Notes from Shoreline City Council meeting March 1, 2021

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Reporter Pam Cross
Shoreline City Council Meeting
March 1, 2021

Notes by Pam Cross

Mayor Hall called the remote meeting to order at 7:00pm. All Councilmembers were present.

Report of the City Manager, Presented by John Norris, Assistant City Manager

COVID

King County cases remain at about the same levels as we saw last week.

Our region, consisting of King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, remain in Phase 2 of the Healthy Washington Plan.


In Shoreline our case trends are closer to our summer lows.

New variants of COVID-19 have been identified in King County so we must remain vigilant. 
  • Wear a face covering, especially indoors in public settings regardless of the distance between people.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands regularly.
  • Maintain six (6) feet of distance, indoors and outdoors.
  • Outdoor gatherings with a limit of 15 people from two households.
  • Get tested at the first sign of illness.
  • It is safest to stay at home.

City Hall remains closed to the public. Most services can be accessed online, by phone, or by drop off. For more information visit shorelinewa.gov/remoteservices

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Please go to CovidVaccineWA.org for the most up-to date information on eligibility and locations providing vaccines.

Proposition 1 presentations.

Prop 1 will appear on the April 27 ballot for park improvements and park land acquisition. Learn more at a factual community presentation. For dates and times go to Shorelinewa.gov/prop1

Public Reminders

The Planning Commission will hold a remote meeting on Thursday, March 4 at 7:00pm. This meeting includes a public hearing on the Housing Action Plan.

Council will hold its annual Strategic Planning Workshop on Friday, March 5 from 1:00pm to 5:00pm and Saturday, March 6 from 9:00am to noon.

There will be no Council meeting on March 8.

Council Reports

None

Public Comment

Jackie Kurle, Shoreline, asked for a significant level of oversight of the operations of the new enhanced shelter and for the safety of the residents and the surrounding community.

Nancy Pfeil, Shoreline, asked what happens to the enhanced shelter after the grant money runs out.

Approval of the Agenda

Agenda adopted by unanimous consent.

Approval of the Consent Calendar

Consent Calendar approved unanimously by roll call vote.

Study Items

8(a) Panel Presentation on Law Enforcement (Police) Accountability: Community Engagement, Transparency and Body Worn Cameras

Guest panelists include Abiel Woldu, Major Jeffrey Flohr, Anthony Finnell, Jennifer Lee, and DeShawn Quinn

Presentation by Jim Hammond, City Manager’s Office, Intergovernmental/CMO Program Manager


Abiel Woldu is a community advocate who currently serves as the Chair of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CACLEO) for the King County Office of Law Enforcement and Oversight (OLEO)

"I’ve been working as a volunteer for CACLEO for 4 years. We’ve produced memos guiding the King County board regarding things to consider before adding body cameras to King County officers and whether the community wants to pay the cost of it. 

"Shoreline police are contracted King County officers. As a young black man I want to be part of creating the solution rather than sitting on the sidelines. It is a volunteer position and it’s a lot of work. I had to understand what body cameras are. 

"I learned what power the public has in offering their responses to what they believe are better options in terms of policing, and how to find better solutions. It’s tedious work and often you don’t see results. But you hope that one day it will be better for the people that come after you."

Maj. Jeffrey Flohr is a Major with the King County’s Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), running the unincorporated Precinct 4 area (Vashon, Skyway and White Center). He is currently serving as part of the Command Team overseeing development of a KCSO pilot program for body worn cameras.

"Last year KCSO was going to do a pilot program and I was asked to reach out to the community groups to tell them about it. But then it got stalled and now it has moved up to the County Executive and the Sheriff.

"We got a lot of positive feedback, but we also got a lot of questions about privacy issues. We documented the questions and referred to the Chief."

Anthony Finnell is an employee of the Seattle’s Office of the Inspector General, and a board member of the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE).

"I am also a retired police officer from Indianapolis and have been working on law enforcement oversight ever since then in Chicago, Oakland and Seattle. These three cities have had body cameras for some time. 

"It brings value to the officers by adding an independent lens when you’re talking about transparency and it aids in accountability. It can help the officers by showing training weaknesses, and/or policies that need reevaluation or development. 

