Frustration about upcoming Seattle Police contract emerges at city council meeting

Aug 9, 2023, 5:20 PM | Updated: Aug 10, 2023, 9:07 am

seattle police contract...

The transparency and accountability of a Seattle Police Union contract negotiation were questioned at a City Council public hearing. (Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

A Seattle City Council committee hearing Tuesday night brought frustrated citizens to the podium to talk about the upcoming police contract for lieutenants and captains.

Tuesday’s meeting provided the only opportunity for the public to comment, and many who testified about the upcoming Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) contract were upset over the short notice they received for the lone chance to speak out. It showed them city is not committed to reforms long sought by the Civilian Police Commission (CPC).

Lieutenants and captains are part of the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA). The Seattle Police Officers Guild represents officers and sergeants.

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. 

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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 transparency and accountability of a Seattle Police Union contract negotiation were questioned during the public comment section at the city council session. Residents like Howard Gale of SeattleSTOP.org accused the city of not being committed to police reform after the 2020 killing of George Floyd.

“The bottom line is that dozens of U.S. cities have learned from the summer of 2020, but Seattle remains stuck in the failed experiment of 2017,” Gale said.

SeattleSTOP.org is an organization that seeks more accountability of Seattle Police Department officers and supports “a Seattle initiative that establishes 100% civilian oversight of police.”

Gale told council members it makes it appear the city doesn’t care about reforms championed by the CPC.

“We still have police investigating police, and even on the rare instance, when they do a halfway reasonable job that is then overturned by the police chief,” Gale said.

“We know that this is pointless because community input was sought in 2021 by the CPC with the clearest demand that police stop investigating their fellow officers,” Gale added. “We still have police investigating police, and in the rare instance when they do a halfway reasonable job, that is then overturned by the police chief.”

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.

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.

Formal negotiations on the contract won’t begin until November.

Contributing: KIRO 7, Steve Coogan

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Frustration about upcoming Seattle Police contract emerges at city council meeting