SPMA

Court Ruling Yet Another Example of SPD’s Racial Bias in Action

Personal News:

We’ll dive into the news of the week in just a moment, but I did want to take the opportunity to mention I had a book come out last week! I was supposed to write about it in last week’s newsletter, but I was so distracted by learning that the new drug criminalization legislation was almost exactly the same as the previous version that I forgot to include it.

Book cover of TO TRAVEL THE STARS with a couple dancing in close embrace with a starry space background

TO TRAVEL THE STARS is a Young Adult science fiction novel that is a retelling of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE in space. If that sounds appealing either to yourself or a teenager in your life, I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy.

Seattle News:

The Seattle Times reports: “A federal judge has found evidence Seattle police stopped and detained a Black delivery driver at gunpoint because of his race, then illegally searched his trunk in a 2020 incident detailed in a civil rights lawsuit now headed for trial.” Incidentally, SPD doesn’t have a policy for what is known as a “high-risk vehicle stop” as took place in this incident, and when the OPA suggested SPD develop one, Chief Diaz refused. This ruling means the City has been found liable for the illegal search, and the trial would determine the amount of damages owed.

Captain Brown, one of the officers named in the case and the new acting commander of the South Precinct, recently wrote a letter of his expectations to his officers and supervisors. Erica C. Barnett at Publicola reported that this letter “included an exhortation to “take care of our own” by handling “minor misconduct” internally, rather than reporting it to the Office of Police Accountability. The letter also said officers should view themselves as forces of “good” whose job is to “intervene and stop evil” in the world.” When questioned about the letter, Brown said he didn’t intend to disparage the OPA. 

Brown has been the subject of 14 complaints since 2015. The OPA investigated the case involving the Black delivery driver detailed above and dismissed the racial bias complaint against Brown as unfounded, a decision the federal judge obviously disagreed with. This discrepancy between the OPA’s findings and the Judge’s ruling is another blow to the legitimacy of Seattle’s accountability system.

Seattle’s three accountability bodies all sent representatives to the joint Public Safety and Human Services committee and the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) public hearing on Tuesday night about expectations around a new Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) contract. The purpose of the meeting is for the LRPC to consider the public’s input before establishing bargaining parameters. The old SPMA contract expires at the end of this year, and a public hearing must be held at least 90 days before the City and the SPMA enter negotiations.

The public meeting was sparsely attended, with many commenters noting the insufficient amount of notice they received that the meeting was taking place and one commenter suggesting the hearing was “performative and pointless.” The Community Police Commission (CPC) had a few requests for the Council to consider, including details around the 180-day clock for OPA investigations, how long and in what situations personnel files should be preserved, and reform to secondary employment of officers, while also noting their concern about the biased culture prevalent within SPD. 

Still centered in conversation was the 2017 police accountability ordinance that has never been fully implemented due to conflicts with the SPMA and SPOG contracts. Unfortunately this failure has sometimes meant a continued focus over the past several years on trying to implement this ordinance instead of pushing for greater gains or other ways in which public safety in Seattle might become more equitable.

There will be a special meeting of the Public Safety and Human Services committee on Monday, August 14th at 2pm to discuss the new drug criminalization legislation. Now is the perfect time to email your councilmembers or plan to give public comment. I’ve already written at length about some of the problems with this legislation the last time it was introduced in early June. BJ Last has a new op-ed in The Stranger about some of the budgetary concerns with this bill.

The bill won’t be voted on in Full Council until sometime in September after the City Council’s two-week summer recess from August 21 to September 4.

The Revenue Stabilization Workgroup has issued a final report on options for further City revenue and will be delivering a presentation on Thursday, August 10th to the Finance and Housing committee. Among the options identified for revenue are increasing the Jumpstart payroll tax, instituting a city-level capital gains tax, and instituting a high CEO pay ratio tax. 

I particularly recommend you check out the Transit Riders Union’s Revenue Options Report, which outlines 26 different revenue options and how to make them more progressive. For example, the City could institute a flat 1% income tax, which would not be inherently progressive, but by pairing this tax with tax credits, rebates, or a basic income program, it could be made more progressive.

The mid-year supplemental budget passed out of Full Council yesterday. The package includes $1 million to expand opioid addiction treatment in Pioneer Square and $1.6 million to the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC) to hire new staff for their dual dispatch pilot.

A state appeals court issued a stay that will allow Seattle to continue its practice of no-notice sweeps–for now.

