Durkan Digest: Testifying for statewide changes to the police disciplinary process

January 18, 2021 | Mayor Jenny Durkan
Durkan Digest: Testifying for statewide changes to the police disciplinary process

This week, I joined community members, labor leaders, law enforcement, and mayors across the state to testify in Olympia on police reform. One key aspect of police accountability is changing the police disciplinary process, specifically arbitration.

Our accountability system for law enforcement does not work when an officer who violates policy is terminated by the police chief or sheriff - only to be reinstated by an arbitrator on appeal. In these cases, arbitrators sometimes look at different evidence, conduct a new hearing, and supplant the judgment and discipline decisions of the chief or sheriff. In Seattle and across the nation, the appeals process has provided uncertainty in discipline, undermines public trust, and undermines a chief's ability to maintain accountability in a department.

A Washington Post analysis of 1,881 officers fired by the nation's largest police departments from 2006 to 2017 found that "departments have been forced to reinstate more than 450 officers after appeals required by police union contracts." A recent analysis by Stephen Rushin found that arbitrators on appeal reduced or overturned police officer discipline in 52% of these cases. In 46% of these cases, arbitrators ordered police departments to rehire previously terminated officers

States [such as] Minnesota have made statewide changes to arbitration, so for months, I have been working with legislators, labor leaders, and community members on changing state law. SB 5055 and SB 5134 both propose changes to the discipline appeals process for instances when an officer is disciplined for misconduct.

Police perform an important role in our communities. We have seen the bravery of police in our nation's capitol where an officer gave his life to protect our democracy. With this role come significant powers - the ability to restrict liberty or take life. These powers are sanctioned and exercised on behalf of the state and people, as such they must be subjected to exacting standards and oversight by the state and the people.

If Olympia does not act on arbitration and strengthen the proposal, here are the real consequences: officers terminated or disciplined for significant misconduct will continue to be reinstated. Both the community and other officers will see these results. Community confidence will be diminished, making it more difficult for [officers] to do their jobs. Discipline and accountability in departments will be undermined, making it more difficult to ensure the proper cultures and actions in a department.

Only the state legislature can change the state law to ensure consistency and a uniform standard across the state. There are many key police reform bills in Olympia, which I support, and the City of Seattle will closely follow progress on key issues like independent investigations, demilitarization, and use of force standards.

As always, please continue to write me at Jenny.Durkan@seattle.gov, reach out via Twitter and Facebook, and stay up-to-date on the work we're doing for the people of Seattle on my blog.

Durkan's Innovation Advisory Council announces priorities and projects for 2021
Following a year focused on helping the City of Seattle respond to the COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan's Innovation Advisory Council (IAC) announced the first round of projects for 2021, bringing innovation and data expertise to the City's priorities of supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities, homelessness, affordability, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This partnership is more important than ever as we work to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19 on our communities," said Mayor Durkan. "Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, IAC partners were a critical part of the City's response as we stood up testing and encouraged workers to shift to teleworking. As we move into the next phase of this pandemic, I am grateful to the Innovation Advisory Council members for their continued partnership and commitment to supporting underrepresented communities and helping our City as we begin focusing on vaccinating our communities in 2021."

From 2018 to 2020, the IAC has helped the City of Seattle launch a number of new, innovative projects, including the Affordable Seattle portal, where residents can check their eligibility for over 20 City programs in less than five minutes; an updated, data-driven app for outreach to Seattle's unsheltered population and to help them more quickly and easily access shelter and services; and a brand-new, first-of-its-kind affordable housing search app, built natively on the Zillow housing search platform.

The Innovation Advisory Council has identified the following projects to work on in the first quarter of 2021:

" Supporting our community's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan: IAC members are supporting the City's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, helping to shape our operational response, including opportunities to ensure equitable access and outreach, as well as transparent and clear communications.

" Making data-driven investment recommendations to support Black and Indigenous communities: IAC partner Microsoft has offered to support the Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force (ECITF) by applying advanced data analytics to focus on areas of greatest potential impact for investments in areas where Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color are experiencing disparate impacts. This support will culminate in investment recommendations that the ECITF will make to the Mayor by April.

" Providing real-time data capabilities for new homelessness outreach team: This project is a partnership between Seattle IT, the City of Seattle HOPE team and Tableau. It will strengthen real-time data for outreach providers to make shelter referrals and build the path toward better service matching for individuals experiencing homelessness. In Q1, the focus will be on designing a thoughtful approach, taking into account privacy considerations and existing data infrastructure (e.g., HMIS).

" Streamlining program application experience for residents: The City provides a series of important resources to residents, from utility discounts to food assistance to childcare and more. Building off of the first and second phases of the Affordable Seattle portal, this project will be focusing on streamlining the application process to make it easier for residents to apply to multiple City of Seattle assistance programs without needing to requalify for each. The City of Seattle Innovation and Performance Team is partnering with new IAC member Google to design, build, and test a solution to enable those enrolling in programs to submit their information to City of Seattle once and have the option to reuse their information to enroll in multiple programs.

The IAC is also welcoming Google to the Innovation Advisory Council, the council's first new addition since 2018. Through a Google.org Fellowship, the City of Seattle is welcoming 13 full-time fellows to work pro-bono on the third phase of the City's Affordability Portal. The Google.org team will be supporting the City for nine months. Google.org's mission is to bring the best of Google to help solve some of humanity's biggest challenges - combining funding, innovation, and technical expertise to support underserved communities and provide opportunity for everyone.

"Google is excited to collaborate with Mayor Durkan and the city's Office of Innovation to design a comprehensive portal for individuals seeking services from the city," said Ian Goodhew, head of government affairs for Google Washington. "The team of Google.org fellows who are dedicating their time to help the city build this important tool are eager to contribute to our community with their time, innovation, and technical expertise. By working together, we can help ensure that people who need assistance get it in an efficient and effective manner."

Established by Mayor Durkan via executive order in August 2018, the Innovation Advisory Council acts as an advisor on issues and policies affecting the City, where data and technology solutions could be of benefit. Specifically, the IAC focuses on issue identification, policy recommendations, and project implementation of technology solutions, including new data analytics, dashboards, applications, and software for the City. Members and their businesses have committed to helping deliver these technology solutions.

Courtesy of Mayor Jenny Durkan