Only 156 police officers voted in favor of the contract offer, while 823 were opposed, a source said.
A defiant Seattle police guild has overwhelmingly rejected a four-year contract with the city, dealing a major setback to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in his efforts to obtain police-accountability measures.
The vote was 823 to 156 to reject the tentative contract, according to one source familiar with the matter.
One source said the city’s offer asked union members for too many giveaways, while not offering enough in return. Terms of the contract offer have not been disclosed, although an internal summary outlining wage hikes and accountability measures was earlier leaked to The Stranger newspaper.
Members of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) were notified of the vote Thursday afternoon.
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It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen next, including when talks might resume or if binding arbitration might be sought at some point.
Guild President Kevin Stuckey couldn’t be reached for comment. He took charge of the union last week from Ron Smith, who helped negotiate the tentative contract but resigned and was immediately ousted in the wake of his controversial Facebook post regarding the fatal shootings of five Dallas police officers on July 7.
Murray confirmed the outcome in a statement issued Thursday evening in which he expressed disappointment with the vote.
“We negotiated the greatest reclamation of management rights this City has ever seen, including expanded authority for the chief regarding transfers, rotations, promotions and the civilianization of significant positions,” Murray said.
He said the contract also affirmed accountability reforms “we and the community have sought for months,” including a streamlined and transparent disciplinary-appeals process.
“Unfortunately, this great progress was undermined during the ratification process when the management documents were leaked to the press. This was a shocking violation of a core labor principle about collective bargaining that threatens the direct relationship between the union and its members,” he said, adding the city is investigating the leak.
“The collapse of this contract also occurred in the middle of a major change in union leadership and amidst a tumultuous period in our history around the nature of policing,” Murray said.
The guild vote virtually dashed any hope the city will have a new contract in place before a key Aug. 15 hearing before a federal judge overseeing enforcement of the city’s 2012 consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to curtail excessive force and biased policing in the Seattle Police Department.
U.S. Judge James Robart is to decide if the city may move forward on a package of police-accountability legislation that would go beyond what was included in the tentative contract with the union. The contract rejection could capture Robart’s attention as he surveys the reform landscape.
Murray, in his statement, acknowledged the damage, saying, “The effect of all of this is to set back compliance with the consent decree. In the context of the ongoing reform process, this is a disappointment. But whether through arbitration or the federal court, these reforms will happen and will be here to stay.”
Murray said the tentative contract included “full agreement” on the implementation of future court-mandated accountability reforms and subsequent legislation.
Already, the city has adopted sweeping changes, including new use-of-force and anti-bias policies and additional training.
The contract talks have been seen as a way to augment those reforms with modifications to the Police Department’s accountability systems, along with other proposals to be considered at the Aug. 15 hearing.
Councilmember Tim Burgess, chair of the council’s Labor Relations Policy Committee, said in a statement the city tried to accommodate many of the union’s requests without weakening key accountability or management proposals.
“It’s disappointing to reach agreement with the SPOG negotiating team only to have their membership reject the deal so resoundingly,” he said, noting the agreement provided “excellent compensation and working conditions for our officers.”
The contract included wage hikes of 2 percent in each of the first two years, 3 percent the third year and 3.25 percent the fourth year, according to the leaked summary.
A tentative agreement was reached in May, and the guild’s 14-member board voted last month to send the contract to 1,275 members for a ratification vote. Voting by officers and sergeants who comprise the union was conducted by mail, and votes were counted Thursday.
A previous four-year contract expired at the end of 2014, with the terms still applying as the two sides privately negotiated the tentative contract.
The contract called for the terms to begin, retroactively, on Jan. 1, 2015, and expire on Dec. 31, 2018, subject to approval by the City Council.
Smith, the former guild president, predicted last week the tentative contract would be voted down, partly over provisions giving the department more leeway on transfer and promotion lists.
In an interview with The Seattle Times, he said many members believed the compensation and benefits in the package don’t justify handing management more power.
Smith said he resigned over the Facebook post because he expected the union board to ask for his resignation or seek his ouster.
But Smith said the board’s anger actually stemmed from his pragmatic approach to the federal reforms, his collaborative relationship with Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and his acceptance of accountability measures as part of the tentative contract with the city.
“I think it’s a red herring,” Smith said in the interview, during which he apologized for any offense he caused by his post, which said, in part, “The hatred of law enforcement by a minority movement is disgusting … #Weshallovercome.”