Morning Fizz: Is There a Metric for That?
Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring questions for SPD chief nominee O'Toole.
1. Kathleen O’Toole, Mayor Ed Murray's nominee to head the SPD, spoke in plenty of elusive sound bites yesterday. During an interview with Fizz, asked to clarify what she meant when she (repeatedly) said her goal was to make Seattle's police force "second to none"—Is there a metric for that? Does that mean lower crime rates? More arrests for misdemeanors? Or does that mean more transparency? Fewer rogue cops on the beat? Less public policy dictated by the police officers' union? And again, how do you measure those goals?—O'Toole started back in on her press conference bullet-points: "Building public trust;" "Restoring department pride..."
She eventually told us being "second to none" was what the mayor wanted, and that's what she was going to do.
Getting nowhere, we asked her for any specific examples she had—as former chief of police in Boston between 2004-2006—of winning concessions from the union for accountability reforms. O'Toole said she'd "civilianized" crime scene personnel and that she'd brought in civilian staff to run forensics investigations.
She also said she wanted to upgrade SPD technology. O'Toole told us: "The [DOJ] monitor just issued a report saying the technology in the organization is light years behind. I haven't been able to do a technology assessment of the organization, but I want to see if they are using real time data, if they have a real time crime center. In Boston I established the BRIC, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, and we were able to, on a daily basis, to capture information so we knew exactly what was happening where."
Doesn't Seattle already do that? SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb told us they have crime mapping technology, but there's a delay. "Chief O’Toole may have something completely brilliant in mind compared to where we are now. I just don’t have any specific details at the moment."
O'Toole said: "The map alone, the technology alone, is not going to resolve the problem. You need to have good analysts and you need to have good supervisors who are going to be able to assess the data, make sense of the data, and put together plans to address any issues that are developing.
"The map alone, the technology alone, is not going to resolve the problem. You need to have good analysts and you need to have good supervisors who are going to be able to assess the data, make sense of the data."
"Another issue is, I don't know if they have a resource management system to make sure that if you're allocating resources according to shift, according to area, to geography in the city. You have to determine if the staffing is aligning with the demand and there's some great software out there that can be used to help do that on a real-time basis, on a day to day, week to week, month to month basis.
"I found when I was in Ireland [as the police chief for the country between 2006-2012], for instance, we did a resource allocation study and it was frightening how disconnected the resource allocation plan was from the actual demand in terms of calls for service, time of day, type of incident.. So I think resource allocation systems, real time crime mapping, supported by good supervisors.
"Another example is de-policing—why did it take so long for that information to emerge? I don't know, but it should set off bells and whistles on a police officer's dashboard if all of a sudden you see activity levels that are declining."
Finally, we asked her about ways to have a Seattle police force that actually lived in Seattle. (Whitcomb, for example, lives in Issaquah). She said that was a policy decision that was up to the mayor and council, but noted "I'm a city kid," and said she'd be living in Seattle...on her $250,000 salary.
2. City Council members Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant announced a new Metro funding proposal yesterday—a tax on businesses and an increase in the commercial parking tax—as a possible alternative or supplement to Mayor Ed Murray's sales tax and vehicle license fee proposal. (The Licata/Sawant plan would, they said, replace the sales tax portion of Murray's plan.)
Along with backing from the Transit Riders Union and Sawant's 15Now, Sawant and Licata said the more mainstream Transportation Choices Coalition, Seattle's main transit advocacy group, had also endorsed the plan. TCC's executive director Rob Johnson, however, was one of the featured speakers at Mayor Ed Murray's Metro funding plan last week.
And Johnson told us TCC had never been asked to endorse the Licata/Sawant plan, and, in fact, had not endorsed it.
"After asking them to take us off the [press] release, they asked us for a quote about their plan," Johnson says. "Here's what we said: Transit is critical to basic mobility in our city, and we are heartened that our elected officials are taking action to preserve service. Transportation Choices is committed to working with the City Council to craft the best proposal possible with the imperfect tools available to us."
3. Josh won a 1st place award at this year's Pacific Northwest Society of Professional Journalists competition for magazine government and politics reporting.