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The City Attorney and the Consent Decree

Notes from the Emerald City
The City Attorney and the Consent Decree
By Amy Sundberg • Issue #16 • View online

Seattle News
Last week, the news broke that several SPD officers, including SPOG president Mike Solan, registered to vote using the addresses of different SPD precincts instead of their home addresses. Registering to vote at an address where you don’t live is a Class C felony, but while the OPA gave out disciplinary actions, “it appears that the SPD didn’t even bother to conduct a criminal investigation into the apparent felony matter.”
Converge Media unveiled a great website resource tracking the $100m allocated for investment in BIPOC communities in the 2021 Seattle budget.
An SPD officer has been using facial recognition software Clearview.AI in some of his investigations, which has revealed some loopholes in the City’s laws. “To deal with the gray area surrounding facial recognition technology, Myerberg recommended that Diaz either create a new surveillance policy that explicitly forbids the use of facial recognition software; he also suggested that Diaz could ask the city council to modify the 2018 surveillance ordinance to clear up any confusion about whether it applies to facial recognition software.”
And if you’re looking for an overview of the possible loss of momentum within Seattle’s City Council to continue “reimagining” the city’s policing, look no further!
Election News
Seattle Weekly published an overview of King County’s upcoming elections, which include various city council members, mayors, and school board positions. And the South Seattle Emerald published an interview with abolitionist Seattle City Attorney candidate Nicole Thomas Kennedy.
If you’re in the mood for more in-depth Seattle election coverage, last Friday’s Hacks & Wonks podcast features a conversation between Crystal Fincher and Mike McGinn. They speculate it might be a year for outsiders, comparing how many Democracy Vouchers have been collected by Colleen Echohawk and Andrew Grant Houston versus their more established opponents in the mayoral race, and also note that Jessyn Farrell’s support of the Compassion Seattle initiative could be another signal of her interest in running in the “right lane” of the Seattle political divide. However, her lack of success thus far could be a sign of the business-labor hybrid coalition of the past few elections falling apart.
Perhaps of even more interest, Mike McGinn talks at length about his experiences with current City Attorney Pete Holmes. He reveals that the mediator chose to keep Pete Holmes out of the mediation over the Consent Decree between him (when he was mayor) and the Office of Civil Rights. Mike McGinn also said the following:
“Well, we’ve been told - we were being told for years by the Monitor and mayors - that reform was on track and Pete was joining that chorus. And what we saw with the protests, and the police behavior, and tear-gassing the public - leading to a federal court order against it. What we see is that reform failed.
And Pete says he was at the helm of that, but now he has to be there to help fix it. And I think that from the progressive side, they see that he’s not really solving the problems that he says he’s for.”
“So what started as an attempt to engage the community in a dialogue with the City and the police department about what reform looks like - with the belief that it should be homegrown because it’s more likely - let’s listen to community - has now turned into this very, very top-down thing, being run by a judge, in which so much of the local control has disappeared….
And so since there was never any pushback on the judge - now the ability of the community as a whole to influence police reform has been taken away and resides in the judge. And there’s really only one place that - there’s only one person under the City Charter who had the authority to go in on behalf of the City and say, "Do something different.” And that was Pete Holmes. And he never was willing to challenge the Monitor, never willing to challenge the judge, never willing to stand up for the community in that way. So Pete, you’ve been at this - I go back to - been in there 12 years, said he’s necessary to police reform. He has to take some accountability for how he’s not gotten it done overall.“
These quotes give a good idea of the importance of the City Attorney in overseeing how the consent decree has played out, as well as some issues that might come to play in the current election race between Pete Holmes and his challenger Nicole Thomas Kennedy.
Recent Headlines
Why police reform tactics fail over and over again - Washington Post
Washington prisons chief Stephen Sinclair was forced out of his job by Gov. Inslee, records show | The Seattle Times
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Amy Sundberg

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

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