Unified Care Team

SPD Breaks the Law about Kids’ Rights 96% of the Time

Housekeeping:

Happy New Year! I hope you have all had a great beginning to your 2024. 

Thanks to your generosity, I’m pleased to let you know that the hosting costs for Notes from the Emerald City have now been covered. Thank you so much for your continued support!

Seattle News:

First off, the OIG completed an audit on “SPD compliance with youth access to legal counsel requirements” and released it in a particularly egregious news dump the Friday before Christmas. The audit found that SPD is in compliance with the law requiring them to provide youths with access to a lawyer before interviewing them only 4% of the time

As former CM Herbold told the Seattle Times: ““This is one of the most straightforward civil rights protections we’ve enacted — police should not be able to question children until they have talked to a lawyer,” said Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who requested the audit. “That Seattle police officers were only following this law 4% of the time is very disappointing. We know it’s possible to comply with this law — nearly every law enforcement agency in Washington state appears to have done so.””

Just another example of the exceptionalism of SPD–that they are above the law as it suits them. But given this is an issue of the civil rights of CHILDREN, you’d think there would be a greater outcry.

First in her newsletter and then during the City Council’s first meeting of 2024, CM Morales stated that in 2024, the Council would be voting on a new SPOG contract. You can read more about the background of the SPOG contract, how these negotiations work, and recent developments in my article over at The Urbanist.

All the new Seattle council members have been sworn in, Sara Nelson has been elected as Council President, and committee assignments have been discussed. CM Kettle of D7 will be heading the new Public Safety committee. As Fox 13 reported, CM Kettle “has strong feelings about Seattle Police, saying he believes that it’s the best force in the entire country.” 

Guess he didn’t get the memo about children’s civil rights being violated.

Human Services has been broken away from Public Safety, being moved to the Housing and Human Services Committee, which will be chaired by CM Moore of D5. CM Strauss is going to try filling CM Mosqueda’s shoes as Finance (and Budget) Committee Chair. 

CM Morales, the most progressive CM left on this new Council, will be chairing the Land Use committee, which is crucial as Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan is due to be updated this year. This only happens once per decade, and as The Urbanist reported, acts as an “overhaul to Seattle’s overarching strategy for growth and infrastructure needs, ultimately defining the city’s land use and zoning map and laying out a 20-year growth strategy.”

We don’t yet know which council members will be serving on the LRPC. Whoever is selected will have the opportunity to change the bargaining parameters before what could be the closing stretch in the contract negotiations with SPOG.

As CM Mosqueda is leaving to serve on the King County Council, her replacement needs to be chosen. Candidates can apply through next Tuesday, after which there will be a public forum. The Council expects to vote on the replacement on Tuesday, January 23. This person will serve until a new council member is elected in November to complete CM Mosqueda’s term. CP Nelson announced that until the replacement is chosen, there will be no regular committee meetings, which basically scratches out the first three weeks of January. Not the most auspicious start for a new Council eager to prove themselves.

The Unified Care Team, which is responsible for sweeps of the unhoused in Seattle, released their report covering sweeps between July and September of 2023, and it’s not looking good. As Publicola reports: “…almost nine in ten people the UCT contacted prior to encampment sweeps did not end up in any form of shelter—a decline from the UCT’s previous report, which showed a 15 percent shelter enrollment rate.”

In lawsuit news, demoted SPD commander Hirjak, who alleged his demotion after the Pink Umbrella incident of the 2020 protests was discriminatory, settled his lawsuit: “The settlement said Hirjak would receive back wages and damages (totaling $54,814, according to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office) and $250,000 in other compensation. It said his attorney’s firm would receive $300,000 in attorney’s fees and costs.”

Meanwhile, the trial regarding the lawsuit between 5 Black university police officers and the University of Washington in which the officers alleged years of discrimination and racist comments ended with the jury awarding the officers $16 million. UW is considering an appeal, and only one of the five officers remains with the department.

King County News:

In 2023, fentanyl overdose deaths topped 1,050, which is a new record and much higher than 2022. There were close to 1,300 fatal overdoses total during the year. 

Meanwhile, the jury acquitted the three Tacoma police officers of Manual Ellis’ death on December 21. You can read the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability’s statement on the verdict here, which says in part: “This verdict shows the stark contrast of our state’s statutory duty to protect and preserve all human life with the reality of systemic, wrongful use of force by police.” 

The officers in question still face a civil suit from Ellis’ family that may be heading to trial, as well as an internal affairs investigation to determine whether they can retain their jobs at the Tacoma Police Department.

WA State Legislative Session:

This year’s state legislative session begins next week! This will be the short session that happens every other year, which is generally more concerned with policy than with projects requiring new spending. 

