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Sunday, June 22, 2008

New SPD Contract Fails To Apply All Accountability Recommendations

I've done some further review of the contract (released Friday) that was negotiated between the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officer's Guild ahead of the June 26th vote by the city council to ratify the agreement and compared the language in that agreement with the PARP police accountability recommendations implementation plan set forth by Seattle mayor Greg Nickels.

The mayor's plan indicated that 11 of the 29 recommendations as required negotiations with the guild in order to achieve full implementation and I used that plan as a comparison to determine what changed between the plan and the contract. Upon careful review it becomes clear that the SCCPAP police accountability recommendations that were released yesterday should be getting more attention than they currently are because the PARP recommendations are not being implemented as proposed.

The following are the 11 recommendations that, according to the mayor, had to be negotiated in order to be implemented along with the recommendation number, text, and relevant section of the agreement where that recommendation is discussed. The recommendations in red have been determined to be specifically invalidated by the agreement, the recommendations in yellow have been limited or altered by the agreement, and the ones without highlighting have been implemented in the contract:

Recommendation 1, which gives the auditor more staff, makes it a full time position, and clearly defines the auditor role, was invalidated in section Appendix E Section 1 Subsection A:

A. The City agrees that the IIS Auditor position shall be continued in effect with its current authority but may be renamed the OPA Auditor, with the clarification that the Auditor may audit all OPA cases involving Guild bargaining unit members.

Recommendation 8, which allows investigators to extend the 180 day limitation on investigations to extend that deadline with just cause, was invalidated in Section 3, Subsection 5, Item F:
Unless further investigation is deemed necessary, the Chief shall make the final decision as to whether charges should be sustained, and if so, what discipline, if any, should be imposed, after considering the information presented in any due process hearing. If new material facts are revealed by the named employee during the due process hearing and such new material facts cause the Chief to act contrary to the OPA Director's recommendation, the case must be sent back to the OPA for further investigation. The "further investigation" described above must be completed within the original 180-day time period. The 180-day period runs from the time a sworn supervisor or OPA received notice of the complaint until the proposed Disciplinary Action Report is issued. If further investigation is warranted the 180-day period begins to run again the day after the
due process hearing, and will not include the time between issuance of the proposed Disciplinary Action Report and the due process hearing. The named employee has no obligation to attend his/her due process hearing or to present any information during the due process hearing if he/she chooses to attend.

However, even more than this, even in the event that the additional testimony given by an officer that convinced the chief to countermand OPA recommendations for discipline were found to be based in intentional falsehood, the department would be unable to impose discipline per PARP Recommendation 20, which presumes officers would be terminated upon findings of dishonesty, if the 180 day deadline expires during the resumed investigation as any additional findings would be tied to the original complaint date, not a new investigative start date that resets the 180 day clock. (the same 180 day deadline that cleared officers in the Alley-Barnes case).

So, not only was Recommendation #8 nullified, Recommendation #20 was severely weakened in this section. Of course, we've already warned of the interdependencies between these recommendations and how removing one could impact several others.

Also, as we uncovered right after a quick read of the contract, the guild now has veto power over matters of Review Board candidacy and has full access to any candidates private records. This should send all OPARB members a very clear and chilling reminder that they should stay quiet and not rock the boat like the last OPARB members did about the cases of misconduct that started off the entire accountability review process.

Yes, that's right, in some ways they made officers even less accountable and disciplinary matters even less transparent with this agreement and any way we look at this it's quite clear that all 29 recommendations will not be enacted as intended. Anyone who insists otherwise is not being honest about the police accountability situation in Seattle.

Unsurprisingly, the media hasn't picked up on the contract being issued and they haven't compared it to the recommendations yet, and it's likely that they never will. Instead, they'll reissue press releases from the city that say they were all put into place just fine and that you'll never hear about another case of misconduct going unanswered... at least... not until next time.

Stay safe out there, because Seattle police officers are still just as unaccountable for their actions as they ever were and we're about to have even less oversight than before.

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