Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Seattle — crime up, fear down

May 29, 2022

Since 2015, Seattle has completed an annual resident survey as part of its community policing strategy. As reported here, observers were surprised to see that fear of crime decreased in 2021, even though reported crime increased, including both violent and property crime. In fact, violent crime increased about 20% and, for the first time, was among the top five themes identified by survey respondents. One possible explanation for the mismatch between fear and reported crime is that perceived social and physical disorder improved — “things like disorderly conduct, public drug and alcohol consumption, graffiti, litter and so on.” The survey leader noted that “Much of the fear of crime is just a perception of how safe people feel about their environment.”

Reimagining transit policing

May 24, 2022

Public transit ridership declined significantly during the pandemic but is now returning to previous levels, bringing with it an increase in disorderly and sometimes violent behavior. Challenges include riders experiencing behavioral crises, homeless riders, and fare evaders. As reported here, some cities are looking to non-police responses, either because police are already stretched too thin or because they would prefer responses by social workers instead of police. As a bus driver in Seattle put it, “People who have been in and out of systems have intimidation issues with uniforms. We wanted to create something that was friendly and more inviting.”

Position: Director, Office of Police Accountability, Seattle

April 7, 2022

The City of Seattle is advertising for a Director, Office of Police Accountability. The position posting is here. According to the announcement, “OPA ensures the actions of SPD employees comply with law and policy by conducting thorough, objective, and timely investigations, recommending improvements to policies and training, and engaging in collaborative initiatives that promote systemic advancements.” The OPA Director is “Appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council, and is appointed to serve a four-year term, with the possibility of being reappointed to a second or third” term. Applications are due by May 3rd.

Stabilization center as jail/hospital alternative

January 31, 2022

Spokane, Washington opened a stabilization center in September as an alternative to jail or the emergency room for people experiencing crises related to mental health or substance disorders, as reported here. The facility is open 24/7 and staffed by clinicians. Entering and staying is voluntary. The center has a 48-bed capacity although staffing, due to Covid, has kept them at about 60% of capacity so far. Financing is aided by Medicare and Medicaid, which will cover stays of up to two weeks. Police support the diversion option — “A lot of times, the jails are full. The emergency rooms are full. It takes law enforcement a long time to sit in the waiting rooms, sometimes hours, and having a facility like this is a huge benefit to the community to where it saves officers time. It’s a warm, safe environment for individuals experiencing crisis.”

Uneven use of Brady lists

October 26, 2021

The Supreme Court’s 1963 Brady ruling requires prosecutors to “turn over exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys, including information that could be used to question the officers’ credibility.” According to this article, prosecutors around the country vary substantially in how they adhere to Brady. One reason is that the court’s ruling did not specify either the procedures to be followed or precisely what information might implicate an officer’s credibility. As a result, some prosecutors and police agencies, but not all, maintain lists of officers whose testimony should be avoided. Also, some include complaints of unnecessary or excessive force among the criteria affecting an officer’s credibility, while others argue that use of force and honesty are separate and independent considerations.

Promising strategies for police wellness

October 4, 2021

PERF and the COPS Office have released a report titled Promising Strategies for Strengthening Police Department Wellness Programs, available here. Based on a technical assistance project with 3 medium-sized agencies, the report “provides a roadmap to creating a wellness program, … encouraging participation in the program, and normalizing the routine use of mental wellness services in policing.” The report offers 82 recommendations applicable to physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual wellness, along with links for numerous resources.

Churn at the top

July 23, 2021

Some 40 major U.S. cities have changed police chiefs in the last 18 months, according to this article. Increased turnover at the top is not surprising given recent events, and it’s clearly a 2-edged sword. As one observer put it, old school chiefs are “making a wise decision by leaving the profession,” and their departure opens the door for reforming and reimagining policing. However, it’s also true that it takes time and effort to implement change, especially culture change. Frequent turnover of chiefs can interrupt the change process, resulting in stops and starts in different directions and little real progress. Another problem is that many of the chiefs who have recently departed were progressive, not old school, but were caught up in situations where satisfying the community, political leaders, and members of the police department — the proverbial 3-legged stool — was simply impossible. 

Reducing Crime podcasts

June 26, 2021

Professor Jerry Ratcliffe interviews police leaders and influential thinkers on his monthly podcast series Reducing Crime, available here. The interviews are always interesting, thought-provoking, and humorous. Each podcast is about 40 minutes in length. The most recent, #35, is an interview with Carmen Best, who was police chief in Seattle until she resigned about a year ago in protest over proposed draconian cuts to the police department.

Reflecting on federal civil rights investigations

May 3, 2021

With USDOJ again initiating federal civil rights investigations of police departments, the Attorney General has ordered a review of the monitoring process that is used to make sure PDs implement the changes they agree to in consent decrees. In the past, federal monitoring has lasted as long as 10-15 years for some cities. Also, monitoring has tended to be very expensive. This post from the PERF Trending series reviews the history of federal investigations and consent decrees, identifies benefits that have been achieved, and offers several suggestions for streamlining the process.

Black chiefs squeezed from all sides

September 14, 2020

Particularly in these times, Black police chiefs have to walk a complicated tightrope, as reported here. Black women chiefs recently announced resignations in Seattle and Dallas and the Black chief in Rochester, NY resigned along with his entire command staff. One chief described the challenge of trying to please his bosses in city government, officers in the department, and the community, all of whom are suspicious and jealous of each other. Black chiefs have the added burden of being expected to solve longstanding race issues in short order. The chief in Phoenix cites the importance of years of having shown up for painful conversations in her city, allowing her to say “I’m true to blue, I’m true to Black, it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and really take care of the police reform issues that need to be taken care of.”