West Seattle Bridge Expected to Open on September 18th; 8/9 Public Safety and Human Services Committee; SPD Before the Badge Website; Firefighter Graduation & Reports of Attacks; August 18 Seattle University SW Precinct Community-Police Dialogue; Local Progress; WRIA 9 Site Visit to Duwamish River Park; Canceled Office Hours

West Seattle Bridge Expected to Open on September 18th

Since the West Seattle Bridge was closed, all of West Seattle, South Park and Georgetown have had the bridge reopening top of mind.

Yesterday we received good news: SDOT announced that the West Seattle Bridge is expected to be opened to traffic on Sunday, September 18th.

Before the bridge opens, SDOT will perform numerous tests to confirm the bridge is structurally sound and ready for the public.

The remaining repairs needed to complete the project require challenging and complex work and include:

  • Complete final epoxy injections and carbon-fiber wrapping
  • Complete cure time for the carbon-fiber wrapping
  • Remove work platforms
  • Load test and inspect the repairs
  • Install permanent inspection platforms inside the bridge structure
  • Restore the pavement on the bridge deck
  • Remove construction equipment and get the bridge ready for the public

The image below that shows work on the bridge no longer includes any blue-colored “Coming soon” items, as major work is either completed (in green) or taking place (in orange).

Once the West Seattle Bridge opens, all restrictions on the Spokane Street Bridge (low bridge) will lift and the automated enforcement system will be turned off. Within a day or two of the bridge reopening, we will remove all the low bridge restrictions signs, the restricted lane paint, and the paint on the bridge columns near the Chelan 5-way intersection. Finally, within a week or two of the bridge reopening, the cameras system will be removed by the automated enforcement vendor, although the system will have been turned off the day the bridge reopens.

The bridge is expected to remain in service for its original projected lifespan, around 40 additional years. Choosing a repair instead of a brand-new bridge is estimated to have saved several years over a replacement, and hundreds of millions of dollars.

8/9 Public Safety and Human Services Committee

The August 9 Public Safety Committee heard several items.

OPA Director appointment: The Mayor’s selection for Director of the Office of Police Accountability, Gino Betts, made a first appearance before the Public Safety and Human Services Committee. Mr. Betts will appear before the committee on September 13th, for questions and answers with Councilmembers, and a committee vote.

Human Services Department Financial Improvement Plan: The Human Services Department and the City Budget Office presented their work to strengthen its financial management controls and practices.  The underlying cause for these issues stem from: the fact that HSD’s budget grew from $142M in 2016 to its FY 22 level of $403M without an increase in financial staffing. This was a follow up to a presentation the PSHS committee received in December 2021 on the same topic, where HSD shared that they had retained a consultant, had completed a preliminary assessment, and was in the process of identifying immediate tasks.

During the budget process, Council added positions to implement a portion of the recommendations in the Financial Improvement Plan. The midyear supplemental budget legislation also included funding for additional work from the consultant.

This effort is focused on these areas: 1. Restoring and stabilizing cash balances 2. Becoming current on billing for Federal and State funding sources 3. Simplifying HSD’s financial structure 4. Eliminating late and/or missed payments to our agencies 5. Optimize budget (funds) management.  Here’s the progress to date and work yet to do.

I appreciate our partners from HSD sharing their progress working through the Financial Improvement Plan.

Update on SPD Staffing, Budget, Overtime, 911 response, 911 alternatives: The PSHS committee heard the 2nd quarterly update requested by the City Council on SPD staffing, finances, overtime and response times.  We also discussed 911 alternatives.

For 911 response times, SPD’s goal for Priority 1 calls is a median response of 7 minutes (the midpoint of responses). The median during the 2nd quarter was 7.2 minutes.  SPD also reported that for January through June 2022, 48% of calls were responded to within 7 minutes, compared to 52% last year.

There were 539 officers assigned to patrol in June 2022, down by 6; the number assigned to 911 response was down by 6, with 463 officers and 69 sergeants.

