Tag: Adrian Diaz

Harrell Picks Diaz for Police Chief; Council Park District Alternative Would Keep Park Rangers, Raise Tax

Mayor Bruce Harrell, Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz, and supporters
Mayor Bruce Harrell, Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz, and supporters at Tuesday’s announcement

1. After a City Charter-mandated process that led to a list of three finalists, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced Tuesday that interim police chief Adrian Diaz will become Seattle’s permanent police chief, pending confirmation by the City Council.

Diaz expressed his desire to become permanent chief as early as 2020, when he replaced former chief Carmen Best, and was widely viewed as the most obvious choice for the position. Harrell’s office announced the finalists for the position less than two weeks ago, and the public had its first look at all three finalists in a live Seattle Channel interview five days before the mayor announced his selection.

The compressed recent timeline, combined with Harrell’s choice of the most widely predicted candidate, gave the chief selection the air of a fait accompli, prompting questions Tuesday about whether the city r revisit how it picks police chiefs in the future. Harrell defended the process, calling it “an extremely effective and efficient use of dollars” that involved “all communities in the city. “There was nothing broken in this process. The process was a good process. And so nothing out of this process suggested to me [that] we needed to fix or change anything,” Harrell said.

The police department currently has fewer than 1,000 officers on duty, a number Diaz and the mayor have said they want to increase to more than 1,400 over the next five years. Diaz said the public is demanding “action on crime, on gun violence, on perceived and real issues of safety,” and vowed to continue efforts to hire hundreds of new officers while committing to accountability, diversity, and new types of policing, including co-responder models, in which police partner with social service workers when responding to some crisis and non-emergency calls.

This approach, like the choice of Diaz itself, represents a commitment to the status quo: Reform, not a radical rethinking of the relationship between police and the communities they serve. Aggressive hiring, rather than redistributing some duties to non-police responders. More and better officer training, rather than example-setting discipline for cops who abuse their power. Even Diaz’s characterization of the 2020 protests outside the East Precinct, which he repeatedly referred to as “riots” both yesterday and during his Seattle Channel interview, represents a pre-2020 perspective in which police are the only bulwark against everything from violent crime to people protesting against police violence.

2. On Tuesday City Council member Andrew Lewis presented his budget proposal for the upcoming six-year Metropolitan Parks District plan, which PubliCola previewed earlier this week. Lewis’ proposal amends and expands on the plan Mayor Bruce Harrell proposed earlier this month, increasing the proposed property tax to 39 cents per $1,000 of home valuation (up from Harrell’s 38 cents/$1,000), adding two new off-leash areas, funding the electrification of additional community centers, planting more trees, and renovating four more restrooms than Harrell’s plan, among other changes.

Climate advocates have argued that the city needs to invest more heavily in decarbonizing the city’s 26 community centers. Lewis’ proposal would add $4 million in 2025 and 2026 to accelerate this process, along with $18 million in debt, which the city would begin paying off near the end of the park district cycle, in 2027, with a goal of decarbonizing 13 community centers by 2028.

The plan would also fund $5 million for additional maintenance at the planned downtown waterfront park, which would come out of the existing park stabilization fund and reserves.

Lewis noted Monday that his proposal also includes spending restriction meant to ensure that parks rangers can’t remove encampments or exclude people from parks for anything other than felony-level crimes. As we reported on Monday, although a 1997 law empowers parks rangers to exclude people from parks for violating park rules, a more lenient policy adopted in 2012 has effectively superseded that law. Lewis’ proposal would make funding for 26 new rangers contingent on following the 2012 rule, and would require the mayor to “immediately inform the Park District should these park rules be modified.”

Two public commenters were extremely upset about nudity they’d witnessed at Denny Blaine Park, an unofficial nude beach on Lake Washington, and said they hoped the new park rangers would put a stop to it and, as one speaker put it, make the park a “family friendly place again.” One outraged speaker, who seemed to be a frequent visitor, said she had witnessed people “walking down Lake Washington Boulevard naked, in the middle of Denny Blaine Park, naked, in trees, naked, displaying themselves, naked, on the low walls in the park, [and] naked people swimming, paddle boarding, laying on rafts, etc.”

The parks district board, which is made up of all nine members of the city council, will meet this Friday, and the council itself could vote on a final proposal as soon as Monday, September 27.

Ruling Orders UW to Reinstate Police Patrols at Dorms, COVID Hits Home at SPD and City Hall

1. The state Public Employee Relations Commission, which arbitrates labor disputes within state agencies, reversed a decision that allowed unarmed “campus responders” to provide public safety services at University of Washington residence halls and ordered the UW to restore police patrols, represented by a different union, at the dorms. The ruling orders the UW to reassign campus cops to patrol its residence halls.

The university decided to eliminate armed dorm patrols in 2020 after protests against police violence prompted calls to divest from police across the city and nation.

The divided decision, signed by Commissioners Marilyn Sayan and Kenneth Pedersen, found that the university had failed to bargain in good faith with its campus police union when it eliminated unarmed patrols to the dorms in response to student demands for a “more holistic approach to public safety” in 2020. PubliCola broke the news about the latest PERC decision on Saturday, and covered the original decision, which was issued by a PERC examiner, last year.

