Seattle City Council attempts to hold SPD accountable for excessive overtime usage
The Council scrutinizes SPD grants and delay lifting SPD provisos; Minneapolis and LA police/criminal justice news; asset forfeitures vs. burglaries in one boggling chart
An update on yesterday’s Finance & Housing committee meeting:
There were three items of note discussed at this meeting that pertained to the SPD:
Legislation involving the acceptance of grants included a few grants given to the SPD, including one from the Department of Homeland Security. There was some concern over exactly what a loudspeaker listed was (although everyone seemed pretty confident it wasn’t a weapon) and concern over the type of training that would be funded. I haven’t read the list of equipment funded, but it sounded like most, if not all of it, was related to emergency preparedness as opposed to militarization. The Mayor’s Office and SPD are supposed to report back on the few open questions remaining about said equipment and training before this legislation is voted on at Monday’s Council meeting.
The SPD is asking for an additional $5.4m for 2020. While the stated costs that need to be covered are parental leave, FEMA reimbursement, and separation costs for larger than anticipated attrition, it is clear the reason these costs haven’t yet been paid is because the SPD already spent this money on overtime. The Council has been trying to rein in the SPD’s use of overtime for many years. They were reluctant to simply refuse them the money at this time due to issues of liability, but instead they passed a statement of intent that they will trim the 2021 SPD budget of at least $5.4m early next year so the SPD still faces consequences. The Council hopes that monthly reportage of SPD overtime that should start next year will help keep these costs in check in future.
The Council was supposed to vote on legislation that would lift the provisos on $2.9m of the SPD’s 2020 budget placed during the summer rebalancing efforts. The Mayor’s Budget Office projects the SPD will need exactly this much money to meet their expenses through the end of 2020, but some of the CMs suspect the SPD might underspend more than anticipated and therefore don’t want to release the money until after the true spending figure for the year is known. After some debate CM Mosqueda won her point and they tabled this topic until early next year, when any discrepancies can be fixed with the annual exceptions ordinance that they pass every year to clean up loose strings. This means the Council will be able to recover the maximum amount of money from the SPD that is possible, if in fact the SPD does underspend by any amount.
The Minneapolis City Council just passed their new budget, which cuts the police budget by slightly more than 4%, with the $8m cut being allocated to alternate investments in public safety. The City Council there had discussed shrinking the police force from 888 to 750 beginning in 2022, but after the Mayor threatened to veto the budget if they did this, they changed their minds in a close 7-6 vote. Minneapolis has been struggling to make any real progress on reform or defunding since the summer protests, running into repeated roadblocks.
In better news, the new DA of Los Angeles, George Gascón, wants to make sweeping changes to the criminal justice system, including stopping most uses of cash bail, prioritizing re-sentencing inmates who are serving excessive sentences, and calling for a Use of Force Review Board. His office will no longer seek the death penalty in Los Angelos County and will begin reviewing current cases with a judgment of death. While he faces opposition to these reforms, this is an excellent example of how important and transformative local elections have the power to be.
And, finally, an eye-opening chart from the Washington Post:
Next week the City Council will be trying to tie up some loose ends before the start of the Winter Recess, as well as hearing a presentation on the Black Brilliance Research Project preliminary report. In the meantime, have a great weekend!