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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 10 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 41
Bias crimes on the rise; SeaStat up and running
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Bias crimes on the rise; SeaStat up and running

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On Monday I joined Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole, Assistant Chief Nick Metz, and Lt. Michael Kebba at City Hall for the Quarterly SPD Progress Report; Bias Crimes in Seattle Report. The 9:30 a.m. report by Chief O'Toole was her first quarterly report since taking over the department over the summer.

Chief 'Toole asked me to join the department to report to the Council because of the ongoing work of Social Outreach Seattle in reference to the rise in crime in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

SPD provides quarterly progress reports to Council. The bias crimes briefing came in response to the Council's request to receive updates about bias crime incidents in the city and how SPD responds to those crimes.

According to the latest data, detectives received 60 hate crime reports in the first half of 2014. Of those, 20 rose to the level of malicious harassment. Another 30 crimes had elements of bias. Detectives said the most likely victims come from the LGBT community.

'The anti-Gay and Lesbian category represents the most frequent bias crime in our city,' said Lt. Michael Kebba, adding that it accounts for 35 percent of all incidents.

Our community has been targeted since the first day of 2014 when Musab Masmari, a man who told an FBI informant he wanted to 'exterminate homosexuals,' attempted to burn down Neighbours Nightclub in a New Year's Eve arson. Then, in June, our community suffered a double homicide in Leschi.

The summer was bad; nothing but ongoing assaults and robberies in the East Precinct. Three weeks ago officers began increasing patrols on Capitol Hill.

The report was heard by all of the Councilmembers; however, Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council's Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, hosted the Monday morning Council Briefings meeting. Seattle police said one challenge to solving hate crimes is that victims have been too intoxicated to offer information to track a suspect and lead to an arrest.

Social Outreach Seattle has done awareness campaigns on Capitol Hill to encourage people to walk in groups. Still, nearly every night this summer, someone was attacked - walking alone after the sun goes down on the Hill. It is simply not safe to walk alone on Capitol Hill at night.

In a recent incident over the weekend at R Place, police said a man who tried to enter the club, but was refused service, called for all Gay people to be killed.

'He made some threats, made some gestures that he had a gun, stated that he was going to shoot people from the Gay community,' Assistant Chief Nick Metz told City Councilmembers during the briefing on bias crime investigations.

According to Chief O'Toole, burglaries are down citywide and robberies in the South Precinct, too; and she mentioned that enforcement is not all about data but 'perception as well.'

She said that perception can be wrong and cited downtown as an example falling outside normal crime rates, yet people say they think crime is on the rise.

O'Toole also said the department has been aggressively training officers this year in ways to de-escalate confrontations with citizens, a reference to reforms required under a 2012 consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to curtail excessive force and biased policing.

'Setting the bar high in terms of misconduct and restorative discipline' is an element of one of the most robust police-accountability systems in the country.

In addition, the department is developing a computer-driven business-intelligence system to analyze the performance of officers and SPD expects to seek bids by January 1.

O'Toole has been out morning, noon and night meeting people in the community to gauge what they want from the department.

Between June 23, when O'Toole was sworn in as chief, and September 25, she has appeared at more than 50 community meetings and events, according to materials provided to the council.

As for the bias crime issue, Metz told the council the department wants officers to err 'on the side of caution' by including bias as a potential element in documenting crimes.

'These kinds of incidents should never be treated as minor,' said Lt. Michael Kebba.

O'Toole is leading by example when it comes to overall policing philosophy.

'I don't even refer to it as a police force. It's a police service,' she said.

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