For the 2nd quarter of 2022, there are 956 fully trained officers in service, and 109 on leave. There were 958 fully trained officers in the 4th quarter of 2021, and 968 in the 1st quarter of 2022. The number on leave has gone down from 181 in the 4th quarter of 2021, and 146 in the first quarter of 2022.

The number of officers serving in the Southwest precinct at the end of June increased to 65 officers and sergeants, up from 58 at the end of March.   Precinct median response times were down or level in most precincts for Priority 1 calls from 2021 to 2022, except in SW, which increased by 0.29 minutes, or 17 or so seconds. It makes sense that the number of officers there has increased.

There were over 153,000 service calls. The presentation notes not every call necessitates contact between the police and the caller. An example is someone reporting a car accident. Such calls are cleared with a “Z” code; there were a total of 755 such calls, all low priority.

Priority 3 calls cover incidents where response time is not critical, and an event is no longer in progress, and a victim is waiting to speak with officers. Priority 4 can include graffiti and noise complaints, and situations where a report may or may not be needed.

The Chief noted that SPD is working with potential vendors to make call backs to people who aren’t receiving a response, because their call was cleared with a “z” code.

Overall SPD spending through June was 95% of the funds budgeted through that time period, though overtime was higher than budgeted.  Overtime use was highest for emphasis patrols such as Pike/Pine, 12th and Jackson, shots fired areas, and nightlife. SPD spending for staffing events and concerts is up from 2021, but lower than 2020. Sporting event staffing is up, in part due to new Seattle Kraken games, which are 100% reimbursable.

Incentives legislation:  The committee considered legislation to establish a bonus program for new officers and additional items.

The legislation:

  • Authorizes spending of $289,000 in hiring incentives during 2022, from existing funds in SPD’s 2022 budget
  • Transfers $228,000 funds out of SPD to the Seattle Department of Human Resources for four positions to enhance recruiting, and ability to administer tests, which can speed up the hiring process; this is in addition to funds the Council previously approved for SPD to hire consultants outside the department to accelerate background checks; and
  • Funds some items during the remainder of 2022 included in the SPD Recruitment and Retention Plan.

In the 2022 budget, the Council adopted funding for the Seattle Police Department’s hiring plan to hire 125 officers; hiring has been slower than anticipated so this bill uses existing funds in support of the hiring plan that we voted for and funded.

A policy basis for the bonuses of $7,500 for new recruits and $30,000 for lateral hires was important to me, so I had my staff compare the figures for other cities noted in the Central Staff memo. Seattle offers the second highest starting salaries of larger departments in the state, by a narrow margin. The combination of starting salaries plus the first year bonus is near the top, though slightly below Kent and Everett; for lateral officers, a comparison is more difficult, but with the top salary step, and the proposed bonus, Seattle would be the second highest, with a few other cities relatively close.

Central Staff raised potential issues: a need for a more detailed evaluation and, given the Executive’s indication that hiring incentives will be offered for at least three years, and a sunset date for the program.

The second half of the bonus would be paid after the probationary period established by Public Safety Civil Service Rules, which is one year. Officers who leave the department within five years would need to return the bonus.

I noted in the committee a draft amendment I’ve been working with Central Staff, the City Attorneys’ Office and the Public Safety Civil Service Commission. This amendment would provide clarity about the groups of police officer candidates that are eligible for hiring incentives per the classification rubric of the Public Safety Civil Service Commission.   Under Public Safety Civil Service commission rules, officers may request and receive reinstatement, subject to approval by the Public Safety Civil Service Commission and Chief of Police. Reinstated officers receive reinstatement benefits such as returning to their previous classification, salary step and accrual rates for vacation and sick leave, per the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild contract, for officers that return within two years.  In addition, reinstated officers do not have to re-test and can begin work (and get paid) faster. These reinstatement benefit have economic value as hiring incentives.

I appreciate the Mayor and SPD bringing this forward. My support of this bill funding recruitment and incentives has been dependent on the Executive’s commitment in developing a new 911 alternative call response program. I believe this is a critical component of our recruitment and retention and public safety strategy.  In their presentation before the committee the Mayor’s Office noted that for some lower-priority call types, an alternative responder could take the report, some of which would need to be subsequently certified by law officers.