"Videos can be used to support or disprove the allegations of misconduct against an officer. A key thing I found is it’s not a panacea. But when used properly and body-camera video is appropriately released, it helps quell distrust by the community. There needs to be a policy around when and where videos are released in order to prevent releasing only those videos that exonerate an officer.

"Civilians think of oversight as getting rid of the “bad apples” or disciplining guilty officers. But oversight is much broader than that. Oversight can help address issues that have gone on for years - the “culture” of the law enforcement environment. An oversight audit can look at this broader systemic issues. Some actions may be malicious or could just be the result of poor training, or lack of a clear policy. As an outsider, it’s easier for a civilian oversight committee to identify this. They can be an ally to the department by advocating for additional funding for training or resources, as well as a service to the community by developing trust in the department.

"The goal should be to create a policy that, as close as possible, maintains law enforcement intent without causing harm to the community."

Jennifer Lee, the Technology and Liberty Manager for American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU), leads the Technology and Liberty Project.

"The main object of the work we do is to protect and advance people's civil liberties and constitutionally protected rights in the face of game-changing technology. The issues include body-worn cameras, facial recognition, data privacy and AI (artificial intelligence) decision making systems.

"We work to make sure technology is accountable to people, especially the communities that have always been disproportionately impacted by surveillance. We push for community-centric policies and laws that create safeguards around data and technology, and advocate to stop use of them if necessary.

"I think we can acknowledge the critical role that body cameras have played driving the conversation about police accountability. Videos taken by witnesses are different from body camera video showing only the police perspective. While there is talk of defunding the police, at the same time we are discussing spending millions of dollars to extend the use of body cameras that have not proven to be effective."

De’Sean Quinn joined the meeting following his city council meeting, and arrived during the discussion below.

De’Sean Quinn has served on the Tukwila City Council since 2008. He also serves as a commissioner on the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC).

"I am committed to change. I was on the Task Force for Deadly Force in 2015. We had done all this work and in the end couldn’t reach an agreement. But we did get I-940 (Ballot text: This measure requires law enforcement to receive violence de-escalation, mental-health, and first-aid training, and provide first-aid; and change standards for use of deadly force, adding a "good faith" standard and independent investigation.) With the work you are considering, know that there’s an important statewide piece to this. What we have found is that there is no consistent form of data. Whether you are talking about deadly force or disproportionate stops, we need to elevate the data and have a good tracking system so it can really be attacked. In this area, we are pretty far ahead of the rest of the country.

"Every jurisdiction is supposed to have an oversight committee. How you do it is really important. Community input is important. And we need to have the same standard when driving from one community to another. We need to identify the pieces and then connect the pieces to collectively change the structure. Now is the time to do something, but be methodical. Parallel activity to what we’re seeing at the State so we can actually gain some ground. You need a protocol, a policy in place when something happens. Every jurisdiction will do it differently. 

"The unions have a lot of power. Councilmembers only have so much power - not as much as people think. Avoiding court saves money. Sitting on the CJTC, we heard from folks whose family member has been killed by law enforcement and having that information is powerful. People also shared their lived experiences. So you can’t go wrong with getting the community voice. We need this kind of conversation."

DISCUSSION

I initially thought body cameras were great but there are negatives outlined in the staff report and the links provided in that report. Can we address these negatives?

FINNELL: As one who relies on that footage for conducting investigation and study of officer misconduct, I find the evidence invaluable. Some of the negatives come from expectation that it will shift officer behavior. It doesn’t. But it will allow the agency to discipline the officer. Also cameras will not change how people work with the police - they will still fight if they are so prone. I believe their use as one of the tools helped offer solutions and resolutions. Seattle has rapid adjudication where an officer can just admit it and receive discipline, while the plaintiff gets their day in court. As part of this, the officer gives up their right to appeal.

LEE: Research evidence on the effectiveness of body cameras is really mixed. It is not shown to have statistically significant benefits. Some studies show modest benefits, while other studies show either no impact or even possible negative effects. This indicates that more research is needed before we spend lots of money on these cameras. It isn’t truly a third-person view, it is from the officer’s side who can control the camera and video can be manipulated or edited. Additionally these cameras capture more than just the individual interacting with the police. This could be a big privacy issue without good data on how these videos will be used or whether they will be shared with others.

