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Seattle’s Accountability Bodies Continue to Struggle; also, MAPS!

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Welcome to this morning’s Seattle Public Safety committee meeting. I’ll be tweeting some highlights as it goes. First is a violence prevention presentation from King County Public Health.
At last week’s Seattle Public Safety committee meeting, there was a presentation on violence prevention from King County Public Health as well as presentations on the mid-year reports from Seattle’s three police oversight bodies: the Community Police Commission (CPC), the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). You can find links to the CPC, OPA, and OIG reports here. The OIG announced they will be changing how they deal with reviewing “contact logs,” an issue recently reported on by Carolyn Bick.
While the accountability reports were all relatively upbeat in tone, it is impossible to ignore that at least two of the three agencies are struggling due to staff shortages. The CPC has had trouble getting quorum for their meetings in recent months, while the OPA is moving to using abbreviated DCMs for unsustained cases for the months of June through October of this year because they are so understaffed. The new proposed Director of the OPA, Gino Betts, will appear before the Public Safety committee next week on August 9th.
In related news, Real Change and The South Seattle Emerald published an editorial calling for heightened police accountability and transparency in Seattle. Following up in Real Change, Guy Oron wrote more about the poor publicity surrounding the OPA Director public forum in June and how it appears that lack of publicity was intentional. Full disclosure, my own tweets and the statement of People Power Washington, of which I am the Co-Chair of the Seattle committee, appear in this article. Meanwhile, Carolyn Bick tweeted about the OIG auditor investigation report (if you recall, this was regarding the auditor who appeared to be certifying OPA reports without actually looking at the related documentation). In the above linked thread, they break down the report and discuss its many findings, showing that all three accountability agencies appear to be struggling.
The Seattle Redistricting Map retreat is taking place today from 5-9pm, after the commissioners all recently released proposed maps. If they can agree on a map today, then the first public forum feedback meeting will be held on August 9 from 12-2pm (Zoom link here), to be followed by two additional public forums TBA. The Seattle district maps only get redrawn once a decade so this is an important opportunity to weigh in to prioritize people and communities, especially traditionally underrepresented communities. One way you can get involved is by supporting the Redistricting Justice For Washington Coalition and their vision for what they’d like to see in the new Seattle map. Individuals can sign onto their petition here and you can also send an email in support of the coalition’s map to the commissioners by using this template. The final map will be approved and filed in November.
Finally, in a divided decision, the Washington State Public Employee Relations Commission reversed a decision that allowed the University of Washington to have unarmed responders patrol their dorms instead of armed campus police. This means armed campus police will be returning to the dorms. This decision also has troubling implications for the struggle to divert from police armed response to civilian unarmed response elsewhere, including in the City of Seattle.

Washington State News

Today is primary day! As the results roll in tonight and in following days, expect to be inundated with analysis and November election predictions.
Kevin Schofield wrote about the Crime in Washington 2021 Annual Report in The South Seattle Emerald and gives some good examples of how data can be manipulated with misleading graphics and can be subjected to weak analysis. One interesting fact he gleaned from the report:
The statewide aggregate arrest data shows clear, ongoing racial disparities. Less so for white people: Statewide, about 78% of the population is white, and in most categories of arrests, the percentage of white people is near that figure (excepting extortion, bribery, and liquor law violations). But for Black persons, only 4.3% of the state population, the disparity continues to be large: 33% of arrests for robbery; 22.5% of prostitution arrests; 21% of aggravated assaults; 20.9% of arrests for intimidation; and 15.9% of weapons law violations.

Recent Headlines

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Seattle’s Accountability Bodies Continue to Struggle; also, MAPS! Read More »

