SPOG CBA

A Disappointing SPOG Contract, Ignoring Community’s Interest in Accountabilty, Takes Another Step Forward

Seattle News:

Mayor Bruce Harrell announced legislation to move forward the new SPOG contract, previously discussed here. The new agreement, which gives SPOG members a total retroactive pay raise of 23%, only covers up until the end of 2023, which makes it “partial.” Negotiations for the 2024 contract are ongoing and currently in mediation. It is worth noting that if mediation fails, the next step would be to go to interest arbitration, the decision of which would be binding for both parties. 

For the most starry-eyed perspective of what this contract accomplishes, you can read the city’s press release, but it’s important to remember that this new contract does not even meet the minimum bar of achieving the 2017 Accountability Ordinance. Many advocates would like to see accountability pushed beyond an ordinance passed 7 years ago. The contract needs to be passed by City Council in order to be finalized.

I wrote a piece covering the current conversation related to SPD police officer recruitment and standards. I cover Councilmember Sara Nelson’s legislation asking to switch the officer candidate entrance exam, concerns with SPD’s backgrounding, and SPD cultural problems, including the recently filed tort claim by four female SPD officers alleging sexual harassment and discrimination. I also point out that Mayor Bruce Harrell’s recent move to hire an independent investigation firm to look into these charges comes an entire 7 months after the 30×30 report was released that uncovered these issues, and only after three separate law suits and tort claims that all allege sexual discrimination. 

The Stranger reported that “Council Member Tanya Woo let it slip last night that Public Safety Chair Bob Kettle and the City Attorney are “looking into possibly taking away the contract with King County and trying to have a contract with SCORE, private jails…” While SCORE isn’t technically a private jail, it does have serious safety concerns and would be more costly than the King County Jail, which Seattle currently uses. Whether private jails are also being looked into or Woo simply misspoke is unclear. 

In a strange display at Monday’s Council Briefing, Councilmember Cathy Moore appeared to be close to a temper tantrum over alleged uncollegial conduct from colleague Councilmember Tammy Morales after Moore voted against Morales’s Connected Communities legislation last week. The legislation would have made it easier to build more affordable housing in the city. You can watch her speech here. Thus far no journalist has been able to uncover any evidence that Morales actually said anything inflammatory. While this doesn’t have anything to do with public safety per say, it is a glimpse into a Council that continues to say bizarre things and occasionally throw facts to the wind. 

As we prepare for budget discussions this fall, it’s important to have an understanding of where the large ($240 million and growing) deficit came from. A new five-year analysis shows that around 79% of budget growth during that time came from keeping up with inflation, including increasing wages for city workers. New and expanded programs supported by the JumpStart tax accounted for 19%. 

As The Seattle Times reported, other budgetary issues have included increased legal claims against the city (much stemming from SPD’s behavior in 2020), increasing insurance costs, and costly technology upgrades.

SPD Officer Daniel Auderer, Vice President of SPOG whose claim to fame is laughing at Jaahnavi Kandula’s death, will be representing SPD at a national traffic safety conference in August in Washington DC. Taxpayers will undoubtedly be footing the expense for this trip.

Payments for the retroactive pay raise for the Coalition of City Unions, previously thought to be delayed until fall, will be given in July instead. The timeline of retroactive pay for SPOG members won’t be decided until after the City Council vote on the new contract.

SPD has ended its use of the experimental BolaWrap, a lasso-like device that they touted for using in situations where people in crisis had knives. In a report, SPD reported using the device only 3 times in 2023, and in one of these incidents the technology failed spectacularly. As The Stranger reports:

In 2021, the City agreed to restore more than $4 million for SPD’s discretionary spending fund in part based on the justification that SPD needed the money to invest in BolaWrap technology. The decision seemed rooted in the idea that new technologies can stop police violence. But cops often ignore less-lethal options in favor of their guns. In the SPD cases where they killed Caver, Hayden, and Charleena Lyles, no officer used the less lethal tools that SPD already equipped them with, such as Tasers, pepper spray, a baton, or a shield. Still, the City thought the BolaWrap, already a ridiculous concept for a device, would suddenly do the trick.”

King County News:

I wrote an article describing the new guaranteed basic income (GBI) program run by the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, starting in fall of 2022. While this program benefited people from many walks of life, I focused my article on two examples of folks receiving the GBI benefit who were justice-impacted and readjusting to life outside of prison. GBI programs like these continue to show large benefits, both for their recipients and for society as a whole. 

If you’re interested in the work around recommendations regarding the King County youth jail, there will be an informational webinar on Thursday, May 23 from 6-7pm. The Care & Closure Advisory Committee is also reconvening to discuss their two recommendations that were not unanimous: the proposed respite and receiving center and short-term respite housing. Their first meeting will be on Monday, June 3rd at 4pm.

