SPD Hosts Relationship Seminar by Demoted Ex-Chief, Compassion Seattle Passes the Hat; Ban on SPD Travel to Israel Fails

1. The Seattle Police Department’s ongoing push to scale up its officer wellness program is veering into intimate territory: Next week, former SPD assistant chief Nick Metz will host a dinner and relationship counseling workshop for officers alongside his wife, Dr. Sara Metz—a clinical psychologist who specializes in first responders. To sweeten the deal (and extend the “intimate” atmosphere?), the department is offering a limited number of complimentary hotel rooms to couples who attend the workshop.

After two years of staggering attrition, officer wellness programming has taken on a new significance for SPD. According to a flyer distributed to department employees, the Metz workshop is meant to address “relationship issues typically encountered by police officers”—a complaint that long predates the department’s current staffing crisis.

In November 2013, Interim Chief Jim Pugel demoted Metz from assistant chief to captain during a brief purge of department leaders Pugel believed were impediments to the reforms outlined in Seattle’s consent decree: an agreement with the US Department of Justice to correct a pattern of racial bias and excessive force by SPD officers. Within two months of his demotion, Metz briefly returned to the rank of assistant chief under new Interim SPD Chief Harry Bailey before leaving the department entirely to lead the Aurora, Colorado police department in 2015.

Metz retired in October 2019 to join his wife’s counseling practice; his retirement came on the heels of the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old unarmed Black man whom Aurora police officers placed in a chokehold while paramedics administered a fatal dose of ketamine. A Colorado grand jury indicted three of the officers and two paramedics for manslaughter and negligent homicide earlier this month.

The campaign, which raised more than a million dollars in its effort to get Charter Amendment 29 on the ballot, owes Seattle-based Foster Garvey more than $216,000 for legal services, according to reports filed at the Public Disclosure Commission—and that’s on top of $44,000 the campaign already paid the firm.

At the time of his exit from SPD, Metz was also at the center of a lawsuit against the department by a sergeant who said she experienced retaliation for complaining about Metz’s preferential assignment of lucrative overtime hours to a small group of his closest friends. A King County Superior Court jury later ruled against the department, awarding $2.8 million to the sergeant and a captain who sided with her.

2. Compassion Seattle, the business-backed campaign that wanted to change the Seattle City Charter to require the city to add thousands of shelter beds with no new money in order to keep public spaces “free and clear” of encampments, is asking supporters to help them pay their debts, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills to defend the initiative. As PubliCola reported, a King County Superior Court judge roundly rejected the measure as outside the scope of the initiative process, a ruling that the state Court of Appeals upheld one week later.

In an email to supporters, the campaign declared a kind of moral victory, crediting themselves with “chang[ing] the civic conversation” by raising homelessness as an issue. “Help us communicate our message effectively and retire our debt,” the email says.

The campaign, which raised more than a million dollars in its effort to get Charter Amendment 29 on the ballot, owes Seattle-based Foster Garvey more than $216,000 for legal services, according to reports filed at the Public Disclosure Commission—and that’s on top of $44,000 the campaign already paid the firm.

Other notable campaign debts and expenditures include: $22,000 to the Downtown Seattle Association;$232,000 to political consulting firm Cerillon N4 Partners; $98,000 to political consulting firm Blue Wave Partners; $151,000 to political consulting firm The Feary Group; and $1.1 million to the Utah-based signature-gathering firm Landslide Political.

In its letter, the Compassion Seattle campaign notes that “We successfully gathered more than 60,000 signatures on petitions.” That depends on your definition of “success”; in reality, almost half of those signatures were tossed out as invalid, meaning that the campaign and its supporters—mostly large downtown real estate interests—spent about $32 for each of 34,714 valid signatures. 

3. After a nearly three-hour debate, the city council voted narrowly to reject Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s “End the Deadly Exchange” legislation, which would have banned Seattle police officers and management from training in, participating in “exchange” programs with, or taking any official travel to Israel. Although Councilmembers Andrew Lewis and Lorena González abstained during a committee vote on the bill, saying they hoped to work with Sawant to refine the legislation to make it a more neutral condemnation of countries that commit human rights abuses, they both voted “no” in full council, along with Dan Strauss, Debora Juarez, and Alex Pedersen.

Juarez, citing the alarming uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes across the US, said the legislation “creates more heat than light.” González said she agreed with the idea of condemning human rights abuses by Israel and other nations, but said she was also worried about unintended and “divisive” consequences of passing legislation that was designed specifically to target Israel, not other countries. And Strauss said he had asked consistently for a “nation-neutral” bill but that Sawant never responded to his requests to amend the legislation, a charge Sawant denied.

