2020.

Seattle Budget: Seattle Police Department

SPD is enjoying being able to say they’re taking the largest cut of any department. This is misleading rhetoric, of course; the actual size of their budget will be larger than it was in 2022 if the proposed budget doesn’t change. Much time was spent in the SPD budget meeting discussing the $250k increase to Harbor Patrol, which moved into a discussion of whether certain aspects of Harbor Patrol might be more suitable for a civilian response (namely, search and rescue and water safety). In response to this suggestion, Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell mentioned that houseboat piracy was a problem.
Moving past the serious piracy issue facing Seattle, Central Staff projects 153 officers will be separating from the department in 2022 by the end of the year. Once again, SPD’s projections for separations and hiring for 2023 seem overly rosy, although the high rate of separations has been going on for long enough at this point that people can now bring up the point of diminishing returns, ie that in a smaller police force, there will also be a smaller number of people leaving. The 80 positions not being funded for 2023 are not being permanently cut (abrogated) but rather underfunded for now.
There was also a discussion of the gunfire detection system (which will probably be ShotSpotter). Interestingly, CM Nelson brought up a study by Edgeworth Analytics that found a high accuracy rate for ShotSpotter, but didn’t disclose that this study had in fact been funded BY ShotSpotter. Luckily CM Mosqueda brought up that point. CM Nelson also stated that if even one life were to be saved by a gunfire detection system, then the financial investment would be worth it, even though it had been emphasized earlier in the presentation that these detection systems are not intended to reduce gun violence in any way, but rather to help capture evidence about gun-related crimes after they happen. Regardless, the city surveillance ordinance would require the completion of a surveillance impact report (SIR), which Central Staff thinks would take more than 12 months to complete, meaning this budget item may well be premature.

Seattle Budget: CSCC

During this meeting, Ann Gorman of Central Staff presented the results thus far of the collaboration between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff over alternative response as memorialized in a term sheet. There is agreement that the $1.9m for a near-term pilot of alternative response in Seattle could be spent in 2023 on some combination of the following:
  1. Direct dispatch of SFD Health One units
  2. Intelligent non-emergency reporting: this is instant reporting that doesn’t require an SPD officer to come to the scene. In practice, this would be improvement of online reporting or reporting by phone, for example, by providing better support of other languages.
  3. Expansion of CSO duties: currently the CSOs serve as liaisons between SPD and community and don’t have law enforcement authority. It may be possible to expand their role in a way that lessens the workload of SPD officers.
  4. Dual (SPD/civilian) dispatch to augment current mental/behavioral health response: This means that two separate units would be sent to the scene, one from SPD and one that is a city-staffed team with relevant clinical and procedural training. In other words, this response would still involve officers with a gun coming to the scene, although CM Herbold mentioned that perhaps the SPD officers could sometimes stage themselves nearby instead of arriving directly on the scene.
For proponents of a mental health crisis response alternative in Seattle, this list will doubtless be less than inspiring, as none of these options is what has been asked for, including the co-response detailed in option 4. However, both CM Herbold and CM Lewis, who have previously been strong proponents of a civilian alternative response such as STAR in Denver, were both effusive in their praise. CM Herbold went so far as to walk back some of her criticism of the Risk Management Demand report delivered by SPD a few weeks ago. (This is the system SPD has spent large amounts of time and money developing only to have to go in and manually correct more than 50% of call type classifications provided by their new system. The system was also meant to assess risk to responders but instead used risk to the subject as a proxy.)

King County Budget

The next opportunity for public comment on the biennial 2023-2024 King County budget is tomorrow, Wednesday, 10/19 at 6pm. More details and a script can be found here. If you can’t make the meeting, you can also email your King County council members.