Alternate Response in Seattle Meets Another Hurdle

Seattle News

Amy Sundberg
Good news at today’s Seattle’s Public Safety committee meeting this morning. There will be a public forum with the finalists for the OPA Director position. This wasn’t originally going to be part of the process, but it has been added.
Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee met on Tuesday morning and discussed two items of interest.
First they discussed the process by which the City will hire a new Director of the OPA. As suggested by CM Mosqueda two weeks ago, a public forum was added to meet with the three finalists for the position, tentatively listed as being on June 23. The other change announced was that the search would be conducted by the City’s HR instead of an outside firm. As we’ve seen throughout former Director Myerbeg’s tenure, the OPA Director really sets the tone for the OPA as an organization, so this is a significant appointment. It’s also worth noting the current interim Director, Dr. Gráinne Perkins, spent fifteen years as an operational police officer and did her thesis work on “the risk and danger encountered by members of the South African Police Service in their daily routines.”
Amy Sundberg
Also at this morning’s Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting is the presentation of SPD’s 2022 Strategic Plan by interim Chief Diaz and COO Maxey. You can see the plan here: https://t.co/O4KS9FCJAj
You can read SPD’s 2022 Strategic Plan here, but as The Stranger‘s article about it states, only ten pages of the twenty-seven-page plan actually discusses any plans SPD has for 2022, so you can probably skip it. The bulk of the SPD’s presentation on Tuesday was about the Equity, Accountability, and Quality program (EAQ), which is a program that uses statistical modeling to look for systemic issues and patterns of disparity in police officers’ daily interactions. It’s a program with multiple components, and no materials about it were circulated before (or after) the presentation, although Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey said there would be another more in-depth presentation later. There are concerning implications of this program, but it’s hard to draw any conclusions from the information given, so I will be interested to hear more details.
Perhaps most troubling during the overall presentation was Brian Maxey’s answer to CM Herbold’s question about the SPD’s analytical work related to 911 calls to identify call types that don’t require sworn officer response. He said they’d be presenting a more granular report at the end of Q1 (which is practically upon us), and he also said as a result of this work, the city will be providing a service currently not being served rather than supplanting officer work.
If you recall, the analytical work being done now was in response to the report the department paid NICJR to conduct that found 49% of 911 calls currently handled by SPD could be handled by organizations other than SPD. SPD immediately pushed back, saying they could only identify 12% of calls they were confident could be answered with an alternate response. They said they needed to do a further analysis themselves to do a risk assessment and create appropriate dispatch protocols. That the first news we hear about this analysis is that officer work will not be supplanted does not bode well for the department’s willingness to offload some of their work to alternate responders like mental health professionals, social workers and case managers, and other civilians.
The only pushback to this announcement at the meeting came from CM Mosqueda, who suggested this evaluation should be done with an outside party. While it does seem it was perhaps asking too much for SPD to do this analysis by themselves in a non-biased way, we’re here in the first place because of recommendations by an outside agency that the SPD said they couldn’t implement without further study. If nothing else, the SPD has been doing a wonderful job stalling any significant alternate response from being stood up in a timely fashion, which serves both them as an institution and their officers more than it serves the community who has been asking for a more robust alternate response for over two and a half years now.
Also this week, the OIG released wave 2 of their sentinel event report of police response to 2020 protests, this one covering June 2-7, 2020. This report has not yet been presented at a committee meeting. As Paul Kiefer reports, one of the key findings is a persistent lack of trust between a portion of the public and SPD. How SPD could address this lack of trust given their behavior in 2020 and the lack of accountability with which much of that behavior has been met is an open question. The report also offers two dozen suggestions to improve SPD’s protest response planning.
Meanwhile, at UW, the university recently expanded its existing civilian responder program with a team to respond to non-criminal emergency calls and removed armed police patrols from its dorms, replacing them with a combination of in-house social workers and campus safety responders. In response, sworn officers filed an unfair labor practice complaint, saying it was a violation of their contract for the university to hand over some of their responsibilities to a new team of employees. Publicola reported on the outcome:
PERC sided with the university, ruling that the decision to use civilians instead of sworn officers to patrol the dorms has a “limited impact” on the police officers themselves—an impact, they wrote, that is outweighed by UW’s “compelling interest” in rethinking how it approaches campus safety. According to the ruling, the change did not require UW to lay off or cut the pay of any police officers, nor did it reduce opportunities for the officers to work overtime.
Officials in Seattle government could potentially use this ruling as an argument in favor of the legality of creating more alternate response from non-sworn officers who don’t carry a gun.
And lastly, yesterday CM Nelson put forward a resolution to support the development of an SPD staffing incentives program, which rated its own press release including support from CP Juarez. That this resolution should be coming from someone other than the Chair of the Public Safety Committee seems a bit strange, especially as any related legislation would normally move through that body before coming to a final vote at Full Council.

WA State News

Late last week Governor Inslee signed 2037 into law.
We also have more salacious news about WA’s redistricting panel. Not only did the panel violate the state’s Open Public Meetings Act, it now appears dozens of relevant text messages were not released as public records to Crosscut when they should have been, and some of these texts may have been deleted. As Melissa Santos reports:
The withheld text messages show a much deeper level of coordination between state lawmakers, legislative staffers and the Redistricting Commission than what was shown in the records the commission previously released.
State Representative Pollet is considering the possibility of filing a Public Records Act lawsuit in response.

