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DOJ lawyers side with Seattle Police over new contract


Federal attorneys are siding with the Seattle Police Department, arguing that the newly-signed police contract does not conflict with a 2012 consent decree.

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U.S. District Judge James Robart had asked all sides for proof the contract is in compliance, after an officer who punched a handcuffed woman in the back of his patrol car was fired, then reinstated by an arbitrator.

The Department of Justice brief says the arbitrator reinstating that officer was an “individual incident,” and not a slip back to a pattern of excessive force and biased policing that triggered the consent decree in the first place.

“DOJ has concluded that the use of force involving Officer Shepherd and the recent arbitration ruling regarding the same are not grounds to hold that the City has failed to sustain full and effective compliance under the consent decree,” the brief reads.

It went on to determine that the new Seattle Police Officers Guild contract does not present a conflict with the consent decree either.

The consent decree was originally passed after a DOJ investigation “found a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law,” and now operates as a means to eliminate unconstitutional policing.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best have both been public in their opinion that the arbitrator was wrong to reinstate Officer Shepherd.

The new police contract was passed by city council in November by an 8-1 margin, with Councilmember Kshama Sawant operating as the lone vote in opposition. Mayor Durkan expressed her support for the contract shortly after it was passed.

KIRO Radio Staff contributed to this report.

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