Gun Violence, SPD Budget, Regional Peacekeeper Program; Covid Updates:  Mask Up Indoors, Popup Vax Clinics, WA Notify; Report on Executive Order on Re-imagining Policing and Community Safety; Center for Policing Equity Findings on Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops and Use of Force, 2014-2019; Mental Health Resources for BIPOC Communities; All-Hazards Mitigation Plan; Rental Inspection Program Lawsuit; Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal Project Executive Advisory Group

Gun Violence, SPD Budget, Regional Peacekeeper Program

The recent uptick in gun violence in our community and being felt across our nation cannot become our new normal. Here and in other big cities across the U.S., the economic and health impacts of COVID-19 have exacerbated deep inequities in our communities, leading to a mental health crisis, a housing crisis and an economic crisis, all stressors that inflame conditions in our neighborhoods that lead to gun violence.

I am proposing a Seattle investment in the Regional Peacekeepers Collective now, not in next year’s budget, to address the steep rise in gun violence using a public health approach of:

  • Rigorous intervention for those directly involved

  • Secondary prevention for younger siblings

  • Follow-up care and support for family restoration and healing

Community violence intervention programs such as the Regional Peacekeepers Collective have been shown to reduce violence by as much as 60%.

Just like Seattle Fire Department quickly expanded Health One this year – with plans to expand again in the Fall – resulting in fewer police or fire engines sent, and just like Seattle has diverted 911 calls to administrative response in 2020 and 2021, we need to build a more robust alternate response now.

I have also proposed funding, rather than waiting for the 2022 budget, to support the creation of the new Triage One program and a dispatch protocol system, which will allow us to deploy the right resources and allow for better analysis so we can build more alternatives to sending an armed police office to a 911 call. Despite that the Council fully funded SPD’s 2021 staffing plan, police officers are still leaving the SPD in unprecedented numbers. I thank those remaining and committed to law enforcement service in Seattle and I want to ensure that they are dispatched to calls to which only they can respond.

Finally, I support funding to fill vacant Community Service Officer positions. I co-sponsored the creation of the program, and know these alternatives build community safety, and help allow sworn officers to respond to calls that only they can respond to.

The violence our community has experienced this week must end, and this Council will continue the work of reducing violence and building up true community safety.  As Chief Diaz said last week, “we need everyone to encourage their friends and family members to put down their weapons and find ways other than violence to resolve their issues.”

In addition to moving quickly to fund creating the Triage One response system, I also support moving quickly to provide funding for the Regional Peacekeepers Collective. I support these innovative approaches to public safety, and I believe we must act now to fund them. I will be proposing amendments to the supplemental budget legislation currently before the Council.

Earlier this year, I proposed legislation authorizing additional funding to SPD, and removing $7.5 million in restrictions in SPD’s budget.  I was very frustrated at this outcome, but the legislation did not pass. The legislation was based mostly on proposals I had invited SPD to present in the Public Safety and Human Services Committee that I chair. At the time, SPD presented proposals that they indicated would ameliorate the officer staffing shortage, such as hiring additional Community Service Officers positions, Crime Prevention Coordinator positions, technology investments, and additional funding for addressing public disclosure requests.  I supported these investments strongly.

The SPD budget currently has an estimated $13 million in salary savings, due to the staffing shortage.  In other words, there is $13 million budget to pay officers that we do not have, and we can’t hire them fast enough to spend the funds  Although these funds cannot be used to hire more officers, some of these funds can be used to address public safety needs. When I learned that there was an effort to re-direct this $13 million, away from SPD, I requested that SPD update the budget needs summary that they sent me when we were deliberating on the SPD budget bill earlier this year.

I will be working to authorize spending in the second quarter supplemental for funding for programs included in the previous bill, such as Community Service Officers, Crime Prevention Coordinators, and& technology, funding to address SPD evidence storage capacity issues as identified by the Inspector General, funding Public Disclosure Request (PDR) positions in OPA and Seattle IT to address PDR backlogs as identified by the City Auditor, as well as new investments listed above, like funding for Triage 1 and to support the Regional Peacekeepers’ Collaborative.

Covid Updates:  Mask Up Indoors, Popup Vax Clinics, WA Notify

In Seattle and other parts of the country, COVID-19 is on the rise, largely due to the spread of the more contagious delta variant and increasing activities as restrictions have been lifted.  The State Department of Health has more details in this blog post.  The federal Centers for Disease Control tracking shows substantial community transmission in King County.