The case centered on the question of whether the UW and its president, Ana Mari Cauce, had the authority to replace campus police with civilian responders without negotiating the change with the union representing the officers. The university argued that it had the authority to choose its own campus public safety model, without bargaining the changes with the union; the union argued that the issue was a matter of mandatory bargaining, and that the UW was “skimming” work away from the police department—effectively taking away an opportunity for officers to make money and giving it to new employees represented by a different union.

Although no campus police lost their jobs as the result of the shift in duties (the dissenting opinion by Commissioner Mark Busto notes that the police union “did not present evidence that the CPOs suffered any financial impact from the transfer, such as the loss of overtime”), the PERC ruling orders the UW to “make any eligible bargaining unit employees whole, with interest, by paying them wages and benefits lost as a result of the skimming found in this unfair labor practice complaint.”

2. In COVID news, PubliCola has heard from several sources that Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson recently had COVID but failed to inform her coworkers, including at least some council colleagues, about her diagnosis, as the city’s COVID protocols require for all city employees who work outside their homes. Nelson, who often appears on the council dais without a mask, did not respond to a request for comment.

Legislative staff routinely receive exposure notices from Human Resources when someone in their department tests positive and reports it to the city, but there have been significantly more informal reports of COVID than formal notices, meaning that others in the legislative department are not following the policy either. At least two other council members have had COVID, including Councilmember Tammy Morales, who mentioned her diagnosis in a recent public council meeting.

3. Additionally, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz’ brother, acting Lieutenant Avery Jaycin Diaz, is on extended leave and reportedly plans to retire after refusing to get vaccinated, which SPD policy requires. Although neither SPD nor Chief Diaz would confirm that nonvaccination was the reason for his brother’s departure, an SPD spokesman did confirm that he has not been on active duty for some time. The spokesman said Avery Diaz had not submitted his official retirement paperwork as of mid-July.

PubliCola was unable to reach Avery Diaz, and the police chief declined to comment on the record about his brother’s departure. Property records show that he sold his house in August 2021.

As of mid-July, SPD had only fired four officers for refusing to comply with vaccine mandates, although some have retired or resigned inton lieu of termination. The department has lost around 400 officers since 2020, most due to resignations or retirements, and Mayor Bruce Harrell recently announced a $2 million “recruitment and retention” plan that would providing hiring bonuses of up to $30,000 to new SPD officers.

Harrell’s Police Hiring Plan Looks Awfully Familiar

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz and Mayor Bruce Harrell
Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz and Mayor Bruce Harrell at SPD headquarters Wednesday

By Erica C. Barnett

Mayor Bruce Harrell and Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz announced a $2 million “recruitment and retention plan”  for Seattle police officers that would provide bonuses of up to $30,000 to trained officers from elsewhere who join the department and up to $7,500 to new recruits, putting Seattle’s hiring incentives roughly in line with those in other nearby cities. The city has lost 109 officers this year, according to Diaz, about two-thirds of them to retirement.

To make up for those losses, Harrell wants to hire about 500 new officers over the next five years, increasing the number of officers  from less than 1,000 to at least 1,400—the same number SPD has been saying it needs since at least 2020, when attrition first hit record-breaking highs. The $2 million investment would include about $1 million the city council released for recruitment incentives earlier this year, plus an additional $1 million that would require council approval.

Entry-level police officers start out making around $84,000 a year. That figure doesn’t not counting overtime and off-duty work, like directing traffic at parking garages and construction sites, which can bump officers’ take-home pay well into the six figures.

Despite the fact that experienced officers are still leaving the department in large numbers, Harrell’s proposal does not include retention bonuses for people already working in the department—a seeming oversight that Diaz said would be rectified during negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers Guild, which are ongoing.

“It’s been nearly two years since the Council requested an analysis of what types of 911 calls could be responded to without police involvement. … Despite consistent requests from myself and other Councilmembers to act with urgency, we have not received a favorable response from the executive.”—Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold

“Mayor Harrell’s proposal includes a competitive economic package to focus on retention,” Diaz said, but “we can’t highlight a dollar amount.” In addition to more money for officers, Diaz said, “We’re hoping to get a little bit more time off for officers, because, you know, in this line of work, there’s a lot of stress” from responding to calls and dealing with traumatic situations. The retention proposal also includes incentives for higher education, more predictable shifts, and “a comprehensive wellness program.”

None of the proposals Harrell rolled out this week are particularly unique, and some are already in the works, such as the potential transition to four-day work weeks with ten-hour shifts. Nor have hiring incentives been particularly effective at recruiting qualified officers, particularly experienced “lateral” hires from other police departments, in the past.

A Seattle Department of Human Resources review of two different hiring bonus programs from 2019 and 2021 found that hiring bonuses had little or no effect on actual hires, although 18 percent of people who applied for SPD jobs in 2019 said the bonus was one reason they put in an application. Cities across the country are struggling to recruit and retain police officers, and Diaz has noted that officers who leave the department often cite working conditions and morale as reasons for quitting.

