Council Roundup: Bellevue Police continue work enacting reforms

Plus, regional affordable housing budget reviewed and big donation for regional trail improvements announced

On Monday, the City Council received a quarterly progress report on the ways in which the Bellevue Police Department is responding to recommendations for reforms brought to the city through an independent review. The review was the result of a pledge taken by the mayor and council following the murder of George Floyd to assess police policies and practices and engage the community to understand where improvements could be made, particularly related to use of force.

Of the 47 reforms recommended, the department has formally incorporated 20 into the Bellevue Police policy manual since April. Another nine recommendations are in the final review stage and close to being implemented. Continued progress on the reforms will be presented at the next quarterly progress report to council.

Examples of the adopted reforms include a duty for officers to intervene and report if another officer uses excessive force, giving a warning before using deadly force if feasible, the removal of neck restraints and the incorporation of specific requirements for the use of physical force to be proportional to the threat being faced. 

In addition, the department is in the process of evaluating body-worn cameras and hopes to implement a system by the first quarter of 2022. Bellevue Police also plan to hold community feedback and engagement sessions during the process. The department also plans to continue engaging with community groups, especially those representing communities of color, and providing more transparency tools for the public such as real-time data dashboards and community meetings.

The full report is available on Bellevue Television. More information on the review, including the final report, can be found on the city’s Council Pledge web page.  

Regional affordable housing budget reviewed

Later, councilmembers reviewed the annual budget and work program for A Regional Coalition for Housing, or ARCH. ARCH is a key affordable housing partner for numerous cities as they collectively tackle availability and accessibility of affordable housing in the area. The organization handles investment of affordable housing resources, planning at local and regional levels, monitoring the housing created by housing programs, and administering programs, outreach and education.

The ARCH proposed 2022 budget is a 29% increase over the 2021 budget, mostly due to adding two additional staff positions in 2022 to address increased need to support housing transactions, monitoring and administration of incentive programs. The ARCH Executive Board also recommended adding another position dedicated to supporting housing programs and special projects, but not until the 2023 budget. Of a total 2022 ARCH operating budget of nearly $1.5 million, Bellevue’s share is $344,457.

To illustrate the growth of ARCH’s scope and services, in 2000 just two cities had affordable housing incentive programs and ARCH managed 40 contracts in their Housing Trust Fund. In 2021, ten cities now have incentive programs, seven cities are implementing local housing strategies and the trust fund has more than 100 contracts. 

In Bellevue specifically, the ARCH work program highlighted activities they would be involved in to include expansion of incentive programs, investing affordable housing sales tax revenue in the community, supporting the city’s Affordable Housing Strategy and supporting special projects such as Transit-Oriented Development projects.

The council unanimously approved drafting legislation for adoption of the proposed ARCH 2022 budget and work plan at a future meeting. Further budget and presentation details are in the meeting materials.

Big donation for regional trail improvements announced

In other business, City Manager Brad Miyake shared news of a $7.5 million contribution from Amazon to continue completing sections of the Eastrail, a multiuse path on a former railroad corridor that, when completed, will run 42 miles from Renton to Snohomish, including seven miles in Bellevue.

The donation is another example of public-private partnerships that are improving key amenities for residents, workers and visitors to Bellevue. Earlier this year, Facebook and REI also dedicated funds to support regional trails in Bellevue. The latest grant will specifically be used on sections of the Eastrail through Bellevue, including rehabilitation of the 100-year-old, 1,000-foot-long, historic Wilburton trestle and a stretch of paved trail near I-90. More details on the grant announcement are available through King County, which owns much of the land the trail traverses, and history of the Eastrail project in Bellevue is available on a dedicated city web page.

Source: City News