The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild has agreed to the removal of a stringent legal standard to fire officers for dishonesty; allow the city to add civilian internal investigators; and narrow the appeals process for disciplinary actions, according to sources.
Seattle police officers and sergeants would receive accumulated pay raises of more than 17 percent under a tentative collective-bargaining agreement with the city, according to sources familiar with the six-year deal.
In exchange, the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) agreed to the removal of a stringent legal standard governing how officers can be fired for dishonesty; will allow the city to add civilians to the Police Department’s internal-investigation office; and narrow the appeals process for officers who have been disciplined, according to the sources.
Details were provided to members of the SPOG on Wednesday in the first of three days of informational meetings on the proposed contract.
The guild, which represents more than 1,300 officers and sergeants, announced the tentative deal to its members Tuesday. Members will vote by mail on the package.
Most Read Local Stories
- They relied on Chinese COVID vaccines. Now they’re battling outbreaks.
- See how many people are fully vaccinated against COVID in your King County neighborhood
- With Seattle sizzling, here are 6 ways to sleep cooler in hot weather
- 'Heat dome' may push Western Washington temperatures into record-breaking territory
- A Seattle Times story called her a homeless meth user. She asked to be seen as more
Sgt. Rich O’Neill, the guild’s vice president and chief negotiator, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The contract, if ratified by the guild and the City Council, would be retroactive to 2015. The last contract expired at the end of 2014.
The raises would be 3 percent for 2015; 3 percent for 2016; 3 percent for 2017; 3.5 percent for 2018; 3.65 percent for 2019; and the Consumer Price Index plus 1 percent for 2020, according to two sources, both of whom sought anonymity because the details have not yet been disclosed publicly.
When guild members rejected a previous tentative contract in 2016, the proposed wage hikes were 2 percent in each of the first two years beginning in 2015; 3 percent the third year and 3.25 percent the fourth year, according to a summary leaked at the time.
One of the sources called the new numbers a victory for O’Neill, a past guild president who urged members to reject the 2016 package. In past negotiations, O’Neill fought for more money in exchange for reforms.
The other source, however, said the new agreement contains more reforms than the rejected 2016 proposal.
The raises would make Seattle officers the highest paid in the state, and fourth out of seven comparable West Coast cities, two sources said. The city has been ranked sixth.
Pay 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.
Under the tentative contract, the city would be able to add two civilian investigators to the department’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA), which conducts internal investigations, and to convert a sergeant human-resources position in the unit to a civilian post, the sources said.
The city already won the right to convert a captain’s position and two lieutenant positions to civilians under a contract reached this past year with the Seattle Police Management Association, which represents captains and lieutenants.
The OPA, after a national search, has hired Lawrence Freeman to be its first director of investigations, according to the OPA’s website. Freeman will supervise the OPA’s investigatory staff, now composed of two lieutenants and nine sergeants, and the OPA is reviewing applications for an intermediate supervisor position.
Freeman worked for years as a private investigator and as a supervisor for Seattle’s Public Defender Association, where he managed the investigation unit that worked on misdemeanor and felony cases.
Under the proposed agreement between SPOG and the city, appeals by SPOG members of discipline would be altered to make the selection of an arbitrator more objective and less subject to manipulation, two sources said.
Also, the high legal standard of “clear and convincing evidence” needed to fire an officer for dishonesty would be removed, one source said.
Another change would make it easier for the department to transfer officers for performance issues, the source said.
If the agreement is ratified by both parties, the guild also has agreed to drop unfair-labor complaints stemming from landmark police-accountability legislation passed by the City Council last year that incorporated the reforms, and the equipping of body cameras on patrol officers, the source said.
Negotiations have been 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 to address excessive use of force and biased policing.
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.”