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More on data and disparity in Seattle's policing and criminal legal systems

Notes from the Emerald City
More on data and disparity in Seattle's policing and criminal legal systems
By Amy Sundberg • Issue #62 • View online

Seattle News
Guy Oron reports that data from the Seattle Municipal Court shows the City Attorney’s Office has disproportionately prosecuted Black and Indigenous people during the first three months of 2022. 31.7% of the people charged were Black during these months, compared to 7.1% of the total Seattle population.
Speaking of the City Attorney’s Office, it sounds like it is struggling to deal with a large number of misdemeanor cases, leading to this week’s announcement that they are dismissing 2,000 misdemeanor cases. They will be making the argument to City Council that they need more funding in the mid-year supplemental budget to hire more staff to address the backlog of cases, starting with a presentation discussing the backlog at next week’s Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting.
Also scheduled for the Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting on Tuesday, April 26 at 9:30am will be the continued discussion about hiring incentives for police officers. There will be an opportunity at the beginning of this meeting for public comment or you can call or email your council members to give them your feedback about this proposal.
At this week’s Council Briefing, CM Herbold reported on the finding in the Court Monitor’s recent use of force assessment, saying that SPD had looked into the matter of officers failing to report subjects’ race and discovered a technical error was responsible for the lack of data, which the officers actually had been reporting. SPD expects to correct the error. The assessment relies completely on SPD-reported data to come to its conclusions.
The CPC released a statement yesterday stating its concerns over this data error, saying “Concerns about data validity underscore larger issues, namely that SPD manages its own data and conducts its own self-reporting, as well as how the Federal Monitor has been overly dependent on SPD data.” They went on to recommend an independent data management body to increase transparency and trust with the community and are calling for a special meeting with the Monitor and SPD about the data malfunction. In regards to the ongoing consent decree, they say:
By painting an inaccurate picture of the realities of communities who are disproportionately impacted by policing, the Monitor and SPD are losing sight of a key goal of police accountability. Further, by relying on inaccurate race data and while prematurely pushing end the Consent Decree, the Federal Monitor and SPD are dismissing the real harm and impact of Seattle policing on communities of color. 
The OIG recently released a report finding the OPA routinely dismissed public complaints about SPD officers not wearing masks as required, finding this noncompliance was a “cultural problem” within the department. As Erica Barnett reported, the OPA didn’t sustain any of the 98 complaints about officers not following the mask mandate, and supervisors rarely disciplined officers even after their fourth or fifth violations of the mask mandate. The report itself says:
“Director Myerberg stated that no one in headquarters wore masks and related that someone had sent OPA a photo of multiple lieutenants, captains, and chiefs celebrating an event at headquarters without any masks. Director Myerberg explained that he perceived the mask non-compliance as indicative of a serious culture issue within SPD and stated that it was not sustainable for OPA to be the ‘thought police’ of the Department.”
Erica Barnett attempted to get a statement from Andrew Myerberg, but: “a spokesman for Harrell’s office referred questions about Myerberg’s role in dismissing mask complaints to the OPA, saying, “Public Safety Director Myerberg does not comment on his past role and previous OPA work.””
If you would like to sign up to participate in dialogues between community and police that are being conducted by Seattle University through their Micro-Community Policing Plan Research Team, you can do so here.
If you’re interested in getting some additional insight about media coverage and how reporting tends to dehumanize and criminalize people who are houseless, struggling with mental illness and/or addiction, Tobias Coughlin-Bogue wrote a piece about recent local coverage in Real Change that you may want to check out.
Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about what happened at this week’s CPC meeting, CE Bick linked to a video recording and did a Twitter thread, which starts here:
CE Bick
I was unable to attend yesterday’s @SeaCPC meeting, but I wanted to create a thread about it in light of yesterday’s press release (QT below). 🧵 1/ https://t.co/ZE1WzEV72d
King County News
This week King County held its two public forums with the three final candidates for King County Sheriff. At this morning’s forum, eyebrows were raised when candidate Charles Kimble, Police Chief from Killeen, Texas, suggested that an innovation for King County to consider might be a program that would provide bumper stickers for people to be able to inform police they have a mental illness. Of course, these stickers also proclaim that same information to the general public. One wonders if support of such a problematic program might lower Charles Kimble’s chances of receiving the final offer.
Erica C. Barnett
I've been watching the King County Sheriff candidate forums (#2 is happening now) and nothing much jumped out until one of the finalists, Killeen Police Chief Charles Kimble, touted a program that provides bumper stickers for people to inform police they have a mental illness.
Recent Headlines
WA prosecutors who withhold evidence rarely face discipline | Crosscut
Progressive Lane Wide Open in King County Prosecutor Race - Slog - The Stranger
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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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