It’s crunchtime in Olympia for police accountability. Dueling Democratic bills have distinct differences.
Sen. Jesse Salomon’s Senate Bill 5134 would cut negotiations around discipline and oversight out of police-contract negotiations, disallow arbitration for misconduct appeals and specify misconduct mandating officer discharges.
Sen. Joe Nguyen’s SB 5055 creates a watered down arbitrator selection process and does not go far enough to address the issues or curb the abuses, so it’s the union’s unstated preference if it can’t kill all bill attempts.
Police-union contracts currently can negotiate any disciplinary action by arbitration to contest discipline. Hence, cops are rarely fired for misconduct, let alone held appropriately accountable. Nationwide, 52% of cops see their disciplines reduced or overturned. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (not running for reelection) has battled for police accountability and favors SB 5134. It’s also more transparent by specifying conduct warranting officer terminations.
Legislation is like making sausage, horse trading and even alchemy. Notwithstanding my staunch union grandfathers and having worked within a police department and as a junior prosecutor, “me thinks” that SB 5055 is like having one too many spoonfuls of sugar to make the medicine go down. Time to properly address the issue.
Enact SB 5134.
Michael B. Goldenkranz, Seattle
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