Murder of George Floyd and Demonstrations in Seattle
This nation has a long and proud history of protest for change; and an even longer history of racial injustice and institutionalized, racialized violence, especially towards Black men and women. The protests we are experiencing in Seattle, and seeing around the country, are the result of those histories, sparked by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. It’s important that we put these protests in that context: that Black men and women have disproportionately suffered and died at the hands of law enforcement in Seattle, and across the country. And that protestors are pleading not just for justice for George Floyd, but for an end to police violence against Black men and women here in Seattle, and across our country.
I was with many of fellow Seattleites at Not This Time’s event at Westlake on Saturday protesting the murder of George Floyd and generations of harm done to black communities and black people at the hands of law enforcement. The stirring words of rage and sorrow of the many voices lifted Saturday were a lament to the failures of a nation – built by black and brown people – to deliver justice in law enforcement, deliver economic equality, and deliver educational equity.
I have heard many say over the last few days that embracing protest does not have to constrain our rights from expressing rage, sorrow, and heartbreak. It must not.
Last Saturday, I learned from the Mayor’s Office at 4:57pm about the 5pm curfew, and talked to as many protestors as I could. That evening when I got home, I contacted Council President González and we decided that we needed to publicly issue a request to the Mayor’s Office, Chief Carmen Best, and Chief Harold Scoggins to brief the City Council and provide updates regarding the number of injuries and arrests, as well as the health and safety impacts.
We asked for a detailed after-action and incident report including details specific to rifles stolen, police vehicles destroyed, damage to property and to the Interstate as a result of the demonstration. We requested a review of whether the policies for policing of demonstrations in the SPD Policy and Procedures Manual, following implementation of recommendations of the Community Police Commission, were followed.
I convened a meeting of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee on Wednesday. You can view the meeting on the Seattle Channel committee archive.
The meeting included public comment, and three panels: a community panel, Executive departments, and Seattle’s civilian-led accountability bodies. I encourage you to listen to the community panel. The participants included:
- Willard Jamison of United Better Thinking: working with youth and young adults who are unserved by traditional service providers.
- Omari Salisbury with Converge Media a leading producer of culturally relevant audio and media content.
- Netsie Tjirongo, a filmmaker, community organizer and member of the Seattle Film Task Force.
- Dominique Davis of Community Passageways, a felony diversion and prevention program leading the way in reimaging and recreating an alternative to today’s criminal justice system.
- Evana Enabulele of Queer the Land a collaborative project grounded in the self-determination of queer and trans Black/indigenous/people of color (QTBIPOC)
I’d like to thank the panelists on all three panels for their participation on short notice.
Andrew Myerberg, the Director of the Office of Police Accountability, which is responsible for investigating complaints about officer conduct, noted they have received 15,000 complaints (a number are about the same incidents), especially regarding a young girl who was pepper sprayed, as well as numerous complaints regarding flash-bangs and tear gas. OPA is seeking to address as many complaints w/in 60 days as possible. They have delayed work on other complaints, and will be 100% focused on this; the Seattle Police Management Association and the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild have agreed to toll other cases for 30 days, for which I thank them.
OPA is issuing updates on its press release page and twitter feed.
Inspector General Judge noted the Office of the Inspector General is undertaking a systems-based, root cause analysis of recent demonstrations response by SPD. The OIG say it is “OIG is committed to making this a community-centered process” and lists how to comment about this here.
CPC Co-Chair Dave, in response to a Council question about the city’s accountability structure, noted that the promise of the 2017 accountability legislation has not been realized, and other comments noted below.
The Council asked a number of questions for the executive, some of which come from the presenters; SPD published a timeline of events of May 30th.
I have heard from constituents about a number of issues: use of tear gas and blast balls; curfews; badge visibility; the consent decree with the US Department of Justice, police accountability, the labor contract with police officers, use of force, body worn video, and the city budget. I’ll seek to provide information about each below.
Use of tear gas and blast balls:
SPD has policies regarding crowd management. The policies require advance warning before using pepper spray (“OC spray”) or blast balls, but note this requirement is “as feasible.”
The policy states “When feasible, officers will not deploy blast balls and OC spray until a dispersal order has been issued to the crowd and the crowd has been given a reasonable amount of time to comply.”
