The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) expired on December 31, 2013. Soon the parties will be negotiating a new contract.
On Monday, July 21, the Council passed Resolution 31535 agreeing to use the next round of SPOG negotiations to strengthen police accountability. In particular, the resolution states the City of Seattle will consider in good faith whether and how to carry forward these interests through various means including, but not limited to, passing new laws, negotiation of applicable collective bargaining agreement terms with SPOG and the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA), and facilitating community police dialogue.
As background, it’s important to understand that in 1999 the City Council passed legislation establishing an Office of Police Accountability (OPA) and Office of Police Accountability Board (OPARB) and then later, through negotiations with SPOG the City enacted the ordinance. Changes to the police accountability structure that impact office working conditions are legally required to be bargained with the SPOG.
By Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 4.04.120 (E) the City must observe the confidentiality of the collective bargaining process. Since 2006, SMC 4.04.120(F) also requires the City Council and the OPARB to jointly host a public hearing on the the City’s police accountability system at least ninety (90) days before the City begins collective bargaining agreement negotiations with the SPOG. This is a result of legislation I led the Council to pass in order to introduce some level of transparency and accountability to the otherwise confidential bargaining process.
On April 22, 2014 the City Council and OPARB jointly held the legally required public hearing. OPARB testified at that meeting that meaningful citizen oversight must have sufficient funding and staffing and be authorized to act and they spoke to recommendations including: the need to retain the gains achieved through previous bargaining, the need to strive for maximum access to disciplinary records and data, the right to comment on cases, a new right of police and complainants to review cases, and the need to begin tracking recommendations of future civilian oversight entities in a way that holds the parties to those recommendations accountable for their timely implementation.
The day after the public hearing, on April 23, the Community Police Commission (CPC) approved 55 policies and practices recommendations for the City’s police accountability system and on April 30, the CPC Accountability Structure Recommendations were approved which the CPC believes, if taken together will correct past practices that have undermined trust and confidence in the system and significantly strengthen the checks and balances built into the police accountability system by aligning with key values the CPC has identified as necessary for an effective accountability system: independence, accessibility, legitimacy, transparency, consistency, efficiency, and continuous improvement.
At that public hearing, 22 people testified for how SPD’s and OPA’s practices can be strengthened to achieve the intended goal of increased police accountability. These interests included:
- Support for police body-cameras
- Support for police peer accountability measures
- Support for police training
- Support for a memorial for fallen police officers
- Support for revised standards for OPA cases eligible for mediation
- Support for reduction and streamlining of some police paperwork and policies
- Support for compliance with the Department of Justice decree and Police Monitor recommendations
- Opposition to racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system
- Support for transformation and restorative justice practices
- Support for steroid testing of police officers
- Support for new citizen review powers
- Support for new rights for complainants
- Support for making the role of the discipline appellate process consistent with the values of transparency and accountability
- Opposition to the use of training as a disciplinary outcome
- Support for City Attorney consultation in the appellate process
- Opposition to retroactive pay raises in the case of contract negotiations that extend beyond a contract term.