Councilmember Gonzalez held her Gender Equity, Safe Communities, and New American’s committee this morning. On the agenda was a presentation about the Seattle Police Department’s response to gun violence. Although I am not a member of the committee, understanding how deeply our community was impacted by this tragic event, I attended in order to ask questions about the shooting last night in Alki as well as inquire about SPD’s response to what I feel has become chronic gun activity in Delridge and South Park.
You can see on slide 6 that, year to date, with 27 shots fired, the Southwest Precinct has the 2nd greatest number of shots fired in the City, a distant 2nd from the South precincts 72 shots fired. The vast majority of those shots fired in the Southwest Precinct are in the Delridge and South Park areas. But because of a concern I share with the community about increases in violent activity on Alki in summer months, at today’s meeting I asked for increased police patrols as well as deployment of SPD’s mobile precinct. After Wednesday’s meeting, in response to my request at the meeting, Assistant Chief Steve Wilskie in Patrol Operations contacted me to say that they will also be deploying the Mobile Precinct to Alki through the Memorial Day weekend. Their annual Alki bicycle patrol/foot patrol emphasis is also in place for the remainder of the summer. Finally, starting on May 25, 2017, the Southwest Community Police Team officers will be doing outreach to both businesses and neighborhood organizations along Alki.
My staff, earlier this year inquired with the Alki Community Council whether or not they had interest in co-sponsoring a forum to discuss public safety on Alki in the summer months. My hope was to do an event in advance of summer. Nevertheless, I would still be interested in doing such an event. Let me know what you think.
SOCR Commission Work Plan and Expansion
On Tuesday, the Seattle Office of Civil Rights’ (SOCR) four commissions—the Seattle People with disABILITIES Commission, the Seattle Women’s Commission, the Seattle LGBTQ Commission, and the Seattle Human Rights Commission— attended my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee to discuss their 2017 work plans as well as legislation that would expand the commissions’ size. The commissions’ work plans outline the tasks and policy goals each commission intends to accomplish for the year. For 2017, each of the commissions highlighted advocating for affordable housing and equitable development. Other issues of general focus among the commissions include improving public health by advocating for safe consumption sites and supporting additional shelter for the city’s homeless population. Additional information regarding the commissions’ work plans and the presentation is here.
The four SOCR Commissions also presented to the CRUEDA committee legislation that would increase each commission’s membership from 16 to 21 members. This request came directly from the commissions, which believe additional commissioners would help them better effectuate their work as advisory bodies to the Mayor and City Council. Because the commissioners are unpaid volunteers, this proposal does not have any budget implications, and the commissions were clear that they are not asking for additional paid staff. By expanding the number of commission seats, this proposal will increase opportunities for civically engaged Seattle residents and workers to participate in making the city a more equitable place. The meeting materials are available here.
This week the Seattle City Council made important improvements to our police accountability system. I support strong police oversight, and co-sponsored the police oversight and accountability legislation. Under the leadership of Chair Lorena Gonzalez, the Council passed legislation, among other things, creating a new Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and making the Community Police Commission (CPC) a permanent body as well as amended the bill to commit to providing the resources sufficient to enable the OIG and CPC to perform all its responsibilities.
The function of the CPC is critical to the success of police accountability reform in Seattle. The 2012 Consent Decree process was begun in 2010 when community groups sent a complaint to the US Department of Justice about excessive use of force; it is important that the community retain an important seat at the table.
I have worked with the CPC over the last few months to propose amendments to the legislation to strengthen Council Bill 118969 as follows:
- I proposed increasing the representation of the CPC to a minimum of 25% for the search committees for the new position of Inspector General, and the Director of the Office of Police Accountability (OPA). As the current OPA Director, Pierce Murphy, has announced he will leave his position in July, hiring for the OPA position will begin soon, with strong CPC representation, including serving as a co-chair of the search committee.
- I proposed increasing the size of the CPC to 21 members, in order to increase their ability to carry out their extensive police accountability work, which is now enshrined in city law.
- I also proposed an amendment that would give the CPC authority to carry out annual performance evaluations of the newly-created Inspector General, and Director of the Office of Police Accountability. Though the amendment failed in a committee vote; alternate language was approved to allow for input into the Inspector General’s workplan. The ordinance allows CPC to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the new police accountability system in Seattle, and its implementation.
