In case you missed it, the New York Times took on police unions in a strongly-worded editorial on Saturday:
Across the country, municipal governments have signed contracts with police unions including provisions that shield officers from punishment for brutal behavior as well as from legitimate complaints by the citizens they are supposed to serve.At the local level, this city's contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild requires the destruction of disciplinary records after three years, lets cops appeal disciplinary decisions to a board stacked two-to-one with police, and prevents the Office of Professional Accountability from hiring civilians to handle citizen complaints.
That may soon change, as public outrage over police killings of civilians is ratcheting up pressure on elected officials to radically revise police contracts that make it almost impossible to bring officers to justice.
The city is currently re-negotiating the contract, after the guild's members—Seattle's roughly 1,200 rank and file police officers—rejected the city's offer in June. That offer made significant revisions to the contract. But it was far from the "radical" overhaul, to use the Times' word, that accountability advocates wanted.
The magazine In These Times recently examined cities around the country where federally-mandated reforms have been stymied by provisions in police union contracts. Seattle was one of them:
In documents obtained by The Stranger, the CPC and Department of Justice went on record saying the negotiations with the police unions ought to be made public.
The Seattle Community Police Commission (CPC), a creation of the city’s consent decree, was tasked with proposing measures to improve police accountability systems. But since some of its preferred measures may conflict with collective bargaining agreement, the group cannot finalize them until the city and the police union reach an agreement on a new contract—a [secret] process that has been ongoing for 18 months.
But when a whistleblower did just that—leaking the city's offer to this newspaper in order to open them to public scrutiny—the city launched an expensive inquiry, hiring a private investigator at a rate of $325 per hour and up to $65,000, to find the person and penalize them.