1. Seattle police captain Keith Swank, a 33-year department veteran who is currently out on long-term paid leave, has posted dozens of tweets that appear to violate SPD’s social media policy, which says SPD employees “shall not post speech that negatively impacts the department’s ability to serve the public,” including any post that “ridicules, maligns, disparages, expresses bias, or disrespect toward any race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or any other protected class of individuals.”
In the past several months, for example, Swank has posted tweets that are that are transphobic (March 24: “Transwomen are men. #KeepTheRepublicSafe”), racist (March 24: “Democrats let violent animals like this [Black attacker] back out on the streets to kill Americans”) and conspiratorial (March 21: “It’s time for Republican prosecutors across the country to start investigating Pelosi, Schumer, Swalwell, etc. I’m giving you the names, now find the crimes.”)
In addition to denigrating trans women and promoting conspiracy theories about—among other things—election fraud and Paul Pelosi, Swank has repeatedly expressed his support for the rioters who stormed the US Capitol on January 6, calling the killing of Ashli Babbitt—a woman who was shot while breaking into the US Capitol—”state-sanctioned murder.”
“Pelosi coordinated the deadly attack, and Ashli Babbitt was murdered,” Swank wrote in March. “Would be great to see this criminal face accountability for her crime.”
At least six SPD officers went to the pro-Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, and two who trespassed on Capitol grounds were fired in 2021 after an Office of Police Accountability investigation in 2021. Shortly after the attacks, Seattle Police Officers Guild director Mike Solan faced calls for his resignation after blaming Black Lives Matter for the attacks, which were coordinated and carried out by Trump supporters.
Men and women who pretend to be the other sex are appropriating gender.#KeeptheRepublicSafe
— Keith R Swank (@Swank4America) April 28, 2023
Actually, Pelosi coordinated the deadly attack, and Ashli Babbitt was murdered. Would be great to see this criminal face accountability for her crime.
— Keith R Swank (@Swank4America) March 28, 2023
When PubliCola inquired about Swank’s tweets attacking marginalized people and defending the January 6 rioters, a spokesman for the police department, Sgt. John O’Neil, said the “department will evaluate any policy violating statements that we become aware of and refer them to OPA as appropriate.” Asked if SPD does believe Swank’s tweets violate SPD’s social media policy, O’Neil responded, “It’s the view of the Seattle Police that any employee that violates social media policy will be referred to OPA. There is a process. We have no further comment on this.”
UPDATE May 4: The Office of Police Accountability confirmed that SPD did not file a complaint about Swank’s posts, indicating that SPD does not believe his comments violated its social media policy. OPA disagrees; after PubliCola contacted the office, the OPA opened a complaint into Swank’s social media behavior.
2. The King County Council rejected a measure that would have asked voters to increase the size of the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy by 2 cents per $1,000 of property value, or about $17 a year, opting instead for a flat renewal at an initial 10 cents per $1,000 that will result in cuts to services and build only half as many housing units as the most recent levy renewal.
“Going to the ballot with a property tax increase opposed by the suburban cities puts at risk the funding for the underlying levy, and I’m not willing to do that.” —King County Council Chair Dave Upthegrove
The seven-year VSHSL levy pays for housing, domestic violence prevention, senior centers, and supportive services for low-income and homeless veterans, seniors, and other King County residents. Over the last six years, it has raised around $350 million. Because property values have increased dramatically, the next seven-year levy will raise an estimated $565 million and cost the owner of a median (in 2024 dollars) $838,000 home around $100 a year.
Council members who supported the higher levy, including North King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, noted that a flat 10-cent renewal will severely constrain the uses of the levy for the next seven years. “Ten cents is a cut,” Dembowski said. “It’s a cut because of inflation, [and] because of increased demand for the services that exist and for things we might want to do.”
Suburban council members said they feared a higher levy would lose outside Seattle, potentially dooming it. Eastside Councilmember Claudia Balducci, voted for the 12-cent rate, noted that the levy to build mental health crisis centers, which passed countywide in April, fared poorly in suburban districts, including hers.
Council chair Dave Upthegrove, said he had “no political problem” with the higher, 12-cent rate, but added, “I do worry about passage. … Going to the ballot with a property tax increase opposed by the suburban cities puts at risk the funding for the underlying levy, and I’m not willing to do that.”
After rejecting the larger levy proposal on a 5-4 vote, the council unanimously voted to put the 1o-cent levy on the ballot in August.