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Alternate Response in Seattle Meets Another Hurdle Read More »

Big Seattle City Council meeting on Tuesday June 1!

Seattle News

We have a big Seattle City Council meeting coming up on Tuesday, June 1. Both the bill moving forward participatory budgeting and the bill that will lift some provisos on SPD’s budget this year, giving over $10m of additional spending power to SPD and an additional $2m to participatory budgeting, are on the agenda. Now is a good time to contact your council members about these bills and consider making public comment at the June 1 meeting; comment starts at 2pm, with sign-ups at noon. #DefendtheDefund is arranging a campaign to read first person accounts of SPD violence that are currently part of the ACLU lawsuit against SPD into the record during public comment at this meeting on Tuesday; you can sign up to be a part of that effort here.
SPD Chief Diaz followed through on the pink umbrella case by demoting Assistant Chief Hirjak to Captain. He also clarified that there was no additional evidence in the case, but, in his words, that “my assessment included more broadly concerns raised by OPA in management action recommendations stemming from related cases, on-going analyses generated through the Office of Inspector General’s Sentinel Event Review, and my consideration of the totality of the events beginning on May 29th, 2020, when the Chinatown/International District was the target of destructive protests, and continuing over the days thereafter.” 
DivestSPD, a Twitter watchdog account, made a public disclosure request for the Incident Action Plan for June 8, the day the SPD abandoned the East Precinct. This plan seems to contradict former Chief Best’s recent interviews about how events unfolded on the day in question. You can see the plan yourself here.
Students at UW and Seattle University have been organizing to change how policing works on their campuses. So far, UW has cut its police department staff by 20%, launched a new online reporting system, and begun a new campus safety responder team. Students are now pressing for more significant changes.
Crosscut has an excellent article reviewing where we are with Seattle’s consent decree and the police reform process, saying:
At a time of tremendous grassroots organizing for change, the consent decree is heavy from the top down. The decree, a preferred tool of former President Barack Obama and possibly President Joe Biden, has a singular goal: to ensure that local policing is constitutional. But it doesn’t go deep enough to meet the demands of people advocating systemic change.

Election News

If you’re curious what an abolitionist City Attorney would look like, you might want to take a look at The Stranger‘s recent interview with candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy.
The Seattle mayor’s race is heating up, with the Daily Kos speculating whether Andrew Grant Houston, as the furthest left candidate, might be well positioned to get The Stranger’s endorsement and make it to the final two candidates. Meanwhile, Jessyn Farrell’s campaign has released news of a poll showing Bruce Harrell as the frontrunner of the race, while Lorena González’s campaign says their polling shows a frontrunner tie between Harrell and González. Each of these polls has a margin of error of more than 4 percent.
And Compassion Seattle, the homelessness initiative that many opponents are saying would codify sweeps, has been claiming endorsements from organizations that have not in fact endorsed it. The campaign listed FIVE organizations on its website as endorsers who have since confirmed they haven’t endorsed it. Oops!

Elsewhere in Washington State

 

National News

In discouraging news, nearly seven out of 10 Black Americans say police treatment has gotten worse in the past year. Just four out of 10 Black Americans say they have favorable views of police and law enforcement, while 75% of white respondents say they have favorable views.
Meanwhile, The Root reported that according to a review of pledges of corporations to donate money to social justice organizations, less than ONE PERCENT of that money was actually donated. Support of Black Lives Matter has also plunged since last summer, with Republicans and white people actually being LESS supportive now than they were before George Floyd was murdered. A lot of the talk about fighting against racial inequity last year was unfortunately just that–a lot of talk with little substance. All the more reason for us to step up!
And Simon Balto writes in the Guardian:
It strikes me that we are now living in an era defined not so much by “racial reckoning” but more so by the desperate, gasping grasps at reclaiming white innocence from the perils of such a reckoning. Do not teach us or our children honestly about our past or our present, the opponents of racial justice demand. Do not question our allegiance to an openly white supremacist political leader. Do not impugn the institutions that uphold white supremacy and do violence to those not like us. But most of all, they ask that we absolve them of their sins for having made all those demands. Affirm our innocence, they ask. We are not racist, men like Arnold Schlei demand we understand in spite of the evidence.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for staying engaged and committed to making a difference. Thanks so much for reading, and have a great weekend.

Big Seattle City Council meeting on Tuesday June 1! Read More »