What does this mean for you?

Mask Up Indoors:  Public Health – Seattle/King County, and the Centers for Disease Control now recommend all residents wear facial coverings when in indoor public settings.  This extra layer of protection is intended for settings like grocery stores, restaurants, retail, theaters, and entertainment establishments, where people can’t be sure everyone is vaccinated.

This step will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 to the public, including customers and workers.

Get Tested:  Get tested for COVID-19 if you have any symptoms or if it’s likely you were exposed to the virus.  Testing is quick and free at many locations.

Get Notified:  More than 2 million Washingtonians are using their phones to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  WA Notify can alert you if you’ve been near another user who later tests positive for COVID. It’s simple to add and your privacy is protected.

Get Vaccinated:  Despite increasing transmission and a bigger presence from the delta variant, vaccination is still working to protect people from severe COVID-19 illness. As of July 4, estimated hospital admission rates among unvaccinated people ages 45-64 were about 20 times higher than rates among people of the same age who were fully protected by vaccination. For ages 65 and older, the estimated admission rate for unvaccinated people was about nine times higher than for those who were fully protected.

Here’s how to find vaccination near you:

Report on Executive Order on Re-imagining Policing and Community Safety

On Tuesday the Public Safety and Human Services Committee heard a briefing from the Mayor’s Office, Police, Fire and the Community Safety and Communications Center on Re-imagining Policing and Community Safety.  This was long awaited work, deriving from both:

  1. The Mayor’s issuance of an Executive Order in October 2020, to “identify areas of SPD response that can be transitioned to civilian and community-based responses.”

  1. Council Resolution 31962 passed in August of 2020, to move civilian functions such as 911 Communications, Parking Enforcement, Harbor Patrol, and Emergency Management into a new department, and request that SPD undertake a 911 call response analysis.

The committee also heard a Central Staff Presentation with background, including description of the current state of mobile crisis response in Seattle, and comparisons to models in Denver, Olympia and Eugene, as well as potential alternative non-crisis 911 responses.

The Executive Presentation included an analysis of 911 calls from 2017 to 2019 by the National Institute for Criminal Justice Refrom. The presentation noted that in the near term up to 12% of calls for service can be responded to without SPD involvement, and “with further analysis, it is likely that additional calls can be diverted without compromising safety for both responders and subjects.”

The call analysis identified 174 call types as candidates for alternative responses; SPD confirmed 28 call types may not need SPD response (that’s where the 12% figure comes from). SPD agrees that some portion of 101 other call types could be appropriate for alternative response on a longer time horizon. Some of these raise legal and labor issues; others are about response time due to deployment model (e.g. officers being on constant patrol, whereas non-SPD responders are dispatched from a base).

The Executive does have a crisis response proposal for a small percentage of the 12% percentage of 911 calls that SPD and the Executive agree do not need an armed response. This is the Triage One proposal, to respond to “person-down” and “wellness-check” 911 calls, announced last week in a press conference I participated in along with the Mayor, Chiefs Diaz and Scoggins, and Community Safety Communications Center Director Lombard. Unfortunately, the Executive has not yet made a proposal to begin to address non-crisis 911 calls, nor to increase administrative response to 911 calls.

 “Per the NICJR analysis and SPD internal analysis up to 12% of calls for service can be responded to without SPD involvement in the near-term.”

The person down and welfare checks incident types proposed to be addressed by a new Triage One response represent only about 7,000 average annual calls. But the 12% of calls that the Executive agrees doesn’t need an armed response totals about 48k average annual calls. If Triage One is going to take the 7k person down & welfare check calls, what’s the recommendation to address the other 40k or so calls each year that the Executive agrees does not need an armed response?

Just like Seattle Fire Department quickly expanded Health One this year – with plans to expand again in the Fall – resulting in fewer police or fire engines sent, and just like Seattle diverted 911 calls to administrative response in 2020 and 2021, we need to build a more robust alternate response now.  When people say that the City needed to build the alternate response system before we reduced the size of the department, they are ignoring four things:

  1. No lay offs happened as a result of budget cuts
  2. Council was never talking about laying off any more than 70 officers (and only Brady list officers and some officers from specialty units that were being eliminated)
  3. Council has fully funded the 2021 SPD hiring plan, and
  4. We have already been steadily reducing the 911 calls that require an officers to respond.  But now, since so many officers have left SPD, we need a sufficiently robust alternate 911 response to replace 200 officers’ time, rather than only 70 officers’ time.