- Finally, at Full Council I proposed an amendment to ensure that the CPC retains the authority that the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OPARB), the OPA’s previous civilian review board, currently has to review closed case files. The OPARB emphasized the critical importance of this in a 2014 letter. Review of these files by OPARB led to the discovery, for example, that SPD was doing criminal background checks on people who made complaints (see 2003 annual report); this led to that being changed. The amendment passed 8-0.
I’d like to highlight an issue that we were unable to resolve in today’s vote but one that, moving forward, I intend to address. The CPC has requested that oversight review bodies (the CPC, Inspector General, and OPA Director) be involved as technical advisors during the collective bargaining process as it relates to police accountability with police unions; I’ve been in touch with the CPC and labor about moving forward with a proposal in the future, and distributed potential language for legislation at today’s Council Briefing meeting this morning. I’ve also worked with them on a related proposal about informing the public about the city’s goals in bargaining.
The Council on Monday also approved legislation I introduced last August to establish an Observer Bill of Rights for people to observe and record police activity. The bill establishes that, by law, the public has the right to observe police activity, consistent with existing Seattle Police Department Policy. It states that officers may not use physical force to punish or retaliate against observers, and must seek to minimize harm to bystanders when using less lethal tools like pepper spray or tear gas. In addition, if a person brings a claim that the law was violated, the Office of Professional Accountability must be notified.
I’d like to thank police department and Seattle’s police officers for their work to implement elements of police reform. The Seattle Police Officers Guild has participated in and collaborated in the work of the Community Police Commission over the last several years, and helped inform their recommendations with practical experience. The Court-appointed federal monitor overseeing the police reform process in April ruled that the Seattle Police Department had reached initial compliance with the use of force reforms; while the monitor will continue review the department for at least two years to ensure compliance, this is an encouraging step, and stands in contrast to the Monitor’s earliest reports, which were critical of the amount of progress the department was making.
Fair Chance Housing Taskforce
On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee hosted a conversation with members of the Fair Chance Housing Taskforce about the stakeholder process led by the Seattle Office For Civil Rights to address housing barriers faced by people with arrest and conviction records.
Approximately, one in every three adults in the United States has an arrest or conviction record, and nearly half of all children in the U.S. have one parent with a criminal record. It is estimated that 30% (172,714) of Seattle residents over the age of 18 have an arrest or conviction record and 7% (43,428) of Seattle residents have a felony record.
Back in 2012, Councilmembers Licata and O’Brien asked that the Seattle Office of Housing begin an effort to address the barriers created when housing providers rely on criminal background screenings to select tenants. The Fair Chance Housing Taskforce was formed in response to the 2015, the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) taskforce recommended to increase fair access to rental housing for people with criminal records through local legislation, education and technical assistance.
In February 2016, after announcement of the formation of the task force, I asked Councilmembers Gonzalez, Juarez, and O’Brien to join me in writing a letter to Mayor Murray about the scope of work for the Fair Chance Housing taskforce, available here.
I have made several efforts to ensure the Council is improving housing access for people involved with the criminal justice system. Most recently, on May 8, the Full Council adopted an amendment I championed to the 2016 Administrative and Finance Plan for the 2016 Housing Levy to ensure that housing providers who use criminal records for tenant screening purposes describe how the policy or practice of making decision based on criminal history “actually assists in protecting resident safety or property. A stereotype that a person with a conviction record poses a greater risk than any individual without such a record is insufficient. Housing owners will take steps to ensure the accuracy of criminal records and other records used in the screening process…Owners will provide notice of screening criteria as required by law.”
I would like to thank the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, Rental Housing Association of Washington, Bellwether Housing, Public Defender Association’s Racial Disparity Project, Pioneer Human Services, Fair and Accessible Renting for Everyone (FARE) Coalition, and Columbia Legal Services for the work they have done thus far to help the city address this housing barrier. The Executive is poised to transmit Fair Chance Housing legislation to Council in June 2017. To stay abreast of this issue please sign up for CRUEDA meeting agendas.
I will be at the Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St) today, Friday May 26th from 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. The final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.
These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (email@example.com).
Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.
|Friday, June 23, 2017||South Park Community Center||8319 8th Avenue S|
|Friday, July 21, 2017||Southwest Neighborhood Service Center||2801 SW Thistle St|
|Friday, August 18, 2017||Senior Center of West Seattle||4217 SW Oregon St|
|Friday, September 22, 2017||South Park Community Center||8319 8th Avenue S|
|Friday, October 27, 2017||Southwest Neighborhood Service Center||2801 SW Thistle St|
|Friday, December 15, 2017||South Park Community Center||8319 8th Avenue S|