Last week a staff group between the Mayor’s Office and Council Central Staff started work (including with SPD, the Community Safety and Communications Center and Fire Department). The City’s quarterly Consent Decree filing notes the workgroup “will recommend approaches that increase SPD or alternative response to priority three and four calls in the near term, through an alternative response pilot and evaluation of existing resource that could be redeployed or more efficiently deployed on projects like Special Events” and notes the Mayor’s Office will propose a preliminary recommendation on the subset of calls that may be good candidates to divert from police or co-response, and estimates this process will be completed in the fall.

CSCC 911 dispatch protocol system: You may recall me writing about funding for a protocol system for 911 dispatchers at the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC) in last year’s supplemental budget process.  The protocol system will implement a more consistent process for obtaining key information from 911 callers and support better data analysis to plan for resource deployment, including alternatives to police response. The CSCC, after working through the city’s request for proposal (RFP) process, is finally moving forward with a contractor for providing this system. The contractor is preparing a statement of work to deliver a product within the $700,000 budget the Council allocated. The contractor has experience in this area as our Seattle Fire Department call center uses a similar product from the same vendor. In addition to the statement of work, the contractor is preparing implementation and training documents for the CSCC.

SPD Before the Badge Website

The Seattle Police Department now has a Before the Badge website.

This Seattle-specific program was announced last year by Interim Chief Diaz; I proposed an amendment to a supplemental budget the Council approved to provide the initial funding.

In Washington State, new police officer recruits attend the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission for their mandatory 720-hour Basic Law Enforcement Academy (BLEA) training. The Before the Badge program is a 5-week program before the BLEA training.

The website notes, “Before the Badge is designed to provide pre-academy recruits with foundational knowledge, skills, and relationships to succeed as partners in the community and leaders in this department. Grounded in principles of relational policing, officer wellness, and collaboration, BTB brings recruits together in honest dialogue with Seattle’s diverse communities, department colleagues, and City leaders and reflects SPD’s commitment that its officers provide a safe and supportive culture in which to grow and serve.”

The Before the Badge training, “immerses all SPD recruits in community-based, peer-based, and introspective experiences that will provide them both a lens through which to receive their eventual BLEA training and a foundation upon which to build their careers as Seattle Police Officers. During Before the Badge, SPD recruits will gain a more comprehensive understanding of the people they will eventually swear to serve and protect.”

It further notes,

“Before the Badge is made up of three basic parts:

  • Meet with community groups to have discussions as individuals about policing in Seattle
  • Work with the Wellness Unit to obtain tools to help with the stresses of the job
  • Learn about SPD precincts, officers, opportunities, and leadership

In addition, BTB includes exploration of the policing profession’s racist history, gender responsiveness, and the science of relationship-based policing.”

Interim Chief Diaz has noted the program has proven very popular and has led to interest from current officers.

Firefighter Graduation & Reports of Attacks

In the last two weeks I have received three letters from our local firefighters’ union, IAFF Local 27. In these letters Local 27 has referenced more than 40 attacks since April, and described some specific incidents:

  • A firefighter hit by a rock while extinguishing a fire at an encampment; and
  • An aid response, where the patient pulled a knife on the firefighters

I first want to note that the Seattle Police Department is required to be present at scenes of violence when our firefighters are dispatched. I have reached out to Police Chief Diaz, Fire Chief Scoggins, and Community Safety and Communication’s Center Director Lombard about these incidents to learn more about them and get a fuller picture. I have also requested a description of the 40 attacks and whether SPD was at the scene when the attack occurred.

I unequivocally condemn acts of violence and I support the safety of all in public service, especially first responders who put themselves in harm’s way, both at SPD and SFD.  I’ve supported the SPD staffing plan for each 2021 and 2022, as well as funding recruitment efforts. I’ve added funding to SFD to increase recruit class sizes for 2021 and 2022, and I’ve championed funding for items such as ballistic vests to ensure our firefighters have the appropriate tools to stay as safe as possible. I will be working with Local 27 to learn how we can proactively mitigate these hazards.

