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.
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).
Last week, when it became known that Mayor Durkan had hired an outside consultant firm to develop a Court-ordered methodology for assessing the city’s police accountability regime, there was near-instant backlash from 24 community groups as well as the Community Police Commission. Today, three City Council members jumped on that bandwagon.
As he promised last week, this afternoon Judge James Robart issued his written ruling finding that the City of Seattle has fallen partially out of compliance with the 2012 Consent Decree on biased policing practices.
In so doing, he clarified some questions raised by his bench ruling last week, but left other important ones unanswered.
As directed by Judge James Robart, who oversees the city’s 2012 consent decree over biased policing, the Community Police Commission and the City of Seattle have both filed their final briefs on the new contract with SPOG, the police officers’ union, and on the recent arbitrator’s reversal of the termination of Adley Shepherd for excessive use of force. And neither side is backing down.
This afternoon, the Department of Justice submitted its brief to U.S. District Court Judge James Robart in response to his order to show cause why the terms of the city’s contract with SPOG and the recent reinstatement of Officer Adley Shepherd don’t mean that the city has fallen out of compliance with the Consent Decree.
In its brief, the DOJ argued that the overturning by an arbitrator of Shepherd’s termination isn’t a sign of a systemic pattern or practice of excessive use of force. It also found that the SPOG collective bargaining agreement neither conflicts with the Consent Decree nor threatens to undermine compliance with it.
Last Friday, the City of Seattle filed an official notice with the U.S. District Court that it had negotiated and ratified a new labor agreement with Seattle’s police officers. Judge James Robart, who oversees the Consent Decree, had previously signaled that he would not weigh in on the merits of the new contract until it was properly before his court. But now that it is, he wasted no time in making his thoughts known: this morning he issued an “Order to Show Cause” why he should not find that the city has failed to maintain full and effective compliance with the Consent Decree.