Seattle Police collecting community feedback on new use of force proposals

(Image: Tom Walsh with permission to CHS)

After months of protests in Seattle and a stream of examples of excessive force used by police, the Seattle Police Department debuted drafts in December that would alter its policies on use of force and crowd management last month, but advocates say they fall short.

Advocates and community groups have spent weeks organizing response to the proposals but there is still time to add your voice. SPD said its deadline for public feedback is Friday.

The specific existing policies, which undergo annual review, that the new drafts revise were originally developed in collaboration with the U.S. Justice Department and were approved by a federal court, noted SPD spokesperson Valerie Carson.

“Since June, SPD has significantly modified its tactical approach to meeting the evolving nature of this unprecedented series of protest events, responsive to both community concerns and internal discussions around lessons learned,” Carson said in an email, emphasizing changes in SPD policy around crowd management — tactics that faced heavy criticism over the summer for unnecessary escalation with protesters.

These changes include “robust emphasis” on tactics that isolate individuals who have broken the law so they can be arrested and reducing the “SPD visible footprint around these events” with the recognition that a heavy police presence can escalate tension.

Seattle Community Police Commission senior policy analyst Nia Franco said, however, there is little change to the crowd dispersal tools available to SPD, which would still be able to use tear gas and blast balls under the departmental policy. The CPC has consistently called for limitations on the use of crowd control weapons, including last year when, along with the Office of the Inspector General, and the Office of Police Accountability, it called on SPD to stop using tear gas on protesters.

“Their proposed changes completely disregard those recommendations that we’ve made,” Franco said in a Wednesday meeting of the commission. Continue reading

Cultural Space Agency’s mission: Create and preserve arts venues in expensive Seattle (and even more expensive Capitol Hill)

The V2 project was temporary — there are hopes for more permanent outcomes from the Cultural Space Agency

The City of Seattle has established a Public Development Authority (PDA) with the hope of creating shared cultural spaces and supporting local artists.

The move might be a last hope for arts organizations in a neighborhood like Capitol Hill that has transitioned from cheap auto row-era spaces perfect for galleries, studios, and dive bars. The latest victim here is Velocity Dance which gave up its 24-year struggle against rising rents and the COVID-19 crisis and has now given up its 12th Ave  home.

The Cultural Space Agency, which will be partnered with the PDA, will look to build community wealth and invest in communities of color as a real estate investment company focused on spaces for the arts. For example, it could partner with the city’s Equitable Development Initiative on real estate deals to ensure cultural space is included, and working with the Office of Housing to purchase ground-floor units in new developments to give ownership opportunities to small businesses, said Randy Engstrom, director of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture.

The city has set aside $1 million for the next two years for the PDA’s operating costs with the hopes of getting investments from philanthropists for projects.

“We’re doing it to make sure that, as we come out of COVID, that we not only preserve but we protect that part of our city that really is its soul: the arts and culture,” Mayor Jenny Durkan told reporters Tuesday morning. “And that we make sure that we do it in a way that can be more equitable and that our recovery is one that actually does bridge the gap to prosperity for everyone.” Continue reading

Washington Build Back Black Alliance forms to ‘speak with one voice’ in Olympia at Seattle City Hall

When Paula Sardinas moved to Washington, she noticed that despite lawmakers’ rhetoric, “Black Lives Matter” was not reflected in policy.

Sardinas, president of a government relations firm, said she’s been advocating for equity in Olympia, but has always come up against better-funded special interests, noting specific fights in the cannabis industry that activists have argued has kept out Black business owners. So she asked herself: “How can we create a concentric circle which centers around social and equitable racial justice in policy and bring all the members to the table?”

Sardinas and colleagues hope they have answered this question by forming the Washington Build Back Black Alliance this fall, which includes members from Tacoma to the Tri-Cities, to both develop policies and give feedback on existing legislation that could affect the wellbeing of Black people.

“Every piece of policy we draft we need to ask ourselves one simple question: Does this hurt or advance the cause of Black lives and if it does, how is it helping us to create generational wealth and equity,” Sardinas told CHS this week. “If a bill or piece of legislation doesn’t answer those two questions, then why are we hearing the bill?”

Some elements of the group’s 2021 agenda are already taking shape. Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled his equity plan for the state’s next budget including “$365M for equity-related decision packages and budget items.”

Continue reading

Amid Seattle’s big issues around policing, community meeting digs through the nitty gritty of 2020 crime in the East Precinct

Beneath the “defund” push to redirect Seattle Police spending to social and community programs and the political maneuverings around removing the wall outside the East Precinct and reopening Cal Anderson Park, the nitty gritty of neighborhood crime concerns was at the forefront Thursday night for the monthly meeting of the East Precinct Advisory Council.

Property crime is on the rise in the East Precinct, SPD leadership told community members Thursday evening, with car theft, arson, and burglary up compared to 2019.

SPD crime prevention coordinator Joe Elenbaas joined the East Precinct Advisory Council to outline ways to prevent mail and car theft. Recommendations included signing up for the United States Postal Service’s Informed Delivery program, which lets recipients know what mail they’ll be receiving so they can pick it up quickly, anti-theft devices in cars, and hiding electronics that might indicate there are expensive items in the vehicle.

Elenbaas said that they are hearing of increased package theft from East Precinct residents but that victims are apparently not bothering to report the crimes.

The community meeting highlighted several areas of concern from SPD including arson, vehicle thefts, and property crime at Seattle University and businesses. Continue reading

King County Prosecutor: Pandemic brings more hate crimes as mental health and drug issues go untreated

HOPE UR OKAY (Image: CHS)

Hate crime reports are up in King County this year, with 51 cases filed by the prosecuting attorney’s office in 2020. This is up from 38 in 2019 and 30 in 2018.

