There can be only one
The Mayor’s Office announced the names of three finalists in the running to take the permanent gig as chief of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) after a five-month national search process.
The trio consists of two internal candidates and one outsider: Interim Chief Adrian Diaz, Seattle Assistant Chief of Police Eric Greening and Tucson, Arizona, Assistant Chief of Police Kevin Hall. The candidates will participate in a televised Q&A session on Sept. 15, which will be aired on The Seattle Channel. The time was not included in the announcement.
The top role in SPD has been vacant since former Chief Carmen Best resigned in 2020. Tensions surrounding the police department were high because of SPD’s response to protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer that year. Advocates mounted a high-profile campaign to reduce funding to SPD, limit the use of chemical weapons in crowd control situations and change the response to emergency calls.
Best announced her resignation after the City Council approved a plan to cut the police force, and former Mayor Jenny Durkan appointed Diaz as interim police chief.
“I believe 100 percent that they were putting me in a position to fail,” Best told NPR in September 2020.
That year, the City Council approved plans to reconfigure SPD by moving functions like the 911 call center and parking enforcement out of its purview. A legal confusion led to the city reimbursing or canceling $5 million worth of parking tickets when it was revealed that parking enforcement officers did not have the authority to issue the citations after the move.
At the same time, the public outcry to cut police funding has waned and pro-police politicians have been voted into office. Mayor Bruce Harrell has committed to hiring hundreds more police officers as the number of police available for deployment has dropped to the lowest level in decades, and the City Council recently approved bonuses to hire new police to the tune of $30,000 for lateral hires and $7,500 for new hires.
As the national search for police chief candidates continued, the Mayor’s Office hosted a series of public-facing events and launched a survey to gauge opinion about the role. Approximately 1,348 people responded to the survey, highlighting police accountability, knowledge of Seattle neighborhoods and improving 911 wait times as areas of importance for a new chief.
The public can submit questions for the Q&A at https://tinyurl.com/y3ezh92t.
The state of emergency declared at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington state will end on Oct. 31, Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Sept. 8. Remaining emergency orders still in place will also expire.
Inslee declared a state of emergency in February 2020. The declaration gave the governor power to issue emergency orders such as mask and vaccination mandates, closures of many businesses and restrictions on gatherings meant to arrest the spread of the virus. The orders drew criticism and backlash from people more concerned with closures than the disease, even as the virus raged across the state. According to the Department of Health, 14,103 Washingtonians had died from the coronavirus as of Sept. 6, 2022. Doctors are still sorting out the implications of “long COVID,” a syndrome that persists weeks and months after the initial COVID-19 infection.
The majority of the 85 emergency orders had already expired by the Sept. 8 press conference, and an additional 13 health care-related orders were already set to expire on Oct. 27.
The Department of Health’s requirement for face coverings in health care and long-term care settings will remain in effect after the state of emergency ends. According to a public release, the governor will also look at options to protect workers who choose to wear masks at work.
The announcement comes roughly a week after a new booster shot meant to improve protection against the Omicron variant was approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and released by vaccine manufacturers.
City steps in for kids
Seattle officials opened community centers for full-day programming to make room for school-age students who suddenly found themselves with nowhere to go after Seattle Public Schools (SPS) officials canceled classes due to a worker strike.
SPS administrators announced that it would cancel classes on Sept. 7, the official first day of school, after last-minute attempts to avoid a closure dragged on into the night of Sept. 6, according to the Seattle Times.
That meant that children who would normally be at school during the day suddenly had quite a bit of free time on their hands, and parents had to make other arrangements for their care.
The city announced that it would open “recreation activity hubs” at eight community centers on Sept. 12 for children between the ages of 5 and 12. Each community center could accommodate approximately 100 children, according to the Mayor’s Office. Families had to register online beginning Sept. 8.
Households that already participate in the Child Care Assistance Program for before- and after-school care “will automatically receive additional subsidies to cover full-day care, should their provider have space during school hours,” according to the city.
“We encourage teachers and the school district to urgently reach a just and fair resolution that centers our students and prioritizes their education and future,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell, in a statement.
Read more of the Sept. 14-20, 2022 issue.