I also want to report that this Friday, Recruit class 115 will be graduating. As noted above, I have worked to provide increased funding for more firefighter recruits. There are two recruit classes a year, and this Friday we’ll have 29 new firefighters join the ranks.

August 18 Seattle University SW Precinct Community-Police Dialogue

Seattle University is hosting the third community-police dialogue in the Southwest Precinct on August 18th, and they shared the following message:

“I would like to share with you the Call for Participants for our upcoming community-police dialogues. We will be holding our FINAL dialogue for Southwest Precinct on Thursday July 18, 2022. If you are willing, please share the flyer and link with your network to help make sure the everyone who lives and/or works in Seattle who would like to participate has the opportunity to do so.

 Here is the link to sign up for the 2022 Community-Police Dialogues. The flyer is attached to this email.

 2021 SPD MCPP Reports – Our research team has completed two reports – the 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey Results and the 2021 Community Police Dialogues Results. Links to the reports are below. The 2021 Seattle Public Safety Report includes results from the 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey citywide, precinct, and micro-community. The 2021 Community-Police Dialogues Report includes results of the virtual community-police dialogues we conducted last spring/summer separated by precinct:

Helfgott, J.B. & Parkin, W. (2022). Seattle Police Department’s Citywide 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey Results (149p.)

Helfgott, J.B. & Parkin, W. (2022). Seattle Police Department’s Micro-Community Policing Plans Community-Police Dialogues 2021 Results (41p.)

 2022 SPD MCPP Seattle Police Community-Police Dialogues  

We began conducting the 2022 virtual community-police dialogues on May 19 and will be running them every Thursday night 5:30-7:30pm from May 19 through August 25, 2022 – 3 for each precinct. The purpose of the dialogues will be to provide an overview of the findings from the 2021 Seattle Public Safety Survey and to give community members and police personnel opportunity to engage in dialogue that is precinct-specific.”

Local Progress

I attended the Local Progress conference, a ten-year celebration focusing on resilience, power, and transformation, in Denver late last week.  Upwards of 350 local elected officials and community partners from all over the nation attended.

My staff and I toured the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) non-police emergency response – a team comprising clinical social workers and paramedics, which is dispatched to calls directly by 911 dispatch, without a police presence. The teams engage individuals experiencing crises related to mental health issues, poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse. In its first 18 months, it has successfully responded to 5,500 911 calls, and has never required a backup from law enforcement.

There was a session on how to create and fund programs like STAR that respond to people in crisis without requiring police involvement.  Denver’s STAR program credits the Denver Police Chief for leadership in creating the program.  The session explored how various funding streams, including federal grants, medicaid, city/county partnerships, and philanthropy can fund community safety and community responder programs.  STAR began as a co-response model, police accompanied social workers and medics.  Again, since they moved away from a co-response model, STAR reports more than 5,000 calls responded to and STAR staff has not had to call for police assistance for a single call.

National organizations provided research showing broad support for such alternatives, which provide an appropriate response for people in behavioral health crisis, while keeping police free to focus on violent crime.

There was also a session on abusive state preemption, which is increasingly a tactic used to suppress local, multiracial organizing for progressive local goals such as strengthening workers’ rights, racial justice, gun control, and environmental protections.  We heard stories of efforts that have successfully fought back.

Additionally, my staff attended a session and hosted a meet up to talk about ways to protect and expand abortion access for Seattle residents, and for the 385% increase in medical refugees seeking abortion here that we expect.

I had the opportunity to address newly elected officials joining Local Progress, here is an excerpt of my remarks:

On November 18th 2012, municipal elected officials from 32 cities in 20 states met in Washington D.C. to declare:  We have gathered together to build a coalition of municipal elected officials dedicated to broadly-shared prosperity, equal justice under law, sustainable and livable cities, and good government that serves the public interest directly. To serve these ends, we hereby proclaim the founding of Local Progress: A national municipal policy network.”

