After working for two years without a contract, Seattle police have voted on a deal that would require them to pay a portion of their medical costs for the first time while granting...
After working for two years without a contract, Seattle police have voted on a deal that would require them to pay a portion of their medical costs for the first time while granting a 10.5 percent pay increase over four years.
The contract proposal does not appear to make major changes to the police disciplinary system sought by some civil-liberties groups and activists, according to a summary of contract provisions.
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Wednesday was the deadline for the 1,100 members of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild to mail in their ballots. The results will be announced next week, said union President Kevin Haistings.
If ratified by the union, the contract will go before the City Council for final approval.
The contract may disappoint some civil-liberties groups and community activists who are seeking changes to the police disciplinary system.
Dorry Elias-Garcia, head of the Minority Executive Directors Coalition, said she and other activists planned to review the deal to see whether the city had “negotiated away any more of our civil rights.” Activists have alleged racial profiling and other misconduct by some police officers.
Elias-Garcia and other activists organized public hearings last year to call attention to the contract negotiations and demand that the city push for changes to make it easier for citizens to file complaints against officers and broaden public access to police-misconduct investigations. The activists had wanted the city to publicly reveal its bargaining position, but the labor negotiations have remained strictly secret.
Aides to Mayor Greg Nickels said yesterday they could not comment on the contract. City Councilman Nick Licata, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, also declined comment. Seattle has made substantial changes to its police disciplinary system over the past few years. The city created a civilian-led Office of Professional Accountability to investigate misconduct complaints and appointed a civilian review board to assess how well the system is working.
But activists and some City Council members have complained the system is inadequate. Some want the civilian review board to have access to complete reports of investigative files on complaints against officers. Currently the board only sees reports with the names of officers involved blacked out.
Activists also favor racial-sensitivity training for police and have asked the city to hire “complainant advocates” to guide people through the process of filing complaints. The police union has opposed such measures, fearing officers would become subject to frivolous complaints.
“It’s not supposed to be a witch hunt to prove officers are bad,” Haistings said.
While the contract proposal does not appear to include major changes sought by activists, it does include some new provisions.
The proposal would allow police officers to file union grievances over written reprimands. It also calls for the implementation of a new voluntary mediation process to resolve some civilian complaints against officers.
The contract also says the city and union will continue to discuss the implementation of an “early warning system” that would allow the police department to identify potential problem officers.
Haistings said the main sticking points in the contract negotiations were over wages and benefits.
Police have been one of the last remaining city unions to avoid paying any share of medical costs. Under the new contract offer, officers would begin paying 5 percent of those costs while the city pays 95 percent. The medical charge would be applied retroactively for six months costing the average officer about $200, Haistings said.
Two officers who spoke on condition of anonymity said there was a widespread feeling that the retroactive charge was a “slap in the face.” Nevertheless, both officers said they voted for the contract.
Under its terms, police would get retroactive pay raises of 2 percent for 2003 and 3.5 percent for 2004, with 2.5 percent raises over each of the next two years.
“I think it’s a fair contract, I don’t think it’s a good contract,” Haistings said.
Negotiations have been going on since before the last contract expired at the end of 2002. The union and city were unable to come to an agreement and an impasse was declared by a mediator. If police vote down the contract offer, the matter will be sent to arbitration.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628