The union representing Seattle’s rank-and-file police officers has notified the city that two laws passed this week to ban police from using chokeholds and crowd-control weapons, are subject to collective bargaining.
“After a review of the ordinances, we see that the proposed changes are safety issues and mandatory subjects of bargaining,” Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) President Mike Solan wrote in an email to a city labor negotiator. “As such, this email serves as a demand to bargain both the decision and the effects of the decision.”
The city has since asked to meet with the guild to “better evaluate whether the pending legislation could constitute a mandatory subject of bargaining,” according to a copy of the city’s response.
Amid ongoing protests against police killings of Black people, during which police officers in riot gear clashed with demonstrators, the city council voted unanimously Monday to ban Seattle police’s use of neck restraints and crowd-control weapons, including pepper spray, tear gas, blast balls and flash bangs.
At the time, Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who sponsored both proposals, called the actions historic and described them as steps toward demilitarizing and defunding the police department.
But already, the city attorney’s office has advised city officials the ordinances in question may require bargaining because they enact changes to police officers’ working conditions.
“Both state and local laws govern the bargaining process,” a spokeswoman for the mayor said in an email late Thursday. “In addition to reimagining what policing looks like in Seattle, Mayor Durkan has been working on a series of reforms including changes to state labor laws for police unions and more transparency in discipline decisions regarding use of force and dishonesty.”
Late Wednesday, the county’s largest labor council voted to expel SPOG from the organization amid calls by protesters denouncing police brutality and institutional racism within policing ranks.
Solan, who declined an interview request Thursday, has issued statements denouncing George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police and said the guild is open to working with labor partners and the community to build and restore trust between the department and community members. He also has criticized “criminal agitators” for stoking trouble during recent demonstrations.
Negotiations with the guild over its next contract have been put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Durkan’s office.