The Public Safety and Human Services committee met this week and heard reports from the Seattle Community Safety Initiative (SCSI) and the King County Regional Approach to Gun Violence. The Regional Peacekeepers Collective (RPCK) is expanding into Skyway, as well as adding service hubs in Kent and Burien.

Recent Headlines:

Court Ruling Yet Another Example of SPD’s Racial Bias in Action Read More »

The Seattle War on Drugs Redux

Seattle News:

Everyone is talking about the primary results, with some commentators claiming a progressive victory and other publications saying November looks dire for progressives. As always, a strong push to turn out the vote is likely to favor progressives, who will also need to keep fundraising to match the big business dollars pouring into their moderate opponents’ coffers.

Mayor Harrell has announced new “War on Drugs” legislation. As Erica C. Barnett in Publicola reports (bold-faced mine):

So what does the bill actually do? Exactly what an earlier version of the bill, which the council rejected 5-4, would have done: Empower City Attorney Ann Davison to prosecute people for simple drug possession or for using drugs, except alcohol and marijuana, in public. The substantive portion of the bill, which comes after nearly six pages of nonbinding whereas clauses and statements of fact, is identical to the previous proposal.”

CM Lewis, who voted against the earlier, very similar bill back in June, has said he now plans to co-sponsor it. You can’t make stuff like this up.

He told The Stranger “his time on the Mayor’s workgroup assured him the City intends to front-load treatment rather than send people to jail.” However, the new legislation would not require front-loading treatment, and much of how the system would work in practice would be up to the discretion of the City Attorney–the same City Attorney who unilaterally shut down Community Court only a few short months ago. As The Stranger reported:

“King County Public Defenders Union President Molly Gilbert wanted to empower Seattle Municipal Court judges to divert cases when cops arrest someone, but instead the bill leaves all the power to dismiss charges in the hands of the City Attorney.”

Much of the reporting on this legislation has emphasized the Mayor’s $27 million dollar plan. Not only are none of these new dollars, it is critical to emphasize $20 million of this amount is expected from an opioid lawsuit settlement that will be paid over the next 18 years, a detail that demands scrutiny. Calling this a $27 million plan seems to be a rhetorical hat trick bordering dangerously close to dishonesty, given it will only result in an additional investment of $1.15 million per year for programming.

According to the press release, the remaining $7 million will go “toward capital investments in facilities to provide services such as post-overdose care, opioid medication delivery, health hub services, long-term care management, and drop-in support.”

CM Herbold has said she will hear this legislation in the Public Safety and Human Services committee before the summer recess (August 21 – September 4), which would mean it would have to be on the agenda next Tuesday, August 8.

Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee and the Select Labor Committee is having a special hearing at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, August 8 to hear an introduction to collective bargaining with the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA), followed by a period of public comment. The SPMA represents fewer than 100 SPD lieutenants and captains, making it much smaller than the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). The latest SPMA contract was approved last June and lasts through the end of 2023. The City is required to provide a public hearing at least 90 days before opening negotiations with the SPMA to allow the public to weigh in on what should be included in the new contract. 

The SPMA contract is often considered to set the stage for what is possible in the SPOG contract, as SPOG tends to take a more hardline approach to contract negotiations. One unfortunate aspect of both of these contracts is that they tend to linger for years after their expiration before a new contract is agreed upon, creating the necessity for a large dollar amount going towards back pay. While most labor unions do negotiate for back pay should their negotiations run long, this would normally only be for a relatively short period of time (for example, six months). Compare this to the more than two and half years of back pay in play within the SPOG contract currently being negotiated, a number that could easily grow to three or even three and a half years. The evergreen nature of these police guild contracts doesn’t incentivize the guilds to come to an agreement with the City.

On the morning of Thursday, August 10 at the Finance and Housing committee meeting, the Progressive Revenue Stabilization Workgroup will issue its recommendations. Given the $200 million gap between 2025’s projected revenue and expenditures, it behooves the City to consider any options presented very seriously indeed.

King County News:

A fight involving eight kids broke out at King County’s youth jail last week, leading to more room time for kids in the jail this past weekend. Executive Constantine has committed to closing this jail by 2025, but while the daily average population had dropped to 15 in 2021, that number started to creep back up in 2022 and is now up to 34.7. The population the day of the fight was 41. The average length of stay per kid has also increased. The King County Executive Spokesperson Chase Gallagher says the plan to close the jail remains on schedule.

