As we stand in the midst of a wave of potential change, we must act now as the people of Seattle to capitalize on holding our police accountable for their misconduct and take actionable steps to achieve justice for the marginalized.
Too many times we have seen police officers in our community, who are sworn in to protect all people within their jurisdiction, abuse that power and take advantage of their positions. For that reason, we and so many others who we stand in solidarity with the call to defund the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and to reallocate those resources back to our community. We will give props to the City of Seattle for the changes made so far, but there is much more work to be done - especially when it comes to the police union contracts.
The police officers unions have a contract with the City of Seattle. It expires at the end of this year and negotiations for a new contract are already underway (behind closed doors). The contract impedes real police accountability and protects abusive police officers and systems at the expense of the community the SPD claims to serve. Here is a quick list of the issues with the contract:
- it blocks accountability
- it meddles with investigations
- it protects guilty officers
- it restricts budget cuts
We cannot allow a similar contract to exist again. In order to avoid a repeat, we must band together and demand that the community is centered in contract discussions and actual community representatives are part of the process. Learn more about the contract and its issues here.
Our community deserves to have their voice heard and that is why we are demanding that the City officially and publicly delay the Seattle Police Officers Guild contract negotiations until we can agree upon an accountable and transparent process that centers the community.
Please become part of the solution and sign our petition!
The previous actions by the City to address the issue of police accountability have not done nearly enough. The Office of Police Accountability (OPA), Community Police Commission (CPC), and Office of the Inspector General for Public Safety (OIG) all lack the power to discipline police officers and hold them accountable for their actions.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the City of Seattle and the police unions decides many important factors, all of which directly impact how the police operate in their positions and how they interact with the people.
The two unions the SPD can register for are:
- Seattle Police Officer’s Guild (SPOG) - represents officers and sergeants
- Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) - represents upper management (ex. lieutenants, captains)
Unsurprisingly to many of us, even legislation hasn’t been able to stand in the way of the police union influence on police accountability. For example, Seattle’s 2017 Accountability Ordinance included measures to improve this issue, but when the contracts expire, police unions in Seattle can reverse any progress made and impede any further work on accountability.
One of the most baffling aspects of the current approach of renegotiating the CBA between police unions and the City of Seattle is how much is unknown about the process. For one, there is no publicly-known schedule or process for negotiations.
The City places part of the responsibility on their Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC), which consists of the Mayor, the Director of the City Budget Office, the Director of Seattle’s Department of Human Relations, and members of the City Council’s Select Committee on Labor. This group deals with strategy of negotiation.
Then, the Negotiating Committee works separately from this group, based on the strategies created. If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is. It’s one too many layers that results in a lack of direct accountability. Nobody knows where to point the blame, and nobody is answering community questions.
These results of these negotiations directly affect the lives of people in our community, which means our representatives should make it a priority to include us as part of the process. However, this is where the current process has utterly failed. The City of Seattle still isn’t listening to the people, even when the community has been clamoring for a voice. Community members and organizations that represent the people of this city have made a number of attempts at a petition to force Seattle’s hand, to no avail.
In 2018, the SPOG elevated their own interests above the needs and demands of the people they serve in their next contract. They made it a point to decrease accountability measures that were implemented in 2012 as a result of the Federal Consent Decree. Despite strong backlash from a number of organizations who helped forge the 2012 decree (the CPC and Judge James Robart), the Seattle City Council approved the vote 8-1 to clear the new contract. Judge Robart later determined that the new contact meant that Seattle wasn’t even following the historic decree any longer.
If things continue with business as usual, the people of Seattle will see the same negotiation patterns, and it will result in the endurance of a vicious cycle. We as the people have a voice, and we have power to incite change - which we have seen in the response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Terry Carver, Ryan Smith, Charleena Lyles, and many others.
Currently, the Seattle City Council has not announced any changes to their negotiation plans. A new CBA can be a strong indicator of actual change that will take place, but as of now, nothing is preventing police unions to crush progress once more.
Let’s pull the plug.
We are demanding that Mayor Durkan, the Seattle City Council, SPMA, and SPOG officially and publicly delay negotiations until we can agree upon an accountable and publicly transparent process that centers on our community.
We ask them to appoint a committee of trusted community leaders, chosen by the community, in accordance with Executive Order 01-14.
We ask that they create a public schedule of reform negotiations, hold open-door meetings, and do whatever else the community decides is necessary for an honest and fair CBA negotiation.
We will not accept anything less than what is best for the entirety of the community. We must act now to protect the marginalized and defend our people from the potential harm that can continue at the hands of city law enforcement. If we settle for the standards the City and the SPOG are comfortable with, we won't get the bright future we are all working very hard towards. We deserve more and we deserve better.
If you agree, then join us in this fight!
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