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Saturday, May 24, 2008

More On The Removed Accountability Reforms

As we've waited to see if the city of Seattle would make the new contract that the police guild accepted public, we went ahead and read through the latest issue of the police guild's newsletter to see if there were any clues about what accountability reform items were removed during negotiations.

While the city has maintained that all 29 accountability reforms that were recommended by the mayor's accountability review panel were adopted with the contract, the guild has apparently been insisting that this isn't the case and has hinted that at least one reform item, an exclusion for the 180 day investigation time limit that could be invoked when new information is brought up by officers during Loudermill hearings that occur between the chief, accused officer, and union representative after an investigation has completed. This exclusion was needed to allow the OPA to investigation any new claims to determine if they were valid and had any real bearing on the case as opposed to the previous process where the chief would just overrule the OPA findings if the officer brought up anything new in the hearing, resulting in administrative exonerations.

Previously, we discussed what affect removing that one rule had on other reform items, here's the items that are related to that rule again:

So, while perusing the Guild's newsletter, we found this quote in regards to what accountability reforms were addressed in the contract:

"The 180 day timeline, all discipline interviews and
procedures and appeal rights remain unchanged."

This language seems to indicate that even more reform items were removed than just the 180 day exclusionary rule. Specifically, this seems to hint at item 6, and maybe even item 7.

After all, item 6 would be a change to the disciplinary process by adding a representative for the investigative unit into the Loudermill hearing process, but it is required to ensure that the other related items are enforced, including referral back to the OPA in case any new information is released by the accused officer during that hearing which was withheld from investigators during interviews. Given the removal of this item, it then seems likely that rule 7 is moot if still on the board, after all, how can new facts be identified if there isn't a party representing the investigators present and how can it be deferred back if the deferral comes at the end of the 180 day limit?

So, it appears that the same problem which sparked the review of the present accountability system will remain in place. The chief will have leeway to overrule any OPA investigation at his leisure without any verification as to whether that contradiction was actually justified or based on any actual merit.

We've discussed before that this set of items is perhaps the most crucial set of items out of the reforms that were suggested to improve accountability and reduce misconduct within the Seattle Police Department. Given these developments, it looks like the city will attempt to ratify this flawed deal that gives officers unheard of raises without asking anything at all in return in the form of improved accountability.

Indeed, instead of 29 accountability reforms, it looks like we'll only get 24... the 24 which don't really address the problems that the reforms were supposed to address: officers being exonerated by the chief despite findings of misconduct and recommendations for discipline. Worst of all, the city is trying to cover that fact up, but nobody in the media seems willing to call them on it.

So much for open government and promises of having an accountable police force.

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