When existing employees see new hires walking through the door with tens of thousands of dollars in their pockets, that can create its own strain on morale. Meanwhile, many other departments are facing similar recruitment and retention issues, but have not inspired a similar level of attention and investment from the city—something council public safety committee chair Lisa Herbold has pointed out on many occasions.

In a statement, Herbold said she agrees with Harrell that “hiring police officers is important,” but added that the city has taken few tangible steps toward setting up an alternative response system for situations that don’t require an armed response.

“We can’t keep asking police officers to direct traffic and help people in mental health crises when we don’t have enough officers to investigate sexual assaults or respond to 911 calls,” Herbold said. “It’s been nearly two years since the Council requested an analysis of what types of 911 calls could be responded to without police involvement. … Despite consistent requests from myself and other Councilmembers to act with urgency, we have not received a favorable response from the executive.”

Despite National Search, Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz is Well-Positioned to Stick Around

Interim police chief Adrian Diaz
Interim police chief Adrian Diaz, flanked by Mayor Bruce Harrell and members of his administration

By Paul Kiefer

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced on Thursday that he plans to launch a national search for a permanent police chief in April, and publicly encouraged the interim chief, Adrian Diaz, to apply for the role. While Diaz is Harrell’s most obvious option to lead SPD permanently, Seattle’s city charter requires the mayor to run a competitive search process for a new police chief.

To comply with the charter, Harrell will need to choose the next permanent chief from a field of three finalists, and the city council will need to confirm Harrell’s pick.

A city council resolution, adopted in 2019 amid a contentious appointment process for the head of the Human Services Department, requires the mayor to keep the council in the loop during the process of appointing all department heads, including the police chief; it also states the council’s intent to consider stakeholder engagement, racial equity, and whether impacted groups were included in the selection process before confirming a nomination.

Diaz has been open about his desire to lead the department permanently since he replaced his predecessor, Carmen Best, in 2020. Former mayor Jenny Durkan’s decision not to begin the search for a new police chief during her final year in office gave Diaz more time to settle into his role, and the compounding aftershocks of citywide protests in 2020, a mass exodus of officers from the department, debates about SPD’s budget, and an uptick in violent crime gave Diaz visibility as soon as he took the job.

A month into his tenure, Diaz moved 100 officers from specialized units to a citywide response team intended to supplement patrol units in any precinct as needed; that team, called the Community Response Group, initially took charge of protest management for SPD. In March of 2021, he overturned the findings of a high-profile Office of Police Accountability investigation into SPD’s use of tear gas on Capitol Hill in 2020, shifting responsibility from the lieutenant who ordered the use of tear gas to an assistant chief. The decision spurred some criticism from accountability advocates and a lawsuit from the assistant chief, Steve Hirjak, whom Diaz demoted to captain.

During the Seattle City Council’s debate over how to adjust SPD’s budget to reflect its depleted ranks after more than a year of record-high attrition, Diaz was a vocal critic of a plan to cut funding for vacant positions from the department’s budget, at one point erroneously claiming that former council president Lorena González proposed eliminating 100 officers’ jobs. And as Harrell’s administration forged ahead with a plan to crack down on crime “hot spots” in Little Saigon and downtown Seattle, Diaz appeared beside the mayor at press conferences, commenting that the city “can’t arrest its way” out of the public safety and public health problems on display at the targeted “hot spots.”

For Harrell, hiring Diaz as the permanent chief would be consistent with his view—expressed in campaign speeches and at press events—that SPD, under Diaz, accepts that reform is necessary and is a cooperative partner in his plan to “revitalize” the downtown core. In a press release on Thursday, Harrell urged Diaz to apply to be permanent chief, commenting that he has “been pleased with Interim Chief Diaz’s approach and commitment to progress on public safety.”

SPD’s ongoing staffing shortage may also color the search for a new police chief. As the department tries to retain older, more experienced officers, Diaz’s relative popularity among the SPD rank-and-file could be an asset, while a shake-up in department leadership could be a liability. Though Diaz has fired more officers than Best did during her time as chief, including a dozen from the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, he has mostly avoided rocking the boat on disciplinary issues; an audit by Seattle’s Office of the Inspector General for Public Safety last year found that when presented with a range of possible ways to discipline an officer for misconduct, Diaz most often chooses less severe options. His stalwart advocacy for hiring more officers has also been a boon for officer morale, as is the continuity he represents—Diaz has worked only for SPD, and he has led the department through a difficult transition period. Continue reading “Despite National Search, Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz is Well-Positioned to Stick Around”

SPD Still Struggling to Recruit New Officers

By Paul Kiefer

The Seattle Police Department is still struggling to replace departing officers after two years of record-high attrition, according to a presentation to the city council’s public safety committee by Interim SPD Chief Adrian Diaz on Tuesday morning.

Since January, SPD has only been able to hire seven officers to replace the 34 who left during the same period. Part of the problem, Diaz said, is that SPD is struggling to compete with other agencies along the I-5 corridor who offer similar salaries and benefits without the additional stresses created by his department’s staffing shortage. “We’re working people an extra two or three shifts a week,” he said, adding that perceived public hostility has also lowered officers’ morale.

