A Grab Bag of Public Safety News

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Notes from the Emerald City
A Grab Bag of Public Safety News
By Amy Sundberg • Issue #57 • View online

WA State Legislative News
I wrote last week that both 2037 and 5919 would be sent to the Governor to be signed, and in this case I am happy to be wrong! 5919 was killed at the last minute during concurrence in the Senate. The bill was moved for concurrence by Republicans three separate times, and each time the motion was voted down. Both Senator Pedersen and Senator Dhingra were instrumental in halting this legislation.
Therefore only 2037 (the bill pertaining to Terry stops) has proceeded to the Governor’s desk. The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability has sent Governor Inslee a comprehensive letter asking him to veto section 3 of the bill. If you’d like information to help you send your own letter, you can find it here.
While it was disappointing that we could not make further strides towards equitable public safety during this session, it is noteworthy that of several harmful bills that would have rolled previous reforms back, only one made it through the entire session.
Seattle News
Carolyn Bick broke the news on Twitter late last week that OIG Deputy Inspector General Amy Tsai is leaving the OIG to take a job with the City of Redmond. Tsai was involved in aspects of the whistleblower complaint in OIG, and it’s interesting that both she and Andrew Myerberg left their positions within a couple months of one another. Now Seattle will be replacing two senior positions within its police accountability system this year.
The CPC continues to struggle to reach quorum at their meetings, hampering their ability to conduct business. Interestingly, CP Juarez has been sending a representative from her office to CPC meetings since her election as Council President. The OPA has no response to the CPC on the letter they wrote regarding the Proud Boys “ruse” incident and says any response will be completely SPD-driven.
The Seattle Times had an article last week with the following headline that says it all: “Harrell says he ‘inherited a mess,’ will solve crime issues by putting arrests first, social services second.” In spite of the fact that Harrell was on the City Council from 2007 to 2019, including as Council President for the last four years (and interim Mayor to boot!), so far his political strategy of passing the buck (and all the blame) for today’s problems, many of which were being addressed during his tenure, onto Mayor Durkan seems to be working.
City Attorney Davison announced a new initiative this week to address 118 repeat offenders, to either book them in jail or refer them to mental health or addiction treatment services. She has made a deal with the King County Jail to book these individuals even if they are arrested for a non-violent offense (in COVID times the jail no longer books routinely for these kinds of cases). However, this plan might run into a roadblock since service providers probably lack the necessary capacity to take on so many new cases.
SPD had a plan to crack down on “disorderly conduct” near transit stops along Third Avenue, but Mayor Harrell put it on hold on Wednesday before it took effect. The cause of this delay is not entirely clear, although a spokesperson for the Mayor, Jamie Housen, said it was “to allow more time to reset norms and to evaluate what enforcement strategy is most appropriate and effective.”
Meanwhile, City of Seattle employees are beginning to return to the office right as case numbers are rising significantly in Europe, which often presages a COVID wave in the United States. But don’t worry, they’ve installed protective barriers for workers who deal with the public. Apparently they haven’t yet received the memo that COVID is airborne….
Elsewhere in the Country...
We heard recently that it’s not just Seattle who is having trouble staffing their police department. Well, one example of this is at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which currently has 783 vacancies. The Sheriff there is blaming the rising crime rates on the shortage of officers. Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, the Head of the Police Oversight Commission has resigned, citing “frustration with internal city politics and bureaucracy she said prevents the board from changing police practices.” She also said that during the two years she served, the commission was never allowed to fulfill its mission. The commission is volunteer-run and filled with a mix of appointments from the City Council and the Mayor. Apparently the vice chair is considering resigning as well, and the previous chair also resigned, calling her experience “a farce.” So just as we are not the only city with staffing shortages, we are also not the only city with a troubled police accountability system.
Recent Headlines
Repeated police misconduct cost taxpayers $1.5 billion in settlements - Washington Post
Woman who says Seattle officer raped her more than 40 years ago finds unusual ally: a genealogy site | The Seattle Times
OPINION: Mayors’ Coalition for Community Safety Should Examine Own Police Departments | South Seattle Emerald
Community testifies in support of restorative justice for youth in South King County cities | Kent Reporter
OPINION: Police-Led Mental Health Welfare Checks — Getting to the Root of the Issue | South Seattle Emerald
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Amy Sundberg

This newsletter covers Seattle politics and policy with a particular focus on police accountability and criminal legal reform, while also referencing relevant news in Washington State and beyond.

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