SPOG Labor Day protest

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

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More State Bills to Support, More News on the Proud Boys Ruse

WA State Legislature News

First up we have HB 1756, a bill to end (or at least strictly limit) solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is considered to be a form of torture and is currently still practiced in WA state.
We also have HB 1507, a bill to establish an independent prosecutor within the Office of the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute any alleged offense involving the use of deadly force by a police officer. This would avoid conflicts of interest with both police investigating police and county prosecutors investigating police with whom they work closely.

Seattle News

In the newest development of the 2020 SPD Proud Boys Hoax, reporter Carolyn Bick uncovered an email from the Seattle Public Utilities’ Emergency Manager in which he discusses an EOC (Emergency Operations Center) meeting he attended on June 8 and said, “SPD is preparing for a possible counter protest at Volunteer Park that could lead to significant volatility in the area. Intelligence reports that the Proud Boys group may be active in the area.” As Bick says, this means: “either other members of SPD were also in on the hoax, or they believed, at this point, that there really were Proud Boys in the City.” This has troubling implications, to say the least, especially since it appears city officials might have fallen for the SPD hoax as well.
Also troubling is that the OPA completely missed this email in their investigation of the Proud Boy ruse. Meanwhile, OPA Director Myerberg has been promoted to Public Safety Director for Seattle. It is unclear exactly how his role will mesh with that of Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell’s, but as Paul Kiefer reports in the Twitter thread below, it seems likely his duties will include contract negotiations with the police unions.
Paul Faruq Kiefer
At a press conference at city hall (happening right now), Mayor Harrell notes that he can’t make comments on the people responsible for the Proud Boys ruse that might influence the Loudermill hearing to which those officers are entitled before SPD determines discipline.

Seattle’s Public Safety committee discussed the Proud Boys ruse at their meeting on Tuesday:

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. The new committee: CM Herbold is chair, and also serving are CMs Lewis, Mosqueda, Petersen, and Nelson.
Also attending the meeting were Director Myerberg, CPC Director Grant, and Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell. Harrell spoke about the importance of focusing on accountability and transparency. CM Lewis reflected on the temporary restraining order issued by Judge Jones in the summer of 2020 in which he determined SPD was specifically targeting protesters and using harsher tactics and more use of force because of the subject of the protests. CM Lewis also pointed to a pattern of people in SPD high command not knowing what was going on.
CM Herbold asked if discipline for officers ought to be left to the Chief, questioning the OPA’s decision to issue findings of “allegation removed” for four named officers involved in the ruse who were further down the chain of command. No solid next steps were outlined in regards to next steps or how these severe accountability issues might be addressed.
Carolyn Bick has also followed up on the 2020 SPOG HQ Labor Day protest story, given the arrest of an involved man late last year. You may remember that in the OPA DCM on this case, there were three different suspects identified by various pieces of clothing. The man arrested, whose name is Moore, was “Tan Gloves” in that DCM. As Bick explains:
Thus, this complaint confirms exactly what the Emerald laid out in that story: Moore was never targeted for arrest, and the OPA incorrectly conflated Moore with what appear to be two other, separate people (though one was never caught on BWV, an issue discussed in said story).

Recent Headlines

More State Bills to Support, More News on the Proud Boys Ruse Read More »

Seattle’s Proposed Budget: More Cops, JumpStart power play

Seattle’s Proposed 2022 Budget

The Solidarity Budget held their kickoff of their budget recommendations over the weekend. From their website:
The 2022 Seattle Solidarity Budget is a collective call toward a city budget that centers the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable Seattle residents, responds with funding that is commensurate with the crises we are facing, and prioritizes collective care and liberation.
They go onto say, “Divesting from police systems and investing in Black communities goes hand in hand with climate justice work and housing justice work and Indigenous sovereignty.” Here is a good summary of many of their proposals. Full disclosure, I’m on the steering committee of one of the organizations that has endorsed the Solidarity Budget.
The Solidarity Budget launch was strategically timed, as the Mayor transmitted her 2022 proposed budget to the City Council yesterday.
First, some good news. The Mayor is honoring her commitment to continue investment in BIPOC communities, calling for an additional $30m for participatory budgeting (increasing the overall pot to $57m since the bulk of the 2021 investment remains unspent), $30m to the Equitable Communities Initiative (aka the Mayor’s task force), and $30m to the Strategic Investment Fund for acquisition of property located in high risk of displacement neighborhoods. She is also continuing the $10m investment in HSD for community safety capacity building. However, the Solidarity Budget asks for a $60m investment in participatory budgeting.
In terms of SPD, the Mayor proposes increasing their budget by around $2.5m. The total proposed SPD budget for 2022 is about 23% of the estimated available General Fund. She makes several other proposals:
  • the addition of 35 net sworn officers, which means hiring a total of 125 officers in 2022, for a total force of 1230 (in contrast, the Solidarity Budget suggests a total force of 750 officers)
  • $1.1m for bonuses for hiring new recruits and lateral transfers (another attempt after CM Pedersen’s similar amendments failed last week)
  • the addition of another team of CSOs (five officers and one supervisor); the CSOs (community service officers) want to remain within SPD instead of moving the CSCC, meaning expanding this program continues to grow SPD
  • SDOT and the Parks & Rec Department will both get more money to continue removing encampments
The Mayor has provided $2m funding for Triage One, to be housed in the fire department to perform wellness check calls. At this amount of funding, Triage One could only respond to a small fraction of the calls that even SPD agrees don’t need a sworn officer response (14%). And don’t forget the recent NICJR report that found 49% of 911 calls in Seattle don’t require a sworn officer response. However, there is no mention of funding any kind of alternate community emergency response program like CAHOOTS or STAR in the budget, in spite of the proven track record of such programs.
The budget committee presentation on Community Safety & Community Led Investments and SPD will be on Thursday, September 30 at 2pm. You can give public comment Thursday morning at 9:30am; sign-ups begin at 7:30am.