QUINN: We’ve (Tukwila PD) had body worn cameras since 2016 and the technology has advanced so now we have a pretty strong policy. The cameras come on automatically in cars so as soon as the officer steps out of the car, the body worn camera activates. There was early resistance among some law enforcement but now police are overwhelmingly supportive. We have a pretty robust policy for use of the cameras.

The concerns seem to be how the video is used, rather than with the cameras themselves. But talking about community oversight, the City of Shoreline has a lot of limitations on what Council can do (as do most cities). What about a citizen review panel? No power, just a review and report process. From your perspective, good idea or bad?

FINNELL: If the panel has no authority to implement those findings, it would create more frustrations for the community. At a minimum, they should be able to issue a report that makes recommendations and if not adopted, then the police administration must respond to that within a given time period. At the minimum. The National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) helps cities create oversight. There are all kinds of ways to develop civilian oversight. Those people need to know if their recommendations are implemented, and if not, why not? One of the biggest complaints is being called on the carpet for lack of power that was sorely limited, and being described as a useless panel. It needs power. If you do it, do it right.

WOLDU: If someone takes the time to look at data and other information, creates a report and that report goes nowhere - why would you create an organization that does nothing.

How admissible and how reliable are the public videos? Do the privacy issues occur here too?

LEE: The videos shine a light on police violence. Police perspective vs iPhones. Privacy and security issues don’t come up because data from public use cameras isn’t being updated to a database and is not being shared with a third party such as ICE (immigration enforcement). There is a long history of surveillance in this country. Increasing it makes police more powerful. Surveillance tools have always disproportionately harmed the marginalized communities. They created harm because they are used by law enforcement and people in power.

FLOHR: I struggle with saying citizen videos are ok but police videos can be manipulated. Not in 2021, not in a county like King County where we have different ordinances that restrict surveillance, and an ordinance that does not allow sharing information with ICE. We need policies in place that prevent misuse of the videos. The police have to provide some information. I don’t think we’ll be seeing manipulated police videos that could backfire against the department.

FINNELL: I think all cameras need to be used. Police and witness videos provided together create a clearer picture. I was a homicide investigator for over 10 years, and as such I would build a “picture” of what actually happened from interviews and evidence. Cameras are not new. This may be a new conversation here in Shoreline, but it’s not new technology - it is enhanced technology that addresses manipulation and limits access to the video. Looking at the video leaves a footprint in the computer - who was looking, when and why, and what they did or tried to do. Police officers can’t access the video - but if they somehow did, there would be a footprint. So a lot of these concerns have been addressed by new technology. It’s important to have these tools at your disposal. If something should come up in Shoreline, the first question is going to be where is the body camera video? The cellphone videos will be all over the Internet and can be easily edited. They are private so there’s nothing to stop them from being manipulated. Since this isn’t new technology, departments now have these policies in place and they are there for the asking.

QUINN: The technology is there. Best practices and model language exist for the use of body cameras. The policies are explicit around privacy and use.

LEE: Privacy risks exist from citizen cameras and that’s also a reason why the ACLU is concerned about the expansion of these tools. Policies can be violated and the public might not learn about that violation until later. But if the body cameras don’t stop police brutality, then why spend all that money?

WOLDU: There are upsides and downsides. Some prefer a video rather than not. The other question is where could the money be spent to eliminate the need for body cameras? If we are able to solve the problems that come before the need for the video, why wouldn’t we spend that money there.

How do you address the public information requests?

QUINN: Tukwila has partnered with ACLU and other organizations that really watch privacy issues. Tukwila had a precise records person and we have a policy for PDRs (public disclosure requests), victims, and general public requests. This is a big concern with law enforcement. There are policies and procedures for addressing this issue.

Maj. Flohr, you said you could provide a summary of the outreach pilot. What was the feel of officers involved in the pilot? Is there any movement to expand RADAR? The State legislature is not looking at it this year.

FLOHR: We spoke to numerous groups in our area. Of our deputies, most wanted body-cameras. The community was also supportive and had same concerns mentioned tonight. RADAR is very successful. In the south end, we have been pushing for The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). Every city has their own concerns and needs. We’ve had a lot of conversations and it’s time to get down to actions. We have lots of ideas. 

