A few things happened this past week related to the city’s Consent Decree over biased policing.
Welcome back! A few things happened in mid-to-late December that you may have missed, so here’s a post to get you caught up.
Friday afternoon, the City of Seattle submitted to the court its consultant assessment of the police department’s accountability system. The consultant found “not the need for wholesale change but for additional fine-tuning and refinement.” The issues it raises echo those voiced by the city’s Community Police Commission, with disagreement on only a few of the major points.
This afternoon, Judge James Robart issued an order authorizing the City of Seattle to proceed with its proposal to assess its police accountability system and formulate a methodology to achieve compliance under the 2012 Consent Decree.
This morning the Community Police Commission filed its own brief with the U.S. District Court, in response to last Thursday’s submission of the city’s proposal to evaluate its police accountability system and come back into compliance with the Consent Decree.
In a case that has taken on broad significance for police accountability in Seattle, this afternoon King County Superior Court John McHale vacated an arbitrator’s decision last year to overturn the termination of SPD Officer Adley Shepherd for punching a handcuffed suspect in the face while she was in the back seat of a patrol car.
This evening the City of Seattle submitted its proposed methodology for evaluating the city’s police accountability system, as required by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart who oversees the SPD consent decree.
As a footnote to my earlier post on Mayor Durkan’s proposed plan to get the consent decree back on track, there has been one particular troublesome issue that has generated more heat than light: whether police officers should be able to appeal disciplinary actions to arbitration. The CPC had a few thoughts on that in their letter yesterday.
With a rapidly approaching August 15th deadline for the city to submit to Judge James Robart the plan for how it intends to evaluate its police accountability system, the Community Police Commission has reiterated its rejection of Mayor Durkan’s proposed plan.
At her press conference yesterday, Council member Lorena Gonzalez showed a”subway map” diagram of the complex disciplinary process for SPD oficers and supervisors as defined under state law, local law, and its contracts with the two unions representing officers and supervisors.
Here are the diagrams — both high-level and drill-downs. Kudos to the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety for taking the time to make and publish them.
Of particular interest are the grievance and arbitration processes, which are one of the reasons that Judge Robart recently found the city out of compliance with the Consent Decree. The arbitration process allows for “forum shopping” by officers between the Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) and an outside arbitrator, and allows the arbitrator to overrule a disciplinary decision by the Chief of Police (something Robart found particularly problematic). However, under state law public safety officers have the right to arbitration as a path for appealing disciplinary findings, in part to compensate for the fact that they are forbidden from participating in labor strikes. The 2017 Police Accountability Ordinance removed arbitration as an option, forcing all appeals to go through the PSCSC, but arbitration was reinstated as part of negotiating the SPOG contract (because the city can’t unilaterally take it away if the officers don’t want to give it up).