Jumpstart Funds and the Proposed Budget

As Erica Barnett reports in Publicola, another interesting facet of the Mayor’s proposed budget is the fact that she takes $148m from the new JumpStart tax fund to spend on her own priorities. This is in spite of the fact that:
The council adopted the payroll tax specifically to fund programs addressing housing, homelessness, and equity, and created a separate fund for JumpStart revenues with the intention that they couldn’t be used for other purposes—which is precisely what Durkan is proposing to do.
In 2022 Mayor Durkan is planning to use one-time federal relief funds to pay for the stated JumpStart tax purposes, but this plan will leave the new Mayor and Council in a pretty pickle with the 2023 budget, when they will either have to cut the programs funded by the reallocated money in 2022 or abandon their original JumpStart spending plan.
In addition, one in a volley of parting shots, she is proposing legislation that will allow future Mayors to use the JumpStart funds for almost any purpose.

More OPA Problems

Carolyn Bick is back with more excellent reporting on the OPA at the South Seattle Emerald, this time about more discrepancies in a OPA report about the 2020 Labor Day protest outside SPOG HQ. It gets pretty convoluted, so here are some main takeaways:
  • Director Myerberg told the Emerald back in June that he was planning to finalize the Director’s Certification Memo (DCM) for the case in early July, but the DCM had actually been finalized back in April.
  • The DCM appears to craft a narrative of the protest not supported by the evidence that involves conflating three different individuals in easily distinguishable dress and has many discrepancies with various video sources.
  • The narrative tells a story of the protest being broken up in order to arrest a specific person with Molotov cocktails rather than the protest being stopped for no legal reason.
  • You may remember that a different OPA report about this same protest received a partial certification from the OIG because “OIG finds that the deficiencies of the investigation with respect to thoroughness and objectivity cannot be remedied.”
  • You might also remember the resignation of an OIG employee who made an ethics complaint against top staff within the OIG; Bick reports: “The apparent inaccuracies identified in the aforementioned OIG memo included in the ethics complaint start almost at the very beginning of the 35-page DCM.”
Perhaps most damning is this quote from Carolyn Bick’s article:
This throws into question the claim that SPD’s aim was not to disperse the crowd but only to target one person allegedly carrying a dangerous weapon for arrest.
However, the OPA appears to ignore this and, further, appears to convey a specific reason for doing so: The OPA writes in the DCM that it “declines” to reach a conclusion that, under the Federal Consent Decree, would legally bar SPD from policing demonstrations, because the OPA claims that these protest situations could become dangerous without police. For that reason, the OPA writes, it will not sustain this allegation.
It is unclear how this conclusion aligns with the Consent Decree, as OPA’s purpose is to hold SPD and its officers to account.
The above quotation clearly suggests the OPA is failing in its duty to hold SPD and its officers accountable. Further, it suggests that had the OPA followed the actual evidence of the case, SPD would be prevented from policing demonstrations in future because of their failure to comply with proper policing standards. Therefore, the OPA is protecting SPD and its officers not only from discipline for misconduct but also from consequences from the consent decree. It is difficult to see how the OPA can maintain community trust in the face of such actions.

Recent Headlines and News of Note

Amy Sundberg
Good morning! It’s Monday and time for this week’s Seattle Council Briefing. CM Juarez isn’t feeling well enough to be here this morning.
Seattle Budget Headlines
Seattle mayor proposes increasing police staffing in 2022 budget | Crosscut

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2022 budget plan would add police, allocate federal aid to housing | The Seattle Times

Seattle’s Proposed Budget: More Cops, JumpStart power play Read More »