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The WA Legislative Session Winds to a Disappointing End

Notes from the Emerald City
The WA Legislative Session Winds to a Disappointing End
By Amy Sundberg • Issue #56 • View online

WA State Legislature News
The two policing bills we’ve been following here rolling back reforms made in the 2021 session–2037 and 5919–both passed out of their second chamber largely unchanged on Friday and will now make their way to the Governor’s desk for a signature. There was very little debate about either of these bills on the floor before the vote. For 5919 in particular, lawmakers were seemingly not honest about this bill’s chances of making it to the floor, meaning an organized campaign against it was difficult to mount at the last minute. There is not much optimism at present about the ability to get further police reform bills through in upcoming legislative sessions either, and concern about even more rollbacks.
Not only were further improvements to police accountability tabled for this session, the legislature also failed to pass legislation reforming current sentencing laws, not to mention the failed solitary confinement bill that would have put to an end punishment used in Washington State that is internationally recognized as torture. The legislature were able to pass three bills pertaining to gun control.
Impacted families went above and beyond to speak to lawmakers both in 2021’s session and in this year’s session, sometimes re-traumatizing themselves in the process. The results show that many lawmakers weren’t truly listening to these personal stories, but were instead responding to the pressure created by the mass movement on the streets in 2020. Once that pressure was no longer as present, we can see how quickly they are allowing things to slip back to the status quo.
This year’s legislative session officially ends on Thursday.
Seattle News
Mayor Harrell held a public safety press conference last week, mostly to talk about “Operation New Day,” the administration’s latest effort in hot spot policing. In addition to the hot spot at 12th and Jackson, SPD is now also focusing on Third and Pine in the downtown corridor. So far, no social service providers are involved in this operation in spite of general agreement that the city cannot arrest its way out of its problems; Harrell said they are doing a general inventory of community-based organizations to make sure they are aligned with his vision. In the meantime, SPD has made many felony and misdemeanor arrests.
The Seattle City Council passed legislation last week that retroactively authorized a hiring bonus program for 911 dispatchers and SPD officers for the month of January, during which $220k was spent. The legislation says: “on February 4, 2022, Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell, sent an e-mail to Councilmembers that indicated, “unbeknownst to the Harrell Administration,” the SPD and CSCC “continued to offer incentive bonuses throughout the entire month of January,” and that they “have since directed both SPD and CSCC to cease offering the bonuses immediately,””
At today’s Public Safety committee meeting, Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell came to speak about the appointment process for the new Director of the OPA. Their goal is to have 4-6 final candidates identified for interviews by May 27, and a final decision by the Mayor on the new director by June 30. This timeline is extended past that specified in the City’s accountability legislation, but CM Herbold supports the proposal and will act to make it possible.
A search committee will be formed to aid in this process. It must consist of 25% CPC members and have a CPC member as co-chair. Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell said they are also hoping to have community members serve on this committee, as well as at least one CM.
As part of the interview process, the 4-6 final candidates will receive written assessment questions, and their answers will be made available to the public. CM Mosqueda asked if there would also be an opportunity to conduct community forums so community has a chance to interact with the final candidates.While this wasn’t part of the original plan, Senior Deputy Mayor Harrell sounded like she was amenable to adding it. Given that King County community members were given this opportunity to hear and speak with the final candidates for the OLEO Director position, one hopes Seattle residents will be given a similar opportunity for such an important position.
This process will be discussed further at the next Public Safety committee meeting in two weeks.
Carolyn Bick has a new article out today in the South Seattle Emerald revealing more abuses within Seattle’s police accountability system. They report that it appears clear that the City is, in some capacity, currently investigating Andrew Myerberg, the former Director of the OPA and now the Mayor’s Director of Public Safety. They also report extensively on the labyrinth of confusion navigated by lawyer Sarah Lippek, who in 2021 made one complaint to the OPA and two complaints to the OIG, none of which have been resolved and all of which are confusing in how they’ve been pursued (or failed to be pursued, as the case may be). The Seattle Department of Human Resources and the Seattle City Attorney’s Office are also involved, as is outside firm Seyfarth Shaw, rumored for the last several decades to be notorious for union busting.
All of this begs the question: if this lawyer is having such difficulty navigating the system, (you can read the article for many examples of how dysfunctional these bodies’ email communications alone appear to be), how would a normal private citizen have any hope whatsoever of gaining real accountability from Seattle’s system as it currently exists?
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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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