On Monday, March 11, two unions representing Seattle's 1,800 sworn officers filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court to block a plan intended to rein in our police department, following a Department of Justice investigation that found Seattle police officers engaged in a pattern of excessive force.
The Seattle Police Officers' Guild (SPOG) and its sister union, the Seattle Police Management Association, argue that the plan recently submitted by a federally appointed court monitor, Merrick Bobb, would violate state law by overriding city contracts, including bargaining agreements with police, as the reform plan states that "it is the monitor's view that no subsequent agreement, including a collective bargaining agreement," can include provisions that conflict with the plan. If adopted, this language would mean that the monitor could change conditions for employment, the rights officers have while being investigated, and disciplinary procedures without consulting the unions.
Although the unions emphatically state that the lawsuit "should not be construed in any manner as opposition to police reforms," their lawsuit asks a judge to halt any changes to police officers' wages, hours, or working conditions—which could freeze reforms as currently proposed.
SPOG president Rich O'Neill was a vocal critic of the DOJ investigation, calling its allegations of police misconduct "unsubstantiated," and he lobbied against Bobb's appointment. Despite their obstruction, SPOG has been included in the reform process, including getting a seat on the city's newly formed 13-member Community Police Commission. Nevertheless, it seems this is a process they are now attempting to undermine.
The mayor's office declined to comment on the lawsuit.