SPD’s greatest challenge has been recruiting officers from other law enforcement agencies. SPD seeks out so-called “lateral” officers because they require less training and bring specialized skills to SPD.

Diaz told the council that his department has specifically sought to recruit officers from departments in the South and Midwest who might be drawn to Seattle by the promise of a higher salary. He also noted that few lateral applicants make it through the hiring process, in part because of SPD’s background check process. “We want to make sure we don’t hire another department’s problem,” he said. Ultimately, SPD only hired one officer with prior law enforcement experience—a recruit from Mobile, Alabama.

Although the council voted to stop offering hiring incentives to new officers last fall, public safety committee chair Lisa Herbold expressed interest on Tuesday in “rethinking” SPD’s incentive program to focus on retaining experienced officers and attracting lateral transfers from other departments.

One obstacle to recruiting officers from elsewhere, she said, is the cost of moving to Seattle; a new incentive program could cover moving expenses. SPD is also testing a new schedule that will place officers on 10-hour shifts for four days each week—another part of SPD’s efforts to retain officers, Diaz said. The department is currently negotiating with the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild to adopt the new shift schedule department-wide.

Herbold also pointed out that the state legislature voted earlier this month to increase pension payments for police officers who retire after 15 or more years on the force, which she said “might have the consequence of encouraging officers to retire early.” A wave of retirements could be especially challenging for SPD’s detective units—already a fraction of their pre-pandemic size—which rely on more experienced detectives to investigate crime. Given SPD’s ongoing staffing shortage, Diaz has moved many detectives into patrol units over the past year-and-a-half, leaving the remaining detectives with larger caseloads.

Meanwhile, Diaz said, SPD is also seeing fewer applications for its Community Service Officer (CSO) program, which the council voted to expand during last year’s budget cycle. SPD is currently using some CSOs to supplement its presence at the intersection of 12th Ave. S. and S. Jackson St. in the Little Saigon neighborhood, and Diaz expressed interest in using the civilian unit to handle calls that sworn officers can’t currently respond to.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda urged SPD to search for more opportunities to shift responsibilities from officers to civilians. “Officers aren’t equipped to be social workers or housing navigators,” she said, “and having them focus on what they can do will help our retention strategy.”

Harrell Touts Arrests at Longtime Downtown Hot Spot in “Operation New Day” Announcement

City Attorney Ann Davison touts "arrests and prosecutions" as a path to addiction recovery at a press conference on the city's latest targeted policing action.
City Attorney Ann Davison touts “arrests and prosecutions” as a path to addiction recovery at a press conference on the city’s latest targeted policing action, Operation New Day.

By Paul Kiefer

The Seattle Police Department moved a black van known as the “mobile precinct” to the intersection of Third Ave. and Pine St. in downtown Seattle on Thursday morning, scattering the dozens of people gathered there to buy and sell drugs and stolen merchandise.

While the move came a day after the second fatal shooting at the corner in less than a week, the department had started preparing to clear the intersection weeks earlier—the second phase in a crackdown on crime “hot spots” announced by Mayor Bruce last month. That campaign, called Operation New Day, began two weeks ago, when police cleared a similar site at the intersection of 12th Ave. S. and S. Jackson Street in the Little Saigon neighborhood; the mobile precinct van was parked at that intersection until Thursday, when it moved downtown.

On Friday morning, Harrell convened a press conference to tout the first results of Operation New Day, including dozens of arrests. Interim SPD Chief Adrian Diaz stood beside him, as did City Attorney Ann Davison, King County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Staff Leesa Manion, and two federal law enforcement officials: Nick Brown, the new US Attorney for the Western District of Washington, and Frank Tarantino, the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Seattle office. Leaders from Seattle’s social service providers, who Harrell has promised will eventually become partners in his push to target “hot spots,” were notably absent. No one from the Seattle City Council was at the press conference.

Service providers and non-police responders were a footnote in Friday’s press conference, which centered on the arrests and prosecutions tied to Operation New Day

The stretch of Third Ave. between Pine St. and Pike St may be the most persistently troubled block in Seattle. For at least the past three decades, mayoral administrations have attempted to stem crime on the block by increasing the number of police officers in the area. One such effort in 2015, called “the Nine and a Half Block Strategy,” succeeded in reducing the number of drug-related 911 calls in a small area surrounding Westlake Park, though calls increased dramatically in practically every neighborhood within walking distance of the park during the same period. After a shooting during rush hour in January 2020 killed one person and injured seven others, SPD scaled up its presence on the block once again, only to pull back once the COVID-19 pandemic began two months later. Each time, a market for stolen goods and narcotics reappeared on Third and Pine.

Harrell said that he planned to avoid the mistakes of earlier mayors—and to “revitalize” intersections like 12th and Jackson for the long term—in part by relying on outreach workers and service providers, who he believes will be able to direct homeless people living at or near targeted intersections to substance abuse treatment or housing. “We can’t arrest and jail our way out of this,” Diaz added. So far, no social service providers are involved in Operation New Day; the city relied on police alone to clear both 12th and Jackson and Third and Pine, though diversion groups like LEAD already do outreach near Third and Pine.

