UPDATE 4:45 PM: In an 8-1 vote, the Seattle City Council approved ratification Tuesday afternoon.
Committee chair Lorena González said that there is still much to be done to continue reforms at SPD but that she was “proud” to approve the collective bargaining agreement.
She also dismissed criticism that the contract would “roll back” reforms, listing a dozen elements from the new deal that she say represent progress in social justice issues at the department.
Paramount in the deal will be a strong Office of Inspector General and wiping out of the controversial Disciplinary Review Board. González said the inspector’s office will be able to be present at Office of Professional Accountability proceedings and will have access to all OPA files.
“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 (Community Police Commission) 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,” González said in a statement issued following the vote. You can read the full statement and the list of 12 accountability reforms from the contract here.
U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is overseeing the Department of Justice consent decree process, will also review the contract to ensure compliance.
The vote followed a more than two hour session of public comment and statements from several council members. Community members including Nikkita Oliver and the Rev. Harriet Waldman spoke to say they supported higher wages for police but could not support the contract. “Voting for this contract will dismantle the work we have been doing for years,” Oliver said. The city has “failed in these negotiations,” Walden said.
A large contingent of community members representing the International District was also on hand to show support for SPD and the new contract.
Original report: The Seattle City Council will vote Tuesday afternoon on a long-awaited, hugely debated six-year deal with the Seattle Police union that would bring much needed wage increases but would also roll back progress on much needed reforms, critics say.
District 3’s Kshama Sawant representing Capitol Hill, the Central District, and surrounding neighborhoods said Tuesday she will continue to oppose the deal. Seven of the nine council members must approve the contract for ratification.
“As a rank-and-file union member myself, I support the wage improvements that are contained in the tentative collective bargaining agreement between the City and [the Seattle Police Officers Guild],” Sawant said in a statement on the pending vote. “I think it is unfortunate that other public service workers, such as educators and EMTs, have not gotten such significant wage increases in this increasingly unaffordable city.”
“However, along with a growing number of community members, I am deeply troubled by the rollback of police accountability in this contract,” she writes. “In May 2017, the City Council unanimously adopted urgently needed police accountability legislation. While this ordinance was an important step forward, it did not go nearly far enough. And now, instead of the legislation being fully incorporated into the collective bargaining agreement as promised, key accountability measures are proposed to be significantly weakened.”
The Seattle King County NAACP also opposes the deal.
Seattle’s Community Police Commission has called for a compromise position that would see the council approving the contract “giving the officers the fair pay they deserve” while moving to “immediately reopen negotiations on the limited matters in the proposed contract that touch on the accountability system.”
The commission and critics of the proposed deal say the contract agreement gives up many of the reforms won in thepassed by the city council last year.
The contract has been a major focus for Mayor Jenny Durkan. “One of my priorities was negotiating a fair contract for Seattle police officers, who have been working without a contract since 2014,” Durkan said last month. “Even as homes, groceries and gas has become more expensive in our city, our officers continued to keep our residents, neighborhoods and businesses safe.”
“At the same time, they have served as a model nationwide by bringing SPD into full and effective compliance with the federal consent decree,” Durkan said.
In a letter to Council President Bruce Harrell and committee chair Lorena González, SPD Chief Carmen Best asked for support in approving the long-awaited deal.
“As Chief of the Seattle Police Department, with or without a new labor agreement, I guarantee we will continue to exceed the requirements of the Consent Decree,” she writes. “What I cannot guarantee is what this department will look like without a new agreement. In the face of historically low unemployment, skyrocketing costs of living, competition from local jurisdictions, and the perception by many officers that their work is neither acknowledged or respected, our already-constrained ability to hire the best and the brightest will only become more difficult.”
If ratified, the contract will be effective through the end of 2020 as it is back-dated to cover the four years officers have been without a contract.
The vote is scheduled to take place during Tuesday’s meeting of the full Seattle City Council beginning with public comment at 2 PM.
The complete contract document is embedded below.
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