Recent Headlines:

The Seattle War on Drugs Redux Read More »

The OPA is Back in the News

OPA News

The South Seattle Emerald is currently conducting a survey asking for readers’ priorities for the new OPA Director, and I highly encourage you to fill it out and be active in this process.
Yesterday morning at the CPC meeting we learned that Director of Public Safety (and former OPA Director) Andrew Myerberg will be shepherding the process of finding the new OPA Director. As Bick also helpfully reminds us in the below thread, Myerberg is currently under investigation by an outside organization hired by the City. It is safe to say that many, including some CPC commissioners, are very unhappy at the large role Myerberg is slated to play in selecting his successor.
CE Bick
Interesting new tidbit from this morning’s @SeaCPC meeting: according to Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell (@RuleSeven) former @SeattleOPA dir. Andrew Myerberg — now dir. of public safety — will be “shepherding” important aspects of the OPA dir. search.
Speaking of Myerberg, Carolyn Bick has released two more articles in their series shining a light on problems with the OPA’s investigation of the 2020 Labor Day protest at SPOG HQ:
Part 1: SPOG Officers ‘Were Ready to Entertain Ourselves’: 2020 Labor Day Protest
Part 2: OPA Interviews Suggest Former OPA Dir. Retroactively Ok’d Out-of-Policy Force Tactic
The Cased Closed Summary (CCS) of this case was finally released back in February of this year. Interestingly, the date on the CCS is April 8, 2021, which begs the question of why it took ten months to make this document public. And as Bick writes at the beginning of Part 1: “Though some of the narrative has been corrected — thus confirming several of the concerns that the whistleblower noted and what the Emerald wrote — this two-part article will help readers understand the many flaws that remain and why the OPA’s claims in the CCS regarding the auditor’s partial certification do not appear to accurately represent the totality of the evidence available that the OPA investigator in charge of this investigation appears to have ignored.”
They continue by highlighting several omissions, weaknesses, and discrepancies in how this case was handled. Following are a few additional key quotations from Part 2. Hendry was the lead OPA investigator on the case.
“In reviewing the interviews Hendry did conduct, not only do all of the officers give false information — false information that the OPA’s DCM appears to try to support, as discussed in the Emerald’s first story on this matter — but it appears that Hendry asked these officers leading questions. The OPA itself admits to these leading questions. When these officers did not give the answers that Hendry appears to have wanted, he allowed the SPOG representatives who were present to effectively give interviews in place of the officers, sometimes at great length.”
“…based on statements from several officers within these OPA interviews, it appears that former OPA Dir. Andrew Myerberg retroactively OK’d the untrained tactic of using the front tires of bicycles as a means to move people and for crowd control directly in response to the events of the 2020 Labor Day protest and the fact that officers used their bikes to repeatedly shove and strike protesters during that event.”
Bick’s reporting continues to highlight the broken nature of Seattle’s current accountability system.

Seattle News

At this week’s Council Briefing, council members discussed the timing for the legislation related to hiring bonuses for SPD officers. This legislation is currently on the agenda for the April 26th Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting (not the 4/12 meeting, as Sarah Nelson will not be present then), and CM Nelson said she expected a committee vote on the issue at the subsequent Public Safety committee meeting on May 10. That would mean a possible Full Council vote on Tuesday, May 17 at the earliest. So mark your calendars now! This legislation would lift the proviso on SPD salary savings and allow SPD to spend this money on hiring bonuses that may not work as designed. Meanwhile, the City still hasn’t budgeted sufficient funds for any significant alternate 911 response program.
At yesterday morning’s CPC meeting, we also learned that the SPMA (Seattle Police Management Association) bargaining process is in its final stages, so it will be interesting to see that contract and how it may have changed from previous contracts.
We also have an interesting analysis from Paul Kiefer–police accountability reporter extraordinaire slated to soon leave Seattle and begin reporting in Delaware–of OPA’s just-released 2021 annual report. Nearly 1,500 misconduct allegations were brought against SPD officers last year, of which almost 20% were regarding unprofessional behavior. Concerns about SPD professionalism tend to avoid drawing much attention from the oversight bodies, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. The next most common complaint type was regarding bias. Complaints about use of force fell by more than half from 2020, most likely because of the lack of large-scale protests in 2021. A total four SPD officers were fired in 2021.
Meanwhile, in Denver, Colorado, the STAR program that dispatches mental health teams to answer 911 calls has gone so well, the city is massively expanding it. Similar programs are beginning in other Colorado cities as well. While people can call a non-emergency number and specifically request STAR, the 911 dispatchers in Denver are trained to triage STAR calls and dispatch as appropriate. It is noteworthy that since the program began in June 2020, STAR has never called for police backup due to a safety issue, which suggests it’s quite possible to develop a dispatching protocol that works well.
One of the criticisms levied against considering the CAHOOTS model for Seattle is that Eugene, Oregon is a much smaller city. Denver, however, is of a very similar size to Seattle, which makes its success with this program that much more compelling for local advocates of alternate emergency response. That being said, Seattle currently still has no concrete plans for instituting its own STAR-like mental health response program that is independent from the police.
A preview for next week: not only do we have the regular Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting on Tuesday morning 4/12, but on Tuesday evening from 6-8pm is the last CPC community engagement session with Court Monitor Oftelie, during which he will present his assessment on SPD use of force and crowd control. If you would like to weigh in on your opinion about SPD use of force and crowd control tactics, you can sign up to attend this virtual meeting here.

