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    Seattle police accountability: What does the public want?

    Guest Opinion: The city is getting set to begin police contract negotiations that could be critical to police reform.
    Nick Licata

    Nick Licata

    A version of this article appeared earlier on the writer's Urban Politics blog.

    The City Council and the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board will jointly sponsor a public hearing Tuesday on what the city should consider as it begins labor negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers' Guild. The council is directed to hold the hearing under an ordinance adopted in 2008 and sponsored by myself and Councilmember Tim Burgess.

    The comments from the public hearing will help inform deliberations on the upcoming negotiations.

    Police accountability has been a longtime interest of mine. At my urgings, the City Council sponsored its first public hearing on the city’s police accountability system in 2006. It was called by some an "historic moment." It was the first time that a public hearing was held in advance of Seattle police union labor negotiations on a new labor contract. The hearing provided elected officials an opportunity to hear directly from the public about what to include in the new contract with Seattle Police Officers Guild.  

    The 2008 legislation directs the Council and the review board to hold a public hearing on police accountability at least 90 days before the city begins collective bargaining on a new contract with the Police Officer’s Guild (SPOG) or the Seattle Police Management Association, representing officers. The City and SPOG will be beginning labor negotiations in the upcoming months.

    Because police accountability is a “condition of employment,” many aspects of it must be bargained with the police labor unions before it is included in a labor contract. Labor negotiations are very different from the usual legislative process and they are confidential.

    Prior to the city beginning negotiations with SPOG is the appropriate time to hear from the public regarding their thoughts, concerns and issues on the subject of police accountability. That information can then guide the city's Labor Relations Policy Committee in determining the broad goals for contract negotiations. One issue that has been recently suggested as a goal for the upcoming negotiations relates to how the appellate and grievance processes stemming from complaints of possible misconduct fail to reflect the values of transparency and accountability underlying the OPA (Office of Professional Accountability). I have written about that issue in a recent Urban Politics.

    The OPA Auditor, retired Judge Anne Levinson, has written a special review about the problem as well. She makes a number of very reasonable recommendations, among them to require that any hearings for police disciplinary cases be open to the public. But the recommendations are all important, and I encourage readers to review her report. Finally, the Community Police Commission (CPC) accountability workgroup is responsible for leading the CPC’s review of SPD’s accountability system, including the structure and practices of the OPA. They, too, will have important recommendations.

    The city administration and the council develop the broad goals for contract negotiations for all of the city’s labor contracts. The Labor Relations Policy Committee has five council members and other members appointed by the executive. Under state law and city ordinance, the process for developing these goals for contract negotiations requires strict confidentiality. Confidentiality of what is being proposed, discussed and considered must be maintained to allow the parties to freely exchange ideas and work toward an agreement.

    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.

    After the next week’s public hearing the City Council, I intend to introduce, as we did in 2006, a resolution recognizing the content of the public input and saying that the city will consider in good faith whether and how to carry forward the interests expressed at the public hearing. 

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    Posted Fri, Apr 18, 4:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    An "historic moment" will be when Nick Licata says something worth listening to. Lose the personal pronouns Nick.


    Posted Fri, Apr 18, 6:23 p.m. Inappropriate

    What does the public want? I want to be able to walk from Pike Place Market to Westlake with my kids and not witness fights, drugs deals, people vomiting and pissing in the street, bum fights, gang bangers pimping girls, crusties with unleashed pit bulls smoking pot (still illegal in public) and camped out in the park.

    Is that asking too much?


    Posted Fri, Apr 18, 8:36 p.m. Inappropriate

    Yes. Seattle loves all of the above, and despises normal people with kids.

    Posted Sun, Apr 20, 12:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    Portland's Mayor Hales, reserving the role of Police Commissioner to himself, fails when set against Licata's request for public input. Never has a Portland City Council decision to terminate an officer been upheld. Union contract provisions they've negotiated return officers with back pay: Officer Frashour is collecting full-time pay, but not reporting to work; so great is community odium for his homicide of unarmed Aaron Campbell during a 2010 'welfare check.' DoJ investigators termed Portland's a 'self-defeating accountability system' in 2012 Findings of unconstitutional practices. They took direct aim at contract provisions giving officers 48 hours before allowing interviews after they use force. The DoJ declared police "should not hinder investigation of a potentially criminal action with this officer-specific delay." Hales took no leadership role before entering secret union negotiations. No one knows whether he was out-bargained, or simply never advocated for an end to the '48-hour rule' or arbitration processes that inhibit civilian authority from imposing discipline.
    More at the link:

    Posted Sun, Apr 20, 6:34 p.m. Inappropriate

    DoD study on random polygraphs for personnel. http://t.co/Tr7uafTd

    "the polygraph is the single most effective tool for finding information people were trying to hide." - DIA, NSA.

    CBP could require current employees to undergo polygraphs. http://t.co/MpPsmq2p

    Make policy that polygraphs for all new hires expire every 2-5yrs. http://shar.es/epfm2

    Random drug, lie detector tests for Police Officers in Spain. http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Random-drug-lie-detector-tests-221734651.

    LAPD body video cameras. http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-dodgers-lapd-20131002,0,4237783.story

    The honest, brave officers with integrity deserve better.

    And so does the public.

    Wherever you are in the World, in your own jurisdictions, in your own capacity, you can do something, anything, just one thing. And make a difference.

    Break the code. Break the culture.


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