Recent Headlines:

A Disappointing SPOG Contract, Ignoring Community’s Interest in Accountabilty, Takes Another Step Forward Read More »

A Day in the Life of Seattle City Council

A Day in the Life of Seattle City Council:

The day: Thursday, April 25, 2024

In the morning, Councilmember Martiza Rivera led the Librairies, Education, and Neighborhoods committee meeting, where she blamed the recently announced rotating library closings and reduced hours on the benefits librarians won in their most recent contract. The expense of ebooks were also mentioned as a culprit. Downplayed was the impact of this year’s hiring freeze.

In the afternoon, Council President Sara Nelson led the Governance, Accountability, and Economic Development committee meeting. During public comment, a commenter brought attention to a possible conflict of interest Nelson has with the new gig worker minimum wage rollback legislation, and she interrupted him, attempting to derail his request for her to recuse herself by asking which item on the agenda he was referencing. (It was obvious which item he was referencing.)

During the discussion on the police officer recruitment bill, Nelson brought up the overwhelming nature of climate change, saying because there is no magical solution to climate change, we do nothing. But apparently hiring new police officers is not tough like climate change, hence this new bill, which seems unlikely to have a strong impact on hiring numbers, although it will give the Council someone to yell at if numbers don’t get better of their own accord. 

In the evening, two councilmembers held town halls in their district: Robert Kettle in District 7 and Cathy Moore in District 5. Kettle had friends Council President Sara Nelson and Councilmember Tanya Woo in tow. 

At Kettle’s event, he once again stated his belief that the SPD is the best police force in the nation. A few hours later, the news broke that four more women officers at SPD have filed a tort claim alleging sexual harassment and sexual discrimination by Chief Adrian Diaz, Lt. John O’Neil, and human resource manager Rebecca McKechnie. This is the third suit brought against the SPD for gender discrimination in the last six months. Meanwhile, SPD has been under a federal consent decree for twelve years and the new proposed SPOG contract does not make the accountability changes the presiding judge has indicated he wanted to see before fully ending the decree. And this is the best police force in the nation?

Worse yet, when asked whether the city has ever discussed bringing in the National Guard for “the most dire parts of this community,” Nelson said, “The short answer is yes.” She referenced Gavin Newsom calling in the National Guard in San Francisco. 

Meanwhile, at Moore’s event, she announced she’ll be introducing legislation reinstating the old law against “prostitution loitering” that was unanimously repealed by the Council back in 2020. Yes, even Alex Pedersen voted to repeal this law. 

As PubliCola reports, “The council repealed the laws against prostitution loitering and drug loitering after the Seattle Reentry Workgroup, established to come up with recommendations to help formerly incarcerated people reenter their communities, recommended repealing both laws on the grounds that they disproportionately harm people of color and amount to “criminalization of poverty.””

Moore says she hopes the law will allow officers to approach prostitutes, look for diversion opportunities, and see if they’re being trafficked or not. It is not clear whether this law is actually needed in order for officers to do these things.

Moore also said she’d be voting to approve the new SPOG contract that gives 23% raises to police officers while making few improvements to accountability.

Other News:

The first SPD killing of the year happened last week

The King County Law and Justice committee met this Tuesday to discuss the Superior Court’s Jury Participation and Diversity Report and to hear from the Auditor’s Office on the audit they recently performed on the Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center (CCFJC), otherwise known as the youth jail. They also got an update on implementation of recommendations for all criminal legal system audits since 2020. 

The main findings from the audit on the youth jail were that while the facility was designed for short stays of 30 days or less in mind, most of the youth now held in the jail are staying for longer. 84% of youth have stays of more than 30 days, more than half are there for at least 3 months, and about a third are there for six months. The youth are housed in the CCFJC while waiting for the resolution of their cases.

This is a problem because the facility is not designed with ample green spaces, a big enough gymnasium, and flexible programming space, all of which are needed if youth are staying there longer. Youth staying longer tend to have greater needs as well, and CCFJC doesn’t offer all the appropriate programming. Longer stays in the youth jail have also been shown to increase recidivism. 

The other issue uncovered by the audit was the impact of staff shortages on the care of the youth staying at the facility, as well as on staff morale. Staff shortages lead to modified staffing schedules, which means more time the youth are spending in their cells. During a normal schedule, a youth will spend 11-13 hours in their cell, whereas they will spend at least 14.5 hours in their cell during a modified schedule. 

There have been times when educational class time has been so shortened teachers have worried about meeting state educational requirements. Short staffing can also cause recreation programs to be canceled and make it difficult for youth to meet with mental health counselors. Both teachers and juvenile detention officers end up being stretched thin. 

Right now 79 out of 91 total positions for juvenile detention officer are filled. The low staffing point thus far was in March of 2023, when there were only 68 juvenile detention officers. 

