We finally get to discuss the SPD-related amendments

Also an update on the ACLU/BLM case and contrasting views on that van the SPD found at the protests last weekend

What’s going on with the ACLU/BLM court case:

The court has determined this requires an evidentiary hearing, and a trial has been set to take place August 26-September 1. Audio access will be available to the public. You can read more about it here.

Differences in coverage:

An article in the Seattle Times entitled “Seattle police say explosives were found in van at protests over weekend” ran earlier this week. Among other things it says: “Police later impounded the van and, after obtaining a search warrant, discovered firework pyrotechnics, smoke bombs, stun guns, bear and pepper spray, makeshift spike strips and gas masks, Best said.” The article quotes Mayor Durkan, Chief Best, Chief Scoggins, and Police Sgt. James Lee, giving a narrative point of view entirely from the establishment’s side.

Meanwhile, over on Twitter, we have a breakdown of what was actually in that van, where such items can be obtained, and what they are used for:

It’s worth reading through the Twitter thread because I think this is an excellent example of a problem facing all of us these days: the mainstream media often reports on police statements and reports as unalloyed truth, which, given the corruption we know exists within police departments, along with their understandable self interest to present themselves in the best possible light, doesn’t seem like the smartest policy.

Friday’s budget meeting, the SPD-related portion:

My twitter thread starts here, but I’m afraid there are several breaks in the thread this time. Sorry about that!

Today the meeting covered an initial draft of a resolution establishing the Council’s intent to create a civilian led department of community safety and violence prevention. CM Lewis says it creates a road map for the Council’s future commitment to create a new system of public safety. It goes over various types of legislation the Council wants to introduce in the coming months, as well as suggesting modifications to current practices to Chief Best. It also suggests a timeline for future Council actions in an effort to create accountability. The intent is to discuss this resolution, revise it, and vote on it on August 10th.

CM Juarez had many concerns about the resolution, saying that it includes divisive language and isn’t bringing us together as a city. She was worried about some issues of legality pertaining to out-of-order layoffs, seeming to have a different understanding of what those entail than that of CM Herbold. She seemed frustrated about the Council considering such monumental change without enough time for robust discussion, wanted to know the CPC’s thoughts, and thinks her fellow CMs have been making false promises regarding the 50% number. (If you’ve read my previous reports, you know I’ve been skeptical about that number as well.) CM Pedersen, on the other hand, supports this resolution, and in particular said he was glad that it mentions no specific percentage goal in terms of defunding.

Next the meeting began reviewing proposed amendments. The amendments reviewed today, #16-39, were almost all co-sponsored by CMs Mosqueda, Morales, Gonzalez, and Herbold. Many of the amendments, 16-25 and 29-31, were provisos suggesting lay-offs in various units. It’s important to understand that these are suggestions, but that ultimately Chief Best gets to decide where the layoffs come from. These layoffs would have to be bargained, and the optimistic estimate for when that bargaining could be finished is the end of October, meaning a possibility of recovering two months worth of funds for 2020 from the eliminated positions. However, since the timing is uncertain, none of those funds have currently been allocated for spending.

Other amendments dealt with accounting practices and moving the data-driven policing positions and Victim Advocates and Victim Support Team Coordinator out of the SPD and into other city departments.

Finally, we went over the Mosqueda-Morales-Gonzalez-Herbold spending package, covered by Amendments 32-39. These amendments provide immediate funding as follows: $3m for community-led research; $4m for HSD’s Seattle Community Safety Initiative, which will work to scale up gun-violence intervention and prevention; and $10m to invest in community-led organizations. This adds up to a total of $17m in community investment. You may remember that I was expecting $20m-30m of investment, and this is in that ballpark, if a bit low.

Where is the money coming from, you may ask? Well, amendments 35-39 tell us: $886k from cuts to the SPD; $12.8m from the Revenue Stabilization Fund (aka Seattle’s rainy day fund, aka the fund that’s already super low on money because of COVID relief efforts); and $3.3m from a reduction to COVID Relief Bill administration costs. The good news is that all of this money is potentially available immediately.

The other CMs have many concerns, chief among them a reluctance to use the rest of the money in the rainy day fund. The amendment sponsors have said that while this was a hard decision, they believe the rainy day fund can be replenished by cuts to the SPD during the fall budget process. CM Mosqueda added that the violence against Black and Brown communities is a public health crisis and therefore they are justified in spending the emergency funds. CM Lewis is very uneasy about using the rest of the already-depleted rainy day funds. CM Juarez had similar concerns, saying “This is what happens when you write a check you can’t cash.” CM Sawant says these amendments barely defund the SPD at all, and she was also upset that the funding for community investment was coming mostly from the rainy day fund instead of directly from defunding the SPD.

On Monday morning we’ll hear the rest of the amendments, including Sawant’s entire package that is much more aggressive about defunding the police (and also much less likely to pass). My impressions at the end of today’s meeting were that a revised resolution and many of the proviso amendments about layoffs are likely to pass. They are easier for the CMs to support because they don’t really require much commitment since all the layoffs need to be bargained anyway. The investment amendment package is going to be a tougher sell, which is unfortunate because I think it’s probably the most important part of the plan. Without any advance community investment, the overall plan to divest from the police is more likely to fail, and an unwillingness to invest dollars shows less of an overall commitment to the process.

That being said, CM Sawant will probably vote in favor of the package, albeit with objections, if she can’t garner support for her own package, meaning there will be 5 CMs in favor. That’s enough to pass, if barely, but it is not veto-proof. If the Council can’t sway either CM Strauss (who didn’t indicate his opinion either way) or CM Lewis (who has reservations), they may not be able to obtain the funds for significant community investment.

Be that as it may, we’ll know more next week. The CMs will have time to study the proposed amendments and the resolution over the weekend, and then the remainder of the amendments will be discussed on Monday morning after the Council Briefing, aiming for a vote on Wednesday. Then the final vote can proceed on Monday, August 10th. CM Mosqueda said there will be opportunities for public comment next week on Monday morning at 10am, Monday afternoon at 2pm, and Wednesday morning at 11am.