Seattle police officers rally in support of contract to raise pay
SEATTLE -- It was a protest by a group rarely seen rallying – police officers.
Seattle police officers and local labor leaders held signs and gave speeches outside Seattle City Hall Friday.
They gathered in support of a new Seattle Police Officers’ Guild Contract, one that has been the source of controversy around City Hall this week.
The contract, which is widely backed by guild members, would be the first contract officers have had in three and a half years.
This week, the Community Police Commission, a civilian police oversight group, unanimously agreed the contract should be voted down by City Council.
Mayor Jenny Durkan, whose helped negotiate the contract, has already signed off on it.
“We’re right now at staffing levels that are dangerous- dangerous levels to provide service to the city,” Kevin Stuckey, President of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild said Friday. “Right now, we’re having a serious retention problem and a serious recruiting problem and this would go a long way to helping with that.”
Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best met with media members Friday to talk about the contract.
“Getting this contract approved and doing it quickly is the best we can do to promote public safety and reforms in the department,” Durkan said.
Both Durkan and Best disagree with commission members, who say the contract doesn’t focus enough on police accountability.
Durkan, as the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, helped negotiate a federal consent decree between the Seattle Police Department and the Department of Justice.
Since 2012, the department has been under federal oversight – required to make changes when it comes to the use of force and accountability.
Many of these changes, Best said, were made by officers without extra pay or cost of living increases.
“The officers definitely need the raise," Best said. "They’ve earned it, they’ve worked really hard."
Stuckey told KOMO, “We’ve done our part and the assumption is the city is going to do their part.”
During the rally, members of the Community Police Commission stood by and listened.
Seattle Police Officer Sergio Garcia spoke to the crowd, saying he backs the contract.
"I’m truly concerned at the rate other officers are leaving for other agencies,” Garcia said. “This is a fair contract, I truly believe this contract will help us retain those officers who have helped us achieve all the goal’s we’ve achieved.”
Enrique Gonzalez, commission co-chair, said Friday afternoon that commission members support officers’ earning more money and rallying with King County labor leaders.
“What we don’t want is it to come at the expense of the public’s ability to hold officers’ accountable,” Gonzalez said.
The union contract would offer officers raises and nearly 18 percent retroactive pay.
Gonzalez said their biggest concerns are around how officers are punished if they lie and how officers can appeal discipline.
Seattle City Council members have not yet scheduled a vote on the police contract. A source tells KOMO that the Mayor is confident it will pass council in the coming weeks.
“Right now, the ball is in the court of our City Council,” Stuckey said. “This contract will help us maintain those officers and also hire new candidates so we can continue the good work we’re doing.”