Recent Headlines:

A Day in the Life of Seattle City Council Read More »

New SPOG Contract Would Reportedly Give Police More Money Without Additional Accountability

Seattle News:

The huge news in public safety in Seattle this past week has been the announcement of a tentative new contract between the city and the Seattle Police Officers Guild, or SPOG. The last contract was approved in 2018 and expired at the end of 2020, so this new contract has been a long time coming and provides one of the few opportunities to make real improvements to Seattle’s police accountability. 

However, news in that regard is not good. While the full contract has not yet been released, PubliCola reported that “The city approved a contract with the Seattle Police Managers Association last year that included new accountability measures, but SPOG’s contract reportedly fails to replicate many of these measures.” The new contract would also only apply until the end of 2023, while the next contract that would begin in 2024 is in mediation and could be delayed for an indefinite amount of time.

While it sounds like we won’t be seeing necessary accountability measures in the new contract, what we will be seeing is raises and back pay for police. PubliCola reports that retroactive wage increases for the past three years (2021-2023) would amount to a 23% pay raise: “The raises would increase the starting pay for new officers, before overtime, from just over $83,000 to nearly $103,000. Officers who have worked at SPD for six months would see their base pay increase to $110,000, and so on up the seniority line.” These raises would mean SPD officers would be receiving the highest base pay in the region. 

If this sounds like terrible negotiation strategy to you, giving SPOG members a huge raise while not making real gains in accountability, then we are in agreement. But we’ll have to wait to see the contract to see exactly what is happening here. 

In other labor news, the City Council finally voted on the contract with the Coalition of City Unions, which provides a 9.7% cumulative raise: 5% for 2023 and 4.5% for 2024. City workers will also receive raises in 2025 and 2026 based on the region’s consumer price index. 

How will this affect Seattle’s budget? The Stranger reports that the City has the money to cover the extra $10.5 million this contract will cost for 2023 and 2024 because of saving $20 million from this year’s hiring freeze and JumpStart bringing in $40 million more than anticipated in 2023. Looking forward into 2025, the contract will cost $11 million more than expected, potentially bringing the budget deficit from $230 million to $241 million. (That being said, it’s possible the remaining hiring freeze savings and extra 2023 JumpStart monies might be applied to decrease this deficit, although of course spending JumpStart funds outside of its spending plan is a fraught question.)

What we don’t yet know is how much that deficit will be affected by the new SPOG contract. 

Washington State News:

You can check out my interview with WA state legislature candidate Shaun Scott in the Urbanist from earlier this week.

Results from the latest Healthy Youth survey are out; this is a biennial survey for Washington state students designed to assess their mental health. Crosscut reported that “improved health behaviors and mental health along with increased social support were among the findings from this year’s survey, in comparison to 2021 results. At least seven in 10 reported feeling moderate to high hopes in 2023.”

The article goes on to quote Maayan Simckes, the principal investigator for the survey, theorizing that the improvements in student mental health might be due to increased supports at home and school, with almost 60% of youth saying they had an adult to turn to when they felt depressed. 

That being said, while things have definitely improved, we still have a lot of young people suffering in the state. 55% of 12th graders and 49% of 10th graders said they’d been “unable to stop or control worrying in past two weeks,” while 32% of 12th graders and 30% of 10th graders said they’d been “feeling sad/hopeless in past year.” 15% of both 10th and 12th graders considered attempting suicide in the past year. 

I’m also struck by that 40% of youth who did NOT have an adult to turn to when they felt depressed. We still have work to do. 

Housekeeping:

I’ve received several Substack “pledges” in recent weeks with notes about wanting to support local journalism, which I think is fantastic! However, I’m not going to turn on Substack’s subscription service. Instead if you’d like to support my work, you can do so with a monthly donation through my Patreon or through a one-time donation via Paypal.

And of course, I applaud you if you’re offering your support to any of our fine local media outlets, such as Real Change, The South Seattle Emerald, PubliCola, The Stranger, or my current home The Urbanist.

Recent Headlines:

New SPOG Contract Would Reportedly Give Police More Money Without Additional Accountability Read More »

Tacoma Pays $3 Million to the 3 Cops who Killed Manuel Ellis

Seattle News:

First off, I have a new piece in The Urbanist all about what to look for in the new SPOG contract we’re expecting to see sometime this year. New information about the Executive’s bargaining priorities was recently made public in a report from the Court Monitor, and I discuss that as well as explaining the various accountability provisions that are currently missing from the contract and referencing other considerations to take into account when analyzing and understanding the contract.

We now know the new CM members of the Labor Relations Policy Committee: CMs Nelson, Rivera, Kettle, Moore, and Strauss. These CMs will be able to potentially set new bargaining parameters with SPOG. If they decide to set new parameters that are more favorable to SPOG, this could expedite the negotiation process and cause us to see a new potential contract sooner. More favorable parameters could include increased compensation of various kinds and/or decreased accountability measures. 

