Internal memo reveals that the staffing crisis in Seattle Police Department keeping adult sexual assault cases from being investigated

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SEATTLE, WA- In the aftermath of the “defund the police” movement, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) is still facing a major staffing crisis, which is allowing criminals to walk free and victims to not get justice.

According to a report from Fox News, the continued staffing crisis at SPD has now forced the department to no longer take on new adult sexual assault cases.

The revealed memo, that is four pages in length and was first reported by the Seattle Times on Tuesday, May 31st, was sent internally by the sergeant in charge of the Sexual Assault/Child Abuse Unit to interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz.

In the memo, titled “Staffing Issues,” Sgt. Pamela St. John said that she is currently not able to assign new adult sexual assault cases “because of other statutory requirements.”

Three years ago, before 2020 and the “defund the police movement,” the unit had 12 detectives, but at the time this new memo was written, there are only four detectives in the unit. St. John wrote:

“That burden is even more impactful in our unit given the content and nature of the investigations which directly leads to secondary issues such as burnout and compassion fatigue.”

In the memo, St. John explained how the unit has seen an increase in cases involving children and teenagers.

Just in March of this year, the unit received 107 referrals from Child Protective Services, which is “on par with where the referrals were before the pandemic” as children return to school and become more publicly visible. The sergeant wrote:

“The community expects our agency to respond to reports of sexual violence and at current staffing levels that objective is unattainable. The necessity for on-call detective response to Sexual Assault cases cannot be understated, but with current staffing levels the burden that falls upon our detectives is too high. A skilled detective is required to proactively investigate a sexual assault case.”

https://fundourpolice.com/

The sergeant told the chief that she understands the staffing crisis is department wide and even though the sexual assault and child abuse unit has always been staffed at between 10 and 12 detectives, she would settle for at least eight.

She said with eight detectives investigating sexual assault and child abuse cases, it would allow her to assign adult sexual assault cases and assign the backlog of cases coming from the crime lab with DNA hits in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

St. John wrote:

“This year alone, I have 30 adult sexual assault cases that should be assigned to a detective if I had proper staffing. The detectives will still need to be working overtime, but the cases can then be assigned.”

In her memo, the sergeant also acknowledged that she was aware of the 116 CODIS hit returns that are outside the Cold Case backlog, but again stated, “I am not able to assign currently.”

Additionally, there are only three detectives assigned to the sex offender and kidnapping detail. One detective is HR unavailable and the sergeant does not expect that individual to return.

The sex offender and kidnapping detail is responsible for monitoring more than 1,200 registered sex offenders in Seattle and filing cases with the King County prosecutor when one is found to be out of compliance.

The detail also completes risk assessments for new offenders and ones requesting to have their level changed. These are all things that help keep communities safe, but with the continued staffing crisis, those in the community are at greater risk of becoming a victim.

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Seattle’s ‘law-and-order’ City Attorney Davison drops 2,000 cases to ease predecessor’s backlog

May 5th, 2022

SEATTLE, WA – A dog-sitting business in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood has been broken into an astonishing four times since it opened at the end of January. That’s about once a month.

Josh Center, the owner of Club Dogfish, said he no longer expects the police to help him and instead has made an arrangement with the drug dealers that populate his street: He won’t call the cops on them as long as they alert him to break-ins and vandalism at his business.

He explained:

“I feel like we’re returning to the era of protection money. Because in exchange for me turning my eye when I have drug dealers at my door or down the block, they keep people from hanging out at my building.”

The symbiotic relationship might work for Center but it’s not exactly what Seattle’s new city attorney had in mind when she assumed office on Jan. 1, 2022. Ann Davison, who had switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican in 2020, inherited a backlog of 5,000 cases that speak of the declining quality of life in Seattle.

The city’s top prosecutor admitted recently that she will have to drop nearly 2,000 cases, many like Center’s, that have languished over the past two years. Davison said many of the backlogged cases are too old to pursue and do not involve a crime against a person per se.

Her 2021 campaign focused on what many Seattle residents wanted to hear: That she would be tough on crime. So the announcement that 2,000 cases will simply vanish from the system is hard for some to take.

The lack of accountability, particularly for the “Summer of Love” rioters who laid waste to large areas of the city, is galling for those who voted for a law-and-order city attorney. But Davison sees it as the only way forward. She said:

“It is with a heavy heart that I made this decision.” 

She hired former U.S. Attorney and Trump appointee Brian Moran to triage the case backlog, and together, they decided to drop 1,921 cases that have been backlogged for an average of 334 days, she said.

The cases that won’t be prosecuted include property destruction, theft, criminal trespass,  non-DUI traffic offenses and cases that are past the statute of limitations.

