MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Seattle Police Officers’ Guild reaches tentative contract agreement with city

Apr 1, 2024, 9:13 AM | Updated: Apr 2, 2024, 11:15 am

Seattle police...

Seattle police had been working without a contract for three years. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

After years of bitter back and forth between the union representing Seattle police officers and the city, a new contract may be on the horizon, with major potential impacts for both sides.

The approximately 900 SPD officers represented by the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) have been working without a contract for nearly three years since the previous one lapsed.

The City of Seattle confirmed the tentative agreement in a statement to KIRO Newsradio. But a spokesperson declined to give details pending ratification by the union.

However, the city’s statement offered some clues about what might be contained in the deal.

Our focus throughout negotiations has been on the ultimate goal of creating an excellent police service and a safe Seattle, rooted in a commitment to accountability, operational improvements, and increasing the recruitment and retention of good officers through fair wages and working conditions.”

Police accountability has been a focal point of contention between the guild and city officials. SPOG has faced criticism from police reform advocates, who claim the union exerts too much influence over officer accountability and discipline procedures.

Officer caught on bodycam faces discipline

Seattle’s ongoing police accountability concerns will be getting special attention soon. SPOG’s own vice president, Officer Daniel Auderer, faces a disciplinary hearing over his comments made after another officer hit and killed 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula in a crosswalk last year. The hearing was set to take place Monday. But the SPD told MyNorthwest Monday afternoon, it didn’t take place. It will occur at another time.

Related news: Closed-door hearing for SPD officer caught laughing after Kandula’s death delayed

In January, Seattle’s civilian-led police watchdog group, the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), found Auderer violated professional standards after he was captured on his own body camera joking about the cost of potential lawsuits for the woman’s death. SPOG said Auderer self-reported his comments to OPA after he realized he had been recorded.

Auderer’s upcoming hearing, overseen by SPD Chief Adrian Diaz and known as a “loudermill hearing,” will allow the officer to a chance to explain himself. If found to have violated policy, he faces a lengthy suspension or possible termination.

Officers’ guild agreement has federal implications

The details of the tentative contract are especially important for another reason: they offer SPD a chance to be released from federal oversight. The so-called “consent decree” has been in place since 2012 after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found evidence Seattle officers regularly engaged in excessive force and biased policing.

Facing a federal lawsuit, the city reached a settlement with the DOJ. It involved spending more than $200 million on training and technical upgrades, among other improvements. Additionally, in 2017 the city council passed an ordinance overhauling oversight and disciplinary procedures for SPD.

But as the city prepared to be released from the federal obligations in 2019, a judge ruled that Seattle was partially out of compliance with the reform agreement. U.S. District Judge James Robart warned that the contract between the city and SPOG, ratified in 2018, did not address all of the points laid out in the federal settlement.

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Citing SPOG’s history of resistance to proposed accountability measures, Robart ordered the city to address those issues before federal oversight could end. He specifically expressed concerns over an arbitrator’s decision that forced SPD to rehire Officer Adley Shepherd. Shepherd was fired in 2018, two years after he punched an intoxicated and handcuffed young woman in the face.

A King County court later reversed that decision, and a state court of appeals upheld it. Slamming the ruling, SPOG vowed to fight it, announcing a plan in 2021 to petition the Washington Supreme Court.

Police accountability likely central focus of negotiations

Last year, following what it called “significant progress” towards departmental reform within SPD, the city and the U.S. Justice Department filed motions last year, asking Judge Robart to lift the consent degree. The judge did so last fall, with two exceptions: SPD’s crowd control measures and officer accountability. Both remain under federal oversight for now.

The citizen-led Seattle Community Police Commission, formed as part of the federal settlement to provide community input in policing matters, released its own written statement Monday.

Commissioners Rev. Patricia Hunter, Joel Merkel and Rev. Harriett Walden wrote in part, “The community—and the federal court—are closely watching. SPOG currently has the right to bargain for how its officers will be held accountable for misconduct. That’s because state law allows police unions to treat elements of the accountability system as bargaining chips in negotiating ongoing labor agreements. Until our state’s labor leaders and legislators come together to change this, cities have the responsibility to ensure police union contracts include transparent, fair, and robust accountability.”

A PDF of the entire statement can be read here.

While details of the contract are not yet public, it appears a foregone conclusion that procedures surrounding police misconduct allegations will be a centerpiece. That was the case for the 2022 agreement reached between the city and the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA), which represents lieutenants and captains.

SPOG’s last approved contract was in 2018, and it included an overall 17% pay increase for officers. According to SPD, it expired on December 31, 2020.

No details are available yet on when the guild might consider or vote on the tentative agreement. KIRO Newsradio reached out to SPOG president Mike Solan for comment but did not receive a response.

You can read more of Kate Stone’s stories here. Follow Kate on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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Seattle Police Officers’ Guild reaches tentative contract agreement with city