Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for May, 2010

Seattle Police Office Of Professional Accountability: 2009 Complaint Statistics

by Matt Rosenberg May 17th, 2010

SUMMARY: Seattle police had 450,355 contacts with the public in 2009, including 22,983 arrests, plus dispatch calls, traffic stops and on-view citizen contacts. (Source: SPD). SPD’s Office of Professional Accountability was formed in 1999 by the City Council, has a civilian head, and reports to the council and mayor, not to police. OPA reports that in 2009, 12 percent, or 24 of 198 serious misconduct complaint investigations completed were upheld, or found justified by the evidence. Of these 198 cases closed, 105 involved allegations of unnecessary or excessive use of force by police officers. Zero of the 105 excessive force cases closed in 2009 were sustained. Additionally in 2009, 176 new investigations of serious complaints were opened. (Source: “key link” document, below).

Beware Of Open Government Counterfeits

by Carrie Shaw May 17th, 2010

As momentum builds behind open government initiatives, examples of politicians and bureaucrats playing the public transparency ruse are popping up more and more.

A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post by J.H. Snider highlighted how local government entities tend to be more entrenched in hindering public access to information as a means to protect bureaucratic turf and incestuous business-as-usual practices. Snider knows a bit about pushing from the outside against closed door democracy. As president of iSolon.org, Snider’s mission is to “focus on the most difficult areas of democratic reform─where elected officials have a conflict of interest in bringing about reforms that might reduce their own power.”

Snider sites the problem of “fake transparency,” or the efforts by public officials to “seek democratic legitimacy but not the accountability that comes with open government.”

The examples are numerous: secret meetings on controversial issues, destroying of emails, omitting documentation when posted online, excessive fees for document requests, personal intimidation and harassing phone calls — all firsthand experiences for Snider in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

There’s no mincing of words with Snider — open government reforms are necessary because politicians want to protect their power and control over money and resources for their own benefit.

It’s the “presumption of guilt” position when it comes to human nature and the corrupting influence of power.

Locally, Washington Coalition for Open Government is taking the lead to guarantee public access and accountability through legislation, legal efforts, and education. President, Toby Nixon and former Seattle Times executive editor, Mike Fancher have led the charge with legal and legislative victories including the Supreme Court of the United States case involving state Referendum 71 and stopping efforts in the state Legislature to limit access to government and the people’s right to know.

Fortunately, technology is making the public crusades of people like Snider, Nixon, and Fancher and organizations like WCOG, iSolon.org or the National Freedom of Information Coalition true agents of change.

Despite the positive exposure and influence these leaders and their organizations are having, they know that the true change agents lie at the grassroots level. Open government initiatives will die the death of a thousand public relations campaigns unless “we the people” remain engaged, informed, and vigilant.

Our civic infrastructure is about people taking the time to connect with the democratic process. Now through June 13, you can be a change agent by exercising your right to participate in a Countywide Community Forum on the topic of Public Trust: Customer Service and Public Engagement.

Bring your voice to a forum.

Redmond Red Light Camera Pilot Program: Policy Memo

by Andrew Hart May 11th, 2010

Aligned with policy recommendations in an April 20, 2010 memo from Redmond Mayor John Marchione, the Redmond, Wash. City Council voted 6-0 on that date to authorize the city negotiating a contract to install red light cameras at three intersections and in two school zones. The goal is to improve traffic safety and pedestrian safety.

BACKGROUND:  Intersections are among the most dangerous sections on the road. A 2001 nationwide poll found that 78% of Americans favor increased intersection safety. Across the U.S., there has been a push to increase intersection safety through the use of Red Light Photo Enforcement. A study of 350 U.S. cities that have implemented Red Light Photo Enforcement found such programs can mitigate the dangers of intersections and improve motorist behavior. Forty percent of traffic accidents occur at intersections. Each year, red light running accounts for over 180,000 crashes, 90,000 injuries, and 1,000 deaths.

“The use of cameras has shown a reduction in the total number of serious crashes by 16%, ‘t-bone’ crashes by 26%, violations and fatalities while also positively affecting driver behavior” (J. Marchione, memo, 20 April 2010). A 2006 poll found that 82% of Seattle residents support installing red light cameras. The City of Redmond has been considering implementing a Red Light and School Zone Photo Enforcement program for over a year and a half. Programs implemented in similar cities have been successful, decreasing the number of violations at intersections and school zones.

KEY DOCUMENT: Proposed Pilot Red Light Camera and School Photo Enforcement Program,” City of Redmond City Council Agenda, 4/20/2010. The memo sought the council’s approval to “negotiate a proposed agreement with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) for a 30 day warning period and 12 month pilot program for red light violations and speed limit violations at selected school zones.” The memo details the proposed program, considered vendors, benefits and costs of the program, and the recommendation of the staff.

KEY FINDINGS: The Police and Transportation Department considered the following factors to determine locations for intersection photo enforcement program: traffic volume, number of collisions, and frequency of red light violations. They found the the following intersections to be the best candidates:

  • Eastbound/Westbound N.E 40th Street at 156 Avenue N.E. (41 violations per day)
  • Eastbound Redmond Way at 148th Avenue N.E. (33 violations per day)
  • Westbound/Northbound Union Hill Road at Avondale Road (44 violations per day)
  • To determine schools for the school zone photo enforcement, the staff considered number of complaints and ability to provide motorists with clear notification of a school zone area. They believe the best candidates to be:

  • Einstein Elementary
  • Redmond Junior High
  • Through the use of Red Light and School Zone Photo Enforcement, the police department hopes to prevent red light and school zone speed violations, making these locations safer for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

    ADDITIONAL FINDINGS: The police department considered two vendors for the photo enforcement program, ATS and Redflex. They recommend ATS due to superior customer service and availability.

    The proposed fine amount for citations given through the program is $124, an amount consistent with neighboring jurisdictions and the amount that would be given for the infraction by a police officer.

    Through monthly fees to the vendor, the City expects the program to cost $453,000 per year. Revenues of the program will go to the King County District Court to cover the costs of the City of Redmond’s contract for court services with the King County District Court. Any excess revenue will be allocated for public safety improvements, such as street signage, crosswalk maintenance, enforcement initiatives, and equipment.