Councilmember M. Lorena González, chair of the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans & Education Committee, issued the following statement following the passage of Council Bill 119368 by an 8-1 Council vote today. The ordinance authorizes the execution of a collective bargaining agreement between the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild.
“Before becoming a Councilmember, I was a civil rights attorney for 10 years. My law practice included many types of cases, but the foundation of my practice was representing people whose civil rights were violated by those in power, including by police officers. I became a councilmember to put my lived experiences, my legal experience and my subject matter expertise in the specific area of constitutional policing, police reform and accountability to work.
“In 2017, I was honored to work with my friends on the Community Police Commission to chart a path forward and vision for the police accountability system in Seattle. Together with community partners and our former colleague, Tim Burgess, we clocked hundreds of hours to craft the Police Accountability Ordinance because we cared deeply about our City’s ongoing and iterative work of constantly reforming the Seattle Police Department.
“Today, is one of those days where I find myself in the unfortunate position of agreeing with some of the observations made by my friends at the CPC while disagreeing as to others and, fundamentally, disagreeing as to (1) the impact of this contract on our ongoing police reform efforts and (2) the appropriate next step to take to continue making progress on police reform.
“I support Council Bill 119368 because I believe it is time for us to take the next step in the process to provide fair wages to our officers, who have been paid 2014 wages, while not letting go of accountability reforms. In every bargaining process, concessions are made on both sides. I understand the disappointment that comes along with not getting everything you want in labor negotiations.
“This contract is not perfect, but it is progress. It continues the reform process that began in 2012, and I believe that the City’s best interests in our ongoing journey of reform is best served by pursuing a legally-viable path through the judicial process. It will be up to the federal court overseeing the consent decree to pass judgment on aspects of the contract and the accountability ordinance that bump into the Consent Decree and the Constitution.
“Key police accountability reforms achieved in this collective bargaining agreement include the following:
- Article 3.3. Indefinite Suspensions. Expands the ability of the Chief of Police to impose an indefinite suspension. In addition to felonies, the Chief can suspend an officer without pay pending investigation for a gross misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, or a sex or bias crime, where the allegation if true could lead to termination.
- Article 3.5D. Due Process Hearing. The Office of Inspector General for Public Safety is allowed to attend.
- Article 3.5. Disciplinary Review Board. Abolishes the Disciplinary Review Board as an avenue for appealing a disciplinary action. Community members consistently expressed concerns about the fairness of DRB to those alleging misconduct.
- Article 3.6B(2). Criminal Investigation. Modifies the existing contract to clarify that the 180-day clock is tolled when a county prosecutor is reviewing a matter, and not just a city, state or federal prosecutors.
- Article 3.6F(5). OPA Interviews. The Office of Inspector General for Public Safety is allowed to attend all Office of Police Accountability interviews.
- Article 3.6G. Statute of Limitations. Extended from three to four years with a relatively broad interpretation of what constitutes concealment of acts of misconduct.
- Article 3.6H. OPA Investigate File Access. The Office of Inspector General for Public Safety is allowed access to all Office of Police Accountability files.
- Article 3.6L. Files Retention. Sustained files will now be retained for the duration of an officer’s employment plus six years. Not sustained files may be retained for three years plus the reminder of the current year.
- Article 3.7. Criminal Investigation. Establishes that the Office of Police Accountability may communicate with those conducting criminal investigations about the status and progress of the investigation but may not direct or influence the conduct of the criminal investigation. The current collective bargaining agreement prohibits any coordination between the Office of Police Accountability and the criminal investigators.
- Article 3.11. Rapid Adjudication. Establishes a new system allowing for the rapid adjudication for matters in which the officer agrees to waive formal investigation and accept discipline. While either the office or Office of Police Accountability may initiate the process, both the Office of Police Accountability and the officer must agree before the process is actually utilized.
- Article 4.2A. Personnel Files. Allows the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety to access personnel files.
- Article 4.2C. Written Reprimands. Deletes the requirement in the collective bargaining agreement that after three years an employee may request that written reprimands be removed from an employee’s personnel file.”