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As smoke clears in Seattle from 2021 #defundSPD budget fight, state Democrats focus on bad cops

Monday, the City Council is set to hold its final vote on a 2021 budget for Seattle that will leave both #defundSPD and pro-police spending activists along with Mayor Jenny Durkan mostly unsatisfied. That is the nature of compromise.

In the city, this will bring a nearly 17% cut to the city’s 2021 policing budget along with important changes to reduce the size and power of the department by moving 911 and traffic enforcement operations outside of Seattle Police and spending more money on social, community, and BIPOC services and programs. Even amongst the loud cries of concern from business groups and pro-policing organizations like the Seattle Police Officer Guild, 2021 will actually see new SPD officers hired as the council is on its way to rejecting “No New Cops” proposals.

Looking forward, more progress in changing policing in Seattle could come from Olympia. Seattle-area state lawmakers say they are working on a suite of legislation that would look to improve police accountability across Washington through a more stringent officer decertification process, a public use of force database, and several other bills.

Local legislators, including Capitol Hill’s Sen. Jamie Pedersen, have been working since the summer and the protests over the police killing of George Floyd on the package that includes an overhaul of a rarely-used mechanism to decertify officers. The state’s Criminal Justice Training Commission decertifies 13 officers per year on average, according to a Seattle Times investigation. Across Washington, there are over 11,000 officers.

“When people violate that trust that we have placed with them, then we’re going to say ‘You no longer have the right to carry a badge and a gun on behalf of the taxpayers and enforce our laws,’” Pedersen, a Democrat who chairs the state senate’s Law and Justice Committee, said in a virtual panel last week.

The new legislation Pedersen is floating would remove roadblocks for the commission to take away officers’ certification, which he calls the “death penalty.” One of the biggest aspects of the bill would be changing the makeup of the commission, from one dominated by law enforcement officials to one with more citizen representation.


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There would additionally be many more categories of misconduct that could lead to decertification and there could be mandatory decertification for excessive force that leads to death.

The bill would also give the commission sanction power of officers that could serve as a warning for misconduct.

This marks a departure from the work being done in Seattle to cut funding for the local police department since state lawmakers have little jurisdiction over the purse strings of municipal law enforcement.

Other pieces of legislation that could come before the Legislature would create a publicly-available statewide use-of-force database and create a statewide civilian-led body for misconduct investigations.

Sen. Manka Dhingra, the Democratic vice-chair of the Law and Justice Committee, said she also wants to see legislation that would train officers in peer intervention so that if a colleague is engaging in misconduct, they would take action.

“We have to make sure that when they see something happening that violates the law, that violates policy, not just the use of excessive force, but prior to that, that they feel empowered to step in and stop that,” Dhingra said in the panel.

Even if the officer doesn’t step in, they would be obligated to report what they saw. Dhingra, who works as an attorney in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, said she sees this as crucial in the decertification process since the testimony of fellow officers is relied upon in many investigations.

“It really is about making sure we’re closing all the holes so that everyone has complete information as to what has been going on with this individual,” the Redmond senator said. “We have to make sure we’re creating a culture where there is that understanding that each of them are going to hold the other to a very high ethical standard.”

Nearly 60% of voters statewide approved I-940 in November 2018 to create more uniform rules around police use of force. That initiative was then amended by legislators in Olympia in early 2018, setting out a test for police using deadly force: whether another law enforcement officer acting reasonably in the same circumstances would have believed deadly force was necessary. This new bill passed unanimously in Olympia.

But these are just proposals so what are their chances come early 2021 in the Legislature? Pedersen is optimistic that many pieces of legislation on accountability could be passed next year, but recognizes that some won’t be accepted by police unions, which could be a major hurdle to success in the capitol.

Collective bargaining, generally, could be an obstacle for many proposals legislators are aiming for.

Meanwhile, legislation frequently takes multiple years to make its way through Olympia, Dhingra notes, so the more difficult reforms, such as altering how collective bargaining works with police, could take longer.

“This is not a one and done.”


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CityOfVagrants
CityOfVagrants
4 months ago

While the SCC is trying their best to allow criminals to continue to terrorize the city, it’s refreshing to see sensible reforms coming from the state government.

