Urban Politics #212: Police Accountability


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.  With assistance from my LA Lisa Herbold.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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  On Tuesday, April 18, at 5:30 my Public Safety, Governmental Relations, and Arts (PSGRA) Committee will have a public hearing on the subject of police accountability.

Police accountability means many things to many people. This hearing is not intended to be a venue for testifying about more general public safety issues such as a) the need for additional neighborhood patrol staffing, b) neighborhood watch groups’ needs for better access to data about local crime trends, or c) individual complaints. If you have an interest in issues like these, you can contact my office to find out what meetings are scheduled for citizen input.

For purposes of this hearing, the PSGRA Committee members want to hear what Seattle citizens think about the City’s approach to:

– “Provide for citizen oversight of the citizen complaint process;

– Promote public awareness of and full access to that process; and

– Advance reforms that increase police accountability to the public by the Seattle Police Department.”

Some aspects of police accountability must be bargained with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). Labor negotiations are very different from the usual legislative process and are confidential. Labor negotiations do not allow for public involvement. During the last labor negotiations members of the public and many community organizations like the Minority Executive Directors Coalition (MEDC), the American Civil Liberties Union, the Racial Disparity Project, and the NAACP advocated for a public hearing for the purpose of gathering public input on issues to be negotiated with SPOG prior to the beginning of negotiations.

I have already drafted legislation that addresses some of the concerns that these same groups identified in 2003 in a 9-point plan, namely granting access to unredacted files for the citizen oversight entity of OPA, the OPA Review Board (OPARB). Nevertheless, I also think it is important that we hear ideas from other constituent groups and the public in general regarding concerns and issues on the subject of police accountability before the City begins negotiations with the SPOG.

If you’d like to find out for yourself what represents the current agreement between the City and SPOG about police accountability you can read the current SPOG contract online at: http://www.seattle.gov/personnel/resources/agreements.asp

If you still want more background, the Office of Professional Accountability has a website here: http://www.seattle.gov/police/OPA/default.htm

The Office of Professional Accountability Review Board has its website here: http://www.seattle.gov/council/oparb/

If you’d like to learn more about the city labor relations policy and the laws governing it, please see below, City Labor Relations Policy – Frequently Asked Questions.

 

Labor Relations Policy in Seattle – Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who Is Involved In Labor Negotiations?  

Labor negotiations are carried out by the parties to the contract – the employer and the employees. The employer is represented by the Executive Branch (Mayor and departments) and the employees are represented by their union.

  • Why Is The Public Not A Party To The Contract; Don’t Taxes Pay The Salaries Of Public Employees?

By law, the public is not a direct party to that process. The public interest is represented by the elected officials involved in the process.

  • Who Does What In The Contract Negotiations?

1) The Executive is the negotiating representative for the City/Employer in the actual negotiations. Councilmembers are not a part of this process.

2) The Executive and the Council develop the broad goals for contract negotiations for all of the City’s labor contracts. The Labor Relations Policy (LRPC) committee has 5 Councilmembers and other members appointed by the Executive. The LRPC must concur with substantive changes to wages, hours and working conditions for City employees.

3) The Council votes to confirm the contract after it is negotiated. Without the support of the parties to the negotiation – the Executive and the employee union – it would be difficult for the Council to change the contract after the parties reach agreement. An attempt by the Council to change a labor agreement after negotiations could be an unfair labor practice under the state labor laws.

  • Why Is Everything Confidential?

Strict confidentiality of labor negotiations is required by state law and city ordinance. Confidentiality of what is being proposed, discussed and considered must be maintained to allow the parties to freely exchange ideas and work towards an agreement free of influences neither shared by the employer nor the employees.

  • How Does The Public Know If Their Interests Are Represented?

Anybody can let Councilmembers and the Mayor know their hopes for outcomes before negotiations begin. That information may guide the LRPC in determining the broad goals for contract negotiations. The final contract will let you know the results of the negotiations. Councilmembers are briefed throughout the process, but the content of those briefings is confidential.

Keep in touch…

 

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