The Right Contract to Advance Reform at the Seattle Police Department and Treat Our Officers Fairly

By Cameron McLay

The Seattle Police Department is one of the leading departments in our nation. They have advanced best practices in crisis intervention and tactical de-escalation, and received training in procedural justice and implicit bias. They have strengthened oversight and police accountability systems. Collectively, these efforts improve the quality of police interactions with community members and create safer and more just communities by elevating the quality of police services.

These changes are for the better, and we must protect these hard-fought reforms.

That’s why advancing the Tentative Agreement between the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild is the right thing to do. I learned a vital lesson during my long career in policing: as human beings, police officers cannot be expected to treat the public any better than they believe their department and their city treat them.

The members of the Seattle Police Department reasonably expect the City to follow the rules of collective bargaining and to respect agreements made in good faith. We hold them accountable for following the rules; they expect their City leaders to do the same. We hold them accountable for treating the public fairly; they likewise expect just treatment.

So ask yourself, Seattle, what kind of police department do you want? It is never a compliment to be declared to be “in need of reform,” yet the men and women of the Seattle Police Department rose to the occasion and made a great many needed changes. They worked without a contract for years and did everything demanded of them and more. So if you were a member of the Seattle Police Department, would you feel valued and respected right now?

Seattle has an opportunity to continue being one of the best police departments in the nation. We have a bright and well-trained police workforce lead by Chief Carmen Best, a strong framework for accountability to provide community input and oversight to allow democratic governance in policy development and transparency in police accountability.

Trust the federal court to intervene if there are imperfections in the collective bargaining agreement. Trust that your Inspector General, Office of Police Accountability, Community Police Commission and Federal Monitor are all providing oversight to protect the integrity of your hard-earned reforms.

The City Council should show leadership and move the collective bargaining agreement forward.