Expanding LEAD to North Seattle

Less than seven years ago, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, or LEAD, was little more than a local experiment aimed at breaking the cycle of arrest and incarceration. Initially launched with private foundation funds, the $950,000-a-year, four-year pilot program offered carefully chosen participants individualized alternatives to arrest.

Today, LEAD is one of the City’s ‘crown jewels’ with a proven track record of reducing crime and disorder through targeted outreach and social services to individuals.  Last week, Council’s Human Services, Equitable Development and Renters’ Rights committee heard a briefing on the Council’s intentto extend the hugely successful program to North Seattle with some emphasis on people living inside vehicles.  While LEAD is not specifically a homeless program, many participants experience homelessness and the program increases public safety and health for the whole community.

LEAD provides a tool for Seattle Police officers to refer individuals engaged in low level drug and sex work offenses to an intensive social services intervention program in lieu of arrest and prosecution. The impetus forLEAD spawned in 2005when the Public Defenders Association (PDA) collaborated with the Seattle Police Department, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the City of Seattle Attorney’s Office to address enforcement of disproportionately high numbers of Black people into incarceration.

Since its inception, community advocates have championed LEAD as a possible alternative to failed “tough on crime” policies plaguing North Seattle. In my district, and in neighboring districts of my colleaguesCouncilmember JohnsonandCouncilmember Juarezwe expect the LEAD expansion in North Seattle will allow police officers to connect people with social services instead of sending them to jail that can ensure more public safety. For people who live in their vehicles and others in North Seattle living in extreme poverty, this public safety program has the potential to reduce recidivism rates for individuals who commit low-level crimes.

The program cuts out the criminal-justice system and assigns voluntary participants to case workers, who can provide immediate help — a safe place to sleep or vehicular assistance to force compliance with parking laws, for instance — and longer-term services such as substance use treatment. Evergreen Treatment Services, a private nonprofit founded in 1973 with treatment facilities in Seattle and Olympia, was awarded the contract to develop and execute intervention plans for LEAD participants. In exchange for their participation, no criminal charges will be filed, even if someone later relapses.

According to the PDA,  there are presently approximately 350 active LEAD participants and an additional 2,000 people at any given time in Seattle who would be appropriate LEAD participants.  PDA has requested funding for a modest increase to allow a launch in 2018 in the North and South or Southwest Precincts, plus a plan to complete expansion over a period of 2-3 years, rather than take LEAD to scale citywide.

Despite widespread support for LEAD in North Seattle, there has been insufficient funding for case management and office space required to offer the program to new referrals in the North Precincts – until now. LEAD’s proven method of helping people in crisis on our streets is critical to our neighborhood stability.  Enthusiasm for LEAD has grown in neighborhoods like mine who are longing for a meaningful response to problems stemming from behavioral health needs and extreme poverty.

Trumps Dangerous Attacks on Rule of Law

Donald Trump continues to attack the rule of law through his continuing comments degrading the FBI, the Justice Department, and federal judges and by recklessly branding his political opponents as criminals. I wrote about this last August in the Seattle Times and it's still true today:

I couldn’t believe what I heard Friday from the president of the United States about the rule of law. Perhaps I shouldn’t be shocked because of all his previous vulgar, disrespectful and downright harmful comments. Maybe that’s his intent, to over time lull the country into stunned silence, a dulled acceptance of his radical, authoritarian mindset.

But it’s a big deal when President Donald Trump attacks the rule of law, the principle that we are governed by laws, standards and broadly accepted norms, not the whims of an individual. These attacks reached an alarmingly dangerous new level when Trump said these words to police officers about the arrest of violent subjects:

“ … when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, please don’t be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, OK?”

That’s the president encouraging police officers to rough up people they have arrested. Telling police officers not to use their hands to guide an arrestee’s head into the back seat of a patrol car so it doesn’t bang against the door frame. The president was encouraging police misconduct. Shameful.