Election News

People Power Washington’s voter guide is out! You can see questionnaires about public safety answered by candidates for state legislature, for King County prosecutor, and for Seattle Municipal Court Judge. Information about races for prosecutor and judge in particular can be hard to come by, so this is an excellent resource for helping you make an educated decision come Election Day.
There is a King County prosecutor candidate debate this Thursday, 10/20 from 6-8pm in Federal Way. More details and sign up can be found here.

Other Seattle News

Also in the budget: Mayor Harrell’s proposal to spend $38m on the Unified Care Team and the Clean City Initiative. As Erica C. Barnett reports:
memo accompanying that presentation adds that, legally speaking, there’s no guarantee that the new funding won’t be used to “accelerate encampment removals.”
In redistricting news, Seattle’s redistricting commission voted on a new map today. They passed a map that divides Magnolia along the west-east ridge and doesn’t divide Fremont into three(!) different districts. All but one commissioner voted in favor of this new map, and you can see it here. The exact dividing line in Magnolia might change, but other that that, Erica Barnett reports this will be the map, which represents a heartening victory for Redistricting Justice for Seattle and their bid for an equitable map.
You might remember that earlier this year, the Human Rights Commission tried to initiate a data collection project on behalf of those impacted by police violence, including wanting to file for amicus status with the court overseeing the consent decree process, only to be shot down by the City Attorney. Well, now four commissioners, including three co-chairs, have resigned in protest. You can read their passionate open letter here.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released Wave 3 of their Sentinel Event Review report on the 2020 protests, which covers June 8 – July 1, 2020. And it is quite damning, showing that in addition to miscommunication and sloppy police work, the SPD indulged in flat-out lying in their infamous ruse in which they tried to make protesters believe armed Proud Boys were headed to CHOP. As Justin reports:
The Wave 3 report includes … SPD officials either mistakenly or intentionally making statements about unsubstantiated and not fully investigated allegations of armed checkpoints and shakedowns of area businesses in press conferences and statements to the media as evidence of bad decisions and a lack of leadership that hindered the city’s response — and set it on a permanently flawed course contributing to the growth of dangerous conditions in the CHOP zone.
It is worth reading the entire article, which also provides access to the full OIG report.
Finally, CM Dan Strauss held a community meeting about safety in Greenwood last night, at which he told attendees they weren’t allowed to record and barred journalists from entry until the end. Not exactly the best way to promote an environment of transparency and accountability.
Isolde Raftery
@CMDanStrauss are you seriously preventing the media from attending your PUBLIC meeting on safety in Greenwood???

Standing outside the @TaprootTheatre with @king5 …

Recent Headlines

Leesa Manion is the better choice for Prosecutor | Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber

People Still Don’t Want to Work for SPD

Seattle Public Safety Committee Meeting

Amy Sundberg
Good morning and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. Four are present (CM Mosqueda absent).
Yesterday morning Seattle had its last Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting before the summer break. The Mayor’s proposed new Director of the OPA, Gino Betts, was present for a drive-by introduction, and he will be back before the committee for a Q&A and committee vote on his appointment on September 13, which would potentially tee up the Full Council vote on his appointment for September 20, conveniently right before the madness of budget season is upon us. You can read his appointment packet here.
But the real interest of yesterday’s meeting was Greg Doss’s quarterly update on SPD’s staffing, finances, and call response times. Surprising nobody who has been paying attention, there have been 109 separations of sworn officers from SPD in the first six months of 2022, at odds with SPD’s previous projection that there would be 94 separations for the ENTIRE YEAR. Yes, you read that right. There have been 30 hires so far in the first six months of 2022, which doesn’t exactly put SPD on track for reaching their hiring projection of 125 for the year either.
These numbers mean there will be significantly more salary savings for 2022 than anticipated. However, SPD thinks they will burn through all this extra salary savings and might need even more money by the end of the year, primarily because of overtime spending, although also because of the costs of the hiring incentives bill the committee discussed at this meeting.
In a particular feisty moment, CM Lewis agreed that we don’t have the capacity to stand up alternative responses in the next few months because we should have taken the actions other cities took two years ago, a fairly safe political shot at now departed Mayor Durkan. The Council’s continued frustration at the lack of alternatives is palpable, although CM Herbold reported the joint workgroup on the subject between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff has finally begun, and it sounds like the Mayor’s Office may be softening towards the idea of trying one or more alternative response pilots, an idea that has been memorialized in the latest consent decree filing.
As for the hiring incentives legislation being discussed, it was more of the same as has already been discussed this year, offering hiring bonuses for new recruits and lateral hires as well as providing money for more HR staff/support for SPD, more marketing, and the police chief search. It’s just now a slightly higher amount than previously discussed. One cannot help remembering CM Nelson’s comments earlier this year that it didn’t matter what the money was spent on as long as they did something, and this bill definitely feels more like a performative “Look! We’re doing something!” than a tangible, data-backed plan to actually improve public safety in Seattle. Indeed, rumors have been circulating that hiring bonuses or no, it could easily take ten years to return to pre-pandemic SPD staffing levels, meaning alternative plans are going to be needed to address public safety regardless of where on the defund spectrum any particular elected official may fall.
The legislation passed 4-1 with CM Mosqueda casting the only nay vote. In order to display “urgency,” the legislation will probably be voted on next week at Full Council on August 16 even though it would normally be delayed due to the split vote (otherwise the vote wouldn’t be until September because of the Summer Recess). You can read another account of the meeting here.

Other Seattle News

CE Bick
Tonight’s @SeaCPC Community Engagement Meeting in which incoming @SeattleOPA Dir. Gino Betts starts in a few minutes. I’ll be live-tweeting the meeting on this thread. 🧵
Last night the CPC held a “community conversation” with proposed Director of the OPA Gino Betts, which you can read about in more detail in the Twitter thread above. Why did I put community conversation in quotations? Because partway through the meeting, Felicia Cross, the Community Outreach Manager at the CPC, said the purpose of the meeting was actually to welcome Mr. Betts to Seattle as opposed to giving community a chance to ask him substantive questions, an assertion that showed a lack of respect for all the community members who took time from their busy schedules for what had been advertised as a conversation. To give a bit of flavor, earlier in the meeting, a retired SPD officer appeared to suggest the public needs to participate in training so as to avoid being harmed or killed by the police, and an impacted family member of someone killed by SPD was told the only way to get things done (read: possibly slightly improve things) was to agree to sit down with Betts at a later date, even though they had already clearly articulated the actions they wished to see. All in all, not the most successful meeting.
The contract for Seattle’s participatory budgeting project was finally signed last week, with a community vote on potential proposals projected for March-April of 2023.
There are two more community conversations about the new SPD police chief scheduled for this week:
Will Casey at The Stranger wrote an analysis of the Seattle City Attorney Office’s High Utilizer Initiative (HUI), finding more than half of the prolific offenders targeted by this program have a history of mental illness that means they are ineligible for misdemeanor prosecution. The initiative also replicates the criminal legal system’s racial disparities. Oops. Casey suggests a potential alternate course of action for the City Attorney’s Office:
On a systemic level, the City Attorney’s Office could use its influence within Seattle’s public safety debate to make the case that the city, the state, and the federal government needs to spend more money to build more supportive housing and to expand behavioral health services now.
Those investments would take time to change the daily conditions on Seattle’s streets, but they would also make clear for the public that the people who should be “held accountable” for our public safety crisis are the politicians at every level of government who have repeatedly defunded our social safety net since the Reagan administration.
Last week the Seattle Redistricting Commission did indeed agree on a final proposed map, which follows the proposal given by the Redistricting Justice for Washington coalition fairly closely. You can read more analysis on the new proposed map here and here. There will be two more public forums coming up to give feedback on the map.
Finally, Carolyn Bick published a retrospective of the last year of their work on problems with Seattle’s police accountability system, which is a great review and resource.

