SPMA contract

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

Seattle News

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

King County News

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

Washington State News

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

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

Final Vote on the SPMA Contract Tomorrow

SPMA Contract

Today at the Seattle Council Briefing, CMs heard a presentation on the new SPMA police union contract, on which they are scheduled to vote tomorrow.
Amy Sundberg
Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s Seattle Council Briefing. CM Sawant and CM Mosqueda are excused from today’s meeting.
I’ve already reported on the financial impacts of the new contract (bye bye, SPD salary savings), so now let’s talk about changes in accountability. You can read a summary of the accountability changes here. Included in these changes:
  • OPA and OIG will be able to exercise subpoena power since there is no bar to this in the contract
  • the definition of honesty has been changed in a favorable way
  • OPA investigation records will be retained for longer, even for those that involved complaints that were not sustained
  • an entire new “discipline review” process has been outlined that will fix some problems with arbitration, eliminates De Novo review, and is based around the “preponderance of evidence” standard
  • it makes changes to the 180-day clock, allows OPA to coordinate with criminal investigations, and changes limitations to OPA’s civilian investigators
  • it doesn’t explicitly require the City to bargain in order to make layoffs (although who gets laid off is determined by a specific set of rules that can’t be affected by the City Council; remember all the brouhaha about “out of order” layoffs? Yeah, that’s not a thing that is easy to make happen.)
Here are three specific things that aren’t changed in the new contract that advocates had hoped to see:
  • That OPA be allowed to refer and oversee criminal investigations as well as coordinate with these investigations
  • That complainants be given the ability to challenge disciplinary decisions, eitherin court or via some other process, so we can objectively see how the disciplinary process is working
  • That the primary source for disciplinary outcomes be publicly available so police officers understand the standards and the public can evaluate them; and further that there be some way to change these standards if expectations of the community regarding police officer conduct change
Also concerning is the lack of transparency and clear communication around this new contract. As a subject of significant public impact and interest, I would have expected to see more attempts to engage with the community and educate them on what the changes in the contract meant. Instead the only public discussion of the new contract took place today, twenty-four hours before the Full Council is scheduled to make a final vote on the contract. There was no public hearing on the contract, no passing through committee, no CPC community engagement meeting, and very little chance for the public to learn about the contract and give feedback. While CP Juarez made the point that this contract only affects 81 employees, this understates the importance of a contract that sets the stage for what might be achieved in the SPOG contract currently under negotiation.
In better news, hopefully the flood of emails the CMs received on this topic served to demonstrate that the public is in fact still deeply interested in police union contracts and in police accountability overall. The protests of 2020 may no longer be top of mind, but people have not forgotten.
If you would like to add to the flood before Tuesday at 2pm, you can use this action alert or quickly send this email. While a few of the provisions asked for in these letters are in fact met by the new contract, it is important for CMs to know how much these issues matter to the larger community so they continue to fight for greater accountability and more investment in community alternatives.

Seattle News

The rest of recent Seattle public safety news is kind of a hot mess:
To quote Will Casey in that last Stranger article:
Has anyone even asked if police are effective at solving crime? Yes. In fact, there’s a well-developed body of research showing they’re not. From the American Prospect: “Clearance rates have dropped to all-time lows at the same time that police budgets have swollen to all-time highs, suggesting that more funding has actually resulted in police being less effective.” I am slowly going insane watching nearly everyone in a position of power on this issue operate in a public safety debate increasingly detached from reality.
You’re not alone, Will.
Meanwhile, a recent nationwide Gallup poll shows that 78% of Americans still support the idea of promoting “community-based alternatives such as violence prevention” as part of changing how policing is done in this country. Seventy-eight percent. Community-based alternatives, alternate emergency response, and providing more behavioral health care and addiction services all continue to be incredibly popular, both locally and around the country.

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Final Vote on the SPMA Contract Tomorrow Read More »

The New Proposed SPMA Contract Is Out

Seattle News

This week, the Seattle Full Council passed both CM Nelson’s resolution on SPD hiring incentives and CM Herbold’s legislation on SPD moving expenses, a recruiting advertising campaign, etc. Both passed with a vote of 6-3, with CMs Nelson, Herbold, Lewis, Strauss, Pedersen, and Juarez voting yes. In covering this resolution in The StrangerHannah Krieg wrote, “The resolution does not indicate a specific dollar amount or fund a specific bonus program from the $4.5 million in salary savings, but rather leaves it up to the Mayor to develop one with council’s approval. “Frankly, whatever. I don’t really care what it’s used for,” Nelson said.” I quote this to confirm that CM Nelson actually did say those words during one of the discussions on the resolution, proving that I do indeed still have the capacity to be shocked by what elected officials say in public meetings.
In any case, that resolution might be a bit of a moot point because the new SPMA contract was just released this week. In Central Staff’s summary of this contract, they note that “the Executive has indicated that it intends to instead use sworn salary savings in SPD’s Adopted Budget to fund the $3.39 million that is required to pay SPMA members for retroactive and current wage adjustments through the end of 2022.” That would leave only $1.11m of salary savings on the table, and CM Herbold’s legislation has already allocated $1.15m of that. Yes, the math already doesn’t entirely add up there.
The SPMA contract has already been referred to Full Council so we can probably expect a vote on it sometime in June. More details on this when I have them.
At this week’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, council members heard a public safety presentation from neighborhood business districts. CM Lewis said he appreciated the support and advancement of some sort of alternative response model to supplement first response options. He sounded eager to work together with the business community to amplify this message and asked to promote it together publicly with the same level of enthusiasm that the business community promotes police staffing levels. He also mentioned SPD has spent $700k so far this year on overtime for traffic direction, a function that doesn’t need an armed officer with a badge.
Finally, Will Casey covered the brouhaha between the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and the Human Rights Commission. If you feel you could use a brush-up on the history of the consent decree and what the Human Rights Commission is attempting to do right now, this article will get you up to speed.
All of this leads to the obvious conclusion that no one mired in this controversy wanted to say on the record: The only reason for the City agencies involved in this process to try to intimidate the Human Rights Commission in this way would be to prevent Judge Robart from hearing what the commission had to say. And, given the congratulatory tone of the monitor’s latest preliminary report, it certainly sounds like the people responsible for delivering community feedback want the judge to hear that SPD is doing just fine – aside from that one outlier period of wantonly abusing people’s civil rights in the summer of 2020.

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The New Proposed SPMA Contract Is Out Read More »