This on top of his previous attacks on federal judges, the director of the FBI, our intelligence services, the Department of Justice, and his own attorney general. Words matter. Trump’s constant barrage of verbal attacks matters. By his words and behavior, Trump is tearing down the rule of law, the fragile standards and mores built up over generations. The president’s scorn, his contempt, is very damaging. Yes, we have serious problems, especially when it comes to criminal justice, but, believe me, these problems will not be correctly addressed by destroying the rule of law.

Friday’s comments elevated the danger to a new level. Any elected official, but especially the president, who encourages illegal police violence should be roundly condemned. Trump was wrong, absolutely wrong.

The rule of law — and the peace of our communities — is only assured when people respect, understand, and welcome the police and the other elements of local government dedicated to keeping us safe. This doesn’t happen by chance or automatically; it takes intentional effort. It’s hard work building community trust.

We’ve experienced this here in Seattle. Since the Department of Justice issued their report in 2012 about use of force, biased policing and mismanagement of the police department, a lot of people have worked diligently to create sustainable reform — the elected leaders of the city, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, the Community Police Commission, City Attorney Peter Holmes and his colleagues, civil rights advocates, and, importantly, the women and men of the Seattle Police Department. Excellent progress has been made, as evidenced by the 10 compliance assessments completed by the federal monitor, Merrick Bobb.

Much more remains to be done to make certain the reforms take root and actually change the culture of the police department. For example, we have yet to tackle hiring and promotion standards; how best to structure an in-service leadership academy to prepare future leaders; and how to create a political climate that recognizes the importance of effective policing and civilian oversight, yet doesn’t lead to inappropriate interference — the kind we’ve come to expect from the president at the national level.

The rule of law is a revered treasure of our democracy. It’s clear by his words and actions that President Trump doesn’t share, doesn’t understand and doesn’t care about this fundamental value of America. Let’s stand up and defend the rule of law and condemn those who would tear it down, including the president of the United States.

Trumps Dangerous Attacks on Rule of Law

Donald Trump continues to attack the rule of law through his continuing comments degrading the FBI, the Justice Department, and federal judges and by recklessly branding his political opponents as criminals. I wrote about this last August in the Seattle Times and it's still true today:

I couldn’t believe what I heard Friday from the president of the United States about the rule of law. Perhaps I shouldn’t be shocked because of all his previous vulgar, disrespectful and downright harmful comments. Maybe that’s his intent, to over time lull the country into stunned silence, a dulled acceptance of his radical, authoritarian mindset.

But it’s a big deal when President Donald Trump attacks the rule of law, the principle that we are governed by laws, standards and broadly accepted norms, not the whims of an individual. These attacks reached an alarmingly dangerous new level when Trump said these words to police officers about the arrest of violent subjects:

“ … when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, please don’t be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, OK?”

That’s the president encouraging police officers to rough up people they have arrested. Telling police officers not to use their hands to guide an arrestee’s head into the back seat of a patrol car so it doesn’t bang against the door frame. The president was encouraging police misconduct. Shameful.

This on top of his previous attacks on federal judges, the director of the FBI, our intelligence services, the Department of Justice, and his own attorney general. Words matter. Trump’s constant barrage of verbal attacks matters. By his words and behavior, Trump is tearing down the rule of law, the fragile standards and mores built up over generations. The president’s scorn, his contempt, is very damaging. Yes, we have serious problems, especially when it comes to criminal justice, but, believe me, these problems will not be correctly addressed by destroying the rule of law.

Friday’s comments elevated the danger to a new level. Any elected official, but especially the president, who encourages illegal police violence should be roundly condemned. Trump was wrong, absolutely wrong.

The rule of law — and the peace of our communities — is only assured when people respect, understand, and welcome the police and the other elements of local government dedicated to keeping us safe. This doesn’t happen by chance or automatically; it takes intentional effort. It’s hard work building community trust.

