Superior Court Judge Julie Spector said during a hearing that the city had raised sufficient issues to proceed with the appeal, but that she wasn't ruling on the merits of the case.
Over objections of the Seattle police guild, a King County judge Thursday agreed to hear the city of Seattle’s appeal of an arbitrator’s decision to reinstate a police officer who punched an intoxicated, handcuffed woman in the face.
Superior Court Judge Julie Spector said during a hearing that the city had raised sufficient issues to proceed with the appeal, but that she wasn’t ruling on the merits of the case.
In requesting court review, the city and the Seattle Police Department argued, among other things, the decision to reinstate Officer Adley Shepherd violates public policy against excessive use of force in policing.
Attorneys for the Seattle Police Officers Guild argued in court papers that public policy in Washington “strongly favors the finality of arbitration awards,” and that judicial review is “extremely limited.”
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They contended the city had failed to identify an “explicit, well defined, and dominant public policy” that the arbitration result violates.
During the hearing, the guild’s case was argued by attorney Alyssa Melter, while the city’s case was presented by Assistant City Attorney Sarah Tilstra.
Shepherd was fired in 2016 for the incident in 2014.
Miyekko Durden-Bosley, then 23, had been arrested for investigation of domestic violence. As she was being placed into the back of the patrol car, she swore at Shepherd and kicked him. He responded by punching her.
The incident, captured on in-car video, was investigated by the Police Department’s Office of Police Accountability, which found Shepherd violated department use-of-force policy. Former Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole — who, according to a city court filing, was “disturbed by Officer Shepherd’s unwillingness to acknowledge that he did anything wrong when punching Ms. Durden-Bosley” — determined he should be fired.
Durden-Bosley separately settled a civil lawsuit against the city for $195,000.
The guild, the union representing more than 1,300 officers and sergeants, appealed Shepherd’s firing. In November, arbitrator Jane Wilkinson ruled Shepherd violated use-of-force policy but should be reinstated with back pay and receive a 15-day suspension without pay.
The city is asking the court to vacate the arbitrator’s decision, naming as defendants the guild, the arbitrator and Shepherd.
After the hearing, Shepherd said, “The judge is doing her job, you know? And I respect her decision.”
He added, “I am just waiting for you guys to really dig into this,” referring to journalists.
Shepherd said an internal investigation of a complaint he filed about the incident has been covered up.
“I want justice,” he said. “I want the whole truth, I want all the facts out there.”
The city has declined to reinstate Shepherd or pay him, pending the appeal.
In a separate action, the federal judge overseeing Seattle’s compliance with a 2012 consent decree, sought by the Department of Justice to address findings of excessive force by officers, has questioned Shepherd’s reinstatement.
U.S. District Judge James Robart asked the city and Justice Department to show cause why Shepherd’s reinstatement shouldn’t push the city out of compliance with the consent decree.
Robart had found the city in full compliance with the consent decree in January. However, the agreement requires compliance be sustained for two years before the decree can be dissolved.
Robart has asked for information on Shepherd’s case, the Police Department’s disciplinary system and the impact of the city’s new contract with the police guild, approved in November, on police accountability legislation adopted by the city.
Seattle Times Staff Reporter Lewis Kamb contributed to this story.