The Seattle Community Police Commission (CPC) has made eight recommendations to the Mayor and City Council regarding upcoming police contract negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). These recommendations, if implemented, will enable Seattle to implement a strong police accountability and disciplinary system and bring more transparency to police contract negotiations.
These recommendations, which are the result of years of community engagement, touch on three main areas:
1) Fully implementing the reforms in the landmark Accountability Ordinance.
That law, which was unanimously passed by the City Council, aimed to implement a strong police disciplinary and accountability system in Seattle – that includes removing any limitations on civilians investigating police misconduct. However, less than two years later, many of those reforms had been undermined by new police contracts. City leaders need to keep their promise to community and fully implement the law.
2) Ensure the contracts promote police accountability
When the CPC analyzed the current SPOG contract in 2018, we found it undermined police accountability in surprising ways we did not even know were on the negotiating table. One example is that the current contract makes it harder to fire an officer for misconduct if that misconduct is “stigmatizing” to a police officer and makes it harder for them to get another police job. We cannot allow surprise stipulations like that one to be put in the contracts again.
3) Bargain the police contracts in a more transparent and accountable way
In the past, police contract negotiations have taken years without any information being shared with the community about their progress or even about what the City is attempting to accomplish through negotiations. For the community to have trust in the process, this must change. We are calling on the Mayor and City Council to, among other things, make the City’s bargaining priorities public, give community regular updates about the progress of bargaining, and publicly explain what the City got and gave up at the conclusion of bargaining.
Additionally, CPC is committed to finding ways to divest from policing and reinvesting in community-approved alternatives. We believe the contracts should allow for that to be done in the best way possible. The CPC may consider additional recommendations on that issue in the near future.
Police contracts have been used as tools to undermine accountability across the country for decades. Protesters, labor advocates, and Seattle community members have been clear – this must end.
As we have been since our inception, the CPC is committed to ensuring the collective bargaining rights of all people are protected. However, we must acknowledge that police are vested with unparalleled authority in our society to carry weapons, use force, and deprive people of their liberty. Because of this unique dynamic, police officers must be subject to higher standards including transparency in collective bargaining that may not be appropriate for non-law enforcement unions.