This site is devoted to increasing public awareness of police misconduct and detainee abuse in addition to providing support for victims of police misconduct and detainee abuse. If you or someone you know have witnessed abuse or have been abused, please let us know.


This site is an archive of older content.

Please feel free to visit our new effort at

Thank you for visiting.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Police Guild Wins Ruling Against Accountability Efforts


The Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) ruled in favor of the Seattle Police Officer's Guild (SPOG) to reverse Seattle city government's efforts to improve the police accountability process that were enacted after an onslaught of high-profile police misconduct cases inundated the city's police department with lawsuits and intense public scrutiny.

The SPOG has sworn to fight any efforts to improve accountability and insists it will not even consider accountability issues for negotiation until 2010 at the earliest. In the meantime the city has been clobbered by the fallout from numerous police misconduct cases and the police chief's refusal to hold any officers accountable out of his fear of the SPOG.

The PERC generally rules in favor of unions and this case was no exception as it appears as though the PERC only gave the issue a cursory glance before deciding in the Guild's favor.

The issue revolves around the Seattle city council enacting an ordinance last year to allow the Office of Professional Accountability's Review Board (OPARB) to have access to unredacted closed case files in order to identify patterns of abuse. The SPOG complained that this was a change to the disciplinary process that has to be negotiated into their contract, even though the OPARB only reviews closed cases after disciplinary decisions have been made and has no real authority to intervene, only make findings and recommendations.

Nick Licata, the ordinance's sponsor and pro police accountability proponent on the city council, will likely try to encourage the city to appeal. Especially since the basis of the SPOG's complaint was that this was a disciplinary issue that had to be negotiated yet the OPARB process only occurs after discipline, if any, has already been decided upon and has no effect on disciplinary actions. If the city does appeal, the city will not have to reverse the ordinance until the appeal process is completed. However, the decision over what to do next is currently being analyzed by the City Attorney.

Another ordinance recently passed that requires the chief to explain his reasons for refusing to hold officers accountable after OPA investigations find them at fault for misconduct is also being contested by the SPOG as well. Given the PERC findings in this case, it seems likely the PERC will rule against the city again, giving Seattle police officers free reign to abuse citizens as they please, without fear of being held responsible for their misconduct.

Additionally, if this ruling is allowed to stand, the pending recommendations due from the mayor's Office of Professional Accountability Review Panel (OPARP) and the city council's Seattle City Council Professional Accountability Panel (SCCPAP) will be rendered moot and utterly impossible to implement due to the SPOG's ability to kill any accountability issue at the bargaining table.

The Stranger's Jonah Spangenthal-Lee believes this will lead to a complete restructuring of the police accountability system. However, the guild would be able to kill any new systems at the bargaining table as well with the backing of this ruling. Even now it has the power to flat out refuse to even consider accountability changes until it's next scheduled contract talk in 2010, despite currently working without a contract because of SPOG's refusal to compromise on the current contract talks.

Besides, with the recent addition of SPOG backed candidates to city council, the idea of meaningful reforms being brought to the table are questionable, and if carried forward it's unlikely the guild would agree to them if they truly risked making officers accountable for their actions.

Indeed, as Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis said, "(this ruling) will be a defining moment for police accountability in terms of what has to be bargained and what is a management right." It appears as though the ramifications are far more reaching than even this statement portends. The Seattle Police Officer's Guild may very well be powerful enough to shield the most aggressive violators of civil rights from any accountability from this point on, thanks to this ruling.

The city of Seattle has no choice but to appeal, if there is to be any way for them to have any say whatsoever about how the Seattle police force is policed. Otherwise, it's going to be a free for all.

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics