Stephan Thomas

The Police Hiring Incentives Conversation Continues

Seattle News

Lots of news pieces of note to go over today!

Amy Sundberg
Good morning! Let’s take a listen to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, shall we? And I believe you can still sign up for public comment for this morning as well.
First, Seattle had a Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting on Tuesday, at which there was a robust conversation about the report on city-wide hiring incentives. The findings were that hiring incentives tend to act as a short-term fix to increase the applicant pool and have a limited impact on retention. Looking at the hiring incentives in place for SPD and the 911 call center from October 2021-January 2022, they did increase the applicant pool for emergency dispatchers at the call center, but SPD did not see any increase in candidates. Proponents of the hiring bonuses say four months wasn’t a long enough time to see if they would be effective, which would be more convincing if the 911 call center hadn’t seen some success in the same time period.
CM Nelson says we know these hiring incentives work because police departments in other cities use them and therefore more study isn’t needed. CM Herbold referenced a preliminary study done on 2019 SPD hiring incentives, in which only 1 in 5 applicants said the bonus had affected their decision to apply; she seemed more interested in the idea of offering relocation assistance for lateral hires. CM Lewis pointed out police departments across the country are having trouble hiring police officers and wanted to investigate whether any departments are seeing more hiring success in order to emulate them if so.
The conversation will continue at the next Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting on Tuesday, April 26 at 9:30am, at which you can sign up to give public comment. Last week there was discussion that there wouldn’t be a committee vote on any hiring bonus legislation until May 10, which would mean no full council vote until later in May. The conversation is especially critical given the city is still facing a $150m budget deficit for 2022, meaning every dollar counts.
Seattle has officially selected the Participatory Budgeting Project to administer its participatory budgeting program. If you remember, this organization suggested community voting would be unable to take place until early in 2023.
Court Monitor Oftelie released his Use of Force Preliminary Assessment, and the community engagement meeting regarding it was held on Tuesday evening. Carolyn Bick has two excellent Twitter threads regarding this report: the first one details issues they find in the report itself, and the second one is reporting from the meeting itself.
CE Bick
Reading through Federal Monitor @AntonioOftelie‘s prelim assessment of SPD’s uses of force. This item stuck out to me, because my recent story in the @SoSeaEmerald from last Thursday revealed the former OPA director may have retroactively approved an untrained force tactic. https://t.co/F8wgih0cTx
CE Bick
The @SeaCPC is now starting its Community Engagement Meeting, the last one where @AntonioOftelie will be present. This is the thread about that meeting.
“At the same time, the monitor points out that Black and Native American people continue to be disproportionately represented when force is used, based on census data, and that Asian and Black people make up an inordinate number of the victims of police shootings. However, Seattle police monitor Antonio Oftelie said any conclusions are complicated by the fact that race data was missing in almost a third of the reports overall, even though officers are required to provide it. Both the monitor and Seattle police officials said the failure by officers to report the data, as well as their supervisors to require it, was troubling.”
Meanwhile, Seattle’s Human Rights Commission has decided to pursue amicus status in the consent decree. This status would potentially allow them to file a brief that could contain “the stories and solutions of our residents and community stakeholders most affected.” The goal, as I understand it, is to ensure residents’ experiences are preserved as part of the official record. What other effect this could have on the consent decree, if any, or indeed, how Judge Robart would respond to such an idea, remains unclear. You can read more about this decision here.
If you’re interested in how Operation New Day is going, Paul Kiefer wrote an excellent update and overview over at Publicola. There have been few felony arrests at Third and Pine, and US Attorney Nick Brown has said finding any high-level drug dealers at that intersection is unlikely. Police officers have begun to refer cases to LEAD again, there is still disagreement about how and whether to continue to fund JustCARE, and Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell is talking about the possibility of opening smaller satellite police precincts in places like downtown and the ID.

King County News

Stephan Thomas, who appeared to be the most progressive of the existing candidates, has withdrawn from this year’s King County Prosecutor race. The primary will still take place in August.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday the three candidates for King County Sheriff met with the press, and you can read a little about them here. You can also attend forums to hear them yourself on Monday, April 18 at 6pm and Thursday, April 21 at 9am. Erica Barnett reported the following about candidate Interim Sheriff Cole-Tindall.
Erica C. Barnett
On a press call just now, we (or maybe just I!) learned that if interim King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall is appointed permanent sheriff, she’ll have to go back through the police academy, a 19-week commitment, during which @kcexec would likely have to appoint someone else.