Constituents have raised this issue, as well as the use of tear gas; during the committee meeting, CPC Co-Chair Prachi Dave also raised the issue of how this was being applied. I also said I was concerned that the references to the “if feasible” language in Chief Best’s response to questions about adherence to this policy was applied in a way that was overbroad.
During public testimony at the committee meeting, a Capitol Hill resident testified (as noted in Councilmember Mosequeda’s tweet” testified that his 3 month old son woke up coughing, spitting out mucus. He and his wife fled the neighborhood with their child.
Others note that we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting communities of color. Dr Jeffery Duchin tweeted,
“Public Health – Seattle & King Co opposes the use of tear gas & other respiratory irritants based on the potential to increase COVID-19 spread”.
Councilmember Mosqueda and I asked the CPC, OPA, and OIG for emergency recommendations regarding use of tear gas in demonstrations.
Today the three accountability bodies issued a joint letter to the Mayor and Chief requesting that
“the Seattle Police Department to cease the use of CS gas in response to First Amendment activity, until such time as any appropriate use can be vetted by oversight entities and incorporated into a written SPD policy. That policy should include sufficient safeguards so that CS gas is only used, if at all, in a manner that keeps faith with the public trust.”
The letter notes “The SPD manual does not reference the use of CS gas nor the conditions under
which it can be used for general crowd control.”
I support this recommendation; the letter includes additional valuable information.
The Community Police Commission issued a letter in 2015 regarding SPD response to Post-Ferguson and Black Lives Matter demonstrations that mentioned police on blast ball usage required immediate review, and another in 2016, stating, “we reiterate the need we identified in May 2015 for a structured conversation in which the police and community members may together explore these issues. We again offer to convene that conversation unless an alternate forum is provided by the Council or other City leaders. Following that dialogue, we likely will offer recommendations for the use of blast-balls and the appropriate use of de-escalation tactics in crowd management situations. Until this can occur, we ask that the use of blast balls as a crowd management tool be suspended.”
It’s clear we need a broader community conversation about use of tear gas and blast balls. I raised this with the Chief when we spoke yesterday.
Council President González and I contacted the Mayor on Tuesday to express our concern about the lack of stated tactical objectives delineated in the Emergency Order being served by a curfew, and a we requested a description of describe tactical objectives of declarations. The Council has the right to confirm, modify or deny emergency orders. Tuesday afternoon the Mayor issued another Citywide curfew to run through Saturday morning.
On Wednesday evening, shortly before a meeting notice was to go out for the Council to consider the most recent curfew (24 hours notice is required for Council action) the Mayor indicated her intent to withdraw the curfew notice. I thank her for revising her previous decision.
Earlier this week I announced my intent to introduce legislation to require officers to display their badge numbers, while allowing mourning bands to observe the death of officers on a different part of the badge. The legislation will be introduced on Monday.
Subsequently, Chief Best issued a directive to all officers to display their badge numbers, while wearing mourning bands. I appreciate her order, and believe it needs to be adopted into city law. After the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, people noted they could not view the nametags of officers; Councilmember Steinbrueck sponsored legislation to require display of name tags.
SPD policy on uniforms complies with the 2000 legislation. It also states “Officers may wear the Seattle Police Honor Guard mourning badge in accordance with: 3.170-Honoring Those Killed in the Line of Duty.” This calls for a Mourning Band “affixed horizontally across the center of the badge.” That’s where the badge number is, so in accord with this the policy will need to be updated.
Consent Decree, Accountability, Labor Contract
The Consent Decree, police accountability, and the contract between the city of Seattle and police labor unions are all interrelated.
The City of Seattle and the Department of Justice entered into a Consent Decree and MOU in 2012 after the DOJ found excessive use of force in 2011 in response to a 2010 request letter from a number of community groups.
A federal monitor was appointed to oversee the consent decree process, and issued ten systemic assessment reports on topics such as use of force, stops, search and seizure, early intervention, crisis intervention, community confidence, and other reports on the use of force.
In 2017 the Council adopted the accountability ordinance, after receiving authorization from the federal judge overseeing the consent decree. Accountability had not been explicitly included in the Consent Decree.
Under state labor law, public employees have the right to collectively bargain their working conditions. Consequently, some of the provisions in the accountability ordinance must be approved in collective bargaining agreements with the labor unions representing officers (Seattle Police Officers Guild, or SPOG) and management (Seattle Police Management Association, or SPMA). These agreements must be negotiated with the unions.
