You will likely recall that last February a group self-published a report on “prolific offenders” who cause problems for local communities and businesses, and who cycle through the criminal justice system. As I wrote at the time, that report had plenty of methodological issues and other flaws that limited its usefulness, since the authors didn’t have access to most of the relevant government, law-enforcement, and human-services records. However, in the aftermath of that report, Mayor Durkan commissioned her own task force to look into the issue of prolific offenders. That group published their report last week, concurrent with a budget proposal from the Mayor for four new programs to address the problem.
This afternoon, Mayor Durkan unveiled the first in a series of initiatives in her 2020 budget: a $1.7 million, twelve-point plan to address the Seattle Police Department’s issues with hiring and retention.
Last May, Mayor Durkan stirred the proverbial hornets’ nest when she announced that the city would be adding “emphasis patrols” of police officers to seven neighborhoods around Seattle, paired with increased efforts by other city departments to clean up graffiti, fix broken streetlights, clean up garbage, and generally beautify those areas.
What set many people off was the apparent link between that effort and “broken windows” theory, a controversial approach to reducing crime in urban areas. In fact, when pressed on the issued she doubled down, by specifically referencing it in an interview with the Seattle Times editorial board.
“Broken windows” theory, now 37 years old, gets tossed around a lot in political and policy circles, and continues to have both supporters and detractors. Let’s look at what it says, its uses and abuses, and what nearly four decades of studies tell us about the validity of the theory.
This morning the Community Police Commission filed its own brief with the U.S. District Court, in response to last Thursday’s submission of the city’s proposal to evaluate its police accountability system and come back into compliance with the Consent Decree.
In a case that has taken on broad significance for police accountability in Seattle, this afternoon King County Superior Court John McHale vacated an arbitrator’s decision last year to overturn the termination of SPD Officer Adley Shepherd for punching a handcuffed suspect in the face while she was in the back seat of a patrol car.
This evening the City of Seattle submitted its proposed methodology for evaluating the city’s police accountability system, as required by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart who oversees the SPD consent decree.
As a footnote to my earlier post on Mayor Durkan’s proposed plan to get the consent decree back on track, there has been one particular troublesome issue that has generated more heat than light: whether police officers should be able to appeal disciplinary actions to arbitration. The CPC had a few thoughts on that in their letter yesterday.
With a rapidly approaching August 15th deadline for the city to submit to Judge James Robart the plan for how it intends to evaluate its police accountability system, the Community Police Commission has reiterated its rejection of Mayor Durkan’s proposed plan.
At her press conference yesterday, Council member Lorena Gonzalez showed a”subway map” diagram of the complex disciplinary process for SPD oficers and supervisors as defined under state law, local law, and its contracts with the two unions representing officers and supervisors.
Here are the diagrams — both high-level and drill-downs. Kudos to the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety for taking the time to make and publish them.
Of particular interest are the grievance and arbitration processes, which are one of the reasons that Judge Robart recently found the city out of compliance with the Consent Decree. The arbitration process allows for “forum shopping” by officers between the Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) and an outside arbitrator, and allows the arbitrator to overrule a disciplinary decision by the Chief of Police (something Robart found particularly problematic). However, under state law public safety officers have the right to arbitration as a path for appealing disciplinary findings, in part to compensate for the fact that they are forbidden from participating in labor strikes. The 2017 Police Accountability Ordinance removed arbitration as an option, forcing all appeals to go through the PSCSC, but arbitration was reinstated as part of negotiating the SPOG contract (because the city can’t unilaterally take it away if the officers don’t want to give it up).
Last week, when it became known that Mayor Durkan had hired an outside consultant firm to develop a Court-ordered methodology for assessing the city’s police accountability regime, there was near-instant backlash from 24 community groups as well as the Community Police Commission. Today, three City Council members jumped on that bandwagon.