Meanwhile, the process to select the vacant CM seat on the City Council continues. The Council selected 8 finalists on Friday. The leading contender is Tanya Woo, who ran for the D2 seat in the most recent election. Insiders were saying at one point she had six of the eight votes for the seat. 

However, Vivan Song, a current member of the Seattle School Board, was selected by CM Strauss and is also in the running. She was just endorsed by the MLK Labor Council. 

Business interests and the Mayor’s Office seem to be aligning behind Tanya Woo. As Publicola reported, Tim Ceis, an insider at City Hall, emailed supporters of the independent expenditure campaigns that funded the moderate slate that had so much election success last November, telling them that said election success entitles them to a say about the vacant seat, saying, “I don’t believe all of you worked so hard and gave so much to let unions and the left decide who gets this seat.”

Much speculation abounds about who will run for the seat this November. You can read more analysis on the current politics at play here.

A public forum for the 8 candidates will be held on Thursday, January 18 from 5:30-7:30pm at City Hall and also streaming on the Seattle Channel. The City Council chose the Seattle CityClub to host the event, passing over the Transit Riders Union. The final vote on the appointment will be on Tuesday, January 23.

January 23 is also the anniversary of the death of Jaahnavi Kandula. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has still not publicly stated whether they will be filing criminal charges against the officer who hit and killed Kandula with his vehicle. The complaint against Daniel Auderer, the SPOG vice president and SPD officer who was recorded laughing about Kandula’s death, is also still pending

PROTEC-17, which has over 2,700 members in the City of Seattle, has reached a tentative agreement with the City that will cover 2023-2026. They will receive a 5% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2023, a 4.5% COLA for 2024, and for 2025 and 2026 they’ll receive a COLA tied to the local consumer price index between 2-4%. 

Tacoma News:

The news broke this week that in an internal Tacoma Police Department (TPD) investigation, the three Tacoma police officers involved in the killing of Manuel Ellis were cleared of violating rules and using excessive force, with the exception of one officer failing to be courteous. The officers will be paid $500k each to leave their employment with TPD voluntarily. They were also paid a cumulative $1.5 million in pay (and accrued a lot of vacation days to boot) while being on leave since June 2020. This means they each received around $1 million for the last three and a half years while doing no work. And because they were cleared of violating any rules, they could theoretically be hired elsewhere as police officers.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is opening a federal review of the legal case against the three officers. As The Seattle Times reports: “It’s not clear from the U.S. attorney’s limited statement about the review whether it will be confined to the actions of the three officers, or more broadly examine the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department’s initial investigation of Ellis’ death, or possibly the court case.”

At the Tacoma City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, councilmembers discussed a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Tacoma Police Union Local #6. Wages are being increased 6.5% in 2024, 7% in 2025, and in 2026 they will be increased 100% of the local consumer price index to fall between 1-5%, with an additional guarantee of remaining the current first place ranking in the market. 

The Body Worn Camera (BWC) and In-Car Video policy is being removed from the CBA and placed in the police manual. Language has been removed from the CBA that required the City to delay compelled statements until after criminal investigations and charges are complete.

One of the most interesting changes is that officers charged with crimes that, if sustained, would cause them to lose their commission, will be placed on an investigative suspension without pay. This includes felonies, gross misdemeanor domestic violence charges, or an offense with sexual motivation. 

Advocates are criticizing the new CBA, saying it doesn’t contain anything having to do with police oversight or conditions for firing police. 

WA State News:

The state legislative session continues!
You can watch the hearing for SHB 1045, the bill to establish a basic income pilot program, here. Its companion bill, SB 6196, has been introduced in the Senate, and a hearing is expected sometime around the end of the month. 

You can sign in PRO for SB 5975, a bill that would allow the Housing Trust Fund to provide loans and grants to social housing. The deadline is 9:30am on Friday, 1/19.

You can sign in PRO for HB 2065, a bill that would make last year’s legislation to cease using juvenile points in sentencing retroactive.

Three accountability bills are currently moving through the House:

  • HB 1445 would give the attorney general the right to investigate and sue law enforcement departments for systemic discriminatory practices.
  • HB 1579 would establish an independent prosecutor for pursuing police misconduct cases who is free from the conflict of interest inherent for County Prosecutors, who work closely with law enforcement.
  • HB 2027 would close a loophole to make sure all law enforcement personnel are subject to the same certification, background checks, and training requirements. 

Five gun control laws are currently being discussed in session. You can read more about each of the five proposed bills in the second half of this newsletter.

The Washington Observer also discusses HB 1479 at length, which deals with student confinement and isolation. I highly recommend reading this piece to learn more about this issue.

Recent Headlines:

Tacoma Pays $3 Million to the 3 Cops who Killed Manuel Ellis Read More »