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City Council strengthens police accountability subpoena powers — and, they hope, Seattle’s leverage in contract fight with police union

The City of Seattle has new leverage in its upcoming contract fight with the city’s police union. The City Council voted Monday to strengthen the subpoena powers of the Office of Police Accountability and Office of Inspector General.

The legislation passed Monday will empower the offices to subpoena witnesses and officers involved in incidents of reported police misconduct, clarifying the powers that had been weakened in recent SPD union contracts.

“For our civilian-led police accountability system to work, investigators must have access to key information in pursuing misconduct complaints,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold representing West Seattle and chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee. “The City will negotiate aspects of this legislation in the next police union contract to keep us on the path toward realizing true accountability and transparency.”

At the end of 2018, the Seattle City Council approved a hotly debated new contract for the Seattle Police Officers Guild that critics said didn’t go far enough to cement needed reform. It was a six-year deal. Most of the deal struck that November was about the past — a back-dated contract to cover the city’s officers who had been working without an agreement since 2014. That 2018 agreement ended with 2020. In the meantime, the deal holds until a new contract can be pounded out.

Monday’s legislation is part of a wave of maneuverings underway as Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Hall gird to start what will likely be difficult negotiations in the face of the #defundSPD movement and the start of transitioning more city spending from policing to social and community programs.

The battle will also take place outside City Hall as labor groups distance themselves from SPOG, new groups like the Washington Build Back Black Alliance form, and legislators address police reform measures at the state level to make it easier to get rid of bad cops.

“This legislation is critical to promoting public confidence in our police oversight entities and advancing police accountability, and it sets the City on better footing to pursue stronger accountability measures in our collective bargaining agenda for the next round of negotiations with SPOG. Ultimately, Olympia must pass critical reforms this session regarding police discipline and other key accountability components,” Durkan said in a statement Monday. “This is real progress, and it represents strong collaboration between my office, the City Council, civil rights groups, and the accountability partners.”

The mayor also thanked Herbold who has been the target of blistering political attacks by SPOG president Mike Solan as he attempts to also establish his position on the national media scene as an outspoken critic of efforts to reduce police budgets.

Meanwhile, it seems unlikely Mayor Durkan, a former federal prosecutor, will be able to lead the city to a peaceful resolution on the SPOG contract issues. Durkan announced in early December that she will not seek reelection as her term runs out later this year.


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SPOG is an impediment to Justice
SPOG is an impediment to Justice
2 months ago

hotly debated new contract” – really? I seem to recall some community groups and Sawant questioning it, but their concerns were completely dismissed and ignored by Durkan and the rest of the council. Durkan has shown she can not be trusted with matters concerning SPD, let’s hope the rest of the council can be a bit less gullible this time around, lives depend on it.