Murray statement on MLK Day use-of-force investigations

“Together with the Department of Justice, a court-appointed Federal Monitor and the Community Police Commission, we have worked to create and implement a comprehensive and transparent police accountability system that will be the most robust in the nation.

This includes ensuring that we have clear policies and protocols in place to investigate incidences when force is used. These investigations must take place quickly and comprehensively. Ingrained in my values – and the values of our city – is ensuring that people are able to protest peacefully to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of expression while providing the resources, support and training necessary for our police department to do their jobs and protect the public’s safety at these protests.

Under the accountability system that we’ve set up, the uses of force that occurred during the MLK protests are currently under review and being investigated. Moving forward, the City must also continue to implement many other reforms to ensure our officers are adequately trained and prepared to serve and protect all of Seattle’s residents.”

Seattle, King County receive record $28 million in federal homeless assistance grants

A record $28 million in federal homeless assistance funds was awarded jointly to the City of Seattle and King County, including over $3.6 million to create new housing opportunities for over 200 people across the region, in addition to renewing critical funding for new and existing homeless housing and services countywide for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the award today, following the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announcement of $1.8 billion awarded nationwide.

“Seattle is working to address our current crisis in homelessness and these resources will help fund our response as we move people from emergency shelters into housing,” said Mayor Ed Murray, co-chair of the Committee to End Homelessness Governing Board. “This also grant helps us leverage additional federal funds to invest in best practices to serve homeless individuals and families.”

“The recent One Night Count highlights the need not only to create more safe shelter and affordable housing, but to keep people from falling into homelessness and to rapidly re-house those who find themselves without a home,” said Executive Constantine. “Thanks to this extraordinary federal support, we can act quickly to move more individuals and families from homelessness to housing.”

The funding awards and new bonus funding come just days after nearly one thousand volunteers across King County counted 3,772 unsheltered people across the County. The annual One Night Count conducted on Jan. 23 found a 21 percent increase over the number counted last year.

New for this federal funding round was approximately $40 million nationally specifically to create housing for chronically homeless persons. In a very competitive process, Seattle-King County was successful in applying for a $3.6 million bonus award, the second largest in the country, to transition over 200 chronically homeless individuals to permanent supportive housing by providing long-term rental assistance and services. The project will focus on people who have histories of the longest shelter use and who are also disabled by one or more significant vulnerabilities. This project is a partnership of Plymouth Housing Group, Catholic Housing Services and DESC – all of whom excel in serving chronically homeless people.

“We are ecstatic to receive funding to house more chronically homeless individuals with permanent supportive housing, an evidence-based approach to ending homelessness,” said Mark Putnam, director of the Committee to End Homelessness. “Our nonprofit providers’ experience with this model is second to none in the country.”

The federal grant also provides support for a new Regional Rapid Re-Housing Project that will assist 50 homeless families countywide to transition from homelessness to permanent housing. The program will offer quick, light-touch services to help families achieve stability, including assistance in finding housing, help with move-in expenses and case management. The program will focus on families who are homeless, either in shelter or on the streets.

The balance of funding awarded to the Seattle/King County Continuum of Care supports 77 community-based projects for a total of 2,176 units of housing: 1,457 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless people with disabilities and 721 units of transitional housing. The total includes funding for two Safe Haven facilities that offer supportive housing for homeless adults with severe mental illness. Also renewed is funding for Continuum of Care planning and the Safe Harbors Homeless Management Information System, which collects data on services provided to homeless people in programs throughout King County.

For more information on the programs and projects funded by the McKinney Continuum of Care grant funds, please call Eileen Denham, City of Seattle McKinney Programs Coordinator, 206-684-0915 or Kate Speltz, King County Housing and Community Development Program, 206-263-9084.

The full list of organizations receiving funds the consolidated application is provided after the jump: [Read more…]

Murray expands shelter for homeless people, proposes encampment ordinance

Mayor Murray delivers recommendations from his Emergency Unsheltered Homelessness Task Force

Today, Mayor Murray announced several actions to respond to the growing number of homeless people forced to sleep on the streets of Seattle, including an expansion of emergency shelter and the establishment of up to three permitted tent encampments on City or private lands in Seattle.

