The contract talks between the Seattle Police Officer's Guild and the City of Seattle appear to be completely shut down after the city revealed details about the salaries the guild was turning down. The guild's refusal to accept all 29 of the mayor's Police Accountability Review Panel's (PARP) recommended reforms to the Seattle Police Department's police accountability and oversight system cost members as much as 33.9% in salary raises and the city appealed to guild members themselves, who were unaware of just how much money their guild was sacrificing in it's battle against accountability improvements, to try and restart the failed contract talks.
While guild representatives have stated to the press that they were close to a deal, sources close to the negotiations have said that talks had completely broken down as early as the beginning of February. The assertion that talks had stalled long before the city's appeal to members appears to be backed up by the fact that the guild itself had started plans on February 8 to picket city hall and disrupt city functions by pressuring other unions to not cross their "informational pickets".
The main matter of contention appears to be one of the 29 recommended reforms that deals with the current 180 day limit to investigations on police misconduct. This time limit was cited as the loophole that allowed an SPD officer who was found to have brutally assaulted Alley-Barnes to go unpunished, and ultimately promoted, because the 180 day limit on investigations expired.
The Stranger interviewed guild sources, where the president of the guild said this about the recommended reform to the 180 day rule:
"One of SPOG’s major objections was to one of the mayor’s 29 Points for improving police accountability. The current SPD contract requires internal investigations into misconduct to be completed within 180 days, which has allowed several officers to escape punishment. The City wants to remove the 180-day window, and have investigation be at the discretion of OPA’s director.
According to O’Neil (president of the guild), that’s just not going to happen. “There’s no amount of money we’re ever going to agree to for that.” he says.""
The PARP recommendation concerning the 180 day rule was intended to shut down a very specific loophole in the disciplinary process when officers who had been found to have been guilty of misconduct by an internal investigation would reveal "new facts" to the chief in private meetings that would sway the chief to overrule the internal investigative findings as a way to bypass the internal investigative process all together, thereby not allowing the investigators to substantiate claims made to the chief that resulted in exonerations.
This recommendation seeks to shut that loophole by working with other recommendations that would force the chief to defer "new facts" uncovered in his disciplinary meetings back to internal affairs for further investigation. Without a way to exempt the 180 day limit, an officer can avoid punishment for misconduct by using delay tactics and then revealing "new details" to the chief, which would force deferral back to investigations which would result in an expiration of the 180 day limit while the new details were investigated.
As we can see, all of the 29 recommendations are intertwined and the loss of one recommendation during negotiations can render all of the reforms completely powerless... and as expected, the guild is fighting against the key reform items that would render all of the reform recommendations powerless to hold officers accountable when they participate in acts of misconduct or abuse.
Currently, since talks have completely melted down, we expect that the contract negotiations will move to arbitration, which will ultimately result in no accountability reforms and minimal pay increases for officers as well. Indeed, as council member Licata mentioned in one reply, the only way to enable the city to discipline problematic officers may well be for the courts, or the feds, to get involved by issuing injunctions.
The chances for a federal investigation may be possible now due to recent investigative reports by The Seattle Post Intelligencer that have unveiled clear patterns of abuse and civil rights violations, which are what federal authorities typically look for to initiate investigations like the one they performed at the King County Jail.
Indeed, as it appears the city is powerless to stop the police guild from protecting problematic officers, the citizens of Seattle Washington may have to turn to Washington DC for their only hope in protecting their rights from a police department that refuses to be controlled by the city it serves.