This increase puts the region as having one of the highest hate crime caseloads in the country, according to hate crime co-lead for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office David Bannick. But Bannick added that this is partly due to the Seattle Police Department prioritizing these investigations.

Most hate crime filings in the county occur in Seattle, Bannick said. These numbers do not include all hate crimes because not all get reported to authorities.

“There is likely dozens of hate crimes that go unreported or do not ever make it to us,” Bannick said in a call with reporters Monday.

Leandra Craft, also a hate crime co-lead for the prosecuting attorney’s office, told reporters Monday that she thinks the rise is due both to an increase in reporting and an increase in incidents. She also said that the coronavirus pandemic has led to different offenders of hate crimes, specifically more committed by people with mental health and substance abuse issues that aren’t getting assistance because of restrictions stemming from the virus.

This fact has complicated filing decisions for Bannick and Craft. For alleged hate crime offenders to get treatment instead of jail time, prosecutors often have to reduce the cases to misdemeanors from felonies. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

A Broadway development more than 20 years in the making, the process to fill Capitol Hill Station’s new apartments has begun — UPDATE

Capitol Hill Station’s Park luxury apartment building will provide its tenants with plenty of Cal Anderson views (Image: Live Capitol Hill Station)

One quarter of the first batch of units in the new Capitol Hill Station mixed-use development have been leased, as of early this month, according to the complex’s general manager.

The major project above the light rail transit station has been seen as a key development for the neighborhood creating hundreds of new homes and thousands of square feet of new commercial space on Broadway. The COVID-19 crisis has delayed construction but the new, mostly “market-rate” apartments are finally hitting that market.

110 affordable units in the Station House development on the northeast area above the station opened earlier this year and faced high demand.

More than two years after the project’s groundbreaking across the street from Cal Anderson Park, which included a ribbon cutting from Mayor Jenny Durkan, the leasing process on the first 94 units of 400-plus on Broadway started in mid-September amid the coronavirus pandemic, general manager Kristin Lipp told CHS. Continue reading

‘A plan, not a percentage’ — Seattle’s reshaped 2021 budget proposal will defund police but not by 50%

The Seattle City Council has unveiled its plan to reshape Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2021 budget proposal with notable cuts to police funding and increases in social services. It’s a compromise that seems to have support from some of those calling for reduced spending on police — and the mayor’s office.

“We are marching towards a plan, not a percentage,” Councilmember Debora Juarez said in a Tuesday budget committee meeting.

Overall, the council’s budget changes, led by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, would bring Seattle Police Department funding to about $340 million in 2021. This year, the department’s budget totaled $409 million, making the possible cuts and transfers about a 17% cut. Activists and community groups including King County Equity Now have demanded the police budget be slashed by half. Continue reading

As Seattle struggles to meet larger Black Lives Matter goals, city will transfer two more Central District properties to community ownership

Fire Station 6

Protesters outside Seattle’s emergency operations center this summer

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Monday to transfer two long-sought Central District properties back to the community after years of hope and promises including pledges from Mayor Jenny Durkan this summer as Black Lives Matter movement demonstrations grew in Seattle.

The transfer of the Central Area Senior Center on 30th Ave and Fire Station 6 at 23rd and Yesler comes after an increased push in recent months connected to protests and demands from community groups and activists.

Africatown Community Land Trust, which has been pushing the city to transfer the property for seven years, will now have a 99-year lease on the fire station property. The organization will look to turn the decommissioned space into the William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation, which advocates hope will serve as a technological hub of a community that hasn’t had as much access to the resources needed to be successful.

“This community asset will help close the gap we are already seeing in Seattle where there is an astronomical economic growth that is not resulting in all communities benefiting,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who sponsored the legislation for both transfers.

Community organizer TraeAnna Holiday told CHS last month, for example, that she hopes children will be able to use 3D printers there they wouldn’t have had otherwise which could make them better candidates for local jobs.

The city designated this site as ripe for a possible cultural center four years ago, but the process was fast-forwarded after the transfer was included as one of the hyper-local demands from recent protests.

Africatown held a press conference with hundreds in attendance in front of the fire station in June, calling on the city to finally make the transfer. Continue reading

Time for civility in the 43rd District — or time to take the gloves off? Dwarf warrior Chopp holds own in debate with Bluthulu Lascelles

A dwarf warrior vs. Bluthulu in the 43rd

Days before election results are announced — and with nearly 70% of ballots already returned in their district — state Rep. Frank Chopp and his third-party challenger Sherae Lascelles seemed to be agreeing on most policy issues in a Hillowee-flavored debate hosted by The Stranger Thursday night. The result for the online crowd Thursday night, anyhow, was a victory in the viewers poll for the incumbent Chopp — a possible prediction, he hopes, of the veteran lawmaker’s maintaining a connection with his Democratic base and resonance with at least a portion of its more progressive edges.

Both said they were in support of a head tax-like proposal for big business. Both said they wanted to enact “good cause” eviction legislation at the state level. Both said they were against fare enforcement. Both said they wanted to cap rent increases at 2%. Both said police officers were overrated and protesters demonstrating for the past 150 days were underrated.

And both said they wanted to ban high capacity magazines in guns and decriminalize sex work. Chopp said he wanted to tax capital gains at 10% and Lascelles said 5% would be a good starting point.

But they did notably diverge on one question not relating to policy that could say a lot about how they would govern if elected in the 43rd Legislative District.

Is this a time for civility in government — or is it time to take the gloves off? Continue reading