On Tuesday, the Seattle Police Department presented its 2022 Strategic Plan to the city council’s Public Safety & Human Service committee. The committee let the department slide with a brief overview of SPD’s priorities for the year, plus a preliminary look at a new data collecting program. Nearly two years after police brutality protests broke out here and across the country, only one council member offered much in the way of criticism.
For their part, the cops said they learned a lot from the summer of 2020. In fact, they dedicated pages of their 2022 Strategic Plan to reflecting on it. Though the protesters the cops hit with blast balls and rubber bullets may feel differently, the council, who once voted to skim money off the top of SPD’s budget, offered little pushback to the police narrative.
Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz spent the bulk of his presentation to the committee patting the department on the back for accomplishments such as not tear gassing civilians for 18 months. He then switched to the future-tense to list a few plans for the department this year, which include a new “Before the Badge” training (i.e. stuff they make cops do before swearing in), “relational policing,” more Community Service Officers, “growth mindset training” for supervisors, and peer support programs to improve officer wellness. He then handed off the presentation to Chief Operating Officer Brian Maxey to break down the Equity, Accountability and Quality Program. That program is a new statistical approach to watch over police activity, determine racism levels, and then correct behaviors. Maxey said they will have a follow-up meeting about the program again because it is very confusing.
Though it was confusing, Maxey’s explanation was the star of the cop's show. Even Committee Chair Lisa Herbold noted the presentation’s focus, saying she thought the department would talk about the whole Strategic Plan, not just one aspect of it.
But the brevity of Diaz’s presentation reflected the document linked on that meeting’s agenda. The 27-page Strategic Plan included only ten pages that mentioned anything about the practices the department will adopt in 2022. The rest, interspersed with no fewer than 25 promotional images of cops smiling, detailed past accomplishments and reflected on the impact of the Black Lives Matter protests. Councilmember Alex Pedersen clarified that the Strategic Plan, despite what its name might suggest, was “more of a high-level visionary document, rather than an implementation plan with details on how to reduce crime.”
With the cops leaving much to be desired, the council spent nearly an hour asking questions about what the department actually wants to do. Most of the questions were softballs. Pedersen, whose most radical action as council member was giving the Every Night Marchers a plastic chair as a physical invitation to “a seat at the table,” asked about best practices for officer wellness. Councilmember Sara Nelson, who said in her campaign that she would advocate for the council to increase police funding, asked about the efficacy of hiring incentives.
With friendly questions and the committee’s chair chuckling along with Diaz, it seemed as if all the council’s timid defund spirit had dried up. The most tense comments came from Mosqueda, who, tired of discussing hiring incentives, shifted the conversation to off-loading some of the responsibilities of cops to other, better-equipped entities as both a retention strategy and a way to make Seattle safer.
Cops can’t be case managers, housing connectors, or crisis management responders, Mosqueda said.
She referenced the case of Charleena Lyles, a Black woman who was 15 weeks pregnant with what would have been her fifth child when SPD officers shot her seven times and killed her in her Sandpoint Apartment. Mosqueda said the outcome could have been completely different if a mental health provider showed up to that case. Furthermore, she asked that an outside party analyze the data that SPD collects in its new project.
Before Diaz could answer, Mosqueada continued to levy her concerns. Page 12 of the outlined Strategic Plan said the department would “focus on collaboration with courts, jails and service providers to find better solutions for repeat misdemeanor offenders.” Mosqueada couched her criticism with sympathy toward smaller shops that suffer from theft and vandalism, but she expressed concern about the demographics most impacted by Operation New Day.
She gave the example of a plainclothes cop making arrests in the downtown Target last month. The cop arrested five people, all poor, all represented by public defenders. Diaz said there will eventually be weekly reporting for Operation New Day that he hopes will include demographic data. He did not comment on Mosqueada’s call, a faint whisper from louder conversations in 2020, to offload responsibilities from cops.