“These folks are our neighbors, each with his or her own unfortunate path to homelessness,” said Murray. “The dramatic erosion of state and federal investments to respond to their challenges have created a full-blown crisis. With current shelters at capacity, we must fund additional beds immediately.”

Beginning Jan. 15, the city will double the size of the emergency shelter at the King County Administration Building. The facility currently serves as a seasonal shelter that hosts 50 beds during the coldest winter months. Murray said that by the end of January, the city will also fund another 15 shelter beds at a Capitol Hill facility specifically for youth living on the streets.

The city currently funds 1,700 shelter beds – each serving an average of 6 people a year. The Seattle City Council has already set aside funding that will be used to pay for the additional shelter capacity announced today. The cost for the additional beds is $182,000.

The city continues to look at options to establish additional shelter space in surplus city buildings, but all sites would require improvements before they could serve in that capacity.

This week, the mayor is also transmitting a draft ordinance to the City Council that allows for up to three permitted encampments in Seattle at any one time, each serving up to 100 people. These encampments could be located on vacant parcels in non-residential areas. Sites on both private and City lands would be eligible for permits, but the mayor’s proposal excludes City parks.

“Permitted encampments are not, in my view, a long-term strategy to end homelessness, but organized encampments have less impact on our neighborhoods and provide a safer environment than what we see on our streets today,” said Murray.

Under the mayor’s proposal, the new permitted encampments must be located within a half-mile of a transit stop and more than one mile from each other. Each site would be required to move every 12 months. Unlike the existing encampment ordinance, sponsorship by a religious organization would not be required.

These new permitted sites would be required to provide residents access to city social services developed to help people manage their challenges and transition from homelessness to more permanent housing.

The social service agencies that operate these new encampments would also participate in the same data collection tools as the City’s current homeless shelters. The client information remains private, but helps the city continue to improve service delivery.

“I’m pleased that the Mayor will be reintroducing a new version of the bill I proposed last year to allow for longer term temporary encampments,” said Councilmember Nick Licata. “This is not the solution to homelessness, but we simply can’t wait to solve homelessness. The City has a responsibility today to the 2,300 people sleeping outside on any given night in Seattle, so that they can at least stay together and stay safe.”

“This announcement today is an important step in addressing the most immediate challenges that homeless people face in our city–a safe place to be at night,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “I think the Mayor’s encampment proposal is a smart approach that provides the stability of a place to be, while also offering services to support people trying to get back into housing.”

“Everyone deserves a safe place to sleep,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. “This legislation is an important first step to help people transition to stable housing, the compassionate solution. I applaud the Task Force’s work and look forward to implementing this recommendation. Seattle needs places for people to stay and I am glad to see this legislation moving forward with urgency. This conversation is by no means over, but this is a great start to ensuring our city is safe for all.”

Under the existing ordinance governing encampments, religious institutions are permitted to host tent encampments. The mayor’s proposal would require community outreach prior to applying for a permit, as well as the formation of a Community Advisory Committee in the neighborhood of the encampment. The Seattle Department of Human Services will craft a toolkit that these organizations can use to develop a new shelter or encampment site.

The mayor’s proposals to support permitted encampments can also be funded from existing budgets at the cost of $85,000, which includes support for operations, including electricity and sanitation.

“It will take our whole community to end homelessness, and the diversity of the task force was a demonstration of our community’s vast compassion and commitment to reach this goal,” said Mark Putnam, Director of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County. “The Mayor’s recommendations recognize that shelters and encampments are stabilizing for people experiencing the crisis of homelessness, and also that they are only the first step in the process of finding a long-term home.”

Seattle Human Services Interim Director John Okamoto will issue a report in March that evaluates the City’s spending on homelessness services and interventions—currently $37 million a year—with recommendations on better aligning the city’s efforts with national best practices.

You can read the Mayor’s full remarks here.