Before bringing the social service component of the operation online, Harrell said that his office is “doing an inventory of community-based organizations that are recipients of city funds to make sure they’re aligned with our vision.” He did not specify what “doing an inventory” would entail, nor would he specify which organizations they’re considering for the task—or what traits would disqualify an existing service provider from working on Operation New Day.

City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who represents downtown and chairs the council’s committee on homelessness, told PubliCola on Wednesday that he sees one clear choice for an outreach provider: JustCARE, a pandemic-era cooperation between several social service providers that provides shelter and wraparound care to people who have previously interacted with the criminal justice system.

“I want to be sure we aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here,” he said, “because we have something that works and works well.” Lewis said he’s willing to be patient as Harrell considers options for incorporating service providers into Operation New Day, although he said he will be concerned if the mayor’s office hasn’t made a decision by the time JustCARE’s contract with the city expires at the end of June.

But non-police responders were largely a footnote in Friday’s press conference, which centered on the arrests and prosecutions tied to Operation New Day. Since January 21, SPD arrested 16 people for felonies—especially commercial burglary, illegal gun possession and narcotics offenses—at 12th and Jackson; nine of those people were later released by King County judges after their first court appearance. Some will face federal charges. The US Attorney’s Office has already filed charges against three people arrested in Little Saigon as part of Operation New Day and is reviewing the case of a fourth, a man initially arrested at 12th and Jackson who was released and subsequently re-arrested at Third and Pine. Continue reading “Harrell Touts Arrests at Longtime Downtown Hot Spot in “Operation New Day” Announcement”

Police Sweep Troubled Little Saigon Intersection, Retirement Incentives Could Thwart SPD Hiring Plans, City Still Plans Sidewalk Sweep

1. After Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced plans to crack down on a street market in the Little Saigon neighborhood earlier this month, Seattle police officers swept the area last Friday, parking a mobile precinct at the intersection of 12th Ave. S. and S. Jackson St. and posting a half-dozen uniformed officers nearby. The southeast corner of the intersection, which housed an informal market for stolen goods, food, and illicit drugs, vanished; King County Metro removed a bus shelter from the intersection on Wednesday, and the neighboring strip mall installed a partial fence around its parking area.

The sudden police presence pushed people who frequented the market, including some who are unhoused, into the surrounding neighborhoods and encampments. A woman who lives under the I-5 overpass on King St. told PubliCola on Friday that some of the corner’s regulars briefly gathered near her tent on Friday morning before she told them to leave. “We told them aren’t welcome here,” she said. Other displaced people attempted to move into an encampment on 10th Ave. S, where they also encountered some objections, and a man selling toilet paper set up shop near a utilities box on a quiet side street. “We’re just being moved around in a circle again,” he said.

Although Harrell promised that “social service providers” would play a role in his plan to revive Little Saigon—an epicenter of Seattle’s public safety woes since the start of the pandemic, and one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods—Friday’s action relied exclusively on police.

Although some officers went door-to-door to nearby business owners on Friday to check in, one of those proprietors—the owner of Ten Sushi, located in the strip mall on the southeast corner of the intersection—wrote on Instagram that she still plans to leave the neighborhood, arguing that the police presence is only temporary.

“This improvement at 12th and Jackson demonstrates early results and a promising first step as Mayor Harrell continues to roll out his comprehensive approach to public safety,” a spokesman for Harrell’s office told PubliCola. “SPD’s efforts are one part of the administration’s broader strategy to ensure a safe and thriving neighborhood. In addition to addressing crime, next steps include providing social services, driving economic development, keeping areas free of litter and trash, and, most importantly, engaging community in immediate and forward-looking solutions.”

2. The Seattle Police Department estimates that its ranks could increase to 1,000 officers—still well below the department’s pre-pandemic size—by the end of 2022 if it is able to slow the pace of attrition, meet its optimistic hiring goals and count on officers returning from long-term leave.

However, a bill making its way through the Washington State Legislature may throw a wrench in the department’s plans. The bill, which would increase retirement benefits for officers who have worked in law enforcement for 15  years or more, could spur some of SPD’s older officers to retire early, interim SPD Chief Adrian Diaz warned during a meeting of the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

In 2021, 171 officers left SPD, and the department hired only 81 new officers, most of them new recruits, as opposed to transfers from other law enforcement agencies. In January 2022 alone, SPD lost another 20 officers, including 12 who opted to leave the department instead of complying with Seattle’s vaccine mandate for public employees. SPD hopes to hire 125 more officers this year and has avoided making any estimates about attrition, but the council estimates that the department may lose as many officers as it hires in 2022.  Meanwhile, 170 officers are on long-term leave; some of those officers will return, but others are using their paid time off before formally retiring.