Recent Headlines

Recent criminal justice news and commentary 8.8.22

CE Bick
INBOX: From @kcexec Dow Constantine’s office, a media statement regarding a person who died in custody. This statement says that the person’s death was announced this week and that King County jail staff are investigating this death — which, again, occurred under KC jail’s watch. https://t.co/Mc252xfdSi
Mistaken detention of Black Seattle driver prompts lawsuit | The Seattle Times

The WA Redistricting Commission Gets Slap on the Wrist

WA State Legislature News

Senator Peterson has gone on the record saying he intends to pursue legislation similar to this year’s solitary confinement bill next year. The bill was bogged down partly because the Department of Corrections gave it a >$115m price tag, even though advocates for the bill think that number is overly high.
Meanwhile, the two policing bills that would roll back reforms made last session, HB 2037 and SB 5919, had an executive session today so are continuing to move along.
The WA Redistricting Commission settled in the two lawsuits against them pertaining to violation of the Open Public Meetings Act.
Jim Brunner
NEW: WA Redistricting Commission @RedistrictingWA settles open-meetings lawsuits. Each commissioner will pay fines of $500, and commission will pay more than $120k for @WashingtonCOG legal fees and costs. Read settlement: https://t.co/xNPgg3MxaB

The $500 fine per commissioner amounts to a slap on the wrist, with no real accountability forthcoming beyond a formal admission of violating the Open Public Meetings Act. The commission won’t reconvene until 2031, so it’s unclear what, if anything, will have changed or improved at that time.

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. This morning we will hear from SPD on their 2021 year end staffing report and crime report, and we will hear about their retail theft program.
This week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting in Seattle covered the following topics:
If you remember the controversy about SPD staffing projections in 2022, with SPD estimating 94 separations and the Council’s Central Staff estimating 125 separations, conveniently in line with their hiring estimate for the year (also 125), we now have a slightly clearer picture. After January, which had a higher attrition estimate due to the vaccine mandate, it looks like Central Staff’s estimate is right on target thus far.
It looks like staffing isn’t a problem unique to SPD, but that police departments both regionally and nationally are also having trouble recruiting new officers. Right now there is a $1.24m estimated salary savings in SPD for 2022, and a new proviso prohibits SPD from spending any of these dollars elsewhere without Council permission.
In terms of the crime report, which relies on SPD data, shootings and shots fired increased by 40% from 2020, and violent crime increased by 20% (mostly from aggravated assault and robbery). The rate of property crime climbed slightly and larceny-theft was also up, probably driven by catalytic converter thefts. It is also worth noting that crime was up nationally in 2021, in both red and blue areas and regardless of whether any police funding had been cut.
CM Lewis mentioned his concern that big homeless encampments can become focus points for gun violence, and also noted there haven’t been any shootings at the tiny house villages or Just Care shelters.
Meanwhile, a bill currently working itself through the state legislative session could potentially incentivize officers to take earlier retirements, increasing SPD attrition. CM Herbold is holding the line, waiting for a report from the Mayor’s Office making recommendations about hiring incentive programs for all city departments before deciding what to do about SPD-specific hiring bonuses. The report is due at the beginning of March.
CM Herbold and CM Lewis also announced a new project of the City Auditor’s office to audit organized retail crime (ORC).

Recent Headlines

Former Minneapolis officers found guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights - The Washington Post

WA to pay $3.75M after death of man whose cancer went untreated in prison | The Seattle Times

Inside a police training conference - The Washington Post

SPD and Community Safety Issue Identification

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


SPD Issue Identification and Form As

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

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

SPD Identified Issues:

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

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

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

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

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

SPD Form As:

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

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


Community Safety & Violence Prevention Issue Identification and Form As:

Twitter avatar for @amysundberg

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

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

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

Identified Issues:

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

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

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

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

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

Community Safety Form As:

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


What does this all mean?

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

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

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

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

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


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