We’ve experienced this here in Seattle. Since the Department of Justice issued their report in 2012 about use of force, biased policing and mismanagement of the police department, a lot of people have worked diligently to create sustainable reform — the elected leaders of the city, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, the Community Police Commission, City Attorney Peter Holmes and his colleagues, civil rights advocates, and, importantly, the women and men of the Seattle Police Department. Excellent progress has been made, as evidenced by the 10 compliance assessments completed by the federal monitor, Merrick Bobb.

Much more remains to be done to make certain the reforms take root and actually change the culture of the police department. For example, we have yet to tackle hiring and promotion standards; how best to structure an in-service leadership academy to prepare future leaders; and how to create a political climate that recognizes the importance of effective policing and civilian oversight, yet doesn’t lead to inappropriate interference — the kind we’ve come to expect from the president at the national level.

The rule of law is a revered treasure of our democracy. It’s clear by his words and actions that President Trump doesn’t share, doesn’t understand and doesn’t care about this fundamental value of America. Let’s stand up and defend the rule of law and condemn those who would tear it down, including the president of the United States.

Defending the Rule of Law

ImagesOver the past couple of weeks, it has been suggested that Seattle police officers should not be present at “anti-Trump protests” or instances of nonviolent civil disobedience. Further, the idea has been raised that police officers should be deployed to prevent federal officers from making immigration arrests in the city.

This approach to policing is deeply troubling because it imposes a content or ideological filter over what should be independent, objective decisions to preserve public health and safety. Imagine if the mayor in another city believed that protests

against immigrants, or white nationalist demonstrations, should not have police presence. Take the case of the U.C. Berkeley protests against a planned appearance by former Breitbart contributor Milo Yiannopoulos that resulted in violence and vandalism, or the University of Washington protest against Yiannopoulos that resulted in a shooting. Police presence at demonstrations should be about maintaining safety and rule of law for everyone, regardless of ideology or personal preference.

Denying police services—and using the police as the Mayor’s or Council’s paramilitary body—is a dangerous and irresponsible approach that undermines the essence of policing in a free society. The police should do their work in a fair, professional, and constitutional manner without regard for ideology or any politician’s personal preferences.  

Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the Metropolitan Police in London in 1829, is credited with crafting a set of key principles for just and fair policing. Three of Peel’s principles apply specifically to this issue of political ideology or personal preference driving policing decisions. Here they are:

  • Police depend on the approval and trust of the public to effectively do their jobs.
  • Police must be unwavering in their duties and adherence to the law, maintaining impartiality and avoiding the temptation to be swayed by public opinion.

  • Police must maintain the public favor and cooperation by providing impartial and independent law enforcement services, as opposed to succumbing and pandering to the whims of the public. They must extend the same courtesy and respect to everyone, regardless of economic or social standing.

Peel was right, of course. Today, perhaps more than ever because of our current political climate, we need to reaffirm Peel’s sage counsel. The issue with police presence at protests is not whether they should or should not be present at this protest or that one, but rather that they should help maintain public safety at all protests. We should never base our police services on whether we agree or disagree with a particular political message or motive. Police services need to be based solely on fairness, professionalism, and the Constitutional mandates we all cherish.

City government has been laboring under a federal court mandated consent decree since 2014 to improve police services, reduce the use of force, and remove any hint of bias or prejudice in the delivery of police services. We’ve spent millions of dollars to comply with the federal court’s requirements and will likely spend millions more before we are in full compliance. We’ve revised training for officers and we have tripled the amount of training officers receive. We’ve hired more supervisors. We’ve changed accountability and reporting requirements. We’ve improved transparency. Deploying police services through a political ideology or personal preference filter would run directly counter to this reform work and represent a huge and dangerous step backward.

Repeal the Death Penalty

Yesterday, Gov. Inslee, Attorney General Ferguson, former Attorney General McKenna, and several Democrat and Republican legislators announced they would introduce legislation repealing Washington's death penalty statute. I hope the legislature passes this measure; it's long overdue.

I wrote about this issue in January, 2015. Here are my reasons why we should stop believing in the false promise of the death penalty.