For example, when we remove a lot of drugs in a raid, we have a lot of addicts now in crisis. We have proposed flooding that area with targeted services and are seeking funding for more services..

FINNELL: We see the most successful are those who bring different people to the table like this here to figure out what works for you and what your community needs. Realize that there are tools available to you. Be sure to keep the community at the table.

WOLDU: People that are harmed the most should have the largest voice at the table.

LEE: We all live in an increasingly data-driven world. That data can be abused and body cameras can pick up a lot besides the interaction with the officer.

QUINN: We can’t get anywhere unless we communicate. The technology and changes in Tukwila weren’t all done in one year. We’ve learned from our mistakes. There was data that harmed communities without them even knowing about it. There are systems that do significant harm. By sharing information and then arriving at a solution, we are getting closer to having a shared vision of accountability. Institutions need to be a part of the solution too. They cannot have the choice of opting out.

The Shoreline Council will be continuing these conversations.

8(b) Discussion of Resolution No. 470 - Amending the Council Rules of Procedure

Presentation by Jessica Simulcik Smith, City Clerk

City Council’s Rules of Procedure was initially adopted by Council in 2002 and it has been amended on multiple occasions. The Rules are for the sole benefit of Councilmembers to assist in orderly conduct of Council business. They are periodically reviewed as needed.

Section 5.3A - Council Meetings Order of Business

Approval of the Agenda is currently listed as the sixth item on the agenda; the proposed amendment would move it up to the third item. Placing it immediately after Roll Call would allow Council greater flexibility in forgoing or moving the remaining agenda items.

Section 3 - Agenda Preparation

Staff is proposing to amend this section to bring it into conformance with current business operations.

3.2 An item for a Council meeting may be placed on the agenda by any of the following methods:

B. By any two Councilmembers, in writing to the City Manager or City Clerk or with phone confirmation, with signatures by fax allowed for confirmation of support, no later than 12:00pm five (5) days prior to the meeting. The names of the requesting Councilmembers shall be set forth in the staff report supporting the agenda item.

Section 5.4 - Community Presentations

Staff is recommending eliminating Rule 5.4(H) which allows other organizations, that may have alternative or opposing viewpoints to organizations presenting Community Group Presentations, to go through the same procedures as the underlying organization. As Community Group Presentations are not common occurrences, and Community Group Presentations from organizations with opposing viewpoints are even more infrequent, Staff does not feel that this rule is needed.

H. Organizations which may have alternative, controversial positions or information will be scheduled at the next available Regular Meeting.

DISCUSSION

Approval of the Agenda

The nice thing about the way it is now, public comment comes first. If there’s an item that the public thinks should be addressed, we can now add it as an item to the agenda. We could make the request after the public comment, that’s more awkward. It seems silly to go through 5 items before we approve the agenda.

Agenda preparation

There is still a lot of procedure to get something on the agenda. All the steps seem to be unnecessary.

SIMULCIK-SMITH: We need time to prepare the packet for the Wednesday prior to the meeting, that’s why there is that rule.

Right now the Mayor can put something on the agenda right at the start of the meeting but the councilmembers need this process.

It should be in writing so other Councilmembers know it has been requested so we can do some research before the meeting even if the staff report isn’t available. The Mayor and the City Manager should have some notice.

Do we have to give 24 hour notice to the public if something is added to the agenda?

SIMULCIK-SMITH: 24 hour notice is not required except for the initial agenda.

A Special Meeting bars changes that haven’t had 24-hour public notice.

Even when the Mayor wants to add something new to the agenda, it’s never “I want it on the agenda this Monday, ” but “something the Mayor wants Council to take up”.

These are good comments for now, but for the future, the mayor would have too much control. If two councilmembers bring something up, the mayor could say they’ll schedule it on the agenda 18 months in the future. I’m not talking about the current Council, because we get along really well, but for a future potential council if things aren’t going smoothly.

Mayor Hall: We can move forward, or look at agenda preparation later.

Council agrees to look at it next year.

This Resolution will come back as an action item on March 15, without the section on agenda preparation. We will not need a new staff report.

MEETING ADJOURNED


3-5-2021 Correction: add the word "without" to the final sentence

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