Seattle City Council to hold public hearing ahead of police contract negotiations

Aug 4, 2023, 5:15 PM | Updated: 6:07 pm

seattle police contract...

(Photo courtesy of SPD)

(Photo courtesy of SPD)

The Seattle City Council will be holding a public hearing to give the community a chance to provide input on the upcoming Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) contract negotiations.

The meeting will be on August 8 at 5:30 pm inside Council Chambers at Seattle City Hall. The hearing will take place during a special meeting of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee and the Council’s Select Labor Committee.

More from Seattle police unions: Seattle police union warns pending retirements may delay action on high-priority calls

SPMA is a union representing police lieutenants and captains within the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

This will be the public’s only opportunity to give input before the contract is negotiated. A public hearing is the first step of a six-step contract negotiation process Seattle City Council undertakes alongside SPMA. The next step is creating bargaining parameters within the Labor Relations Policy Committee, followed by a negotiating committee and a tentative agreement. The last two steps are a union ratification — where union members approve or disapprove of the contract — and a city council vote.

The Seattle Police Officers Guild’s (SPOG) contract is currently being evaluated by a negotiating committee. SPOG, which represents officers and sergeants, has been negotiating a police management contract with the city since last summer. SPOG, which has been operating without a contract since 2020, estimated there are 895 officers on staff, despite a staff goal of approximately 1,400. The union projects there will be 112 departures from the staff this year. 

In Washington State, police contracts establish wages and benefits for its staff while also having some influence and say over how the city holds police officers accountable when they violate police department policies.

The most recent SPMA contract, adopted in 2022, included several recommendations from its public hearing — which occurred three years prior. Among the suggestions included were improvements to the discipline review system regarding subpoena power, a standard of proof for dishonesty and preponderance of evidence, the 180-day clock, and arbitration.

“This agreement creates a new discipline review system that marks a sea change in how discipline appeals operate,” Councilmember Lisa Herbold said last year after the contract was approved. “It will help slow that backlog from growing by ensuring cases aren’t being entirely relitigated during arbitration as they currently are.”

The agreement, which passed by a vote of 8-0, was only scheduled to last through the end of 2023. The current contract will remain in place until negotiations are complete. Unlike many other sectors, police cannot legally go on strike. Instead, if a police union and the city of Seattle can’t reach a deal, the negotiations can go to interest arbitration where a neutral arbitrator would make binding decisions to resolve disagreements about the contract.

More on Seattle-based unions: PCC workers picket in downtown Seattle for improved union contract

The current contract allows captains and lieutenants to receive retroactive wage increases of 2.7% in 2020, 1.9% in 2021, and 4% in 2022. This year, police managers received a pay bump equivalent to the consumer price index increase, up to 4%, which will cost the department more than $6 million through the end of next year.

It is common practice for police to see retroactive increases, in part because they generally take years to negotiate. Police often operate under expired contracts.

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Seattle City Council to hold public hearing ahead of police contract negotiations