A roundup of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
curated by Vee Hua 華婷婷
✨Gleaming This Week✨
- Misdemeanor Drug Crimes Will Continue to Be Prosecuted by King County, Not the City of Seattle
- Seattle Police Department Will Begin to Use Nonlethal ‘BolaWrap’ Weapon
- Seattle World Tour Showcases Variety of Local Musical Acts Through June 10
Misdemeanor Drug Crimes Will Continue to Be Prosecuted by King County, Not the City of Seattle
In a 5-4 vote on June 6, Seattle City Council opposed Council Bill (CB) 120586, which would have allowed the City Attorney’s Office (CAO) to prosecute “the crimes of possession of a controlled substance and use of a controlled substance in a public place.” Though the bill failed to pass, police will continue to be able to arrest offenders for such “gross misdemeanor” drug crimes; the difference is that the cases will go to the King County Prosecutor as opposed to the CAO.
As reported by the Emerald, “Until February 2021, possession of illegal or controlled substances was prosecuted by Washington State as a felony offense. Because felonies are not within the authority of the CAO to prosecute, the City has never been involved in the adjudication of these crimes. After the Washington Supreme Court ruled the felony possession law unconstitutional, the Washington State Legislature passed the Engrossed Senate Bill (ESB) 5476, which made possession of illegal or controlled substances a misdemeanor, to retain some sort of penalty for drug possession and use. With ESB 5476 set to expire on July 1, the Washington State Legislature passed 2E2SSB 5536 on May 16, which makes possession or public use of an illegal or controlled substance a gross misdemeanor. The State legislation will go into effect Aug. 15.”
Seattle City Council Responds
The council bill was sponsored by Councilmembers Sara Nelson (District 9, Citywide) and Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle), who released a statement with City Attorney Ann Davison following the failed vote, condemning the decision. The other two councilmembers who voted to adopt the bill were Council President Debora Juarez and Councilmember Dan Strauss.
Councilmember Andrew Lewis (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia) also released a statement that echoed Mayor Bruce Harrell’s, around the need to now search for alternative solutions. Lewis noted that he joined Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda, Tammy Morales, Kshama Sawant, and Lisa Herbold in voting no because he did not believe that treatment and diversion would have been prioritized with the passage of the bill.
Instead, Lewis outlined additional steps in a bill he plans to propose around addiction recovery, which are to: develop a therapeutic court following the ending of what was previously known as community court; “develop and fully fund treatment-based pre-file diversion; work with Mayor Harrell to scale and deploy the plans outlined in his Executive Order on Seattle’s fentanyl crisis; and finally, after creating those necessary pathways for treatment and diversion, propose legislation making the Seattle Municipal Code consistent with State Law on possession and public use.”
King County Department of Public Defense and Seattle City Council Respond to Misinformation
On the afternoon of June 6, both the King County Department of Public Defense (DPD) and Seattle City Council released separate statements correcting what DPD called “a legally erroneous statement” from City Attorney Ann Davison, which claimed “that the vote rendered public drug use legal in the City [of] Seattle.”
“That statement is false since legislation passed last month criminalizing the use of drugs throughout the State,” the department wrote.
“Inaccurate information has been shared in the press and on social media about what will happen next. City Attorney Ann Davison said that ‘Seattle will now be the only municipality in the State of Washington where it is legal to use hard drugs in public.’ That is false,” wrote the Seattle City Council. They further stressed that police will continue to be able to make arrested and that King County is well-equipped to continue prosecuting the crimes.
“The Department of Public Defense opposes criminalizing public drug use and drug possession, as incarceration has been shown to significantly increase the risk of deadly overdose upon release and prosecution is not an effective way to connect people struggling with addiction to treatment,” Anita Khandelwal, director of DPD, added. “Even after yesterday’s vote, both public drug use and drug possession remain criminalized and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office retains jurisdiction under state law to prosecute those offenses if they so choose, just as they retain jurisdiction to prosecute felony offenses and other misdemeanor offenses that are not codified in the Seattle Municipal Code. Any statement to the contrary does not accurately reflect the law.”
Seattle Police Department Will Begin to Use Nonlethal ‘BolaWrap’ Weapon
Real Change News recently reported that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) will soon be using a weapon called the BolaWrap, which is a lasso-like weapon that allows officers to restrain people from a distance of up to 25 feet. It was showcased at a May 15 event hosted by SPD, along with a number of other nonlethal weapons. SPD Chief Adrian Diaz and Councilmember Lisa Herbold were present for the event.
“Wrap Technologies, the company that manufactures the BolaWrap, markets the weapon as a way to restrain people experiencing behavioral health crises without hurting them, reported Real Change. “However, in a 2020 Human Rights Watch report, researchers found that the BolaWrap and other weapons like stun guns could result in increased police violence against populations who are stigmatized by society, including mentally ill, poor, Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.”
Herbold and Diaz believe, however, that it is a step in reducing use-of-force violations made by SPD.
This year, SPD continues to fall short of its recruiting goals, despite the promise of signing bonuses and an authorization of $900,000 in bonuses for new hires, which was previously passed by the City Council. SPD announced during a May 23 Seattle City Council meeting that 28 employees left the department in the first quarter of 2023, according to Real Change, and that it only made 26 new hires. “According to the presentation, total trained staffed levels sat at 1,029 in the first quarter of 2023, a significant drop compared to 1,114 in the first quarter of 2022 and 1,339 in that time span in 2020,” Real Change reported.
Seattle World Tour Showcases Variety of Local Musical Acts Through June 10
From June 6 to June 10, a series of music events called the Seattle World Tour (SWT) will showcase more than 20 local bands across five venues. It is hosted by a nonprofit of the same name, founded by the online publication Respect My Region and local band All Star Opera.
Via a press release, SWT wrote, “The SWT charity concert series aims to bring awareness to the WA State Musician Relief fund with the goal of raising $10,000 for scholarships that would be given to select artists in the local Seattle community. These scholarships provide crucial financial support to talented artists facing challenging circumstances. 100% of each show’s proceeds will go to the performing acts of the night and towards scholarships for the musician relief fund.”
Learn more about the tour lineup at the Seattle World Tour website.
📸 Featured Image: Along with City Attorney Ann Davison, Councilmembers Alex Pedersen and Sara Nelson announced their sponsorship of Council Bill 1200586, which would have allowed the City Attorney’s Office to prosecute “the crimes of possession of a controlled substance and use of a controlled substance in a public place,” on April 27, 2023. In a 5-4 vote, the City Council voted to oppose the bill on June 6, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Seattle City Council.)
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