Seattle city council to consider public drug use proposal

The proposal specifies diversion as the preferred response to public drug use and outlines a “threat of harm” standard that officers can consider when making arrests .

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council could vote Tuesday on an ordinance making the use or possession of controlled substances a misdemeanor in the city.

The Washington state legislature passed a bill making public drug use a misdemeanor earlier this year. However, because the City of Seattle does not have a public drug use law on the books, the Seattle City Attorney cannot try public drug use cases.

The City Council tried to pass a public drug use law in June but failed by just one vote. Councilmembers who opposed the ordinance expressed concerns about the diversion options available to people with substance abuse disorders.

The most recent proposal emphasizes that the city’s preferred approach to addressing public drug use is diversion — whether that is offering diversion options instead of arrests, offer diversion options after arrest or offer diversion options in lieu of filing charges.

“Unlike the previous version of the bill where we said diversion was the preferred approach in the city of Seattle, this includes diversion before arrest,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold. they do not meet the bill’s definition of harm to another person.”

The city’s proposed ordinance states that a key part of the city’s plan includes referring people to treatment through Let everyone advance with dignity (LEAD) program. LEAD is a bespoke diversion model that subcontracts with multiple service providers for case management and outreach, programmatically. website. The ordinance states that the program may “fully assist with diversion” for those who are “eligible and appropriate for such intervention” as long as the LEAD program is adequately resourced and the city is Referrals from police at the time of arrest are preferred for booking diversion.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced a $27 million investment to fight the opioid crisis in late July. Seven million dollars will be earmarked for capital investments with $20 million earmarked for a long-term, multi-faceted strategy. year and plan to enhance overdose response and treatment services. At last week’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting, where the proposal passed with a 4-1 vote before the full council, Councilmember Teresa Muslimda expressed concern that Without a specific plan outlined for the funding promised to accompany the bill, there is no guarantee that the city can secure the redirected resources on which much of the ordinance relies. The Mosque was the only “no” vote on the proposal.

“Right now, we are making policy decisions without knowing what the infrastructure for alternative pre-arrest diversion will look like,” Mr. Muslimda said. “That doesn’t seem very wise when we already know the result will be more people being arrested. More black and brown people and more unsheltered people. What people are consuming [drugs] The external need is access to services.”

Instructions in the ordinance state that arrests may only be made when there is a “threat to the peace and welfare of the community or a threat of harm to others.” According to the text, there is nothing in the ordinance that “requires an arrest to be made.”

SPD’s policy – ​​to be finalized once the ordinance is passed – will “identify factors to guide officers when assessing the threat of harm posed by an individual.” The assessment is intended only to guide police decision-making and cannot be used as a factor in a criminal defense.

The ordinance also states that lack of available diversion options is not a reason for arrest.

If the ordinance passes, it would take effect 30 days after Harrell signs it.

Edmuns DeMars

Edmund DeMarche is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Edmund DeMarche joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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