Murray: ‘Together we can make a difference in the current crisis of homelessness’

Mayor Murray delivered the following remarks during a press event today where he outlined legislation he will transmit to City Council increasing access to shelters and authorized encampments for those facing or living with homelessness. Here are his remarks as prepared:

Next week, volunteers will fan out across Seattle to conduct our annual One Night Count. Last year, we found more than 2300 people sleeping outside or in cars.

In the past three years, that number has grown by more than 30 percent. I fully expect that number to grow again this year.

These folks are our neighbors, each with his or her own unfortunate path to homelessness:

  • A woman, a survivor from domestic violence, has struggled to pay the rent, but has been unable to find more than part-time work.
  • A young man bouncing from one foster home to another throughout childhood, and now that he is 18, has no place to turn.
  • A man injured in a car accident, tortured by addiction and chronic depression.

Thousands more in our community have housing, but are living in extreme poverty, just one catastrophic event away from homelessness.

The dramatic erosion of state and federal investments to respond to these and other challenges have created a full-blown crisis. As a local community, we must respond.

Today, I am announcing several actions.

We are a generous city that currently funds more than 1,700 shelter beds – each serving an average of six people a year.

But each night, people are turned away from a warm bed due to lack of capacity.

Beginning tomorrow, the City will fund an additional 50 beds per night at the King County Administration Building. This emergency shelter will continue to operate throughout the winter.

In the next ten days, we will open another 15 shelter beds on Capitol Hill for youth living on the streets.

Young people face unique challenges and need specialized interventions.

We want to reach them early to reduce the risk that they will face long-term homelessness.

The council has already set aside funding that will be used to pay for these additional beds.

We have reviewed our inventory of surplus city buildings that could serve as additional shelter. There are few options and all require investments.

We hope to announce additional shelter capacity by the end of February. We will continue to work with the council on this challenge.

We know that emergency shelter alone is not enough. Many people reject shelter, even when it is available. Some have had bad experiences in shelters. Others are couples that want to stay together. Still others have pets. We must work on these issues.

Unauthorized tent encampments have sprung up around the city – both downtown and in our neighborhoods. Many locations are unsafe. Few have any sanitation services.

Permitted encampments are not, in my view, a long-term strategy to end homelessness.

But planned, organized encampments have less impact on our neighborhoods and provide a safer environment than what we see on our streets today.

This week, I am transmitting an ordinance to the City Council that allows for up to three permitted encampments in Seattle, each serving up to 100 people.

These encampments will be on vacant parcels in non-residential areas — on either private or City lands.

Permitted encampments will not appear in Seattle City Parks. We must not impact the current activities the public enjoys in parks and community centers.

These spaces are for other uses – child care, recreation, education and fitness – particularly by low-income families, youth and seniors.

The public voted to expand those opportunities last year, not curtail them.

So we must find other sites near transit so that residents can get to services and jobs.

And these sites must be more than a mile from other encampment sites to reduce concentration in one neighborhood.

The council has considered legislation authored by Councilmember Licata in the past. My proposal builds on his leadership.

We must have a better process to notify neighbors who have concerns about where encampments are located during the permitting process.

These sites must offer services and case workers to help people manage their challenges and transition from homelessness to more permanent housing.

The social service agencies that operate these encampments must use the same data collection tools as our current shelters – to help us understand how we can continue to improve the services the city provides.

I have visited a well-organized encampment sponsored by a faith community. Residents there talked about the shared responsibility of running the encampment.

They talked about how they felt safe. How they didn’t feel so alone.

The city is ready to work with other religious organizations interested in setting up a shelter in their facility or consider hosting an encampment.

We are developing a toolkit that these organizations can use to develop a site.

We will have dedicated staff that will help them through the process, including how they notify their neighbors.

And we will work to ensure that residents have access to other city support services.

As I said, we are a generous community, but we continue to look at how we spend our City resources to address homelessness.

I look forward to a report due in March from Human Services Director John Okamoto.

We are evaluating all the City’s investments in homelessness services and interventions—now nearly $37 million in total. I expect recommendations on better aligning our efforts with national best practices.

And we also continue to work with other cities, the county and the state on the causes of homelessness and our shared response. While more than 90% of King County’s shelter beds are located in Seattle, every community in our region must share in this responsibility.

