Urban Politics #260: Public Hearings Before Police Contract Negotiations Begin


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

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.

Contents:

  • BACKGROUND ON PUBLIC HEARINGS
  • NEW LEGISLATION

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BACKGROUND ON PUBLIC HEARINGS

Many aspects of police accountability must be bargained with the police labor unions including the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) and the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA). Labor negotiations are very different from the usual legislative process and they are confidential.

Once they begin, labor negotiations do not allow for public involvement. By law, the public is not a direct party to the process itself. The public interest is represented by the elected officials involved in the process.

The Executive and the Council develop the broad goals for contract negotiations for all of the City’s labor contracts. Labor Relations Policy (LRPC) committee has 5 Councilmembers and other members appointed by the Executive. The process for developing these goals for contract negotiations requires strict confidentiality 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.

In 2006, before the City began collective bargain agreement negotiations with the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, the City Council sponsored its first public hearing on the City’s police accountability system. The hearing provided elected officials an opportunity to hear directly from the public. (See Urban Politics 215)

Prior to the City beginning negotiations with SPOG and SPMA is the appropriate time to hear from the public regarding their thoughts, concerns and issues on the subject of police accountability. That information may guide the LRPC in determining the broad goals for contract negotiations.

After the 2006 public hearing the City Council passed Resolution 30871 which recognized the content of the public input provided at the 2006 public hearing. That input included recommendations that the operation of the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) office be more responsive and accessible to complainants, to increase the OPA Review Board (OPARB) access to information and legal protection necessary to effectively perform their duties, and to increase the Seattle Police Department’s training and testing.

The resolution also stated the intent of the Council to continue to hear from the public on the issue of police accountability before the City begins collective bargaining negotiations with the SPOG and SPMA.

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NEW LEGISLATION

Resolution 30871 was a statement of future intent. Council Bill 116343 codifies, in the Seattle Municipal Code 4.04.120, that the City Council provide a meaningful opportunity for the public to comment before the City begins collective bargaining negotiations with the police unions. Specifically the bill requires the following:

  1. That the City Council holds jointly with Office of Accountability Review Board a public hearing before the Council’s Labor Policy Committee and the Public Safety Committee. SMC 4.04.120 (B), states that it is the members of the City Council’s Labor Committee that sit on the Labor Relations Policy Committee for the purpose of developing the broad goals for contract negotiations for the City’s labor contracts.
  2. That the Director of Labor Relations inform the Labor Policy Committee at least 180 days before negotiations begin negotiations to enable the Council to schedule the hearing.
  3. That the City considers in good faith whether and how to carry forward the interests expressed at the public hearing.

The City’s collective bargaining agreement with SPOG is effective from 2007 through 2010. The City is currently in negotiations with the SPMA.

Council Bill 116343 is sponsored by Councilmember Tim Burgess and me. It will be coming before the Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, September 16, 2PM in the City Council Chambers.

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