James
James
4 months ago

Need to focus on ALL cops. I’m tired of waiting for cops to kill a POC before we finally do something about them. Policing is rooted in racism. The entire concept needs to be completely scrapped.

CityOfVagrants
CityOfVagrants
4 months ago
Reply to  James

I don’t think you live on the same planet as the rest of us.

Riley
Riley
4 months ago
Reply to  James

You’re like the republicans with “repeal and replace” where you’re only focusing on the repeal part with no plan for the aftermath – can you link to a proposal to address the following stats from 2019 Seattle Police responses after you scrap the police?

  • 10,657 assaults, including 3,870 assaults in-progress and 333 incidents where a person was shot or shot at;
  • 3,664 shots fired or weapons reports (callers heard shots fired or saw weapons displayed);
  • 1,776 robbery or carjacking reports;
  • 10,557 burglary calls, including 5,498 residential burglaries and 1,415 burglary in-progress
  • 8,977 auto thefts;
  • 6,631 domestic violence related calls and an additional 2,995 calls related to violations of domestic-violence court orders;
Anti0itnA
Anti0itnA
4 months ago
Reply to  Riley

Y’all haven’t been here long, have you? James throws out some hogwash and never backs up what he posts. Everyone is wrong but him. Don’t waste your time with him, it adds no value to your life.

James
James
4 months ago
Reply to  Riley

And how are cops stopping any of those? Oh wait they don’t. The numbers were similar or worse previous years. Cops don’t do anything to fix crime. It’s social inequality that breeds crime. Come on now.

Riley
Riley
4 months ago
Reply to  James

What should the response to the 3,870 assaults in progress be then when someone calls? “Medics will respond after assault in progress is over please call back then” ?

Anti-itnA
Anti-itnA
4 months ago

Focusing on the police officers at all is really attacking just the symptoms, and not the cause.
Cops use the tools they have to solve problems they were never meant to solve. Most of the people who commit crimes have mental health issues, physical health issues and addictions that result from self-medicating to try to take care of those. For those people, we need to provide basic medical care. That’s not the job of police.
Interviews with people who join criminal gangs shows they felt like they had no choice, because their chances for protecting their families, or getting worthwhile jobs were limited. For those people, we need to provide effective education and job skills. That’s not the job of police.
Most people want to do the right thing, but if they are prevented from doing so by the forces around them, then they often give up. For those people, we need to provide real opportunities to see a better way to live. That’s not the job of police.
I grew up with all kinds of people who blamed others for their problems and lived by the motto, “Do it to them before they do it to you.” I really thought that was the way everyone lived. When I was given the opportunity to escape that kind of life, I took it, but I had to be given the chance. It wasn’t until I met people I felt I could trust that I learned I could, in fact, trust people and not expect everyone to stab me in the back.
If we focus on how to get people beyond their feelings of desperation, we would need fewer police, but we first need to solve the problems that cause people to think crime is the only way they are going to survive.
Relying on government to solve these problems is not very smart, either. Government does not lead society, Government FOLLOWS what society believes. When all of us really believe that every person deserves the same chances and works to make it happen, then we’ll be able to reshape government to serve us.

C Doom
C Doom
4 months ago
Reply to  Anti-itnA

I would invite anyone here promoting police to read this confessional from last summer.

https://medium.com/@OfcrACab/confessions-of-a-former-bastard-cop-bb14d17bc759

There are deep cultural problems in American police forces. Endless ongoing escalation from a handful of protesters, to say nothing of the underlying issues w/r/t police and people of color, proved this all last summer.

SPOG needs to be decertified or the city needs to stop doing business with it, or whatever it takes. Training that eliminates the culture of the Warrior Cop must occur. De-escalation training as a priority must occur. Police as first responders to mental health incidents must stop, or be adjacent to the primary response. And above all, accountability in the form of termination and prosecution for violent cops must actually happen.

American police forces have for over 20 years been heading down the road of the Warrior-Cop. That must end, or America is doomed.

Anti-itnA
Anti-itnA
4 months ago
Reply to  C Doom

More than 20 years. The militarization of the police started right after WWII, when there was all that surplus hardware and all those experienced combat vets.
Sophistication of criminal activities has since been used as an excuse/reason for the local police to act more and more like soldiers and spies.
Why do you think they call it the “Drug WAR”?