We continue to work with the Committee to End Homelessness and United Way of King County to assess how we can leverage opportunities to expand shelter on a regional level.

Finally, I need to acknowledge the inspiring contributions of non-profits, universities, faith communities and neighborhood groups who are literally saving the lives of those sleeping on the streets.

I urge you to join them in this work. Together we can make a difference in the current crisis of homelessness.

Thanks to the council for their work to identify funding and craft our response to this crisis. We’ll hear from: Councilmember Licata and Councilmember O’Brien

Thanks, too, to the Unsheltered Homelessness Task Force led by Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim, which helped so much to guide this conversation. We’ll hear from 2 members of the task force: Mark Putnam, Director of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County, and Alison Eisinger, Executive Director, Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.

Murray questions County plan to ‘book and release’ more felony suspects

Mayor Ed Murray has serious concerns about a King County proposal to release additional felony suspects in property crime cases immediately after booking in downtown Seattle. The mayor outlined his concerns today in a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine.

This proposed plan presents an unacceptable public safety risk to the residents of Seattle and will undermine our mutual efforts to reduce drug and property crimes,” wrote Murray. “This proposal also has serious potential policing and budget implications for the City of Seattle.”

On Feb. 1, King County plans to reduce the inmate population by instituting a “book-and-release” policy for several felony drug and property offenses, including auto theft, hit and run (with injury), malicious mischief, reckless endangerment, stolen property, theft, vehicle prowl and drug possession.

The proposed plan will mean that suspects arrested for these crimes in communities around King County will be brought to Seattle to be booked and then released onto the streets of downtown.

Currently, judges individually assess each suspect booked at the jail to decide whether to hold them pending trial. The proposed County plan would eliminate a judge’s review in favor of a presumption of release for these non-violent offenses.

In his letter, Murray outlined alternatives to reduce burdens on the jail (reducing the time between a suspect’s arraignment and trial), as well as reduce impacts on the city (remote booking or mandatory return transportation for suspects brought downtown for booking from jurisdictions outside of Seattle).

 

Murray names interim fire chief

M_E_WalshWhile the search for a new Seattle Fire Chief continues, Mayor Ed Murray has named former Assistant Chief Michael E. Walsh as Interim Fire Chief. Chief Walsh will be filling the top position on a temporary basis, succeeding Fire Chief Gregory M. Dean who retired in December 2014 after 44 years of service to the City.

Chief Walsh brings over 30 years of fire service experience to the position. Before retiring in January 2014, Chief Walsh served as Assistant Chief of Operations. In this role, he supervised more than 900 firefighters and oversaw the Department’s nearly 85,000 annual emergency responses.

Chief Walsh began his career with the Seattle Fire Department in 1971 and rose through the ranks reaching the positions of Lieutenant, Captain, Battalion Chief, Deputy Chief and finally Assistant Chief. In 2010, Chief Walsh was named Chief of the Year for his dedication and commitment to improving firefighter safety and service delivery to the residents of Seattle.

Chief Walsh’s first day will be Saturday, Dec. 20.

In October, after Chief Dean announced his intentions to retire, Mayor Ed Murray quickly began a nationwide search for a new Fire Chief. Currently the City is in the process of identifying and interviewing candidates for the permanent Fire Chief position.

Chief Walsh will serve as interim Chief until a new Fire Chief is hired in early 2015. He will be paid a salary of $200,000 on an annualized basis.

Body cameras, new uniforms coming to Seattle Police

SPD unveils new uniforms

Today, Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole outlined the department’s new pilot project on body-worn cameras, as well as unveiled the new uniforms officers will be wearing as they police Seattle streets.

“Body cameras have been a long-time coming and they are finally here,” said Murray. “This tool will improve community policing and support accountability for our officers. Above all, they will make our neighborhoods safer.”

“Body cameras will be a game changer, a progressive means to improve public safety, police accountability, transparency, and trust with the community,” said Seattle Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee.

The department’s East Precinct will train 12 officers in the use of the body cameras. Field deployments will begin next week. The department will use the trials to decide between two technologies, as well as refine data retention and public disclosure processes.

