The Seattle City Council on Monday voted to approve a proposed collective bargaining agreement between the city and a union representing higher-ranking police officers.
The Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA), which represents about 70 captains and lieutenants, reached a tentative agreement with city negotiators late last month. Officials say the agreement could add pressure for the city to reach an agreement with the Seattle Police Officers Guild, a bigger law enforcement union that represents rank-and-file officers.
The contract adopts reforms outlined in the police accountability legislation passed by the City Council in May, including the civilianization of the Office of Professional Accountability, the establishment of an Office of the Inspector General, and making the Community Police Commission permanent.
But the contract also conflicts with some provisions in the ordinance.
Most significantly, the agreement rejects a legislative change to the process for officers appealing disciplinary decisions. The police accountability ordinance calls for all appeals to go through a city-appointed body called the Public Safety Civil Service Commission, adopting a recommendation from longtime police reformists like Ret. Judge Anne Levinson.
The SPMA contract, however, allows for officers appealing disciplinary decisions to select an arbitrator to hear their case. Some advocates say that process is inherently less transparent and more likely to result in favorable outcomes for officers. City negotiators, in response, point out that they have taken steps to make the arbitration process more neutral.
The council voted 8-to-1 in favor of the agreement, with Council Member Kshama Sawant being the sole “no" vote. She cited concerns with the arbitration process and that the agreement adds extra money to the police budget.
Council Member Lorena González, who sponsored the ordinance approving the agreement, stressed that the new contract adopts the bulk of the police accountability legislation. Regarding the modified appeals process and other conflicts with the reforms ordinance she said, "Inherent in negotiation is a give-and-take process.”
The agreement next goes to Mayor Tim Burgess’ desk for his signature. Then it goes to U.S. District Judge James Robart to determine whether it is in line with the 2012 Consent Decree.