This year’s Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) bill in the House, HB 1045, has a hearing in the Appropriations Committee (where it stalled out last session) on Thursday, January 11 at 4pm. You can sign in PRO for the bill here and the short link to share with your networks is: https://bit.ly/PROGBI

It is expected that there will be a companion bill for GBI in the Senate this session as well, which is encouraging progress. Because it is a short session, it is unlikely these bills will make it all the way to a floor vote this year, but they are still well worth supporting as part of building momentum to an eventual vote.

Recent Headlines:

SPD Breaks the Law about Kids’ Rights 96% of the Time Read More »

It’s Almost as if Seattle Doesn’t Want to Reimagine Public Safety After All

Seattle Budget: Parking Enforcement Officers

Last Thursday, the Council held budget meetings about the potential parking enforcement officer (PEO) transfer from SDOT to SPD, SPD’s proposed budget, and the Community Safety and Communications Center’s (CSCC) proposed budget. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s dive in.
First up are the PEOs. The move to SDOT about a year ago has not thus far been a success, and labor issues have resulted. The PEOs are vastly understaffed, both as a result of general unhappiness over a botched move and SDOT’s decision to keep some positions open so as to use the money this freed up to pay for their overhead costs (more about that in a minute.) There are only 80 PEOs right now, for a department that calls for the staffing of 123 FTE. The PEOs are still housed within the physical structures of SPD, they still wear SPD uniforms, and they still have SPD emblazoned on their vehicles. They no longer have access to SPD databases (well, really it’s the FBI’s CJIS, more about this in a minute). And then of course there was the debacle where, due to “mistakes” made by SPD and potentially the last Mayor’s Office, the PEOs weren’t given their special commissions when they were moved to SDOT, and therefore $5m worth of traffic tickets had to be either voided or refunded earlier this year.
Whether it was sabotage or simply shocking incompetence, nobody can argue that this has been a smooth transition. Hence the Mayor’s proposal to move the PEOs back into SPD.
Because of the way SDOT calculates its overhead, which is complicated due to its multiple funding sources, it costs an additional $8m from the General Fund to keep the PEOs in SDOT, a fact that the Mayor’s Office and SDOT, who both lobbied heavily for the PEOs to move to SDOT rather than the CSCC, somehow failed to mention at that time.
Another issue is the PEOs’ lack of access to the CJIS database. Right now SPD provides them with a static hot sheet with a list of vehicles by license plate that are stolen, but the PEOs can’t call in to get at-the-moment information from the database, which includes information such as registered owner and address. It is unclear how large a problem the lack of access to this database actually is, but it is interesting to note that even if they were to move to the CSCC, the PEOs wouldn’t be granted access to it; the 911 dispatchers have this access, but WASPC, the state body who decides these matters, has said the PEOs aren’t performing a criminal justice purpose and therefore are ineligible. No outside legal analysis of this issue has been completed.
The SPD, unsurprisingly, is happy to welcome back the PEOs with open arms, especially as they’ll come with funding for the entire 123 FTE. Because there are only currently 80 PEOs, that means SPD will get an extra $4.2m; while they will use part of this sum to hopefully pay for additional hires, there will be some left over, for which they will inevitably find an indispensable use within the department. The PEOs themselves took a poll and overwhelmingly expressed a desire to be back in SPD rather than in SDOT.
A third option not explored in the aforementioned poll is to move the PEOs to the CSCC, which was the Council’s original plan back in 2020. Aside from the issue of database access, the CSCC is a new department that would need lead time to prepare to receive the PEOs, which would nearly double their headcount. There would probably be some extra overhead involved with this as well, although nowhere near SDOT’s staggering $8m price tag. However, this move would preserve the Council’s intent to move civilian functions outside the police department in response to the protesters that were in the streets for so much of 2020.

Seattle Budget: Seattle Police Department

SPD is enjoying being able to say they’re taking the largest cut of any department. This is misleading rhetoric, of course; the actual size of their budget will be larger than it was in 2022 if the proposed budget doesn’t change. Much time was spent in the SPD budget meeting discussing the $250k increase to Harbor Patrol, which moved into a discussion of whether certain aspects of Harbor Patrol might be more suitable for a civilian response (namely, search and rescue and water safety). In response to this suggestion, Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell mentioned that houseboat piracy was a problem.
Moving past the serious piracy issue facing Seattle, Central Staff projects 153 officers will be separating from the department in 2022 by the end of the year. Once again, SPD’s projections for separations and hiring for 2023 seem overly rosy, although the high rate of separations has been going on for long enough at this point that people can now bring up the point of diminishing returns, ie that in a smaller police force, there will also be a smaller number of people leaving. The 80 positions not being funded for 2023 are not being permanently cut (abrogated) but rather underfunded for now.
There was also a discussion of the gunfire detection system (which will probably be ShotSpotter). Interestingly, CM Nelson brought up a study by Edgeworth Analytics that found a high accuracy rate for ShotSpotter, but didn’t disclose that this study had in fact been funded BY ShotSpotter. Luckily CM Mosqueda brought up that point. CM Nelson also stated that if even one life were to be saved by a gunfire detection system, then the financial investment would be worth it, even though it had been emphasized earlier in the presentation that these detection systems are not intended to reduce gun violence in any way, but rather to help capture evidence about gun-related crimes after they happen. Regardless, the city surveillance ordinance would require the completion of a surveillance impact report (SIR), which Central Staff thinks would take more than 12 months to complete, meaning this budget item may well be premature.

