Meet the one woman holding down SPD’s Bias Crimes Unit

SPD Detective Beth Wareing (Image: Alex Garland)

While the Seattle Police Department has kept track of biased crime cases for decades — it has to be reported to the feds — a unit dedicated to investigating the reports is only a few years old. It sits underneath the homicide and assault units. The person in charge? Detective Beth Wareing.

She’s technically a coordinator but she reads all the cases, knows where they are and answers questions. The hallmark of bias crime, Wareing said, is random selection — a stranger suddenly choosing to do something hateful to a person with little or no warning. “It’s one of the things that makes them a little difficult to solve,” she said. The department says only 39% of reported bias crimes in 2017 have resulted in charges.

The number of reports, so far, never goes down. “It’s a challenge to say what is completely responsible for increases,” Wareing says. “It is possible it’s in an increase in bias crimes, people are reporting more, officers are doing better at identifying characteristics in a case, or demographic trends have been increasing interactions between people.”

The reality is, however, it’s rarely one factor. And things like politics and media coverage matter.

“One of the things I’m seeing in Seattle is people in Seattle are aware,” Wareing said. “They tend to be pretty active, they read the news. We get a lot of concerned citizens calling in.” Continue reading

Checking in with District 3 rep Sawant and the 2017 People’s Budget

This Thursday, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant will host the People’s Budget to create a movement demanding specific funds stay or be added on to city’s final budget.

We’ve heard it before: “The Seattle City budget is a moral document that reveals the values of our city’s elected officials.” That’s an unsurprising opening line from Sawant. As a socialist, she is steadfast in asking for more on behalf of the disenfranchised, low-income and marginalized.

She feels the primary concern in her District 3 is no different than greater Seattle.

“The paramount concern is the same concern with most working people in this city: The cost of existing,” Sawant tells CHS. “It affects families. It affects small businesses.”

People’s Budget 2017

The councilperson points out how Seattle’s rising rent costs are usually discussed in terms of the private citizen. But it also affects the commercial realm. She thus held a business forum and plans to hold one again in the future. Continue reading

O’Brien and Harris-Talley: Tax Seattle businesses for homelessness

In a press conference Thursday morning, Seattle City Council members Mike O’Brien and Kirsten Harris-Talley announced the core of a new proposed budget for the city: making the top 10% grossing businesses pay a tax of less than five cents per hour per full-time employee. The H.O.M.E.S. proposal — Housing, Outreach and Mass-Entry Shelter — would gather $20 to $25 million every year which to be applied to homelessness services, permanent housing, and vouchers.

“I’m afraid our current budget sets us up for failure,” O’Brien said. “This is not enough to solve the crisis. We will be asking the new mayor, whoever she is, to come up with a new plan in the first few months.” Continue reading

Seattle looks at city retirement savings program for workers

Not a retirement savings plan (Image: CHS)

Fresh from being sworn into office, Mayor Tim Burgess unveiled his 2018 budget for the city, including a proposal to establish retirement savings accounts for an estimated 200,000 Seattle workers whose employers don’t provide such benefits. Some Capitol Hill business leaders are lining up to support the plan, arguing that freelancers and the nightlife industry stand to benefit.

Tuesday, the Burgess legislation was sent to the City Council to begin deliberations. “In Seattle, 200,000 workers have no retirement savings plan,” Burgess said. “That’s a recipe for long-term financial instability for those individual workers, their families, and our local economy. We know that people are far more likely to save for retirement if they have an option easily available. That’s exactly what my plan provides.”

The idea, which has been a Burgess pet project, boils down to this: The city would contract a third party administrator to process the payroll of workers within city limits whose employer doesn’t offer any savings program and deduct a small percentage of their pay to personal retirement savings accounts. The amount deducted can be determined by the employee, but the default option is between three and five percent. (Workers could also choose to opt-out of the program at any point.) This account would be portable, and would remain with the employee even if they changed jobs, a boon to freelancers and service industry employees who frequently change jobs. Continue reading

Seattle has plan to retrofit its most earthquake-risky buildings

In 2016, CHS reported on 300 buildings around Seattle added to city’s list of hundreds of seismically risky “unreinforced masonry” structures that could crumble in a major earthquake. In 2018, the City Council might finally start to do something about it.

Monday, the council heard recommendations from the Unreinforced Masonry Policy Committee around requiring retrofitting across Seattle — and how to pay for it. But even with the renewed recommendations — embedded below — there is still only a fuzzy roadmap to putting new rules into effect:

Having briefed the Council this morning, it’s now in the Council members’ hands to decide how to move these recommendations forward in 2018: whether to once again make retrofit of URM buildings mandatory and under what timeline, which financial assistance programs to pursue, and whether ancillary programs such as the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance should be extended to provide additional aid for tenants displaced by retrofit work. Council member Bagshaw has been vocal about the need to address this issue for some time; it wouldn’t be surprising if she sponsored legislation to adopt the policy committee’s recommendations.

And bricks might not even be the city’s biggest challenge. There is growing evidence that concrete buildings engineered using outdated methods were some of the most vulnerable structures during Mexico City’s big quake in September. “Flat slab” construction is only restricted in parts of the United States.

