A contentious, 23-month contract stalemate between Seattle's nearly 1,200 police officers and the city ended Friday with a simple fax to...
A contentious, 23-month contract stalemate between Seattle’s nearly 1,200 police officers and the city ended Friday with a simple fax to the five police precincts: The fight was finally over.
In the coming weeks, Seattle police officers would become the highest paid law-enforcement officers in the state, thanks to a new labor contract approved by Seattle Police Guild members Friday. By midsummer, each line officer would see a hefty increase in salary and a bonus check — retroactive pay dating to January 2007, said guild President Rich O’Neill.
O’Neill said 90 percent of the Guild’s 1,000 members ratified the contract, which offers each officer a 25.6 percent raise over the life of the contract, is retroactive to January 2007 and expires at the end of 2010.
Starting salaries for new recruits will increase an additional 8 percent, according to Mayor Greg Nickel’s office.
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In exchange, the Guild conceded to 29 recommendations aimed at improving police accountability, streamlining and strengthening the way the department investigates and punishes officers accused of misconduct.
Nickels last year appointed an 11-member expert panel to review police accountability after public outcry over Chief Gil Kerlikowske’s handling of internal discipline, including whether he had improperly exonerated officers or reduced discipline.
The panel found no major flaws in the current system, but Nickels moved forward with the 29 proposed changes, which then became part of the negotiations.
The City Council has to approve the contract, which is expected in the next several weeks, O’Neill said.
O’Neill said this would be the single largest pay raise the Seattle Police Guild has obtained since the union was formed in 1952.
“This vote is overwhelming. It has put me into shock,” O’Neill said. “Officers were very passionate about this contract. They knew this was one of those contracts that was a pivotal one.”
By accepting the contract, officers would have their work shifts revised as part of the mayor’s Neighborhood Policing Plan, which aims to schedule shifts around the times that 911 call loads are the heaviest.
O’Neill said that over the past two years he has watched fellow officers leave the department for smaller agencies that offer better pay. The union and city hope the contract will recruit new officers and keep veterans from leaving. O’Neill said the contract boosts Seattle ahead of Renton and Bellevue, two of the highest-paid police departments in the state.
Under the contract, a 12-year officer’s salary would increase from $72,072 to $90,516, according to the city. That officer would receive $6,807 in retroactive pay, as of April 2008. Entry-level police-officer pay would increase by 35.9 percent compounded over the life of the contract, from $47,340 to $64,312.
“This contract makes clear that we value the hard work and dedication of the men and women who serve in the Seattle Police Department,” Nickels said in a news release.
The guild and city officials have been negotiating the contract since June 2006, six months before the last contract expired. At one point, a state mediator tried unsuccessfully to broker a deal.
While O’Neill planned to spend Friday night celebrating, he refused to call the contract a victory for the guild.
“Did we get everything we wanted? No. Did the city get everything they wanted? No,” he said. “There’s give and take in collective bargaining.”
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294