Back in May, when Seattle police hired Tim Clemans—the brilliant, award-winning, self-taught programmer who barraged them with public records requests—he predicted he wouldn't last long at the department. "I think it would be a miracle if I last long there," he said. "I'm very much an outsider." The department said he'd be put to work devising ways to auto-redact and pre-emptively disclose massive amounts of data in order to achieve new levels of transparency and accountability.
These days, there's reason to be concerned: His old mentor and boss, ex-Amazon executive and former SPD Chief Technology Officer Greg Russell, recently left the department after just five months on the job.
Russell wouldn't say why, but a city source told me Russell had been effectively stripped of his workforce. SPD's Chief Operating Officer, Mike Wagers said he'd found a better opportunity elsewhere.
Well, last month, Clemans tweeted that he'd received a message from the department that today would be his last day. Which is weird—he was hired on a trial basis in three-month increments, and six months out from from his hiring in May would be early November, not early October.
Asked what's going on, Wagers said he could only confirm that Clemans is still a temporary employee. He and Russell's successor, Bill Schrier, didn't respond to questions on Twitter today. Clemans, however, said he was told October 6 was an error—but that he never received an official follow-up correcting the mistake.
In an e-mail obtained by The Stranger, a SPD communications dispatcher wrote to Clemans on August 24 and thanked him for the work he did in the department's communications center. "I'm guessing some politics are floating around right now with the awesome work you did with us," the dispatcher said. "But I just wanted to let you know I think the stuff you did in that short time was awesome. Hopefully when the smoke clears we can get back to brainstorming even more awesome possibilities with our police CAD [computer-aided dispatch] system moving forward."
On September 2, Clemans went public with his own website that allows anyone to send evidence to police departments. "I didn't want to do it under the SPD umbrella because it might take months," he told me. "I'm not asking their permission. I'm just solving this problem."
UPDATE, October 7: Wagers writes in an e-mail this morning: "Tim Clemans is still employed. Nothing has changed and he is still getting paid today like he was yesterday for work he is doing for us on video redaction, public disclosure, etc."