A few things happened this past week related to the city’s Consent Decree over biased policing.
Welcome back! A few things happened in mid-to-late December that you may have missed, so here’s a post to get you caught up.
Friday afternoon, the City of Seattle submitted to the court its consultant assessment of the police department’s accountability system. The consultant found “not the need for wholesale change but for additional fine-tuning and refinement.” The issues it raises echo those voiced by the city’s Community Police Commission, with disagreement on only a few of the major points.
This morning at a press conference at SPD’s West Precinct, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best announced that beginning November 30th, SPD will be conducting extra “holiday patrols” in nine major retail locations of the city, in order to make shoppers and retailers feel safer.
This afternoon, Judge James Robart issued an order authorizing the City of Seattle to proceed with its proposal to assess its police accountability system and formulate a methodology to achieve compliance under the 2012 Consent Decree.
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.