At a sometimes emotional meeting, commission members said they had wanted to support the agreement but that it contained too many rollbacks on hard-fought reforms.
Dealing a blow to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, the city’s Community Police Commission unanimously voted Wednesday to urge the City Council to reject the city’s proposed contract with Seattle’s largest police union over what it described as its failure to address key departmental reforms.
“It’s the sweeping nature of the impact,” commission member Lisa Daugaard said of the contract, citing one provision she described as creating an elevated and vague standard-of-proof to sustain misconduct allegations against officers.
The CPC concluded that other contract terms water down efforts to streamline the appeals process for fired or disciplined officers, and that allow appeal hearings to continue to be held out of public view.
Overall, the commission said the contract rolls back hard-earned police reforms contained in what was described as historic police-accountability legislation passed by the City Council last year.
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The commission’s 8 to 0 vote is a recommendation and is not binding on the council.
Durkan, in a statement, said: “I respectfully disagree with the Community Police Commission. This contract advances both police reform and public safety. A failure to enact the contract jeopardizes both.”
Guild President Kevin Stuckey couldn’t be reached for comment.
The commission unanimously voted to consider asking U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is presiding over the implementation of a broader range of federally mandated reforms, to issue an injunction blocking approval of the union contract until he can determine if it conflicts with a 2012 consent decree between the city and U.S. Justice Department to address findings of routine use of excessive force by officers and evidence that Seattle officers engaged in biased policing.
The commission, created as part of the consent decree and whose members are appointed by the mayor, the city council and the commission, played a major role in drafting last year’s police-accountability legislation. It now plans to mobilize community opposition to the police contract.
Some commission members played a key role in successfully pushing Durkan over the summer to hire Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best from the department’s ranks after she had initially been excluded from a list of finalists, all from outside the department.
The city’s six-year deal with the Seattle Police Officers Guild, which represents more that 1,300 officers and sergeants, calls for cumulative raises of more than 17 percent retroactive to 2015, along with police-accountability measures. The tentative agreement was reached in August after protracted negotiations.
The guild overwhelmingly approved the contract, which Durkan sent to the council Monday for a vote.
Commission members, speaking emotionally at times, said they support collective bargaining and fair wages for officers, but asserted the city’s negotiators failed to protect essential elements of the legislation.
“The union doesn’t want to give up power,” said commission member Jay Hollingsworth, who introduced Wednesday’s motion calling on council rejection of the contract.
“They cannot be trusted,” he added.
Durkan’s office has said the contract contains provisions that give the police chief more management authority, removes union objections to equipping officers with body cameras and allows civilians to work in the Police Department’s internal-investigation unit, the Office of Police Accountabililty.
Daugaard said the commission wasn’t expecting the contract to be a “mirror image” of the legislation, but concluded the “weight of the work and the problems it was trying to fix” weren’t treated seriously.
In a statement, the commission’s co-chair, Enrique Gonzalez, said: “This is a step we hoped not to take, as we completely understand SPOG’s frustration of the lack of a contract, and we have other pressing areas to focus on. However, too much would be lost here for us to let this go by without objecting.”
The commission released a line-by-line review of the proposed contract, listing its concerns.
Durkan, in her statement, said the contract represents a question of fairness for officers who have been working without a contact or a raise since 2014.
“During that time, the cost of living in Seattle has skyrocketed, and the job we have asked them to do has gotten tougher. And they still showed up every day, instituted every reform, and as a result, the federal judge found them in full and effective compliance,” she said.
Durkan noted that when she served as the U.S. Attorney in Seattle, she led the investigation into the Police Department and crafted and the consent decree.
“We pushed to have the Seattle Police Department lead the country, and they did. I have made clear we will not go backward,” she said, noting that three principles guided the contract negotiations: protecting and advancing reform; advancing public safety; and treating officers fairly.
“This contract does all three,” she said