Meanwhile, some Capitol Hill landowners are moving forward on their own. Last year, CHS reported on details of the voluntary retrofit of the Whitworth Apartments, a classic Capitol Hill apartment building at 17th and John.

The full presentation of recommendations from the committee is below. Continue reading

District 3’s Sawant fighting defamation suit from officers who shot Che Taylor

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant faces a defamation lawsuit from the Seattle Police Department officers who shot Che Taylor last year. Sawant filed for a motion to dismiss last week.

The officers, Scott Miller and Michael Spaulding, claim she used the fatal shooting while naming the officers to further her own administrative agenda and political platform. The lawsuit filing itself says the two “do not want one red cent of public money.” Their claim alleges Sawant called the officers murderers and stated their decision to shoot Taylor as a product of racial profiling before the two had their day in court. Continue reading

Harris-Talley is Seattle’s newest City Council member

Harris-Talley

Seattle has a new new mayor. And now it has a brand new City Council member — for about 50 days.

The council Friday selected Kirsten Harris-Talley, program director of the Progress Alliance of Washington, to fill the seat left vacant by the ascendancy of Tim Burgess to the mayor’s office in the wake of the Ed Murray resignation.

Harris-Talley was one of 16 applicants for the seat including former council member Nick Licata. Her selection Friday required a majority of votes from the nine other members of the council. She emerged with five including the backing of District 3 representative Kshama Sawant.

Harris-Talley’s selection marks a victory for the Seattle Peoples Party, the organization formed during activist Nikkita Oliver’s unsuccessful bid for the mayor’s office this summer, which fought for a more inclusive selection process and backed the Progress Alliance organizer.

In her five years at the alliance, Harris-Talley worked with the organization “to bridge gaps in the progressive movement and help build collective capacity for engagement and policy wins.”

Her selections brings the number of women serving on the Seattle City Council to six. Of those, three are women of color.

Harris-Talley will serve through November when, depending on how the vote falls in the citywide Position 8 race, either Jon Grant or Teresa Mosqueda will fill the seat.

 

Seattle has a new new mayor


The good news: Three people wanted to be mayor of Seattle. Here is the announcement from the Seattle City Council on the “didn’t see that one coming” ascension of retiring council member Tim Burgess to the mayor’s office:

Burgess Nominated as Mayor of Seattle

SEATTLE – The Seattle City Council elected Councilmember Tim Burgess (Position 8, Citywide) as the 55th Mayor of Seattle today.  Burgess will take the oath of office today at 5:00 p.m., which will be administered by City Clerk Monica Martinez Simmons.  Burgess will serve as Mayor until King County certifies election results on November 28, 2018. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Community Post | SPD Releases Bias Crimes Report for First Half of 2017

From the Seattle Police Department, September 12, 2017

Today the Seattle Police Department released its semiannual report detailing bias crimes and incidents for the first half of 2017. During this time, a total of 178 criminal and non-criminal bias based incidents were reported, up from the 128 incidents reported at the same time last year. The increase in reports can be attributed in large part to victims feeling more comfortable reporting bias crimes due to enhanced trust, improved reporting mechanisms and ongoing community outreach by the Department.

“SPD continues to be a national leader in investigating and reporting bias crimes as well as outreach to communities experiencing these acts,” said Chief of Police, Kathleen O’Toole. “In the spirit of transparency and accountability we continue to release these reports letting the community know that the Department works hard every day to make sure our most vulnerable victims are heard and we pursue the justice they deserve.”

Highlights from the report:

  • Bias crimes often occur between complete strangers and take victims by surprise. Many of them are property crimes committed anonymously under the cover of darkness. The Seattle Police Department’s clearance rate for these incidents is 39%. Many of these arrests are made by patrol officers arriving on the scene soon after an incident has occurred. Detectives work hard to locate suspects not found at the time of the incident. 13 cases from this period remain open and may be cleared by arrest.
  • Continue reading

Seattle has a new mayor

Tuesday, CHS was up a mountain river when Ed Murray made his final announcement as Mayor of Seattle:

I am announcing my resignation as mayor, effective at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

While the allegations against me are not true, it is important that my personal issues do not affect the ability of our City government to conduct the public’s business.

“I’m proud of all that I have accomplished over my 19 years in the Legislature, where I was able to pass what were at the time the largest transportation packages in state history, a landmark gay civil rights bill and a historic marriage equality bill.

And I am proud of what we have accomplished together at the City during my time as mayor, passing a nation-leading $15 minimum wage, and major progressive housing affordability and police accountability legislation, as well as negotiating an agreement to build a world-class arena that I believe in time will bring the NHL and NBA to Seattle.

But it has also become clear to me that in light of the latest news reports it is best for the city if I step aside.

We’ll have more to report on the longtime Capitol Hill resident, his legacy, the sexual abuse allegations, and his place in the neighborhood’s community and its history when we are up and running again at full speed.

For now, welcome short-timer Mayor Bruce Harrell and good luck to candidates Jenny Durkan (CHS Q&A) and Carry Moon (CHS Q&A). The city needs you.

The mayor of Capitol Hill 2017: Jenny Durkan Q&A

The mayor of Capitol Hill 2017: Cary Moon Q&A