Backlogged cases that will go forward all involve crimes against people, including domestic violence, assault with sexual motivation and other assault and harassment-related crimes, as well as crimes involving firearms, driving under the influence and individuals who meet the “High-Utilizer Initiative” criteria, the frequent fliers in the justice system.

Davison recently told her plan to the City Council’s public safety committee. She told the panel:

“A backup of this size is shameful.” 

Davison, who is five months into her four-year term, said:

“The longer a case sits unattended, the harder it is to prosecute. . . I acknowledge that we are leaving some things unaddressed . . . when there is not timely justice for the victims.”

Davison said she’s hired nine criminal attorneys and needed to drop the cases in order to meet a “close-in-time” filing decision within five days of receiving a case from the Seattle Police Department.

“We want to restore real-time accountability within our misdemeanor criminal justice system here, and I think the way to do that is to keep our resources focused on present referrals.”

 

Davison said her office is also developing an information dashboard like the one used by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, who handles major felonies and has a larger staff of attorneys. His online dashboard allows the public to see the number of open case filings being handled by his staff.

Davison said the dashboard is being created by the City Attorney’s first-ever data and transparency team. She noted:

“The dashboard at the county prosecutor’s office is informative and that is our goal, to provide information like that to the public.”

Davison insisted that crimes such as the break-in at Club Dogfish — crimes that are happening now — will be pursued.

When someone smashed a window at Club Dogfish on April 24, a dealer did indeed notify him. The police were also called for the break-in and surveillance video shows them arriving 17 minutes later.

Center was disheartened. He said:

“This was the first time in the four break-ins (that) I actually spoke to a police officer.”

Center said that the police officers he spoke could not do much to help him. He said:

“They told me to install all-new cameras. My cameras were stolen on the first break-in. So I didn’t have cameras this time.”

No one has been arrested yet for any of the criminal activity that has occurred at his business but the renewed commitment to prosecuting low-level crimes means Center may not have to work with the dealers for long.

https://fundourpolice.com/

 

Report: Federal prosecutors quietly dismiss nearly one-third of violent protests cases from summer 2020

March 4, 2021

PORTLAND, OR- According to federal court documents that were reviewed by KGW8 News, federal prosecutors have dismissed more than one-third of cases stemming from the violent protests that occurred on a nightly basis in downtown Portland over summer 2020.

In their review, the news outlet found that 31 of the 90 protest cases have been dismissed by the U.S. Department of Justice, including a mix of misdemeanor and felony charges. Some of the most serious charges dropped include four defendants charged with assaulting a federal officer, which is a felony.

Reportedly, more than half of the dropped charges were “dismissed with prejudice,” which means that the case cannot be brought back to court. Several former federal prosecutors described this as extremely rare.

These dismissals of protest cases run counter to the tough talk that came from the U.S. Department of Justice over summer 2020.

Billy Williams, then-U.S. Attorney for Oregon, vowed that there would be consequences for the nightly graffiti, fires, and vandalism outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse. In a September 25, 2020 press release, Williams said:

“Make no mistake: those who commit violence in the name of protest will be investigated, arrested, prosecuted, and face prison time.”

In a more recent interview with KGW, Williams explained that the cases were dismissed in instances where prosecutors did not believe they could prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. He said:

“Each case was analyzed for the evidence that we had at the time. Careful decisions were made on whether or not someone should be charged based on the evidence.”

Williams, who stepped down on February 28th as U.S. attorneys are traditionally asked to resign at the start of a new administration, added:

“Everything is case-specific when you go about these cases being processed through the system.”

Federal prosecutors rarely handle protests cases, but when Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt passed on most protest cases saying he was reserving resources for the most serious crimes, the federal government stepped in.

Then-Attorney General William Barr reportedly instructed federal prosecutors to aggressively pursue protesters deemed violent or destructive. Williams said:

“I’ve never made a decision in my career based upon political pressure or institutional pressure.”

Most of the defendants whose protests cases are still pending have seen their trials delayed, mostly because of the continued pandemic. Those defendants face a mix of felony and misdemeanor charges.

Reportedly, three defendants cut plea deals resulting in probation and home detention. Two of the plea agreements required a relatively short prison sentence of 3o days and several people closely involved with the protest cases said that they expect many more federal charges to be dismissed soon.

At least 11 of the dismissed federal protest cases were dropped on or after the inauguration of President Joe Biden. With a new president and a new U.S. Attorney in Oregon, it is unclear how the rest of these cases will be handled moving forward.

Laura Appleman, a law professor at Willamette University who is not directly involved in these cases, believes that federal prosecutors are not making their decisions based on politics. Rather, she think they are considering resources on an already busy caseload. She said:

“The U.S. Attorney’s office has to go through and very carefully ask, ‘Is it worth using our limited time and energy to prosecute each and every of these federal misdemeanors?'”

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