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The Police Hiring Incentives Conversation Continues Read More »

WA Legislature Discusses Rollbacks to Last Year’s Public Safety Progress

WA State Legislature News

With the exception of HB 1756 regarding solitary confinement, most of the potentially helpful public safety bills are dead at this point in the session. Instead, advocates for more equitable public safety are having to fight against serious rollbacks to policy improvements won during last year’s session.
Perhaps most concerning of these is HB 2037, which would broaden the circumstances and lower the standards for when police can use force when someone flees the scene of a Terry stop. Among other things, this would likely increase police violence and racial profiling by police officers in Washington State. As the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability’s (WCPA) one-pager on this bill states:
Even under the standard that existed before HB 1310, there was too much police violence. Police got  away with harming people, and have killed people when they were not even committing a crime – when  they were in crisis, or when officers assumed criminality without evidence. HB 2037 would be a step  backwards from the prior standard. Thousands of people throughout Washington marched in the streets  to demand accountability in policing, not to give officers more leeway to harm people.
People Power Washington – Police Accountability is joining with WCPA to urge you to contact your representatives as soon as possible to urge them to reject HB 2037 unless it includes amendments approved by the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability (WCPA) that would protect vulnerable residents from police violence. You can find more details, scripts, and contact information for this action here.
Other bills currently still being discussed that would roll back hard-won progress in public safety are HB 1788 and SB 5919.

Seattle News

Journalist Erica C. Barnett shared another glaring breach of transparency during the Durkan administration yesterday. During a PDR request, she became aware of a “secret” seattle.gov email address former Mayor Durkan was using to conduct government-related business. Why this email address was never disclosed in the large amount of previous PDRs requested is an open and troubling question, and once again shows how deep a problem Seattle city government has with transparency to the public.
Last Friday Mayor Harrell held a press conference about public safety. He discussed the city’s “hot spot” strategy for reducing crime–nothing new for Seattle–and increasing the number of police officers in SPD. Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell spoke again about alternate safety responses, and it sounds like the new administration is in the middle of making plans for how these alternatives are going to be set up. Mayor Harrell also cited a specific book his public safety policy is influenced by: When Brute Force Fails, by Mark A.R. Kleiman. You can read more about the press conference here.
Also discussed was the increase of violence in Seattle last year, and especially of gun violence. This increase has been seen throughout the country over the past two years, in both blue and red areas and regardless of amount of police funding. This underscores the need for consistent and sufficient funding for community-based violence prevention programs in Seattle and King County; to learn more about what these programs can look like, you can read more in these recent articles here and here.
The CPC is continuing its community engagement meetings with consent decree Monitor Oftelie. The next one is tonight, 2/8, from 6-8pm. The subject is traffic stops, and you can find the full agenda and Zoom link here. While SPD has moved away from certain routine traffic stops such as stops for cracked windshields and expired tags, there is more progress that can be made in this area. You can find some suggestions for additional policy improvements in SB 5485, including halting stops for driving with a suspended license in the third degree, failure to dim lights, and failure to keep to the right.
In February of 2021, two officers fatally shot 44-year-old Derek Hayden, who was carrying a knife and threatening to kill himself. This continues a pattern of confrontations between SPD officers and people in crisis with knives that end in the death of the person in crisis. (You may remember, for example, the killing of Terry Caver by an SPD officer in 2020.) The two involved officers have been suspended for failing to de-escalate, but only for three days and one day respectively, even though, according to Paul Kiefer’s article in Publicola:
Both the officers’ supervisors and the OPA, however, determined that the officers made a series of disastrous assumptions and miscalculations that made the shooting almost inevitable.
The article went on to discuss the reaction of CM Lisa Herbold, the chair of Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee:
Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold criticized both the OPA’s ruling and the relatively minor punishments for Butler and Jared on Wednesday, arguing that one or both decisions exposed a dangerous gap in the city’s police accountability system. “When an officer’s out-of-policy actions contribute to the circumstances leading to someone’s death, our accountability system must hold them accountable,” she said of Myerberg’s decision to not fault Butler and Jared for the shooting itself.
Myerberg, of course, has left the OPA and gone on to become the Director of Public Safety for the City of Seattle.

King County News

We have a new candidate in the race for King County prosecutor: Stephan Thomas, who plans to bring a full-scale restorative justice framework to his work in the prosecutor’s office, aided by his experience and relationships with local groups like CHOOSE 180 and Community Passageways. In his recent interview with the South Seattle Emerald, he describes a clear vision of building new processes and systems based on the work of such groups. As he says, “What does moving forward look like? It looks like investing in the things that right now are in their infancy. Things like Community Passageways, things like CHOOSE 180, things like treatment on demand, things like housing first. Those are the things that we know work.”

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WA Legislature Discusses Rollbacks to Last Year’s Public Safety Progress Read More »