traffic stops

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” 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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The WA State Legislature session is heating up

WA State Legislature News

There are lots of bills that you can support this week! Hopefully having them listed all in one place will make your life a little bit easier.
First, HB 1756 (solitary confinement) has a hearing in the House Appropriations committee on tomorrow at 3:30pm.
Next is SB 5919, which would expand the use of high-speed vehicular pursuits, lower the expectations for officer de-escalation, and expand the use of physical force by officers. Fun times! People Power Washington – Police Accountability opposes this bill.
Next is SB 5485, which would end traffic stops for certain low-level violations. It has a hearing in the Senate Transportation committee on Thursday, February 3 at 4pm. It is a bit late in the session to get this bill through, but it’s still important to signal support.
Lastly, HB 1788 and HB 2037 are scheduled for an executive session in the House Public Safety Committee on Thursday, February 3rd at 10am. HB 1788 lowers the threshold for when officers can engage in high-speed vehicular chases, and HB 2037 would allow officers to use force anytime someone is fleeing from a Terry stop. People Power Washington – Police Accountability opposes these bills, as does the Washington Coalition of Police Accountability. You can email the members of the Public Safety committee to urge them to NOT to pass these two bills out of committee. Email addresses and a script are available here.
There is also a rally against all these rollbacks planned for Thursday, February 3 at the Capitol building in Olympia at 11am.

Seattle News

Even more information about what was going on behind the scenes during the summer 2020 protests was revealed by the Seattle Times this weekend. As the article states: “The summer of 2020 was an impactful period, yet many City Hall deliberations — such as work on a potential East Precinct transfer — happened behind closed doors, leaving journalists and residents in the dark.”
Apparently there was talk in the Mayor’s Office of transferring the East Precinct building to Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County. A draft resolution to make this happen was prepared for Mayor Durkan’s review. There is some disagreement as to whether FAS drafted the resolution independently due to its director’s “can-do spirit” or whether the Durkan administration contacted FAS to outline the process of transferring the property. Of course, in the end, SPD moved back into the East Precinct on July 1, but the fact that details of that time period keep coming to light more than a year and a half later is very disturbing and speaks to a pervasive lack of transparency between local government and Seattle residents.

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The WA State Legislature session is heating up Read More »

More Ruse News, Fewer Stops for Traffic Infractions

WA State Legislature News

First up today we have HB 1788, which would un-do reforms made last year with HB 1054 and revert to a previous standard of Reasonable Suspicion for vehicular pursuits. People Power Washington – Police Accountability OPPOSES this bill.
Next up we have several bills up for executive session in the House on this Thursday, January 20: HB1756 (solitary confinement), HB1507 (independent prosecutor), HB1735 (limiting the types of court orders where officers can use force), and HB1719 (clarifies use of certain less lethal weapons). You can email the members of the Public Safety committee to urge them to pass some or all of these bills out of committee. Email addresses and a script are available here.

Seattle News

Carolyn Bick has updated their story on the SPD ruse scandal and it’s worth another read:
According to Converge Media’s Jan. 12 Morning Update show, new Mayor Bruce Harrell said when questioned by Converge Media at a press conference that same morning that none of the EOC staff told him they knew about the ruse or had information about it.
“A couple of days ago, I was at the Office of Emergency Management, talking to its director and its assistant director … and we asked the question, ‘Did you know there was a ruse going on?‘” Harrell said. “As you know, OEM [Office of Emergency Management] was activated … and they said they did not know there was a ruse — which then, in our inquiry, raises some issues, that if they are making tactical decisions based on false information, that is problematic.”
They also included communications from SCSO (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office), including an email sent the day before the ruse took place, in which Sgt. Caterson wrote, “Thus, guys are very concerned about working down there with the current climate, the restrictions/bans, SPD policies and how they differ from our policies, etc. This is coupled with the fact that SPD officers are sitting around their respective precincts while other agencies are working their city.” This is relevant because the SPD Captain involved with planning the ruse later stated he did so after “all our mutual aid partners … had abandoned us.”
SPD Chief Diaz announced on Friday that SPD will no longer stop people for four minor traffic infractions:
  • not wearing a bicycle helmet
  • missing, expired, or improperly displayed registration
  • cracked windshields
  • items hanging from the rear-view mirror
None of these infractions pose a serious risk to safety, according to experts, and the Chief has said it’s possible other infractions will be added to the list in the future. It’s important to note this policy shift might not result in much of a change on the ground, as SPD staffing issues have already meant less policing in this area.
On Thursday Mayor Harrell announced he wants to create a third public safety department for unarmed responders who are well-trained in de-escalation techniques. While this brings up the question as to why this couldn’t simply be housed in the already existing CSCC (Community Safety and Communications Center), the location and name of such a department is less important than its getting stood up in the first place–as long as it remains independent from SPD.

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More Ruse News, Fewer Stops for Traffic Infractions Read More »