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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The OPARP Report Has Been Released

The Seattle Mayor's OPARP committee has finally released the final report and recommendations regarding Seattle's police accountability and oversight system today. A PDF of the report is here for right now and the Seattle Times has published some details as well.

The mayor is slated to give a briefing on the report later today and I'm going to take some time to review the report and give an analysis later when I have some time, so long as my severe headache gives me a moment's reprieve today... which it never does... so expect more details to come later anyway.

The mayor committed to enacting all 29 recommendations for improving police accountability efforts that were released by his Police Accountability Review Panel today. He also stated that he will release a list of the recommendations the city considers possible for implementation and those that will require the acquiescence of the traditionally anti-accountability Seattle Police Officer's Guild in contract negotiations order to be implemented.

The "official" response from the police officer's union is less encouraging: "SPOG (Seattle Police Officer's Guild) looks forward to discussing the recommendations with representatives from the City of Seattle at the appropriate time at the bargaining table."

As mentioned in previous posts, (here and here for example) the guild was responsible for inserting the weak points into the current program through contract negotiations when it was first implemented in the early 2000s and they have declared that they will not consider oversight changes for the current contract negotiations currently underway, but may consider very small tweaks to the accountability programs during the next talks slated for 2010... for the right price. (one guild member, posting in response to a version of this story written by the apparently pro-guild Seattle PI reporter Scott Guitierrez, laughed about how the guild intends to hold the accountability changes hostage for $4.00 more per hour per member, which would cost the city nearly $10,000,000.00 just to regain the ability to protect the constitutional rights of it's citizens).

The guild currently has precedence legally to overturn any accountability efforts due to the recent PERC ruling in their favor that overturned legislation recommended by the SCCPAP, city council's version of the mayor's panel. Therefore, if negotiations go into arbitration without the decision being appealed, the union will win arbitration to remove any accountability changes they want.

In fact, due to the dubious nature of the PERC finding in favor of the police union, all of the 29 recommendations may be up for challenge by the guild, even the few that the city might think can be implemented without guild approval at the bargaining table.

Therefore, the recommendations, while seemingly well thought out and apparently supported by the mayor and city council, are unlikely to be implemented for several years, if at all, because of the fierce Seattle police opposition to oversight and accountability efforts. The ball is in the guild's court, and historically they have chosen to take it out of play, and by what's been said so far, this time will be no different.


King 5 News has just released a new report about the OPARP recommendations, specifically it seems to have gotten some clarification from the Seattle Police Officer's Guild about it's stance on the recommended reforms after some other reporters mistakenly suggested that the guild "was eager to negotiate the changes"... and it's just as I said it would be.

In the interview with guild president Sgt. O'Neil, the guild's position is that it will not negotiate any changes to the accountability processes currently in place during this round of contract talks, even though they have been working without a contract for over a year.

Additionally, the guild states it will fight any changes implemented by the city that aren't negotiated as part of contract talks, and the earliest that it will even CONSIDER negotiating those conditions will be 2010. The guild states that the current system that has resulted in confirmed cases of misconduct going unpunished and intensive public outcry is just fine and there is no pressing need for changes.

The mayor, the panel, and other city officials strongly insist that all panel recommendations must go into effect as is and as soon as possible if the current accountability system is to be fixed and that they will do whatever they can to assert their right to implement them. Yet the guild has made it clear it intends to fight the changes, and as of now it seems as though they might win the fight against oversight and our civil rights.


Anonymous said...

The answer is simple. The City needs to grow some, and bargain all of these matters at the table to impasse, just like any other employer. When impasse is reached, the city can implement the contract and all of the terms. The SPOG can go pound sand after that.

Packratt said...

Thanks for the feedback!

Unfortunately it isn't that simple. If negotiations on those issues results in an impasse, either side can defer it to an arbiter who will make a final ruling based on the arguments and historical findings.

Since the city has caved on accountability issues in the past, and because of the PERC ruling in favor of the guild on current efforts to legislate accountability changes, the SPOG would win in arbitration, at least if they sent it to an arbiter given current rulings.

If the city appealed the PERC findings successfully, they might even the odds of winning in arbitration, but even then it would more than likely lead to a compromise that weakens the reforms, yet again... better than nothing, but still not good enough.

Ultimately, I suspect the guild will let the innefective reforms come into being but block the ones that really bring any oversight into play, then both sides will claim progress though none was made and we'll have another high profile case that sparks outrage and more reviews... etc...

The only hope seems to be either an appeal by the city or outside interference, possibly from the DOJ civil rights division, to force oversight changes into being as a rule of law to protect civil liberties despite opposition from the guild... much like they are trying to do to the King County Jail.

Either that, or some lawyer gets smart and sues the guild for its liability as being the cause of a lack of oversight which ultimately allowed officer misconduct to go unpunished which resulted in someone's life being ruined by a serial abuser.

Again, thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it.

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