The agreement with SPMA says “the City may implement the Accountability Ordinance.” The agreement with SPOG includes some provisions of the accountability ordinance, but not others. CPC Co-Chair Dave noted that is why the promise of the 2017 ordinance has not been fully realized.
Labor contracts are starkly different than other legislation the Council votes on; they must be approved up or down; no amendments are allowed.
The process for contract negotiations has placed Councilmembers at a severe disadvantage. Labor Relations, in the executive branch of government, conducts negotiations. Five Councilmember participate in the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) to plan and adopt the strategy or position to be taken by the City during negotiations. Negotiations are legally confidential.
However, in the past once negotiations began the five Councilmembers have received only monthly updates, which allows for only high-level briefings. This placed Councilmembers at a significant disadvantage, because Labor Relations has the power to conclude an agreement, which the Council then must vote on, up or down, without amendment.
The City Council is required to hold a public hearing before beginning negotiations with SPMA and SPOG, and Councilmember González held public hearings in the committee overseeing public safety late last year; the contracts expire at the end of 2020.
Earlier this year I became chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee, and sponsored a resolution regarding collective bargaining with SPOG, which included letters from the three accountability bodies, and states the City will consider in good faith whether and how to carry out the recommendations from the public.
The letters from the three accountability bodies included recommendations for external advisors for negotiations; while the recommendations differ slightly, they include assisting the city while bargaining, to build community trust, and report to the community afterwards, to the extent possible, considering
The five Councilmembers on the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) are working to incorporate these recommendations into the negotiations, including greater Council awareness of what is taking place in negotiations. City work in advance of negotiations has been delayed due to the COVID 19 pandemic.
Two years ago Judge Robart found the city in compliance with the terms of the Consent Decree, and a required two-year sustainment period then began as a precondition for the City to be fully released. Robart subsequently found the city out of compliance on accountability issues.
On Wednesday, the City Attorney withdrew the City’s motion to terminate the sustainment plan elements of the federal consent decree. The motion did not include a request of the court to find the City in compliance on issues related to police accountability, the same issues included in the 2017 Accountability legislation, but not the SPOG collective bargaining agreement. The City Council asked US District Court Judge Robart, who is charged with overseeing the consent decree, to consider making recommendations for the city to address these issues and he did.
Because the City has not addressed the issues related to police accountability, the same issues included in the 2017 Accountability legislation, but not the SPOG collective bargaining agreement, I advocated for the motion to not include accountability, and thank the City Attorney for not including accountability in that in the original motion and for withdrawing the motion altogether this week.
Body worn video
In 1979, Seattle adopted the nation’s first local ordinance limited police intelligence gathering, by prohibiting police from collecting information on lawful political activities. The legislation was supported by Seattle’s Coalition on Government Spying, and forms the backbone of SMC 14.12 in the Seattle Municipal Code.
In 1975 there was disclosure that Seattle police had spied on, photographed and compiled extensive files on hundreds of political activists as well as community and church leaders during the late 1960s and early 1970s at a time when there were lots of demonstrations.
That legislation begins by stating “freedom of speech, press, thought, association, and assembly, as well as the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, are among our most cherished civil liberties, and the right to privacy is indispensable to safety and individual rights.”
SMC 14.12.A states:
“No person shall become the subject of the collection of information on account of a lawful exercise of a constitutional right or civil liberty; no information shall be collected upon a person who is active in politics or community affairs, unless under the same or similar circumstances the information would be collected upon another person who did not participate actively in politics or community affairs.”
I wanted to share this in the context of requests that SPD policies be changed for cameras to be turned on during demonstrations. The American Civil Liberties Union was involved in development of the policies; I’d like to discuss this with them.
SPD’s policies for body-worn video at demonstrations say,
“Employees will not record people lawfully exercising their freedom of speech, press, association, assembly, or religion unless they have probable cause to believe that criminal activity is occurring or when ordered to record by a supervisor, as provided below.
When an imminent risk to public safety or large-scale property destruction appears likely, supervisors at the squad level and/or the incident commander of an event may order employees to record with BWV. Under such direction, employees will record until ordered to cease recording.”
Here’s a link to SPD’s “Body Worn Video” page, that links to a report about stakeholder discussions about this policy; the City also has a surveillance ordinance limiting the use of new technologies.
Right to Observe:
In 2017 I sponsored an Observer Bill of Rights, affirming the right to observe police activity. The legislation created a new section Subchapter VI of section 3.28 of the Seattle Municipal Code.
