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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Police Guild Might Have Won Battle Against Accountability

Jonah Spangenthal-Lee reports at The Stranger Blog SLOG that Seattle Police Officer's Guild president Rich O'Neil has told him that they have successfully negotiated at least one of the mayor's 29 PARP recommendations off the table for their contract... namely, the 180 day limit to investigations of officer misconduct, which is the same loophole that caused the PARP to be formed when that limitation allowed the officers who brutally assaulted Alley-Barnes to get off without discipline, and even garnered one of them a promotion instead.

The outcry over the use of that loophole spurred the PARP into being and the 180 day limit was part of one vital set of recommendation that would have forced the police chief to defer any investigation back to the OPA if an officer revealed new information to the chief during a Loudermill hearing (which occurs after an investigation is complete) that wasn't revealed to the OPA during the investigation. Without the ability to extend the 180 day limitation, all an officer needs to do is withhold information from the OPA and then reveal it at the Loudermill after the investigation, (and the 180 day limitation) has run it's course... (which is presumably what the officers involved in the Alley-Barnes beating did to avoid punishment and get an Administrative Exoneration from the chief instead).

While O'Neil feels this is a minor tweak, we've said from the beginning that many of these recommendations were designed to be interrelated and when any are modified, it can render the whole point of the accountability changes moot... and in this case it seems that this is what has happened. While the mayor and council insist all 29 recommendations have been achieved in negotiations, this revelation by O'Neil contradicts that assurance from the city government and seems to paint everyone who is touting the agreement as a win for accountability as a bald-faced liar.

Of course, we're waiting to see what has happened to all the recommendations before we can see exactly how much damage has been done, because it sounds as though the SPOG was able to change some other recommendations as well, especially the one that requires the chief to explain why he exonerates officers in writing when he goes against OPA recommendations for discipline.

As it stands now, it's really starting to look as though the city just handed the Seattle Police Officer's Guild a record breaking pay raise without asking for anything meaningful in return and sticking the citizens of Seattle with nothing more than more of the same unaccountable policing and some wallet-busting tax increases in the future for our trouble.

Stay tuned.

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