Seattle Police Guild Reaches Tentative Agreement on New Contract

April 1, 2024
The last collective bargaining agreement between the 1,200-member Seattle Police Officers Guild and the city was approved in 2018, and prior negotiations have been bitter.

The Seattle Police Officers Guild and the city have reached a tentative agreement on a contract for rank-and-file Seattle police officers — nearly three years after the last collective bargaining agreement lapsed — in what could be a crucial move toward ending a dozen years of federal oversight.

Deputy Mayor Tim Burgess confirmed the tentative agreement Saturday night but said city policy prevents him from commenting further until the union ratifies it.

The mayor's office did not give any specifics in an emailed statement.

"Our focus throughout negotiations has been on the ultimate goal of creating an excellent police service and a safe Seattle, rooted in a commitment to accountability, operational improvements, and increasing the recruitment and retention of good officers through fair wages and working conditions," the statement said.

Prior negotiations have been bitter, with city officials critical of the managers of the roughly 1,200-member guild for having an outsized influence on officer accountability issues.

It's a particularly pointed issue right now, with the guild's elected vice president facing serious discipline — possibly termination — after he was recorded laughing and downplaying the death of a 23-year-old student who was struck and killed by another Seattle officer's cruiser.

SPOG members have been working without a contract for two years and nine months, according to the guild's website. A telephone call to SPOG president Mike Solan was not returned Saturday night.

A key word in the city's statement is "accountability," an issue that has plagued SPD in the eyes of U.S. District Court Judge James Robart, who has overseen a 12-year overhaul of the department following 2012 findings by the Department of Justice that Seattle officers routinely engaged in the use of excessive force and showed disturbing evidence of biased policing. Since then, the city has spent more than $200 million in training, policy, data and technical upgrades to comply with a settlement agreement to avoid a DOJ lawsuit.

Police reformers complained the last contract undermined key elements of a city council-passed accountability ordinance. That ultimately led to a decision in 2019 by Robart that the city — which at the time was on the cusp of having its oversight ended — had fallen out of compliance with the DOJ settlement agreement when an arbitrator reinstated a police officer who had been fired for punching a handcuffed woman in the face.

The last contract was approved in 2018 after the guild's members had been working without a contract for nearly three years. That contract, along with backpay that came with it, resulted in an overall 17% raise for Seattle officers.

While the officer's termination was eventually upheld, it took a court fight and sowed seeds of doubt with Robart that SPD's accountability mechanisms were sufficient.

The Seattle Police Management Association, which represents the department's lieutenants and captains, reached an agreement with the city in 2022. That agreement focuses on accountability, the city has said.

A federal court order issued last September made the outcome of collective bargaining with an emphasis on officer accountability a "milestone task" that must be achieved before oversight will end.

The tentative agreement reached Saturday starts a clock ticking with the court. According to Robart's order, the city has 30 days to file in court an analysis of the tentative agreement's effect, if any, on the police department's accountability and review systems and the city's accountability ordinance.


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