Community groups urge Seattle City Council to reject police contract as step backwards for community trust in the police department

News Release: 
Thursday, November 8, 2018
Diane Narasaki, Asian Counseling and Referral Service
Estela Ortega, El Centro de la Raza
Brian Robick, ACLU of Washington

A broad coalition of community leaders is urging the Seattle City Council to reject a tentative contract between the City and the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) because it threatens to undermine the package of improvements put in place by a historic police accountability law the Council approved in May 2017.  The ordinance was designed to strengthen community trust in the Seattle Police Department and solidify reforms arising from a still-open court order against the City.

Ordinance 125315 established both a comprehensive system reforming police practices which had been problematic in Seattle in the past and a strengthened system for civilian oversight. It created a new Office of the Inspector General, strengthened the Community Police Commission (CPC) and the Office of Police Accountability, and mandated reforms on a wide range of other topics, including discipline for dishonesty and secondary employment.

Advocates for police reform are now asking Seattle City Council to vote no on the tentative contract at the Council meeting currently scheduled for November 13. In a November 8 letter to councilmembers, a coalition of groups said the proposed contract breaches community trust because it undermines recommendations made by the CPC which City Council adopted through the unanimous passage of the May 2017 ordinance. The CPC is a respected group of community members and police-reform experts, representing diverse Seattle communities and stakeholders. The CPC collectively possesses decades of experience with the problems that led to the court order requiring significant changes in the police department’s policies and practices.

The CPC’s letter to the Council includes a chart summarizing the most troubling of the many discrepancies between the tentative contract and the year-old ordinance.  For example, the contract waters down hard-fought-for improvements in the system for disciplining officers for dishonesty.  It also weakens improvements regarding the 180-day time limit on misconduct investigations.  Both of these long-standing issues were acknowledged and addressed by the City Council when it passed the 2017 ordinance.  The contract now threatens to undermine the community confidence in the police that the federal judge has said is crucial to ultimately finding the City in compliance with the court order. 

“We believe that there can be no true accountability to the community without the CPC recommendations that were passed in the 2017 ordinance,” said Diane Narasaki, Executive Director of Asian Counseling and Referral Service.  “Please do not turn back the clock on advances to date made by the CPC and the City on building community trust in the police department by approving the tentative SPOG contract.” 

“The accountability system is so weakened by these departures from the ordinance in the tentative contract that we cannot agree to its adoption,” said Estela Ortega, Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza. “We urge the council to vote no.”
“Police reforms can’t succeed without trust and confidence from the community,” said Rev. Harriet Walden, founder of Mothers for Police Accountability. “As members of this community and participants in the police-reform process, we implore the Seattle City Council to hear our voices and heed our concerns.”
Signees include:
Michele Storms, American Civil Liberties Union of Washington
Diane Narasaki, Asian Counseling and Referral Service
Janice Deguchi, Asian Pacific Directors Coalition
Tony Lee, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition
Joanne Alcantara, API Chaya
Marcos Martinez, Casa Latina
Michael Itti, Chinese Information and Service Center
Michael Ramos, Church Council of Greater Seattle
Dominique Davis, Community Passageways
Estela Ortega, El Centro de la Raza
Rev. Paul Benz, Faith Action Network
Sheila Burrus, Filipino Community of Seattle
Pradeepta Upadhyay, International District Improvement Association
Jorge L. Baron, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Jay Hollingsworth, John T. Williams Organizing Committee
Nina Martinez, Latino Civic Alliance
Rev. Harriett Walden, Mothers for Police Accountability
Andre Taylor, Not This Time
Rich Stolz, OneAmerica
Lisa Daugaard, Public Defender Association
Claudia D’Allegri, Sea Mar
Alison Eisinger, Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness
Jackie Vaughn, Surge Reproductive Justice
Linh Thai, Vietnamese Community Leadership Institute