My boss at the time, former Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata was a founding member along with Brad Lander (New York City), Wilson Goode Jr. (Philadelphia), Chuck Lesnick (Yonkers), Faith Winter (Westminster, CO), Julia Ross (St. Louis Park, MN) and Joe Moore (Chicago) as well as organizational leaders Andrew Friedman (Center for Popular Democracy) and Gloria Totten (Public Leadership Institute).

The idea for this new organization began for Nick when he sponsored and Council adopted a Resolution to recognize the Occupy Movement for economically distressed Americans at the federal and local levels.

We all do a lot for our jurisdictions, but the vision for Local Progress was that a network of municipal elected officials would strengthen our success at the local level.

My experiences at Local Progress convenings have always underscored how important we are to one another. We talk about resiliency, but for me, that is built through the support Local Progress gives to all of us when we get together.

  • In 2014 Local Progress brought Councilmembers from cities nationwide to Seattle for an income inequality symposium that helped build the foundation for Seattle’s $15 minimum wage campaign.
  • In 2016 Local Progress mobilized City leaders from all over the nation to descend on Washington DC to get Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD to stop selling mortgages to Wall Street at a discount, selling our precious housing stock to hedge funds and private equity firms. As a result, these loans at the height of the foreclosure crisis could be purchased by nonprofit organizations.
  • In 2017, Local Progress knew we had to be in Austin, Texas, in the wake of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown, we marched to the Texas State Capitol and moved, beyond sanctuary policies to defend immigrant communities.
  • In 2018, we gathered in Pittsburgh for the Local Progress convening just days after the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Local Progress members decided, on the spot, to ditch our workshops and we joined protestors in the streets. Local Progress sustained its members in that moment, when they needed not to talk, but to act, and this made possible A Policing Policy Toolkit to newly define public safety for our communities.
  • In 2019, Local Progress called on me, and my Seattle City Council colleague and Local Progress board member Teresa Mosqueda to join them in New York City at a summit set up by unions and community groups that opposed Amazon’s plan to expand there and the billions of dollars in government subsidies that helped attract the company. We were there to support labor activists, Amazon warehouse workers, and electeds in NYC and describe how the Amazon’s growth changed Seattle and to warn local politicians to take steps on taxing, zoning and labor standards earlier rather than later.

The common theme here for me is how Local Progress grew from an idea on paper in 2012 for how Local Progress could work toward shared prosperity, justice, sustainability, and livability by sharing legislation that makes government work for more of us, evaluating our best ideas and practices, and then introducing those that could most benefit our own communities. It grew into an organization that was about action to support people where they needed support, when they needed support. I believe that’s what creates resiliency and true transformation in our communities. This is why I keep coming back to Local Progress.

WRIA 9 Site Visit to Duwamish River Park

On Thursday the Watershed Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 9, which I co-chair and serve on as a representative of the city of Seattle, held its meeting at the the Port of Seattle’s Duwamish River Community Hub in South Park.  At this meeting we voted to approve our budget and workplan. Included in the budget was funding for the first ever Duwamish Basin Steward position. I wrote here about how I’ve been advocating for it since 2019.

After we voted to approve the budget and workplan we did a tour of the Duwamish River People’s Park and Shoreline Habitat. This park opened last month and is the former Terminal 117.   This is the largest habitat restoration site along the Duwamish River in a generation and it could not have happened without the Duwamish Valley community advocacy that the Port pursue a higher standard of cleanup that would transform the site into a public use park and habitat reserve.

Canceled Office Hours

Unfortunately, I have cancelled my office hours scheduled for August 19th. A five-hour long Police Chief Search Committee meeting has been scheduled during this time, and despite my request to find another date the search committee was unable to find another time for this meeting. I will be participating in search committee interviews all day on the 19th.

My next scheduled office hours will be on Friday, September 30.

Here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours for the remainder of the year. These are subject to change.

  • Friday, September 30, 2022
  • Friday, October 28, 2022
  • Friday, December 16, 2022
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