In a pitch to boost SPD’s regrowth, former mayor Jenny Durkan debuted a hiring incentive program last October that offered up to $10,000 for new recruits and $25,000 for officers who transfer from other departments, though SPD spokesman Sergeant Randall Huserik told PubliCola in January that the incentives didn’t produce “any uptick in applications.” The council attempted to end the hiring incentive program in December of last year, but Durkan ordered SPD to continue offering bonuses to new recruits into the new year, erroneously claiming that the council’s vote wasn’t legally binding; Mayor Bruce Harrell finally stopped SPD from offering incentives earlier this month.

During Tuesday’s meeting, public safety committee chair Lisa Herbold and council member Sara Nelson, who worked together as council aides for Nick Licata and Richard Conlin, respectively, clashed over whether to renew the hiring incentive program. Herbold argued that the city should consider expanding hiring incentives for all departments with staffing shortages, while Nelson argued that SPD’s staffing shortage demands a more urgent response.

3. After activists thwarted the removal of an encampment that stretches along the west side of Fourth Avenue on Sunday, Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office confirmed that the city still plans to remove the tents, which the city has deemed an “obstruction” in the public right-of-way.

As we reported yesterday, Seattle’s rules for removing encampments require the city to provide at least 72 hours’ notice and offers of shelter before removing an encampment, but there is an exemption: If an encampment poses an “obstruction”—that is, if it is located on a sidewalk, in a park, or in any other space used by the public—the city can clear it without notice, and with no offers of shelter or services.

While the City will do its best to offer shelter as available through the City’s HOPE team and the efforts of the RHA, we cannot allow tents and other structures to remain in the right of way if they are causing an obstruction or presenting a public health or safety risk,” Harrell spokesman Jamie Housen said. “It is important to balance the immediate need to ensure safe and equitable access to sidewalks while we work to expand services and strategies to bring more people inside.”

—Paul Kiefer, Erica C. Barnett

SPD Briefly Suspends Officers Who Shot Man in Crisis on Seattle Waterfront

Officer Willard Jared aims his weapon at Derek Hayden on February 16, 2021.

By Paul Kiefer

Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz has suspended two officers for failing to de-escalate before fatally shooting 44-year-old Derek Hayden on the Seattle waterfront in February 2021. According to an investigation by Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA), Officers Cassidy Butler and Willard Jared acted recklessly when they responded to a call for backup from two Port of Seattle Police officers who were following Hayden along Alaskan Way. Hayden was carrying a knife and threatening to kill himself. Within seconds of their arrival, Butler and Jared opened fire, killing Hayden.

Although former OPA Director Andrew Myerberg ruled that the officers did not follow SPD’s de-escalation guidelines, he did not rule that the shooting itself violated department policy. Diaz suspended Butler for one day and Jared for three days.

The ruling marks the second time in less than a year that SPD has disciplined officers for failing to de-escalate before shooting a person in crisis. In August 2021, the department suspended Officer Christopher Gregorio for 20 days after the OPA ruled that he had exacerbated a tense confrontation with 57-year-old Terry Caver on a Lower Queen Anne sidewalk the previous year; the confrontation ended when Gregorio shot and killed Caver, who was carrying a knife and suffering from an apparent acute schizophrenic episode. Citing Caver’s death in his assessment of Butler and Jared’s actions, Myerberg reiterated his call for SPD to “revamp” its training on how to respond to people carrying knives.

On the night of February 16, 2021, Hayden approached a Port of Seattle Police cruiser parked on Seattle’s waterfront and asked the officers inside to kill him. The officers called for backup. The first SPD officers to arrive joined their Port Police counterparts, following Hayden at a distance as he walked along the waterfront. Butler and Jared, however, pulled their cruiser within 20 feet of Hayden. Jared stepped out onto the street, carrying an assault rifle, and yelled for Hayden to drop his knife. Seconds later, Hayden walked towards Jared, raising his knife into the air. Both Butler and Jared opened fire, mortally wounding Hayden. Almost simultaneously, the nearby Port Police officer fired a foam-tipped round in an attempt to subdue Hayden, but it was too late—Hayden fell to the pavement and died at the scene.

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Butler and Jared later told investigators that they had arrived at the waterfront without a well-developed plan; most of their pre-planning, Jared told investigators, entailed “trying to figure out where they were going and how to get there.” Instead of joining the officers following Hayden at a distance, Butler and Jared chose to hem him in with their cruiser.

Having placed himself within feet of Hayden—and without any barrier between them—Jared argued that he had no choice but to open fire when Hayden walked in his direction. Jared cited the “21-foot rule”: According to training he received while working for SPD, a person carrying a knife within 21 feet of an officer presents enough of a threat to merit using deadly force. Butler, who positioned herself behind the hood of the cruiser, claimed that she fired at Hayden to protect her partner. Continue reading “SPD Briefly Suspends Officers Who Shot Man in Crisis on Seattle Waterfront”

Seattle Police Will No Longer Enforce Bike Helmet Law and Other Minor Traffic Violations

Source: Seattle Department of Transportation

By Paul Kiefer

Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz announced Friday that SPD will no longer stop people for four minor traffic infractions, including violations of the county’s mandatory bicycle helmet law. The announcement, which takes effect immediately, opens the door to additional future reductions in low-level traffic enforcement.

