The Community Police Commission is currently reviewing the Office of Police Accountability’s (OPA’s) findings following their investigation of police conduct during recent protests. It is important to note that even though an OPA investigation may find an officer’s actions did not violate any current policies, that does not make the officer’s decision just. OPA can only investigate violations of Seattle Police Department policies, and it has been shown again and again over the past few months that many of those policies are inadequate.
We are committed to working with those most affected by policing in our city, our accountability system partners at OPA and the Office of Inspector General, and others to strengthen Seattle Police policies to ensure officers are held accountable when they violate civil liberties, public trust, and fall short of community expectations.
It is also important to understand these disciplinary decisions are being made under the flawed disciplinary system created by the current police contracts. Those contracts undermined many of the police accountability reforms Seattle adopted in the landmark 2017 Accountability Ordinance, which was the culmination of years of work between the CPC, community groups, and elected officials. Because of the way the contracts undermine the Accountability Ordinance, among many other things:
- It is harder to fire officers accused of misconduct that is “stigmatizing” that makes it “difficult for the employee to get other law enforcement employment.”
- Officers found guilty of misconduct are able to appeal their discipline through a broken and backlogged arbitration system that will likely take years. There are currently unresolved arbitration cases involving alleged misconduct that happened all the way back in 2015.
- When an officer does appeal their discipline through arbitration, those proceedings will not be open to the media or the public.
The Accountability Law addressed these problems. As the City moves to begin the next round of contract negotiations, the Mayor and City Council need to commit to fully implementing those unanimously adopted reforms. The first step they can take to do that is to accept our recommendation to appoint an independent advisor to the City’s bargaining team who has expertise in police accountability, strong community ties, and is jointly recommended by the OPA, CPC, and OIG.
While the CPC is barred from commenting on pending OPA investigations, we are watching closely and will do all we can to ensure Seattle has strong policies and a strong police disciplinary system moving forward.