The IDT Report on Reimaging Policing and Community Safety in Seattle notes that the NIJCR Calls for Service Analysis report states up to 49% of call types could at some point be responded to with non-sworn response; as noted above, SPD indicates additional review is needed:

“SPD contracted with the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) to begin to identify which calls could reasonably be offloaded from Patrol. NICJR’s high-level analysis – based on call type, alignment with the criminal code, and frequency of arrests, proposed that up to 49 percent of call types currently responded to by patrol could, at some point in the future, be responded to via an alternative non-sworn response, without SPD involvement. NICJR specifically proposed a four-tier response model where non-SPD, SPD & community teams, and only SPD respond to calls. SPD agrees that this is the correct conceptualization of how to plan for future alternative response models, but that there is additional review required before commitments should be made to community and community groups about what work is appropriate and safe for a non-SPD response.”

The NIJCR analysis analyzed over 1.2 million calls for service from 2017 to 2019, and found that nearly 80% of calls were non-criminal. The analysis found 66.9% of time was dedicated to the non-criminal calls:

Center for Policing Equity Findings on Racial Disparities in Traffic Stops and Use of Force, 2014-2019

Earlier this month, SPD released a report by the Center for Policing Equity (CPE), which analyzed SPD data from 2014 to 2019, as part of CPE’s National Justice Database project.

The CPE report analyzed use of force, and a subset of traffic stops. The new study largely confirms that data of SPD’s own previous SPD review through 2018, issued in December 2019 showing policing racial disparities as well.

The CPE report shows disparities in use of force against black people from 2014 to 2019, varying between 35% and 42%, well above the black population in Seattle. The disparity was especially sharp with people age 21 and under, with over 50% of uses of force being used on a young black person. Overall, per capita, 5 incidents of use of force were recorded per 1,000 black residents for black people, compared to 0.8 for Latinx, 0.7 for White, and 0.3 for Asian residents.

There’s an important caveat for the traffic data, which I’ll describe below, but for the data available, a disproportionate amount of traffic stops were of black people (between 31% and 35%), and 3-4% for Native Americans, again, well above the residential population in Seattle.

Per capita rates for traffic stops were 70 per 1,000 residents during 2015 and 2019 for Native Americans; 43 per 1,000 for black people; 8 per 1,000 for white people; 7 per 1,000 for Latinx, and 2 per 1,000 for Asian people.

The data for traffic stops is complete though because it only includes what are called “Terry stops”, which is based on the standard of reasonable suspicion of involvement in criminal activity. SPD stops for traffic enforcement and other purposes were recorded on paper forms that were not systematically available and thus not reported on .

In 2017, the City Council adopted Ordinance 125358 on bias-free policing, which requires data collection for Terry Stops, as well as for traffic stops, including the “individual’s apparent race/ethnicity, color, or national origin; and gender or gender identity”. The legislation required that the data collected be made available to the Office of Police Accountability and the Office of the Inspector General. The legislation also requires noting the reason for the stop, and whether a citation was issued, or an arrest made.

Data for non-Terry traffic stops is still recorded on paper, so isn’t available in a systematic way that allows for analysis.  Consequently the requirements of Ordinance 125358 have not been adhered to by SPD and the data about these types of stops is absent from the CPE study.

I sponsored a budget action requesting SPD provide a report on July 1 on the demographics of traffic stops, including for criminal and non-criminal disparities as required by Ordinance 125358, and a report by November 1 that makes recommendations on training and policy changes, consistent with the Consent Decree, to address bias and racial disparities.

The report recommends recording information about every stop, and stored electronically.

SPD replied to the budget action request for information this week.  My office is analyzing the response.

Mental Health Resources for BIPOC Communities

Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity. However, background and identity can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult.  In many communities, these problems are increased by less access to care, cultural stigma and lower quality care.

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, dedicated to realizing a shared vision of a nation where anyone affected by mental illness – no matter their background, culture, ethnicity or identity – can get the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives – a nation where no one feels alone in their struggle.

Here are some ways to access support:

All-Hazards Mitigation Plan

On Tuesday my committee passed the All-Hazards Mitigation Plan, the Full Council will vote on Monday.

The Seattle Office of Emergency Management (OEM) maintains an All-Hazards Mitigation Plan which is updated every five years and includes evolving information on community led investments, adjustments to reflect values, cooperation with other major citywide plans, and additional departmental engagement.