King County News

Today Dow Constantine announced the three finalists for King County Sheriff: King County interim Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall; Charles Kimble, Killeen, Texas chief of police; and Reginald Moorman, an Atlanta Police Department major. There will be two virtual forums to give the public a chance to meet these candidates; the first is on Monday, April 18 at 6pm and the second is on Thursday, April 21 at 9am. The final decision on the Sheriff is slated to be made by early May.

Redmond News

The City of Redmond is discussing a public safety levy that is being considered for the November ballot. The bulk of this proposed property tax will fund the hiring of more police officers and fire fighters in Redmond, as well as pay for body-worn cameras, with a slight nod towards Mobile Integrated Health and hiring one additional mental health professional co-responder.
Community members of Redmond are being encouraged to take a questionnaire by April 15 to weigh in on their opinions about this levy. There are also two remaining virtual Community Sounding Board meetings you can attend, one later in April and one in May.

Recent Headlines

Reforming Laws From Behind Bars - YES! Magazine

The OPA is Back in the News Read More »

A Time of Big Change for Seattle

As always, there’s a lot going on! Let’s dive right in.

Primary Results

Aligning with the conventional wisdom that more progressive votes tend to be in the later vote counts, the progressives on the ballot have benefited from a boost in numbers as we get closer to a complete ballot count. And in big news, Seattle City Attorney incumbent Pete Holmes conceded.
The numbers as of yesterday morning:
Seattle CC Position 8: CM Mosqueda has 59.39% of the vote.
Seattle CC Position 9: Nikkita Oliver has 40.16% and Sara Nelson has 39.5% of the vote.
Seattle City Attorney: Nicole Thomas-Kennedy has 36.35% and Ann Davison has 32.72% of the vote.
Seattle Mayor: Bruce Harrell has 34.05% and M. Lorena González has 32.1% of the vote.
King County Executive: Dow Constantine has 51.92% and Joe Nguyen has 32.53% of the vote.
Ballot Drop Update: Abolitionist Nikkita Oliver Now Leads Citywide City Council Race - Slog - The Stranger

Seattle Meetings

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing! They are getting a bit of a late start today.
At this week’s Seattle Council Briefing, CM Morales said the Office of Civil Rights has created a new Community Investments division from which to run participatory budgeting. They now have a PB page on their website and they’ve posted to hire three new staff members for this division. CM Morales hopes the City begins doing participatory budgeting as a matter of course as a normal part of their budgeting season.
Also remember that next Tuesday, August 17 at 9:30am, the Finance and Housing committee will meet to vote on the supplemental budget, which will include some amendments related to SPD’s budget. There will be time at the beginning of the meeting to give public comment. I’ll write more about these amendments once they become available.
Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. CM Sawant won’t be attending; CP González, CM Lewis, CM Morales, CM Herbold are present. CM Mosqueda is also present.
This week’s Public Safety committee meeting was a long one! The CMs voted legislation out of committee that will move the parking enforcement officers out of SPD and into SDOT. You may remember there was an open question as to whether they would be moved to SDOT or the new CSCC. The rank and file PEOs wanted to be moved to the CSCC, while the supervisors and the Mayor wanted them to be moved to SDOT. Apparently the supervisors and Mayor won this argument. This will receive a final vote by the Full Council next week.
HSD then gave a presentation on the recent RFP process for allocating the $12m in community safety capacity building. You can see the presentation here. CM Morales pointed out this is only one time funding and said she’s interested in working on developing more sustainable programming in this vein.
Finally the Q2 SPD Budgeting and Staffing report was given by Central Staff and two members of SPD. CM Herbold pressed SPD more than once on why they are spending money in areas the Council hasn’t yet authorized. SPD presented their budget proposal for spending the $15.3m in estimated salary savings for the year. Some of this proposal will probably show up in the previously mentioned supplemental budget amendments being discussed next week. One area of disagreement was about the CSOs; CMs seem interested in the idea of moving the CSOs from SPD into the CSCC, while SPD wants to retain the CSOs and credits the success of the unit to their relationship with the sworn officers.
SPD anticipates another 60 separations by the end of the year, meaning there would be 160 separations total in 2021. There are also 108 officers who aren’t currently deployable. They spent some time discussing the morale issue at SPD, with several CMs thanking the police officers who have stayed for their service. CP González asked some pointed questions about specific retention strategies currently being discussed, and expressed that the lack of SPD’s ability to retain their officers is a management problem and something the Executive’s office hasn’t spent enough time addressing. You can read more about her exchange with SPD’s Dr. Fisher here.
It also came out that the new automated time keeping system, originally meant to be rolled out in Q2, was placed “on hold” after Seattle IT determined it hadn’t been sufficiently tested. They are scheduled to have a kick-off “soon” to determine where they left off and establish a new timeline, which begs the question why they put it on hold in the first place instead of continuing to move forward. This new technology is not scoped for tracking off-duty work, although it could theoretically do so, something CM Herbold indicated interest in.

