street racing

SPD Expects More Separations than Hires for Another Year, in Spite of Huge Raises

Seattle News:

First off, my piece on gun violence, student mental health, and the debate on whether student resource officers should return to Seattle schools was published in The Urbanist this week. The Seattle Times also ran an interesting piece reviewing ideas for improving safety in schools.

Last Friday Councilmember Cathy Moore asked interim SPD Chief Sue Rahr to place two members of SPD command staff currently under criminal investigation on leave: Assistant Chief Tyrone Davis and Deputy Chief Eric Barden. Davis is under investigation for alleged sexual assault and Barden is under investigation for alleged domestic violence. As King 5 reported: “Multiple law enforcement experts who spoke with KING 5 called it unusual for an officer under criminal investigation not to be placed on leave.” However, Rahr has said she hasn’t seen substantiated evidence to justify placing either man on leave at this time.

SPD has announced it will end the year with a net loss of officers once again. So far this year, SPD has experienced 40 departures and hired 15 new officers. Their revised projection says there will be 918 deployable officers at the end of 2024. 

Harrell’s office released an interesting statement to KOMO regarding this news: “It is incredibly disappointing that the PSCSC concluded that [the] Public Safety Test (PST) is not a valid exam option for the City of Seattle and did not complete an independent validation study to determine if another entry-level exam would meet our needs and maintain high standards. The PSCSC report indicates that PST declined to participate in their review, yet the PSCSC report also concludes that the PST test is flawed despite this information gap and despite PST expressing interest in partnering with Seattle. We reject PSCSC’s unsubstantiated conclusions.”

This statement appears to exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of the report PSCSC released last week, which stated that PST asked not to be considered as a testing vendor for Seattle. Furthermore, the PST did participate in some preliminary parts of the review.. And the reasons why the PSCSC recommends against the PST test are clear-cut: a different custom PST test would have to be developed for SPD specifically, which would mean officer candidates would still not be able to submit the results of the same PST they would be taking for smaller jurisdictions. In addition, there are significant legal difficulties with Seattle offering two different tests with such different pass rates. 

That being said, Public Safety Chair Bob Kettle is also upset about the PSCSC report, beginning this week’s public safety committee meeting with remarks about “misleading media reports” regarding the council’s attempts to replace the current police entrance exam with a different exam with a higher pass rate. As reported by PubliCola, “Kettle said he liked the idea of ranking applicants by their test scores and hiring only highly ranked applicants, but added that the city no longer has that luxury because the previous council drove down police applications.”

PubliCola goes on to point out the lower staffing at police departments is a nationwide trend. The Seattle community needs to consider whether we are willing to significantly lower standards for police officers because of this trend.

At the public safety committee meeting this week, councilmembers also discussed Seattle waterways safety and City Attorney Ann Davison’s proposed legislation instituting a $500 fine for street racing.

In legal news, Auburn officer Jeffrey Nelson was found guilty of murder and assault for shooting Jesse Sarey. He is the first police officer in Washington state to be found guilty of murder for on-duty actions. And the city of Seattle must pay $680,000 to four people arrested for writing chalk graffiti onto temporary concrete barricades outside SPD’s Western Precinct. As PubliCola reported:

 ““Based on the evidence presented at trial, the jury found the defendants arrested and booked the plaintiffs because of the content or viewpoint of their speech,” an attorney for the four plaintiffs, Braden Pence, said in a statement. “We hope this verdict will be a warning and a lesson to police officers and other government officials across the country who violate the First Amendment—that they are and will be held accountable when they arrest and jail people for protected speech.””

On Wednesday, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the CARE pilot program of dual dispatch alternative response will expand, with plans to hire 18 new responders and 3 supervisors. This expansion is being partially paid for by a federal grant. More on this soon. 

Erica C. Barnett of PubliCola wrote about how the new council hasn’t passed a single substantial piece of legislation since taking office at the beginning of January. 

King County and Washington State News:

King County’s Law and Justice committee met on Wednesday to discuss Councilmember Reagan Dunn’s motion declaring the King County Council’s intention to maintain operations at the county’s youth jail. Councilmember Jorge Barón proposed a striking amendment that states the King County Council intends to maintain operations of the youth jail until viable alternatives become operational, supports priorities that emerged from the Care & Closure work, and supports continued engagement with Executive Dow Constantine around this work. 

The committee didn’t have three votes to move anything forward. Councilmember Dunn opposed the motion to table, but Councilmember Claudia Balducci said it was important to be deliberate. Councilmembers Balducci, Barón, and Dembowski voted to table this discussion until the next meeting. 

Also at the meeting, the Office of Law Enforcement (OLEO) presented on their 2023 annual report.

After being rolled out almost two years ago, Washington State’s 988 is answering 91% of calls received. This is slightly better than the national average of 88%.

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Seattle City Council Pushed for Easier Police Officer Entrance Exam that the Company Doesn’t Even Want to Provide

Seattle News:

Seattle City Council voted to pass the expansion of license plate readers (ALPRs). Currently installed in 11 of SPD’s vehicles, the expansion will lead to 360 of SPD’s vehicles having ALPRs. This vote took place in spite of the fact that 3 of the 9 councilmembers were not present at the meeting. Councilmember Cathy Moore asked for a delay of the vote but received no support from her colleagues. It sounds like she intends to abandon her legislation limiting data retention to 48 hours due to the opposition for this data security  measure from the majority of the Council. 

