Judge Robart orders hearing on SPOG contract for November 1

Today Judge James Robart, the judge overseeing implementation of the consent decree over biased policing by SPD, scheduled a status conference for next Thursday, November 1, to discuss the tentative contract with Seattle police officers.

The scheduling order was prompted by a letter from Mayor Durkan and SPD Chief Carmen Best to Robart informing him that the city had successfully negotiated a tentative contract and briefly highlights some aspects of that agreement:

The Tentative Agreement advances the core reforms and requirements of the Consent Decree and provides a national example of civilian-led accountability. It also ensures that our City maintains the ability to recruit and retain an increasingly diverse Department, which is essential to public safety and increasing public trust.

The TA fully implements the Court approved body camera policy, the duties of the Office of Inspector General under the Accountability Ordinance and continues the historic civilianization of complaint investigations at the Office of Police Accountability. While modern policing requires constant review of practices and policies, the City is confident this TA ensures continuous improvement at the Seattle Police Department and moves beyond the standard of Constitutional police services and closer to a community where all—including the most marginalized—feel safe.

At the Court’s convenience, Chief Best, the Mayor’s Office, and City Attorney Holmes look forward to the opportunity to provide a full description of the Tentative Agreement’s terms. 

 

Robart’s scheduling order requests “the parties and other interested entities” to address four issues at the hearing:

  1. the process and timeline by which the tentative agreement will be finalized;
  2. next steps in the even the agreement is not finalized;
  3. the parties’ preliminary positions on whether the agreement complies with the terms of the consent decree;
  4. the point at which the court should review any agreement between the city and SPOG to ensure compliance with the consent decree, and the process for such a review.

Robart notes that the November 1 status conference is not for him to make any substantive determinations regarding the tentative agreement, but rather “to update the court on the current status of events… and to formulate a plan for moving forward in a manner consistent with Phase II of the consent decree in light of recent events.” Robart ordered the city and the DOJ to submit 10-page briefs addressing the four issues above by next Monday, October 29, and invited (but did not require) SPD and the Community Police Commission to do likewise.

This means that Council member Gonzalez, who leads the City Council’s process for reviewing and voting on the tentative agreement, will need to decide on the process and timeline by Monday. Yesterday she issued a memo outlining some high-level principles but indicated that she had not yet worked out the full process and timeline.

In related news, the CPC today published a new document that attempts to summarize its top issues with the tentative agreement in how it impacts the police accountability system.

On that note, Robart added an important clarification in a foot note of his order:

The court’s interest in the TA pertains to the TA’s compliance with the Consent Decree. Whether or not the TA is consistent with the City’s Accountability Ordinance is of interest to the court only to the extent that changes to that Ordinance may implicate the Consent Decree. Similarly, the court’s interest in the collective bargaining process is based solely on its concern with the City’s and SPD’s successful completion of Phase II of the Consent Decree and the City’s and SPD’s continued compliance with the Consent Decree.

 

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