Strauss actually proposed an amendment that would bar SPD officials from training exchanges with the police forces and military of any foreign nation, including Canada, but the motion failed.

Lewis pointed out that the city, as a whole, has not participated in “any international travel event to Israel” in at least seven years, and no police trainings in other countries other than Canada in the last decade. He added that he was not convinced by arguments that SPD learned the “poor crowd control techniques” it used to crack down on demonstrations in 2020 during departmental trips to Israel. “I have not actually seen anything indicated anywhere that there is any causal relationship,” Lewis said.

Morales, who voted for the bill, said that for her, the issue was clear-cut. “We as a city should not be spending public dollars to send the police abroad for the purposes of training with countries that are violating human rights,” she said.

Before the vote, Sawant spent several minutes denouncing her colleagues (including Strauss, by name) in a lengthy speech that four council members—Strauss, González, Teresa Mosqueda, and Juarez—attempted to interrupt by calling for a vote. “There is no substitute for mass organizing by all of us independent of the Democratic Party establishment,” Sawant said. Before calling the question, González said, “I’m sorry to the viewing public for what has occurred, and I want to encourage us as leaders in this city to strive to lead by example.”

5 thoughts on “SPD Hosts Relationship Seminar by Demoted Ex-Chief, Compassion Seattle Passes the Hat; Ban on SPD Travel to Israel Fails”

  1. On item 3, the “end the Deadly Exchange” ordinance.

    That CM Pedersen & CM Juarez voted against this is expected.

    CM Gonzalez’s vote was clearly strategic: since Bruce Harrell is running to the right she felt she could abandon principle.

    But CM Strauss’s & CM Lewis’s votes were shocking for their willingness to embrace absurd claims.

    For CM Lewis he researches what trips SPD took to Israel & then complains we don’t know what for!?!? This has been debated for 3 months & you think it important but couldn’t check? You don’t see a connection? Really? How about just learning how other police/security forces learn to other & dehumanize those they are tasked to control so that abuse becomes routine & necessary? Why wouldn’t we prohibit our abusive police from training w/human rights violators in ANY other country? Heard about the psychological effects of modeling behavior?

    Before anyone says CM Strauss voted how he did because he’s Jewish, let’s remember so is CM Morales & that the ratio of callers who were Jewish & in favor has been running ~70-80% in favor.

    As for anti-Semitism: has anyone appreciated that passing this resolution would do nothing to increase it, whereas voting it down feeds conspiracy theories about “Jewish power” when so many people (many Jewish) gave comment in favor?

    Let’s be clear: groups lobbying against this measure care less about anti-Semitism or Israel then they do about a particular vision of Israel. As a Jew I find this shameful.

  2. RE #2: Ok, we get it, you hate Compassion Seattle. But you also seem to hate facts. Because while you declare that the measure’s supporters were “mostly large downtown real estate interests”, every poll taken showed support by more than 60% of actual voters. Regular people, across the political spectrum, were in overwhelming support of the measure. And, whether or not you like it, the rest of us are fed up with the ongoing problem of homelessness, and the vast sucking sound of unaccountable and inefficient homeless industrial complex that has absorbed billions of our tax dollars.

    1. Compassion Seattle broke the law (as deemed by a trial court and court of appeals). Why should they be praised? Now they are begging people for money to pay their lawyers. I have a lot more respect for homeless folks who sell Real Change. How can they ask people to throw the homeless in jail for sleeping in parks when they can’t even pay off their own debts?

  3. You know that Compassion Seattle was pure evil because it was a “business-backed campaign”. You know ….all those dirty-nasty-evil businesses that have destroyed Seattle. No it certainly wasn’t Sawant handing out 25 different types of free stuff which attracted those on a bad plan to Seattle. Had enough yet Seattle? …apparently not. Progressives, just look in the mirror to see who caused the mess you are in. This just in: inflation has now wiped out Sawant’s push for $15 per hour, which is now worth what $9 was when she marched for it. See how socialism works? I thought she had a degree in economics. Maybe she should get her money back. It is already time to start the next campaign called “thirty dollars for a living wage” Do you see how Sawant-style socialism works now?

  4. Is it too early to make jokes about Compassion Seattle begging for money? “They need to get a second job!” “If I give them money, how do I know it’s not going to for meth (or something just as harmful, lobbyists!!!)

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