Representatives of civil-rights and minority organizations have voiced frustration with the Seattle’s police-discipline system. The Seattle Times reports that they urged City Council members to push for more public oversight in contract talks with the police. “The city continues to negotiate rights away from the public,” said Harriett Walden of Mothers for Police Accountability.
Walden and others said the city has allowed the police union too much control over how officers are investigated. They urged the city to push for new measures – such as an appeal process – to boost public confidence in investigations. The head of the police union blasted the activists’ campaign as an effort to interfere with good-faith labor negotiations.
Ken Saucier, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, wrote to City Council member Nick Licata that the union “will not be drawn into a public discussion or debate outside of the collective bargaining process facilitated by City Council members who have no respect for the law.”
The contract for more than 1,100 Seattle police officers expired at the start of 2003; the city and union have yet to agree on a new one.
The city has instituted an Office of Professional Accountability to investigate complaints of police misconduct. A three-member citizen panel also reviews investigations but has access only to reports with the names blacked out and has the power only to make recommendations.
Activists say civilians should be given greater authority over the police. Licata said he was “baffled” that critics did not offer many specific reforms at a hearing yesterday.