Advisory panel announced
Mayor Bruce Harrell and Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz announced the creation of a panel of experts on sexual assault that will help address the failure of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to adequately investigate those crimes and support victims.
The six-member panel includes public health, legal and law enforcement professionals who will work to reform SPD’s internal processes as part of a comprehensive review. Harrell and Diaz also pointed to “unprecedented staffing shortages” as part of the problem.
“Every member of our Seattle community deserves to feel safe, and our response to sexually motivated crimes must reflect this commitment to justice,” Harrell said in the announcement.
Harrell issued an executive order calling for the evaluation and review of sexual assault follow-up investigations in July 2022. There are now eight detectives staffing the Sexual Assault Unit.
KUOW and the Seattle Times published a joint story in June 2022 that revealed that, according to an internal memo, SPD had stopped assigning new cases involving sexual assault against adults because there were too few detectives to handle them.
At the time, the assistant chief in charge of the unit dismissed the memo as a “gross oversimplification.”
King County budget passes
The King County Council passed its budget to fund the government for the next two years on Nov. 15. The $16.2 billion budget includes money for the electrification of the King County Metro bus system, affordable housing and gun violence prevention.
According to a public release, councilmembers made roughly $76 million in tweaks including $6.2 million in inflation increases for human services providers, $1.1 million to beef up the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) and $35 million for an Equitable Recovery Initiative, among other priorities.
Passing the budget is just the first step, said Budget Chair Joe McDermott.
“The budget reflects our values well,” McDermott said. “The plan is set, now the work begins.”
Controversially, the budget includes money for body-worn cameras for King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) deputies. KCSO is the largest law enforcement body in Washington that doesn’t use body cameras. However, OLEO Director Tamer Abouzeid wrote a letter to the King County Council expressing concern about gaps in the body-worn camera policy and saying that the office could not endorse it.
Key issues included when deputies would be able to view video captured on body-worn cameras when certain types of incidents — such as use of force against a community member — are under investigation. The policy would allow an officer to see the video before being interviewed about a specific incident.
Another concern involved the amount of discretion officers had about when to turn the cameras on.
Seriously, it’s election season
Oh, you thought you were done?
Elections in the 2022 midterms just wrapped up, but 2023 is already under way. Human Rights Commissioner and organizer Matthew Mitnick announced his run against Seattle City Council District 4 incumbent Alex Pedersen, and the King Conservation District (KCD) flew its flag seeking candidates for its board of supervisors.
KCD is the only county election that is fully online. Voters in the district — sorry, Enumclaw, Federal Way, Milton, Pacific and Skykomish — will get to decide who runs an organization with an $8 million budget that funds forestry management, urban forest canopy and community gardens, among other things.
The purview is oddly specific, and so is the goal of running an online campaign like this: people want to raise awareness of KCD and what it does.
Is this the most consequential ballot you’ll cast this year? Unlikely. But is it worth logging on for? Up to you.
Back in business
The King County Community Court’s resource center based in Shoreline will open again for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered in-person operations in 2020.
Starting Dec. 6, people will be able to go to the Shoreline City Hall building to access services from the King County District Court, city of Shoreline and social services providers that offer health care, education, job training, behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment among other things.
Shoreline’s Community Court resource center opened in January 2020, just months before the state shut down in order to stop the spread of the pandemic. The resource center went virtual in response, offering online and telephone meetings to people who needed assistance.
The district court and city of Shoreline will hold a reopening on Dec. 6 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Homeless to housed
The King County Housing Authority (KCHA) has used 99 percent of the emergency housing vouchers the federal government awarded through the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act.
The federal government awarded 762 vouchers worth $18.4 million. So far, the county has assigned 756 of those vouchers to households who were either unhoused, close to being unhoused, survivors of domestic violence or victims of human trafficking.
KCHA worked with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, Seattle Housing Authority and Renton Housing Authority to create a regional approach to distribute the emergency housing vouchers.
Other governments did not secure the same level of lease ups. According to Crosscut, King County was able to put more households in leases, while rural communities had more difficulty.
Update: This article has been updated to correctly reflect the name of the King Conservation District. The newspaper regrets the error.
Read more of the Nov. 23-29, 2022 issue.