Seattle Budget: CSCC

During this meeting, Ann Gorman of Central Staff presented the results thus far of the collaboration between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff over alternative response as memorialized in a term sheet. There is agreement that the $1.9m for a near-term pilot of alternative response in Seattle could be spent in 2023 on some combination of the following:
  1. Direct dispatch of SFD Health One units
  2. Intelligent non-emergency reporting: this is instant reporting that doesn’t require an SPD officer to come to the scene. In practice, this would be improvement of online reporting or reporting by phone, for example, by providing better support of other languages.
  3. Expansion of CSO duties: currently the CSOs serve as liaisons between SPD and community and don’t have law enforcement authority. It may be possible to expand their role in a way that lessens the workload of SPD officers.
  4. Dual (SPD/civilian) dispatch to augment current mental/behavioral health response: This means that two separate units would be sent to the scene, one from SPD and one that is a city-staffed team with relevant clinical and procedural training. In other words, this response would still involve officers with a gun coming to the scene, although CM Herbold mentioned that perhaps the SPD officers could sometimes stage themselves nearby instead of arriving directly on the scene.
For proponents of a mental health crisis response alternative in Seattle, this list will doubtless be less than inspiring, as none of these options is what has been asked for, including the co-response detailed in option 4. However, both CM Herbold and CM Lewis, who have previously been strong proponents of a civilian alternative response such as STAR in Denver, were both effusive in their praise. CM Herbold went so far as to walk back some of her criticism of the Risk Management Demand report delivered by SPD a few weeks ago. (This is the system SPD has spent large amounts of time and money developing only to have to go in and manually correct more than 50% of call type classifications provided by their new system. The system was also meant to assess risk to responders but instead used risk to the subject as a proxy.)

King County Budget

The next opportunity for public comment on the biennial 2023-2024 King County budget is tomorrow, Wednesday, 10/19 at 6pm. More details and a script can be found here. If you can’t make the meeting, you can also email your King County council members.

Election News

People Power Washington’s voter guide is out! You can see questionnaires about public safety answered by candidates for state legislature, for King County prosecutor, and for Seattle Municipal Court Judge. Information about races for prosecutor and judge in particular can be hard to come by, so this is an excellent resource for helping you make an educated decision come Election Day.
There is a King County prosecutor candidate debate this Thursday, 10/20 from 6-8pm in Federal Way. More details and sign up can be found here.

Other Seattle News

Also in the budget: Mayor Harrell’s proposal to spend $38m on the Unified Care Team and the Clean City Initiative. As Erica C. Barnett reports:
memo accompanying that presentation adds that, legally speaking, there’s no guarantee that the new funding won’t be used to “accelerate encampment removals.”
In redistricting news, Seattle’s redistricting commission voted on a new map today. They passed a map that divides Magnolia along the west-east ridge and doesn’t divide Fremont into three(!) different districts. All but one commissioner voted in favor of this new map, and you can see it here. The exact dividing line in Magnolia might change, but other that that, Erica Barnett reports this will be the map, which represents a heartening victory for Redistricting Justice for Seattle and their bid for an equitable map.
You might remember that earlier this year, the Human Rights Commission tried to initiate a data collection project on behalf of those impacted by police violence, including wanting to file for amicus status with the court overseeing the consent decree process, only to be shot down by the City Attorney. Well, now four commissioners, including three co-chairs, have resigned in protest. You can read their passionate open letter here.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released Wave 3 of their Sentinel Event Review report on the 2020 protests, which covers June 8 – July 1, 2020. And it is quite damning, showing that in addition to miscommunication and sloppy police work, the SPD indulged in flat-out lying in their infamous ruse in which they tried to make protesters believe armed Proud Boys were headed to CHOP. As Justin reports:
The Wave 3 report includes … SPD officials either mistakenly or intentionally making statements about unsubstantiated and not fully investigated allegations of armed checkpoints and shakedowns of area businesses in press conferences and statements to the media as evidence of bad decisions and a lack of leadership that hindered the city’s response — and set it on a permanently flawed course contributing to the growth of dangerous conditions in the CHOP zone.
It is worth reading the entire article, which also provides access to the full OIG report.
Finally, CM Dan Strauss held a community meeting about safety in Greenwood last night, at which he told attendees they weren’t allowed to record and barred journalists from entry until the end. Not exactly the best way to promote an environment of transparency and accountability.
Isolde Raftery
@CMDanStrauss are you seriously preventing the media from attending your PUBLIC meeting on safety in Greenwood???

Standing outside the @TaprootTheatre with @king5 …

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