In spite of a few amendments, and without a 48-hour retention limitation, privacy concerns with this expansion still abound, especially for those seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare and undocumented immigrants. At the council meeting, Councilmember Bob Kettle apparently stated that folks are not coming to Washington State for abortions, a statement that is patently untrue.

The Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) released their report on police officer entrance exams this week. The recommendation about the test remains the same, that Seattle should continue to use the NTN test as opposed to the PST test (that has a significantly higher pass rate). Of particular note, PST asked to not be considered as a testing vendor for Seattle. 

It is also clear that even if PST was willing to work with Seattle (which they are not), their standard test used by smaller agencies in the region would be inappropriate for SPD, and a new test would need to be developed. This would mean that law enforcement applicants would still have to take a separate test to be considered as an SPD officer, which defeats the stated purpose for switching tests. There are also significant legal difficulties involved with Seattle offering both the NTN and PST tests, which would prevent candidates from being ranked equitably and fairly based on their test results, especially given the large difference in pass rate between the tests (NTN has a 73% pass rate while PST has a 90% pass rate). 

Why the City Council spent so much time pushing for a test that the provider doesn’t even want to provide is an interesting question, particularly given the glaring problems with SPD’s backgrounding process that have come to light over the past several months due to the case of Officer Kevin Dave. PubliCola has now reported that Dave, who struck and killed Jaahnavi Kandula last year, did not have a valid Washington State driver’s license at the time of the collision. 

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison announced legislation that would bring Seattle into line with new state law around the definition of street racing. However, her legislation would also institute a $500 fine, which is not required by state law. This legislation will be discussed at the public safety committee meeting this coming Tuesday.

Deputy central staff director Aly Pennucci will be leaving the city after 11 years, to become one of two deputy county executives in Whatcom County. Following Julie Dingley’s departure as director of the city’s budget office, this feels like a painful brain drain before the city has to grapple with the 2025 budget deficit. Readers will remember that Esther Handy was also removed earlier this year from her position as head of Central Staff.

PubliCola reported on the hiring of a new head of the Council’s communications office, Brad Harwood, who has an interesting political past, including being quoted as a spokesperson for the state Republican party.

Former Senior Deputy Mayor (and niece to Mayor Bruce Harrell) Monisha Harrell was pulled over for a traffic stop on Sunday, June 16 that she called “frightening”, because of her car having a license plate cover:

“Harrell, who is Black, said the stop was a clear example of the kind of racial profiling the Seattle Police Department pledged to reduce in 2022, when the department adopted a new policy barring police stops for some minor violations, including missing registration stickers and obscured license tabs.

“Despite the gestures SPD has made toward ending racial profiling, Harrell said, it seems like nothing has changed. “We just went through this whole [process of asking], can we do things to minimize unnecessary stops … because it increases the rate of violence between people and law enforcement,” she said. “Sandra Bland,” the Texas woman who died in a jail cell in 2015 after police pulled her over for a minor traffic violation, “was not that long ago. … I get ‘two steps forward, one step back,’ but I cannot explain to you how far back this goes.””

Data collected by SPD themselves shows they continue to struggle with racial disparity in their stops and frisks, with Black and Indigenous community members five times to seven times more likely to get stopped and six times to seven times more likely to be frisked than White community members. 1 out of every 20 Terry stops conducted by SPD is unconstitutional.  

Former SPD Chief Adrian Diaz came out as gay this week in an interview with conservative talk show host Jason Rantz. He appears to be using this news as a defense against allegations against him of sexual harassment, discrimination, and creating a hostile work environment for Black and women officers. He is also now up for a job as Chief of Police in Austin, Texas.

But as PubliCola reported this week, “several current and former Seattle Police Department officers say Diaz established a “dictatorship” at the department in which officers who speak out against the chief and an inner circle of leadership have been demoted or subject to retaliatory investigations.” It is important to note that this behavior, in addition to the previously stated allegations, is not impossible just because a person is gay.

After the recent shooting and death of a student at Garfield High School, there are discussions about whether school resources officers (SROs) should be put back into Seattle schools. One parent wrote an op-ed in The Stranger about the poor experience her son had with Garfield’s SRO back before they were removed from schools in 2020.

Jail News:

Another person in custody at the SCORE jail in Des Moines died on May 9, PubliCola reported. This is the 6th death since March 2023 and the second death in the last two months. This is a very high rate of deaths for a jail, and particularly concerning given ongoing discussions in Seattle to contract with SCORE.

Crosscut reported on the “grim conditions” at the Patricia H. Clark Children & Family Justice Center–the King County youth jail. Staffing shortages there continue to impact youths’ access to programming, including educational programs and enrichment sessions. Youth go long periods without visitors (including attorneys) and are worried about the quality of their drinking water. As I reported in February, this youth jail was originally slated to be closed by 2025, but Executive Dow Constantine has since walked back this commitment, saying it will now be closed by 2028 at the earliest. 

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