Panel Can’t Tell if Cop Uttered Slur; Three Months In, Just 10 Have Moved to Rapid Rehousing from Hotel Shelters

1. The two hotels that the city belatedly rented out to serve as shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic have been in service for a little over three months of their ten-month contracts with the city. In that time, they have moved a total of 15 people into some form of permanent housing, according to the city’s Human Services Department—about 6 percent of the 230 people the city planned to cycle through around 200 hotel rooms over the life of the contracts, primarily through rapid rehousing rent subsidies.

According to a spokesman for the Human Services Department, 13 people have moved into permanent housing from the 139-room Executive Pacific Hotel, operated by LIHI on a $3.1 million contract; 10 of those received rapid rehousing subsidies. Two people have moved out of the 58-room King’s Inn, operated by the Chief Seattle Club on a $3.1 million contract, into permanent housing .

In the context of homelessness, “permanent housing” refers to the type of housing, not the length of a subsidy; rapid rehousing subsidies, for example, can last up to 12 months, but the market-rate apartments they help pay for are called “permanent” to differentiate them from transitional housing or shelter. Permanent housing can include everything from long-term supportive housing to moving in with relatives.

Both shelters include rapid-rehousing programs, which the city is funding through separate 10-month contracts. Chief Seattle Club runs its own rapid rehousing program at the hotel, at a cost of just over $800,000, and LIHI is working with Catholic Community Services, which has a $7 million contract.

“We anticipate the number of rapid rehousing enrollments to increase as people at these hotels have time to stabilize and Chief Seattle Club’s RRH program ramps up.”—Human Services Department spokesman

According to the HSD spokesman, “Chief Seattle Club case managers are working with participants to identify the best housing solution. … As with any brand new shelter, it takes time for the program to ramp up, clients to stabilize, and for people to find housing solutions that work best for them. This is why the program was designed for 10 months to allow time for individuals to connect with the best resources–whether it is rapid rehousing, diversion, or the permanent housing solutions coming online. We saw this play out at the Navigation Center when it opened. We anticipate the number of RRH enrollments to increase as people at these hotels have time to stabilize and Chief Seattle Club’s RRH program ramps up.”

When the city started intensifying encampment sweeps earlier this year, it used COVID vulnerability criteria to move people from encampments into the Executive Pacific Hotel. This has resulted in a population that faces more barriers to housing than the unsheltered population as whole, and thus less likely to succeed in rapid rehousing, which requires participants to earn enough income to afford a market-rate apartment within a few months to a year.

As a last resort, the OPA assembled a 13-person panel for a blind study. None of the panelists heard the n-word after listening to the recording for the first time, and only five heard the slur after investigators revealed the allegations against Zimmer.

LIHI director Sharon Lee told PubliCola last month that “the majority” of people living at the hotel “are not candidates for rapid rehousing.” The Chief Seattle Club did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

2. Neither an outside audio expert nor a 13-person panel could conclusively tell Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability whether an officer called a man the n-word during a 2020 DUI arrest.

The OPA’s investigation into whether Seattle Police Officer Jacob Zimmer used the racial slur hinged on a single, hard-to-discern word captured on Zimmer’s body-worn video during the arrest. According to the original OPA complaint, Zimmer commented that the man was a “tall-ass n—-r.”

After reviewing the recording himself, Zimmer insisted that he had, in fact, said “tall-ass man”; he argued that he was trying to build a rapport with the man to lower tensions while driving him to the hospital for a blood draw. Though Zimmer’s partner did not remember precisely what he heard, he was also certain that Zimmer hadn’t used the racist slur.

OPA investigators who reviewed the officers’ body-worn video wrote in their report that neither Zimmer’s partner nor the man in custody appeared to react as if the officer had used the word. However, after trying unsuccessfully to clean up the recording to determine exactly what Zimmer said, the investigators looked for help.

OPA staff members took turns listening to the recording and offering their interpretations. When that strategy also failed to reach a clear answer, the OPA hired a video and audio analyst to better isolate the mystery word; that expert was only able to conclude that the word contained two syllables, undercutting Zimmer’s claim.

As a last resort, the OPA assembled a 13-person panel for a blind study. None of the panelists heard the n-word after listening to the recording for the first time, and only five heard the slur after investigators revealed the allegations against Zimmer.

Without any conclusive evidence against Zimmer, OPA Director Andrew Myerberg chose to close the case. “Even if I personally hear the use of a slur,” he wrote, his investigators couldn’t meet the burden of proof needed to discipline Zimmer—which, in this case, would mean termination.

Though the OPA routinely investigates bias allegations against SPD officers, the high bar for proving bias means that the office often closes investigations without reaching a clear conclusion. A recent exception involved an officer who called his Black coworker a “fucking thug” for wearing workout clothes in the North Precinct locker room; after an OPA investigation, Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz suspended Officer Andrew Marks without pay.

One thought on “Panel Can’t Tell if Cop Uttered Slur; Three Months In, Just 10 Have Moved to Rapid Rehousing from Hotel Shelters”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.