The outcome of mail balloting was announced Thursday by the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, which represents more than 1,300 officers and sergeants. The contract is now subject to approval by the City Council.
After years of protracted negotiations, Seattle’s rank-and-file police union has overwhelmingly voted to ratify a collective-bargaining contract with the city that includes long-delayed pay raises while imposing sweeping accountability reforms.
The outcome of mail balloting was announced Thursday by the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, which represents more than 1,300 officers and sergeants.
Guild President Kevin Stuckey said in a statement that guild members, in 1,013 of 1,059 returned ballots, voted to accept the contract offer.
The contract is now subject to approval by the City Council.
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The vote represents a major step in the city’s police-reform process, boosting Mayor Jenny Durkan, who took office in January, and new Police Chief Carmen Best, who took an active role in the talks, as the city seeks to end federal oversight by the end of 2019.
“The contract … illustrates, once again, that SPOG is willing to accept changes to the accountability system as long as that change is achieved at the bargaining table and both sides bargain in good faith,” guild Vice President Sgt. Rich O’Neill, the union’s chief negotiator, said in a statement.
The two sides reached a tentative agreement last month on a six-year contract, retroactive to 2015. The last contract expired at the end of 2014.
Durkan, in an interview, said it was a tribute to officers that, even while working without a new contract, they kept the city safe and worked to bring the city in compliance with federal requirements.
“Cops are some of our most important workers,” she said.
Stuckey said the contract contains “significant wage increases,” but he didn’t provide details. Durkan said the wage figures are within parameters of her 2019 and 2020 budget she will unveil next week.
As previously reported by The Seattle Times, guild members would receive accumulated pay raises of more than 17 percent, according to sources familiar with the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because the terms have not been publicly disclosed.
The raises would be 3 percent for 2015; 3 percent for 2016; 3 percent for 2017; 3.5 percent for 2018; 3.65 percent for 2019; and the Consumer Price Index plus 1 percent for 2020, two sources said.
In exchange, the guild agreed to the removal of a stringent legal standard that will make it easier for officers to be fired for dishonesty; the addition of civilians to the Police Department’s internal-investigation office; and the restructuring of appeals by disciplined or fired officers that will bring more objectivity and less manipulation to the process, according to the sources.
When guild members rejected a previous tentative contract in 2016, the proposed wage hikes were 2 percent in each of the first two years beginning in 2015, 3 percent the third year and 3.25 percent the fourth year, according to a summary leaked at the time.
The raises would make Seattle officers the highest-paid in the state, and fourth out of seven comparable West Coast cities, two sources said. The city has been ranked sixth.
Pay has been seen as key to stemming recent transfers by officers to other police departments offering more competitive wages and in the recruitment of new officers.
Under the tentative contract, the city would be able to add two civilian investigators to the department’s Office of Police Accountability, which conducts internal investigations, and to convert a sergeant human-resources position in the unit to a civilian post, the sources said.
The city already won the right to convert a captain’s position and two lieutenant positions to civilians under a contract reached this past year with the Seattle Police Management Association, which represents captains and lieutenants.
Once the contract is final, the guild has agreed to drop unfair-labor complaints stemming from landmark police-accountability legislation passed by the City Council last year.
“SPOG would like to thank Mayor Jenny Durkan, who inherited this ‘contract mess’ from her two predecessors, who unfortunately, did not choose to respect the labor laws of Washington,” Stuckey said in his statement. “From the onset, Mayor Durkan made getting a new SPOG contract a top priority.”
Stuckey also thanked Best, saying she was the first chief to attend numerous negotiation sessions and who constantly urged both sides to reach an agreement.
Negotiations have been closely watched by U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is presiding over a 2012 consent decree between the city and U.S. Justice Department to carry out reforms to address excessive use of force and biased policing.
In January, Robart found the Police Department in full compliance with the decree, triggering a two-year review period in which the department must show reforms are locked in place.