I am reviewing whether this needs to be updated.
The City Budget Office briefed the City Council in April, and indicated there could be a revenue shortfall in 2020 adopted budget of up to $300 million. The Council’s Select Budget Committee will begin meeting next week to address this.
West Seattle Bridge Update: June 5
Request for Qualifications released June 2
On June 2nd SDOT announced a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a team to design a potential replacement for the bridge if it cannot be repaired.
An optional pre-submittal conference is scheduled for June 9th; a deadline for questions is noon on the 18th; the deadline for responses is June 30, with interview scheduled for July 28 and 29.
A design to replace the bridge will be needed even if SDOT is able to repair the bridge because repair is estimated to only have a ten-year life span.
The contract is estimated to be in the range of $50 million to $150 million.
The proposal requires responses to include project planning/alternatives analysis approach; project management approach; team skills and cohesiveness; previous project experience; project understanding and approach; and alternative delivery method/construction phase experience and approach.
The “Project Planning/Alternatives” section requires an answer to “relevant examples of how alternatives were identified and evaluated, how a recommended alternative was selected, what criteria was used for the selection” and “previous project experience that resulted in ensuring project planning goals and objectives were met for a bridge project of similar size.”
The “Project Understanding and Approach” section requires applicants to “Identify the three most critical challenges that will need to be resolved to deliver a successful project and your proposed approach to resolving each challenge” and “Describe the team’s approach for coordinating design elements between multiple permitting agencies/stakeholders such as US Army Corps of Engineers, US Coast Guard, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Railroads, Sound Transit, etc” and “Describe your view of the three most challenging elements to be overcome in delivering this type of bridge project.”
Here’s the evaluation criteria scoring for these categories:
Here’s a link to the RFQ, and more about the RFQ on the City’s consultant contracting page.
SDOT expects to know in coming weeks whether the bridge can be repaired. They are releasing to RFQ to begin the process of selecting a design team in order to be able to switch to that, without delay.
Because so many people have expressed interest in the immersed tube tunnel concept, I have asked SDOT whether this RPQ would preclude a team from making a proposal for an immersed tube tunnel for SDOT’s consideration. Immersed tube tunnels are composed of segments, constructed elsewhere and floated to the crossing site to be sunk into place and then linked together. Here’s a quick summary of advantages and disadvantages from Wikipedia:
Advantages relative to these alternatives include:
- Their speed of construction
- Minimal disruption to the river/channel, if crossing a shipping route
- Resistance to seismic activity
- Safety of construction (for example, work in a dry dock as opposed to boring beneath a river)
- Flexibility of profile (although this is often partly dictated by what is possible for the connecting tunnel types)
- Immersed tunnels are often partly exposed (usually with some rock armour and natural siltation) on the river/sea bed, risking a sunken ship/anchor strike
- Direct contact with water necessitates careful waterproofing design around the joints
- The segmental approach requires careful design of the connections, where longitudinal effects and forces must be transferred across
- Environmental impact of tube and underwater embankment on existing channel/sea bed.
SDOT plans to release a decision-tree soon to show what’s guiding their decision making process about whether to repair or replace.
Traffic data update
Repaving of Roxbury between 16th and 18th Avenues SW has been completed, in conjunction with King County DOT. SDOT updated the signal controller at 35th and Holden; they’ve updated 26 signals so far. They installed “Do Not Block” signs at intersections and driveways on West Marginal.
Below are the most recent traffic numbers; traffic continues to be high on West Marginal, Highland Park Way, and increasing to above baseline averages in Georgetown on South Michigan, the route to I-5. The South Park Bridge traffic and SW Roxbury has resulted to near baseline levels. Note: we’ve been informed by HPAC members that traffic counts on Highland Park Way might be incorrect since the equipment was damaged. The equipment has recently been replaced.
Here are the most recent travel times:
The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, of which I am a member, will begin meeting next Wednesday.
SDOT has indicated they may bring forward a proposal for potential changes to use of lower bridge.
Last week the Puget Sound Regional Council Executive Board approved a supplemental funding action to provide the city with authority to dedicate $2 million in funds already received toward a bridge planning study.
