New OPA Director Named; the SCC Continues to Push for Alternative Response Pilot

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Notes from the Emerald City
New OPA Director Named; the SCC Continues to Push for Alternative Response Pilot
By Amy Sundberg • Issue #73 • View online

Seattle News
  • The Mayor’s Office has announced dates for the police chief search events. While these were first mentioned last week, I cannot find any public mention of the actual dates before Sunday, July 24, even though the first event listed is for…today, July 25. Once again, doesn’t seem like sufficient notice to allow people to clear space on their calendars. Here is a list of the events taking place over the next week; the event for the general public is tomorrow, July 26 from 7-8:30pm, in person and inside during the possible peak of this COVID wave. Wonderful.
  • Mayor Harrell named the new Director of the OPA, Gino Betts, who is coming to us from Chicago where he was working as the Cooke County Assistant State’s Attorney. His first day has been reported to be August 1, although since the appointment needs to be approved by the City Council, that seems like a tight timeline. It will be interesting to see how the new Director approaches the job and in what ways he departs from the precedent set by former Director Myerberg.
  • CMs Herbold and Lewis sponsored a change to the city’s 2022 budget that will allocate the $1.2m originally set aside for former Mayor Durkan’s now defunct Triage One plan to fund an emergency alternative response pilot. So a funding source has been identified, but we’ll have to see whether the Mayor’s Office is willing to compromise with the CMs to start an alternative response pilot earlier than their stated timeline.
  • Over at The South Seattle Emerald, Carolyn Bick released a three-part report related to issues with the OPA’s contact log for complaints and SPD sexual abuse data. It looks like the CPC either lost or deleted survey data that indicated possible sexual abuse by SPD officers. There also appear to be issues with how the OPA investigated a related case and how Court Monitor Oftelie and his team might have ignored a potential alternate source of this sexual abuse data. Finally, it appears the OPA might be misclassifying certain complaints as a “contact log,” meaning they are closed without investigation, even though at least some of them sound serious and may merit investigation. Relatedly, there has been a significant drop in the OIG’s concurrence rate; as Bick writes: “Additionally, the report itself noted that “[i]n the last six months of 2020, after OIG migrated to a quarterly retroactive sampling of Contact Log classifications, the concurrence rate decreased to 49%, resulting in an 81% overall average for the year.”” If this sounds messy and dysfunctional to you, you’re not alone; Bick reports that at a meeting, monitoring team member Ron Ward said that the City’s accountability system “is not functioning at the optimum level that it was hoped or that we aspire to, collectively.” 
  • The City Council passed legislation about the police accountability system that makes changes relating to investigations of complaints made against the Chief of Police. You can read more about it here and here.
  • Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meets tomorrow morning, where among other things, they will be discussing gun violence and the mid-year accountability reports from the OPA, OIG, and CPC.
  • Mayor Harrell announced spending around another $1m for hiring incentives for cops.
  • The OPA made yet another shady ruling:
DivestSPD
Ofc. Joel Nark claimed overtime for two days he was supposed to be on suspension, but OPA didn’t sustain findings, blaming “systemic gaps in SPD policies”

Nark was previously suspended (but not fired) for fraudulently claiming overtime. (THREAD) https://t.co/ogn9SvR9Pu
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Mayor Bruce Harrell announced a plan to hire 500 more police officers.
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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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