If ratified, the contract would provide a major boost to Mayor Jenny Durkan and newly confirmed Police Chief Carmen Best as they seek to steer the Police Department through what they hope will be the final stage of federally mandated reforms to address excessive use of force and biased policing.
After more than 3 1/2 years without a contract, the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) and the city of Seattle have reached a tentative deal, according to a guild email announcing the breakthrough.
The union’s board unanimously voted Tuesday to send the agreement to its membership of more than 1,300 officers and sergeants for a ratification vote, according to the email, which was sent to guild members and obtained by The Seattle Times.
Information sessions to explain the agreement will be held by the guild Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and ballots will be mailed this week, the email says.
“SPOG would like to thank all members for their continued support and patience during this very long ordeal,” the email says.
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If ratified by the guild and the City Council, the contract would provide a major boost to Mayor Jenny Durkan and newly confirmed Police Chief Carmen Best as they seek to steer the Police Department through what they hope will be the final stage of federally mandated reforms to address excessive use of force and biased policing.
Negotiators have discussed groundbreaking reforms that would give the police chief more authority over transfers and promotions, give civilians a greater role in internal investigations and streamline the disciplinary appeals process.
It wasn’t clear how the two sides resolved those issues.
Under a final agreement, the union would drop its unfair-labor-practice complaint challenging then-Mayor Ed Murray’s executive order last year directing the Police Department to equip patrol officers with body cameras, according to a source familiar with the talks. Officers are currently wearing body cameras.
SPOG said then it was not opposed to body cameras, but objected to what it called Murray’s “disregarding” of state bargaining laws.
No details on wages or benefits were available in what sources have described as a six-year deal retroactive to 2015, the first year after the previous contract expired at the end of 2014. Officers and sergeants would receive back pay covering raises for the past 3 1/2 years.
One question is how much the city will trade in pay and benefits in exchange for the reforms, some of which were incorporated in landmark police-accountability legislation enacted by the City Council last year. The guild also filed a labor complaint over the legislation, accusing the city of “acting in bad faith” over issues the union said should be negotiated.
Pay also 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.
The guild soundly rejected a tentative four-year contract in 2016 after former guild president Sgt. Rich O’Neill led an effort to kill the deal. O’Neill then returned to the guild board as vice president and took control of the negotiations amid a power shake-up.
O’Neill, who has a track record of trading reforms for money, made Seattle police officers in 2008 the highest paid law-enforcement officers in the state at the time under a contract in which the union conceded to 29 recommendations aimed at bolstering police accountability. Those negotiations lasted for 23 months.
This time the negotiations are being 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.
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.
Robart has previously warned he would not let the union hold the city hostage, saying, “The citizens of Seattle are not going to pay blackmail for constitutional policing.”
Guild officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
Stephanie Formas, spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, said in an email, “The City can confirm that we have reached a tentative labor agreement with SPOG. We will decline to comment any further until the details of this proposed labor contract have been presented to the men and women serving as officers and sergeants in the Seattle Police Department in the upcoming days.”
The Seattle Police Management Association, representing more than 70 lieutenants and captains, reached a long-delayed contract last year with the city. The union agreed to support the accountability legislation in exchange for raises retroactive to January 2014 and a new contract.