In addition to the helmet law, officers will no longer stop drivers for missing, expired, or improperly displayed registration; items hanging from rear-view mirrors; or cracked windshields. “These violations do not have a direct connection to the safety of other individuals on the roads, paths, or sidewalks,” Diaz wrote in a letter to the Seattle Inspector General Lisa Judge announcing the decision. “We know there are also reasons for concern that these violations may disproportionately fall on those who are unable to meet the financial requirements set forth by law.” Officers will still be able to enforce the underlying laws, but only if they stop a driver or bicyclist for a more serious violation.

The announcement comes after months of discussions between the police, the Office of Inspector General, the Seattle Department of Transportation, and civil rights and police oversight groups. Judge organized the conversations herself last year, when she wrote a letter to Diaz urging him to consider removing police from low-level traffic enforcement. “Stopping a person is a significant infringement on civil liberty and should be reserved for instances when a person is engaged in criminal conduct that harms others,” Judge wrote. “Stops for government-created requirements like car tabs, with nothing but a potential monetary penalty, do not justify the risk to community or to officers.”

Last fall, Diaz expressed an interest in introducing traffic stop reforms before the end of 2021. When the reforms hadn’t happened by December, some police accountability advocates who took part in the discussions between SPD and the OIG worried that the election of Bruce Harrell—and his decision to dismiss SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe, an enthusiastic participant in discussions about traffic stop reform—would delay the reformsThe chief’s latest letter could help allay those concerns.

The list of violations SPD will decline to enforce could still grow, Diaz wrote, as SPD reviews Seattle’s traffic codes for other offenses that may not justify a stop. For now, he wrote, SPD will continue to stop drivers for other vehicle equipment violations, including broken taillights, which several civil rights groups urged the department to stop enforcing. “For pedestrian and driver safety, we cannot allow vehicles with safety equipment issues to just remain in that status,” he wrote.

Judge’s initial proposal to scale back the role of police in traffic enforcement triggered pushback from some law enforcement representatives, including Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Mike Solan, who called the recommendations “ill-advised, reckless, bizarre and nonsensical” and claimed that they could spur an increase in crime. “Does this now signal people to stop registering their vehicles and completely disregard the rule of law?” he wrote in an open letter last summer.

According to SDOT data, the minor driving infractions listed in Diaz’s letter do not present serious risks to the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and other drivers. The four leading causes of deadly or serious collisions in Seattle—speeding, distracted driving, ignoring pedestrians’ right-of-way, and driving while intoxicated—made up a third of all tickets given by SPD since 2015, and SPD has no plans to stop enforcement of those traffic laws.

The decision to stop enforcing the helmet law reflects more than a year of debate in King County about the disproportionate enforcement of the law against homeless people and people of color. After Crosscut reported in 2020 that nearly half of helmet law citations in Seattle went to homeless cyclists, the King County Board of Health, which oversees the helmet requirement, began discussing the possibility of repealing the law; the board is set to make a decision on the helmet law year.

In recent years, more than half of all cyclist citations were for helmet law violations, which typically involve a $100-$150 fine; according to Seattle Municipal Court data, 77 percent of those fines go unpaid. In addition to formal citations, a community stakeholder and bike advocate who contributed to the OIG’s discussions estimated that SPD officers may have stopped hundreds or thousands of bicyclists for not wearing helmets without issuing citations, sometimes as a justification to question the bicyclist about a different crime.

Diaz’s announcement does not necessarily spell a dramatic change in SPD’s day-to-day operations. After two years of very high attrition, SPD has dismantled its traffic enforcement unit and moved the officers to patrol shifts, triggering a dramatic decline in the number of tickets and warnings issued to drivers and bicyclists.

In Reversal, Council Keeps Durkan’s Expanded Police Budget Mostly Intact

Seattle interim police chief Adrian Diaz.
Seattle interim police chief Adrian Diaz

By Paul Kiefer

The Seattle City Council voted Thursday to leave Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposal for the Seattle Police Department’s 2022 budget largely intact, and in the process put an internal messaging battle—whether to attempt to make peace with SPD or repurpose dollars from the department’s budget in the future—in the spotlight.

The council’s decision to leave Durkan’s budget largely untouched was preceded by a dramatic last-minute press release from Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, who inaccurately claimed that council president Lorena González had proposed eliminating more than 100 officers’ jobs. In reality, González’s amendment would have eliminated the spending authority for 101 positions that SPD doesn’t expect to fill in 2022. While Durkan’s budget has already redistributed the unspent salaries for other purposes in 2022, the amendment would have allowed the council to repurpose more than $17 million in future years.

The amendment struck at a pillar of SPD’s accounting strategy: asking the council to leave space in the department’s budget for dozens of positions that SPD can’t feasibly fill and redirecting the unspent salaries elsewhere in the department. In 2022, SPD expects to have 134 vacant positions, leaving a total of $19 million in unspent salaries that the department intends to use for other purposes, including new civilian staff and equipment.

The strategy is unique to SPD; while other department have vacant positions, only SPD builds a noteworthy portion of its budget around vacancies that it doesn’t expect to fill. González’s amendment also left a 33-vacancy “cushion” in case SPD surpasses its hiring goals, leaving the department with a maximum of 1,256 officers in 2022.