Other Seattle News

In yet another blow to the integrity of Seattle’s police accountability system, an OIG auditor resigned as investigations supervisor, making a formal ethics complaint to the City alleging that the OIG is failing to provide independent oversight of the OPA, as well as having a pattern of concealing the truth and avoiding public disclosure request requirements. The letter also references a personal relationship between Deputy IG Amy Tsai at the OIG and OPA Director Myerberg as the source for the OIG’s reluctance to push back against the OPA . This story was broken by Carolyn Bick in the South Seattle Emerald and is well worth the read. At this week’s Council Briefing, CM Herbold said she was going to consult with the Ethics and Elections Commission and Seattle HR as to how to review these concerns.
As Kevin Schofield writes, at yesterday’s consent decree hearing, Judge Robart “wasted little time in eviscerating” the CPC’s attorney Edgar Sargent, turning down the CPC’s request to have the Police Monitor become more involved in the SPOG contract negotiations and OPA investigations. Robart also “noted the big changes underway: elections for Mayor, City Attorney (“candidates from left and right”), City Council; collective bargaining underway; a police department budget “threatened with abolition and different levels of cuts”; and a Mayor who doesn’t want to tie the hands of the next mayor and thus is postponing significant decisions — including hiring a new permanent police chief.” It is a big time of change for Seattle, and November’s election will play a prominent role in deciding how things proceed.
Pete Holmes reported that SPMA negotiations are quite far along, with the parties in mediation over some issues, and that for SPOG negotiations, the Labor Relations Policy Committee is close to finalizing the bargaining parameters. It’s worth noting that even if the parameters are finalized soon, most of the SPOG negotiation will be presided over by a different Mayor and City Attorney.
ACLU Washington recently released a blog post analyzing Seattle’s consent decree and concluding that it doesn’t block Seattle from engaging in a divest and reinvest strategy. “An analysis of the original consent decree documents demonstrates there is no explicit prohibition on making significant changes to the SPD budget. The consent decree does not make any part of the budget untouchable nor does it mandate particular staffing or the existence of certain units and there is nothing in the Consent Decree to indicate that the units must be SPD units.” It doesn’t seem Judge Robart is in complete agreement with this; although he supports scaling up Health One and alternate 911 response, he also wants the City to continue to improve SPD, assumedly by investing its dollars into it.
Chief Diaz terminated the two SPD officers who were present at the DC insurrection on January 6. They are allowed to appeal this termination. The other four SPD officers who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally aren’t receiving any discipline.
SPOG is objecting to the new COVID vaccine mandate for city employees, saying the adoption date won’t allow sufficient time to bargain the impacts of it (for example, bargaining for payment for receiving the vaccine, getting paid time off for any vaccine side effects, etc.) SPOG further says this mandate might drive more officers to leave the department.

Meanwhile, in Washington State….

Melissa Santos recently published an investigation in Crosscut finding that at least 22 police officers in Washington state who have landed on the Brady list have still been able to secure employment in law enforcement at other departments. There is some disagreement whether new laws passed this year in the state legislature apply retroactively. The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, which licenses police officers, told Crosscut “it does not plan to go back in time to try to suspend or revoke officers’ certifications for past offenses. Commission spokesperson Megan Saunders wrote in an email that the state attorney general’s office has advised that the new law should not apply retroactively.”

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More police presence won't save communities. Defunding police will.

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