Today the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Seattle Police Department’s “use of force” policy for its officers is constitutional, in a major win for the city and its efforts to enact police accountability reforms under its Consent Decree with the DOJ.
When last I reported on the police accountability legislation, it was firmly stuck in the mud. Time to check in again, as much has happened since then.
This afternoon the Council adopted an ordinance updating the city’s existing law restricting the acquisition of surveillance technologies.
After several months of work, this morning the Council moved forward an update to the city’s ordinance regulating use of surveillance technology by SPD and other city departments.
What started out as a fairly simple task, extending the current rules beyond hardware to include software and web services, turned out to be a nearly intractable set of complex issues. In the end the ordinance’s sponsor, Council member Gonzalez, settled for addressing just a subset of the issues in what she referred to this morning as “phase one.”
Today Attorney General Jeff Sessions, under cover of Trump’s public criticism of his job performance, quietly moved forward with updating the requirements for one type of grant to state and local law enforcement agencies in order to crack down on so-called “sanctuary city” policies.
“We had hoped that today would be the final thumbs up from Judge Robart to allow us to continue to move forward with the implementation of the accountability legislation,” said Council member Lorena Gonzalez this afternoon in a hastily-arranged press conference. “And obviously we did not get that final approval.”
A hearing that began this morning with U.S. District Court Judge James Robart kindly joking with Gonzalez, Council member Tim Burgess, and SPD Deputy Chief Carmen Best quickly turned into an opportunity for all parties — and especially the judge himself — to vent their frustrations.
This afternoon, Mayor Ed Murray issued an executive order directing the rollout of body-worn cameras on all Seattle Police Department officers.
This afternoon, the Council will vote on enacting a “bias-free policing” ordinance into law, with one last-minute amendment to settle an argument from last week.
The City of Seattle’s parking enforcement division uses automated license plate readers to identify cars (and drivers) with multiple parking tickets so they can boot or impound the vehicles as necessary. SPD uses that same data to identify stolen cars, as well as those wanted in relation to specific criminal activities. Back in 2012, New York City took it further: they used cameras on street light poles to track people coming and going from mosques — an act that most people think stepped over the line of acceptable surveillance.
How the City of Seattle acquires and uses surveillance technology — and the data gleaned from it — was the topic of a Council hearing this morning, one of a series in the ongoing process of updating the city’s laws on surveillance.
This morning, the Council voted out of committee an ordinance on bias-free policing, an effort almost a year in the making.