OEM presented the 2021 Seattle All-Hazards Mitigation Plan update to the Public Safety Human Services Committee in mid-June, you can see the draft plan here and their presentation here. I also wrote about it at the time, you can read that here.

During the committee meeting I put forward an amendment, which was supported unanimously, and asks OEM to do two things:

  1. “develop a strategy to brief communities in the City of Seattle under the Sea-Tac International Airport and King County International Airport flight paths on information on existing City, County, and Port of Seattle planning that may relate to plane crash hazard mitigation and, following such briefings, report back to the City Council”

  1. “coordinate a citywide effort to identify approaches and projects which can mitigate the impacts of excessive heat on vulnerable populations in Seattle. The Office of Emergency Management should engage multiple City departments, community-based organizations, private sector partners and other subject matter experts including Public Health Seattle & King County and the Office of Sustainability and Environment to scope realistic and implementable strategies and approaches and identify needed public and private funding for those strategies.”

The first part of the amendment was developed with stakeholders from the Georgetown neighborhood after they reached out to me with their concerns regarding the King County International Airport and the possibility of a plan crash related emergency.

The second part of the amendment recognizes that the All-Hazards Mitigation Plan does address excessive heat, but that we need to do more as heatwaves are becoming more common in the Northwest.

Again, the Committee passed the plan out of committee on July 27 and the Full Council intends on voting on the plan on Monday August 2. Once the draft plan is approved by Council it will go for final review by the Washington State Emergency Management Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Rental Inspection Program Lawsuit

Earlier this week the Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to the City’s Rental Registration & Inspection Program (RRIO), in which all residential landlords must arrange public or private inspections of their rental units at least once every ten years. RRIO was established in 2014 to ensure all rental housing in Seattle is safe and meets basic housing maintenance requirements. There is a significant amount of history for me personally around this case which I describe below in the press release:

“The City Attorney’s Office successfully saw the program upheld at King County Superior Court, and this week a three judge panel on the Court of Appeals issued a clear opinion which upholds the Rental Registration & Inspection Program in its entirety. The plaintiffs argued that the City’s ordinance and the City’s requirements for inspectors, including training, were unconstitutional, but the judges found the arguments unpersuasive.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “This is about protecting the health and safety of renters so they aren’t subject to conditions like toxic mold or exposed wiring. The goal in catching hazardous conditions is remediation, not punishment, so everyone can live safely in their homes. My thanks to City Attorney’s Office in-house attorneys Carolyn Boies, Jenna Robert, and Brian Maxey for presenting a well-argued case that saw this program over the finish line.”

Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park) helped develop the Rental Registration & Inspection Ordinance in her role as Legislative Aide to former Councilmember Nick Licata. As Councilmember herself, Herbold was primary sponsor of an ordinance amending the program in 2019.

Herbold said, “I have been working on this policy in some fashion for 27 years – since 1994, when landlords won round one of their opposition to a program enacted in 1987, then in 2006 to get state authorization for a new program, and then in 2010, when the Council passed Ordinance 123311. It’s an understatement to say, as former Councilmember Nick Licata did in 2010, that ‘Seattle’s had a long and difficult history on the issue of rental housing inspection programs.’”

The Rental Registration & Inspection Program requires the City to provide 60 days’ notice to property owners that the property must be inspected, and property owners must give any tenants at least 2 days’ notice prior to the inspection.

Studies show that renters living in the most substandard housing are the least likely to use the complaint-based system.  Renters often fear retaliation when they complain about their housing conditions. Hundreds of cities in the United States have proactive rental housing inspection programs requiring periodic inspections that don’t rely on a renter complaint. Some proactive rental housing inspection programs have been in existence for more than 40 years.”

Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal Project Executive Advisory Group

Last week, the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal Replacement Project Executive Advisory Group held its first meeting. The group, of which I am a member, consists of elected officials representing West Seattle, Vashon, and Southworth, the Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, as well as SDOT, KC Metro, WSDOT and Kitsap Transit. The meeting was a high-level introduction to the project. Membership rosters are available here.

The Community Advisory Group held their second meeting on Wednesday; the presentation isn’t yet posted, though the June 23 presentation is. Members are residents of the three communities, including Fauntleroy neighborhood residents, and representatives from the West Seattle Transportation coalition.

A Technical Advisory Group exists as well that consists of government representatives.

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