Diaz’s press release forced González and her colleagues to re-hash a familiar debate about whether the council’s budget proposal would restrict the department’s growth or simply bring an end to an unusual accounting trick that gives SPD an annual surplus to spend as it chooses—a privilege, González noted, that no other city department enjoys.

González’s failed amendment struck at a pillar of SPD’s accounting strategy: asking the council to leave space in the department’s budget for dozens of positions that SPD can’t feasibly fill and redirecting the unspent salaries elsewhere in the department.

The interim chief isn’t asking the council for wiggle room or a reasonable level of discretionary funding. He is apparently demanding a blank check and zero fiscal accountability or scrutiny,” González said, calling Diaz’ statement either a “gross, intentional misrepresentation” or a “gross misunderstanding” of her amendment.

A slim majority of the council voted against the amendment, signaling their wariness to engage in a battle with SPD after a year of acrimony with the police department.

In the week and a half since council budget chair Teresa Mosqueda debuted revisions to Durkan’s proposal for the SPD budget, the council has seen an onslaught of accusations from Durkan, mayor-elect Bruce Harrell, Diaz, and others claiming that the council was attempting to slash SPD’s budget and ranks. In fact, Mosqueda’s revised budget would have reduced Durkan’s proposed budget increase by $10.8 million, for a total of $6.8 million in new investments. (The overall size of the police budget would have decreased slightly under Mosqueda’s original proposal).

Most controversially, Mosqueda’s budget assumed that SPD will lose more officers in 2022 than Durkan or Diaz currently project. While Durkan and SPD estimated that just 94 officers would leave the department next year, Mosqueda estimated a loss of at least 125 officers: enough to cancel out the department’s hiring goals and leave 31 more vacant positions—and $2.7 million more in unspent salaries—than Durkan anticipated.

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The mayor’s projections are optimistic, given that SPD will lose an estimated 150 officers by the end of this year. Her estimate also does not factor in the dozen unvaccinated officers currently on leave who will likely lose their jobs in January. However, Diaz and Durkan predict that attrition will decline sharply in 2022, in part because of plans to spend more on retention programs like group therapy.

Additionally, Mosqueda suggested that the council scale back Durkan’s planned increase to the department’s overtime budget, saving another $3.2 million. Mosqueda’s budget also would have maintained, rather than expanded, SPD’s Community Service Officer (CSO) program—a civilian unit that handles outreach and some non-emergency calls—and omitted Durkan’s proposals to pay hiring bonuses to new officers in 2022 and to launch two new software projects.

On Thursday, an amendment sponsored by Councilmember Alex Pedersen to use the city’s emergency reserve funds to restore most of Durkan’s original budget failed by a wide margin; another amendment—also from Pedersen—that would have met Durkan halfway on attrition projections and overtime increases met the same fate.

The mayor’s projections are optimistic, given that SPD will lose an estimated 150 officers by the end of this year. Her estimate also does not factor in the dozen unvaccinated officers currently on leave who will likely lose their jobs in January. However, Diaz and Durkan predict that attrition will decline sharply in 2022, in part because of plans to spend more on retention programs like group therapy.

The council also narrowly voted down an amendment by Councilmember Andrew Lewis that repurposes $2.7 million from the city’s reserves to defer to Durkan’s attrition projections. “There’s an advantage to assuming less attrition so that we don’t have to go back next year to correct the budget,” Lewis said. He also raised concerns about the optics of Mosqueda’s attrition projection, adding that he “would prefer that the council not habitually predict that hiring and [departures] will be the same,” noting that the council made the same prediction last year. While the council initially voted in favor of the amendment, Councilmember Tammy Morales asked for a re-vote near the end of the session that defeated the proposal; Morales, who previously supported the amendment, reversed her vote.

Mosqueda introduced her own amendment to expand the CSO program, though her $900,000 amendment fell short of Durkan’s original $1.3 million proposal. Because SPD will likely be unable to hire the six additional officers before next spring, she said, the CSO unit will only need six months of funding in 2022. The council agreed, voting overwhelmingly to expand the program. Mosqueda added that she eventually hopes to move the the CSO program to a civilian department, but she conceded that the unit will stay in SPD for the foreseeable future. The CSOs have said they aren’t interested in leaving SPD, citing close relationships with their sworn counterparts; Herbold admitted that she had assured the unit’s supervisors that the council wouldn’t force the CSOs to leave SPD in exchange for expanding the program, and Thursday’s vote allowed her to keep her promise.

The council rejected just three minor proposals to increase SPD’s budget. Pedersen’s pitch to add more dollars to SPD’s overtime budget didn’t find traction, and nobody on the council expressed interest in supporting the two SPD technology projects that Mosqueda deemed “non-essential”: a body-worn video analysis system used to assess racial disparities in policing and a wearable biometric monitor that would track police officers’ vital signs to flag officers at risk of using excessive force or acting erratically because of stress. Continue reading “In Reversal, Council Keeps Durkan’s Expanded Police Budget Mostly Intact”