The cameras will help document arrests and support convictions when crimes have been committed. They will not be used where reasonable people can assume a right to privacy — unless there’s suspicion a crime is being committed or when it’s material to a criminal investigation.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Community Police Commission provided significant input as the department developed the policy that will govern the use of the cameras.

Research has found that departments using such cameras have experienced a decline in assaults on officers. But they have also been shown to reduce the need for officers to use force.

Today, the department is also unveiling the new uniforms officers will wear on patrol, which includes a new patch and emblem for the department featuring Chief Seattle. This is the first full uniform update for patrol officers in 52 years.

“These new uniforms look very professional,” said Murray. “It’s been decades since the uniforms have been updated, so we’re overdue.”

Officers will begin wearing the new uniform in January, with department-wide implementation by March.

For more information: www.seattle.gov/police

Murray: City supports peaceful protests, has no tolerance for property damage

Mayor Ed Murray has released the following statement on ongoing planned protests in downtown Seattle:

“In Seattle in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury decision this past week, we have seen hundreds of peaceful protesters engage in free expression about the critical issue of race and social justice.

We have also seen what appears to be a familiar band of anarchists exploit these peaceful protests and use them as a platform to do damage and create an atmosphere of fear and chaos.

The City of Seattle stands ready to facilitate and support individuals who wish to peacefully express their first amendment rights. But we will not tolerate those who would exploit these peaceful protests in order to destroy property and incite violence.

Over the weekend, many families and young people visited downtown for a special holiday afternoon at Westlake Center – and nearly saw the planned festivities spoiled.

That cannot happen again, and Chief O’Toole and the Seattle Police Department will ensure that downtown remains safe during protests and during this holiday season.”

Murray and community leaders announce police accountability reforms

Police Accountability Reforms

Seattle Police Accountability & Civilian OversightStanding with City Council President Tim Burgess, Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Chief of Police Kathleen O’Toole, police accountability experts and community leaders, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today announced a package of significant reforms to the City’s police discipline and accountability system.

“Our police accountability system has over the years become complicated and confusing to the public,” said Murray. “Today, we are announcing major reforms to bring greater fairness, independence and transparency to the police discipline and accountability system, and to rebuild public trust.”

Murray said that the proposed reforms would strengthen and streamline the accountability process while enhancing civilian oversight, including:

  • Making the Community Police Commission (CPC) the permanent civilian oversight body for police accountability in the City;
  • Consolidating the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) case file review function in the OPA Auditor, and incorporating other functions of the OPA Review Board into the CPC;
  • Strengthening the independence of the OPA; and
  • Implementing a large number of recommendations offered by CPC earlier this year to maximize transparency and public trust.

Of the 55 recommendations for reform offered by the CPC, almost two-thirds have either already been implemented or are in the process of being implemented, according to Murray.

Murray said his office will send legislation to the City Council for its consideration in early 2015, which is also when the City will be entering into labor negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild and the Seattle Police Management Association.

“I intend for the City to work with unions in the negotiation process to achieve substantial improvements of our accountability system,” said Murray. “Those discussions will use as a starting point many of the recommendations made by my special advisor Dr. Bernard Melekian, the OPA Auditor and the Community Police Commission.”

“A stronger and more transparent accountability system will support our officers and improve public safety in our city,” said Council President Tim Burgess. “But along with a systems change, the culture of accountability within the police department must also change. The women and men of the police department will thrive in a culture that properly rewards them for excellence and fairly holds them accountable when they can do better.”

“A good accountability system is one that is trusted by the public. The disciplinary review process should be straightforward, transparent, timely, and lead to better training for officers,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. “I applaud the Mayor for committing resources to revamp the system and proposing these reform recommendations. The Public Safety Committee will go through a diligent review of the proposal to ensure this is the best police accountability system moving forward and is supported by the community.”

“The Seattle Police Department is committed to reform, accountability and using best practices in policing,” said Chief O’Toole. “We support these proposed changes as another step toward rebuilding public trust.”

Murray noted that the federal monitoring team characterized the reform recommendations as “excellent progress on implementing reform.”

The reform recommendations can be read in full here.

Press conference video