Friday, March 30, 2012

Major Reforms Ahead for Seattle Police?

On March 29th, 2012, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Police Chief John Diaz announced sweeping reforms in response to a highly critical federal Department of Justice report following a series of high-profile incidents involving people of color:

As a result, 20 major reforms were proposed by the city and SPD brass:

McGinn, Diaz and Mike Sanford, the department's assistant chief of operations, state the proposed reforms fall under 5 main categories: protecting constitutional rights; training for Seattle's values; earning public trust; using data-driven practices; and partnering with the public.

SPD has been in the hot seat many times since the creation of the city. Some old scandals make some of the more recent ones seem pale in comparison. SPD survived those and was able to shake things up and improve its image. Very few people will deny that Police-Community Relations have been deteriorating in recent months, including the shooting death of a Native American wood carver named John T. Williams, and an incident involving a former gang unit officer and Latino youth:

So, what do you think of these new reforms? Will line staff buy into it? Does SPD racially profile people? Is there a culture of police brutality and excessive force at SPD or were these incidents just the case of a few bad apples spoiling the whole bunch? Are these proposed reforms just a ploy to try and head off DOJ monitoring of the department? Was this all racially and politically motivated? Will anything change at SPD?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Problems with the Yakima Gang Free Initiative (GFI)?

The City of Yakima decided to re-bid the position of Project Coordinator for their Gang Free Initiative (GFI) on March 26, 2012. The GFI was created after the gallant efforts of former city council member Sonia Rodriguez-True and a few others to address the city’s gang problems. Many of the problems had grown out of control after decades of denial and lack of will by the city council to do much about it. The GFI is based on five principles of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP) Comprehensive Gang Model. This model and other “Best Practices” are used by communities across the U.S. to address gang crime and youth violence.

The GFI is an opportunity for the city to be pro-active in areas of prevention and intervention. The selection of a Coordinator is supposed to be to provide services as specified in the scope of work for the GFI Project; however, the selection process seems to be highly political, and some council members are still not sure it is money well spent. The job application and bid does not even state candidates may be interviewed or that a personal presentation on combating gangs and coordinating services may be seen, it only states TBD (To Be Determined). It appears the GFI Selection Committee, made up of (3) council members, can make up their own rules:

GFI Reservation: The City reserves the right to award the contract to the applicant that it deems to offer the best overall qualifications/proposal in its sole discretion. The City reserves the right to revise the RFQ schedule, to revise the RFQ and/or to issue amendments to the RFQ. The City also reserves the right to cancel or to reissue the RFQ in whole or in part prior to the execution of a contract. The City also reserves the right to refrain from contracting with any and all applicants. The release of the RFQ does not compel the City to enter into any contract pursuant to the RFQ.

Clearly, the city should ensure its needs are met in dealing with this under addressed problem, but is a long history of alienating the Latino community by the political establishment continuing? Do you think the GFI is a good idea? What do you think can be done about gangs in the Yakima area that is not being done now?

Accurate assessments of problems are critical for effective solutions and to ask for state and federal anti-gang funding down the road. Yakima allegedly paid $75K for the GFI study, was it money well spent? Any comments or concerns about how this process was handled?

See the Yakima Gang Assessment/Community Profile at:

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Book: “BEST-Barrio Eighteenth Street, Mara Salvatrucha & Other Sureño Gangs Across America”

Andrew Eways and Gabriel Morales have a new book out on Sureño gangs.  It describes the problems of Sureño gang migration from Southern California, all across America, and even beyond U.S. borders.  The book goes into detail about the origins and expansion of 18th Street and Mara Salvatrucha to American communities large and small as well as to Central America. Also covered is Florencia 13, the Avenues, White Fence, Logan Heights, and many other Sureño gangs, as well as rival Norteños.  It explains how to read Gang Graffiti, how to help eradicate it, shows how to decipher drawings as well as gang tattoos, and other warning signs of gang activity.  It includes “The Fight Against Gangs”, what strategies seem to work and which don’t.  It is meant for Gang Cops, Patrol, Corrections, Youth Workers, and the General Public.

What do you think?  Would you buy it?  Why do you think these kinds of gangs exist?