The latest complaint claims the city’s new “accountability legislation” can’t be implemented without collective bargaining.
The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) has accused the city of “acting in bad faith” when the council passed sweeping accountability legislation this past spring that changes who and how the city investigates allegations of police misconduct — issues the union says should be negotiated.
It is the second complaint filed by SPOG with the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) in Olympia involving officer accountability. Seattle is urging a federal judge to find it in compliance with court-ordered police reforms contained in a 2012 consent decree between the city and the Department of Justice stemming from allegations of excessive use of force and biased policing.
SPOG’s first complaint, filed last summer, challenged an executive order issued by former Mayor Ed Murray directing the police department to begin equipping patrol officers with body cameras. It remains pending before the three-member commission, an independent state agency charged with resolving disputes involving the state’s approximately 350,000 public employees.
The most recent complaint, filed this past week, focuses on changes made to the officer-disciplinary procedures at the core of groundbreaking accountability legislation passed by the Seattle City Council in May.
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Based on the complaint, the guild seems particularly chafed at the establishment of a powerful civilian inspector general who, beyond overseeing disciplinary matters, would also review internal workings throughout the department. In a six-page complaint, the guild outlines more than 40 changes to the current internal investigation and disciplinary mechanisms it believes should be the subject of collective bargaining.
SPOG President Kevin Stuckey said that the guild is “on board” with most of the reforms, but that the city is trying to make an end-run around the collective-bargaining process. The department’s rank-and-file officers have been working without a formal contract since 2014.
“We’ve said all along, ‘Let’s sit down like grown-ups,’” Stuckey said Tuesday. “We don’t want to be a stumbling block to reforms. But you have to play by the rules.”
Ian Warner, counsel for Mayor Jenny Durkan, said the office was reviewing the complaint and declined to comment further. A message seeking comment from Councilwoman M. Lorena González, who was a key sponsor of the accountability legislation, was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Another area of concern for SPOG in the legislation outlined in the six-page PERC complaint is the use of civilian investigators replacing sworn officers in a newly formed Office of Police Accountability, which would be under civilian control.
The city — and, in particular, the federal judge overseeing implementation of the consent degree — has said police reforms will not be “held hostage” by the guild as it tries to win wages and concessions for its officers in exchange for supporting the reforms.
Stuckey said those concerns are ironic in light of the recent tentative contract with the Seattle Police Management Assocation (SPMA), which represents 74 SPD captains and lieutenants. They have agreed to support the accountability legislation in exchange for raises — retroactive to January 2014 — amounting to as much as $17,000 a year and a new contract next year.
In exchange, the SPMA agreed to drop its own unfair-labor practicers complaint against the city.
The city has maintained that some of the changes do not need SPOG’s approval, and has said it would sit down to negotiate those areas covered by the contract.
“Right now, we just disagree with what is mandatory for bargaining,” Stuckey said.