COVID Response Funds Available for Community-Based Organizations – Apply by Tuesday 6/9
Applications are due June 9th for new grants of up to $25,000 for organizations working with communities at the highest risk of immediate and long-term negative health, social and economic impacts from Covid. King County’s Equity & Social Justice COVID-19 Community Response Fund Grants will be awarded in these areas:
- Organizations providing direct service to individuals and families with economic, physical, or social needs.
- Organizations providing emergency assistance in the form of grants to communities for food security, housing security, and financial assistance.
- Organizations providing in-language technical assistance to the community (navigating unemployment, health and long-term services and support systems).
- Organizations supporting undocumented residents not eligible for state or federal benefits.
- Organizations supporting Black, Native, and residents of color that are LGBTQ, disabled, and unsheltered as those most impacted by the COVID-19 virus and mandatory isolation/social distancing.
- Outreach designed to raise awareness and increase utilization of local testing resources by communities of color and community-based data collection to record.
- Organizations that can engage in ongoing data collection efforts to inform comprehensive anti-hate and bias policy and programming at King County.
Full criteria are here, and a link to the application form can be found here.
New COVID Testing Capacity in Seattle, with Sites Sought for a West Seattle Location
Free, drive-through testing sites will open today and Monday in two former vehicle emissions testing locations: North Seattle at 12040 Aurora Ave. (open Monday) and South Seattle at 3820 6th Ave. S. (open today). The testing sites will operate Monday thru Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for Seattleites who book ahead through the website.
On-site testing will be coordinated by trained Seattle Fire Department (SFD) personnel. SFD estimates pre-registration will allow the testing procedure to take fewer than 10 minutes per test. Together, these sites will be able to test 1,600 people daily. The City is also looking to add walk-up testing and additional capacity in West Seattle, which it has determined is another high-need area.
These sites are designed and intended for drive-up testing and are not ADA compliant for pedestrians. If you need walk-up testing with ADA accommodations, please call your healthcare provider or Public Health – Seattle & King County at 206-477-3977 for more information.
Under Washington law, Covid-19 testing is free – you can learn more here. Patients at the City’s two new testing sites will not be charged for testing and will not receive a bill, regardless of health insurance status. For insured clients, UW Medicine will handle the billing of an individuals’ private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare; you will not be charged a co-pay.
Don Armeni Boat Launch Re-Opens
Saltwater boat ramps on Elliot Bay at Don Armeni and Golden Gardens are now open, with social distancing guidelines in place:
- Stay home if you are sick, and wash your hands frequently
- Please give other boaters at least 6ft of space at all times
- Launching boats should be done as quickly as possible, with little to no lingering in the launch parking lot
- Only go boating with those who live in your household
- Refrain from linking up with other boats for gatherings/parties
While the ramps will be open consistent with park hours, during busier times the boat ramps will be staffed with employees who manage traffic and will collect data on social distancing compliance and boat launch usage. Only vehicles with boat trailers are allowed in ramp parking lots.
You can learn more here.
Emergency Heliports to be Tested at Two West Seattle Parks
Seattle Parks and Recreation received a proposal from the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) to use Alki Playfield and Walt Hundley Playfield as emergency helipads to transport urgent care patients to Harborview Hospital in the event of an emergency during the West Seattle Bridge closure. SFD will conduct practice runs in early June.
Essential Pay for Essential Workers
Last Monday the Council voted unanimously on legislation brought forward by Councilmember Mosqueda to temporarily expand Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) for workers of food delivery network companies (FDNCs) and transportation network companies (TNCs).
This coming Monday the Council will vote on another proposal from Councilmember Lewis and myself to establish a temporary $5 premium fee per delivery from FDNCs (companies such as UberEats, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates). Drivers for these companies are typically independent contractors – often misclassified – and are not subject to the City’s $15 minimum wage or other local labor laws.
The $5 fee recognizes the hazardous yet essential work these contractors are providing. The rational for the $5 is broken out into three areas – hazard pay, time to adequately clean their vehicles to meet public health guidelines, and the supplies needed to clean their vehicles.
May Constituent Email Report
Constituent correspondence is a very important task in my office. My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve our community, whether that’s by getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering. The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in May, what I refer to above as “case management services.” The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in May related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering. Please note the new COVID-19 row highlighted in yellow. These are a mix of case management services to get individuals the help they need in this crisis as well as emails answered in response to constituents contacting my office about Emergency Orders and emergency legislation related to COVID-19 response. I have a debt of gratitude to the work being done by my team to respond urgently to people in crisis in this difficult time.