Seattle police say officers are handing in their resignations as a fight over their proposed union contract heats up.
On Thursday, civil rights groups asked the Seattle City Council to reject the proposed labor agreement.
Kevin Stuckey, president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, told KOMO that if the contract is rejected the clock will turn back two years, to when the last contract was rejected.
Stuckey said the “worst-case scenario” is that all officers will remove their body cameras because use of the devices hasn’t been fully negotiated. The police guild had filed an unfair labor practice with the state’s employee-relations commission because of the cameras.
Though an unfair labor practice complaint exists officers have still worn the cameras. According to Seattle police nearly 920 officers are wearing them.
“That is a worst-case scenario, I don’t know what will happen. But that could happen,” Stuckey said about the cameras being removed.
On Tuesday, the city council is expected to hear from backers of the contract signed by Mayor Jenny Durkan and the police guild.
The Community Police Commission, a civilian oversight group, has been vehemently opposed to the contract over concerns it rolls back police accountability legislation.
“That fundamentally weakens the accountability ordinance approved by the city council last year in May,” Estella Ortega, with El Centro de La Raza said during a news conference Thursday. “The devil is in the details especially when it comes to discipline for dishonesty and secondary employment.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, immigrant rights groups, police accountability organizations and the brother of a man shot by Seattle police are among 24 organizations to sign a letter to the council asking for the contract to be rejected.
“This is the community that brought the DOJ to town,” the Rev. Harriett Walden said, referring to federal oversight that has been focused on the Seattle Police Department since 2012. “We’re not reckless people. We understand policing.”
Andre Taylor, whose brother Che Taylor, was shot by police in North Seattle during an undercover drug surveillance operation in 2016, also spoke at the news conference.
“I am in total agreement that officers should get their pay, that’s not the fight,” Taylor said. “After all the work that’s been done, that [accepting the contract] is unacceptable. I’d say not this time.”
Stuckey, during an interview at SPOG’s office, said the community groups want a seat at the table during negotiations.
“We, along with the city, negotiated a reasonable contract,” Stuckey said. “They want to be part of the process and that’s a dangerous concept. Daylighting any contract negotiations is a scary concept.”
Stuckey said the community groups are “impeding the reform process.”
“The effort, the work of the last couple of years will be for nothing and that’s not fair,” Stuckey said.
Durkan’s staff, in a statement Thursday, said “Mayor Durkan negotiated a contract that pays offers fairly, protects public safety, and advances reform. The Agreement does all three things, including ensuring body worn cameras and full and unfettered access to the Office of Inspector General, empowering Chief Best to transfer or suspend officers, ensuring fired officers are not reinstated on a technicality, and giving pay increase to our officers who have not seen a raise since 2014.”
The statement said a “rejection of the Tentative Agreement would jeopardize public safety, deal a setback to reform, and return Seattle to the status quo, which is why many community members, labor leaders, and businesses across the city strongly support this Tentative Agreement.”
While the sides argue, Seattle police officers are jumping ship to other departments. Stuckey believes more than 100 officers will resign this year. Seattle police have hired 111 new officers total since 2014, according to the city.
On Thursday, Bellevue police advertised a $16,000 hiring bonus for lateral transfers.
Bellevue police spokesman Seth Tyler said five Seattle officers have applied since Tuesday.
King County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ryan Abbott said they have hired five Seattle officers in the last few weeks.
“We’re a city of resources and we’re misusing our resources right now,” Stuckey said. “We’re setting ourselves up for an epic failure where someone is really going to get hurt.”