Seattle won’t be able to improve the way it handles police misconduct until it takes a tougher stance with the city’s police union, an expert panel reported to Mayor Greg Nickels yesterday, according to the Seattle Times. Nickels, who was handed 29 recommendations by the panel to improve police oversight, promised he would move to adopt some of the proposals without bargaining with the union. The panel called for strengthening civilian oversight of the police department, imposing stricter discipline on officers and giving the public more information about internal investigations.
The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild reiterated its long-standing position that under labor law, most of the proposals must be discussed at the bargaining table. Under bargaining, the process could take years. “They do not work for themselves, they work for the citizens,” said panel member Hubert Locke, a professor of public affairs at the University of Washington. Locke said the guild should be able to negotiate certain working conditions, but added “there are limits to that right.” In its report, the panel said improvements to police oversight “should not be bargained away in labor agreements.” Nickels, who accepted all 29 recommendations, said he would announce within a week which proposals he believes don’t require bargaining and those he would discuss with the union. Nickels appointed the panel in June after complaints that Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske did not adequately discipline two officers involved in the controversial arrest of an African-American drug dealer last year. The chief was criticized for not disciplining officers who beat an African-American man outside a bar.