Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Public Safety’ Category

Seattle Police memo: body cameras easier said than done, now

by Matt Rosenberg September 7th, 2011

SUMMARY: In a report to be presented Sept. 8 to a Seattle City Council committee, Seattle Police say they haven’t begun to test four body-mounted cameras on police officers as directed but that the SPD training unit has done preliminary testing of one camera. Police verified that today. The cameras would record images and sound of police interactions with the public. Police say that in the one-camera test to date, serious problems are evident with the usefulness of the video footage if officers are moving. Police also stress in their report advice from city lawyers on the need to change state law to allow audio recording of citizens without their express consent. That’s not allowed currently. Police note community concerns are another issue, reporting that various stakeholders say citizens should be asked for their consent to recordings regardless of what state law says. Field testing is planned for body cameras on motorcycle traffic officers, with prior consent of citizens required before recording. Funding of a wide-scale Seattle Police body camera pilot program also poses major challenges, police say. A sought-after federal grant has failed to materialize due to U.S. budget constraints. Additionally, the police officers labor union would have to approve widespread use of body cameras, in a new contract now being negotiated.

UW study probes factors in Washington animal-vehicle collisions

by Matt Rosenberg August 31st, 2011

SUMMARY: Collisions between vehicles and animals exact a large toll in injury and property damage every year in the U.S. and also have a significant impact in Washington state. A new study led by the director of a transportation research laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle shows the probability of animal-vehicle collisions is increased on rural two-lane roads near white-tailed deer habitats, while the likelihood of such accidents is lowered if the road is wider, the animal is male rather than female, and the vehicle is a truck, not a car.

Results of Seattle Police watchdog agency’s 2010 excessive force probes: 120 allegations, but no smoking guns found

by Matt Rosenberg August 19th, 2011

According to information obtained by Public Data Ferret from the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability, OPA in 2010 completed 77 investigations into use of force complaints against SPD personnel, including 120 related allegations, and none of the cases or allegations resulted in a finding of “sustained,” meaning supported by a preponderance of evidence. Investigations of some high profile cases in 2010 such as the SPD shooting of the late John T. Williams, and the resulting determination of excessive force, weren’t resolved until 2011, and so are not included in the 2010 findings.

Overall, reported cases involving allegations of unnecessary force, or other force-related complaints such as failure to report use of force, are a tiny fraction of all police activity. SPD officials disclosed that department personnel had a total of 454,564 public contacts in 2010, including almost 200,000 dispatched calls, more than 140,000 “on view” interactions in communities, more than 90,000 traffic stops, and 22,883 arrests.

In response to an information request by Public Data Ferret on excessive force cases and allegations for which investigations were completed in 2010, the findings provided by OPA’s Civilian Director Kathryn Olsen were:

  • In 73 of the 120 allegations, police were exonerated (a preponderance of evidence suggests the conduct alleged did occur, but it was determined to be justified, lawful and proper);
  • 31 of the 120 allegations were unfounded (evidence suggests the alleged act did not occur as reported, or the report was false);
  • seven allegations were administratively exonerated or administratively unfounded (complaint is significantly flawed, i.e. recanted by complainant, wrong employee identified);
  • one was administratively inactivated (investigation can’t proceed due to insufficient information or another pending investigation);
  • one went to mediation (complainant and officer agree to resolution by credentialed third-party mediator);
  • two earned supervisory interventions (there may have been a violation of policy, but it wasn’t willful, and/or didn’t amount to misconduct);
  • five were classified as not sustained (allegation of misconduct is neither proved nor disproved by a preponderance of the evidence).

These results dovetail with data on the previous year of 2009, when 105 investigations into excessive use of force by Seattle Police, including 318 specific allegations, were completed, and no allegations were sustained.

Mukilteo company recalls 16,000 Chinese-made flashlight batteries

by Matt Rosenberg August 3rd, 2011

SUMMARY: Mukilteo-based high-grade flashlight maker NexTorch and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission today announced the recall of about 16,000 Chinese-made NexTorch NT123A lithium batteries for flashlights, which can rupture and catch fire, posing a threat of burns to consumers’ bodies, clothing and property. Consumers are urged to stop using the batteries immediately and contact the company for a refund.

Cascade Natural Gas will pay $425,000 safety fine to state, under proposed settlement

by Kyle Kim July 22nd, 2011

SUMMARY: Cascade Natural Gas Corp. has agreed to pay a $425,000 fine for breaking a number of state and federal gas safety laws and under the proposed settlement announced last week with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, is subject to another $1.8 million in fines if it fails to deliver on additional corrective actions including implementing safety and quality assurance programs, and updating their pipeline maps. Commission staff in March 2011 detailed 364 alleged violations by Cascade following a two-year sequence of safety inspections of its pipeline facilities, in addition to an investigation of an “over-pressure” incident. The gas company admitted to having failed to comply with a number of state and federal rules regarding inspection, monitoring and maintenance of its pipeline network, but Cascade does not concede it committed all of the alleged violations. The settlement must still be formally finalized by the UTC board but Cascade has already agreed to the terms.

City Auditor: Seattle legal and liability claims total nearly $75 million over four years

by Melissa Steffan July 1st, 2011

SUMMARY: A recent City of Seattle Auditor’s report found that over a four-year period, from 2007 to 2010, the City of Seattle spent nearly $30 million to settle lawsuits filed against it. This accounts for 39 percent of the total $74,767,406 spent by the City of Seattle to cover legal judgments and financial claims against it during that time. The annual total continues to trend downward from a recent high in 2008. The auditor’s report recommended several strategies including stronger leadership and employee involvement, a focus on root causes of financial risk, and regular collection and analysis of data.

Audit: Bureau of Indian Affairs Jails Still Mismanaged

by Matt Rosenberg May 26th, 2011

SUMMARY: Seven years after the problem was highlighted in a government report, a 2011 follow-up investigation reveals that despite a nearly 50 percent increase in funding, understaffing remains a problem at detention facilities in Indian Country because of poor working conditions, low pay, use of funds for other purposes, and failure by Bureau of Indian Affairs management to focus on the problem. Attrition, low morale and increased security risks are among the results. In addition, the physical condition of many of the detention facilities visited is poor.