The complaint follows Mayor Ed Murray’s executive order last week directing the Police Department to equip patrol officers with body cameras.
The Seattle police officers’ union has filed an unfair-labor-practice complaint with the state of Washington’s employee-relations commission over Mayor Ed Murray’s executive order directing the Police Department to begin equipping officers with body cameras.
“This executive order, which was prepared in consultation with Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, is unprecedented and a clear violation of state law,” the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) said in a news release Tuesday.
Murray issued the executive order July 17 amid the city’s stalled negotiations with the union over deployment of body cameras, declaring additional delays would deprive Seattle residents of a necessary police-accountability tool on a timeline consistent with the department’s needs and community expectations.
“Let us be clear. SPOG is not opposed to body cameras,” the union said in the news release, underlining the second sentence.
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The union, which represents more than 1,300 officers and sergeants, said it is opposed to what it called Murray’s “disregarding” of state bargaining laws.
It also accused the mayor of misleading the public and the federal court overseeing Seattle police reforms by “insinuating that this has been negotiated ‘round and round.’ ”
“This is simply not true,” the release said.
Under the executive order, bicycle officers in the West Precinct, which includes the downtown area, began using body cameras Saturday.
All West Precinct patrol officers will be equipped by Sept. 30, followed by a “good-faith” deployment on all patrol officers on a monthly, precinct-by-precinct basis, according to the order.
The union said it previously negotiated a body-camera pilot program that ran from December 2016 to March of this year, with the city acknowledging that a permanent program was subject to bargaining under state law.
Since the pilot program ended, the guild and city have only met for one formal negotiation session, the release said.
“The fact that our Mayor and City Attorney can decide which laws they ‘choose’ to follow is alarming,” the guild said, adding that it looked forward to returning to negotiations with the city and reaching an agreement.
The guild’s complaint was filed with the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC).
In a statement, Holmes said the next step will be an assessment of the complaint by the commission. After PERC issues a preliminary ruling, the city will have 20 days to submit an answer to the complaint.
“We look forward to defending the legality of the Executive Order before PERC and, if necessary, in the courts,” Holmes said.
“The legal proceedings will likely highlight the overwhelming interest that the people of Seattle have in expeditious implementation of this body-worn video program, a program that protects everyone involved when SPD officers engage in difficult and dangerous encounters leading to the use of force,” he added.
Holmes said the city places a high value on collective bargaining and has met or exceeded its obligations regarding the executive order, and remains committed to collective bargaining in the future.
Murray’s order was discussed July 18 during a status hearing before U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is presiding over a 2012 consent decree requiring the Seattle Police Department to adopt reforms addressing excessive force and biased policing.
Robart has been a strong advocate of body cameras, and has repeatedly said he will not allow the guild to hold the city hostage by linking wages to constitutional policing.
“The citizens of Seattle are not going to pay blackmail for constitutional policing,” Robart said during the hearing.
A video of the full hearing can be viewed at http://www.uscourts.gov/cameras-courts/united-states-america-v-city-seattle.
The body-camera issue received heightened attention after no video was captured of the highly charged fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old black woman and mother of four who was shot June 18 by two white officers during a confrontation in her Magnuson Park apartment in Northeast Seattle.
Only audio was recorded on microphones worn by officers Jason Anderson and Steven McNew, who both said Lyles suddenly attacked them with one or two knives after she reported a burglary of her apartment.
Information in this article, originally published July 25, 2017, was corrected July 26, 2017. A previous version of this story gave a wrong date for the July 18 status hearing before U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is presiding over a 2012 consent decree requiring the Seattle Police Department to adopt reforms addressing excessive force and biased policing.