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Seattle aims to enact new police CBA three years after expiration date

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The Seattle City Council in Washington in January 2024 announced its intent to vote on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) this year. The SPOG’s current CBA expired in 2020.

Police CBAs that have reached an expiration date are still viewed as being in effect until a new agreement has been negotiated. CBAs establish a set of legal standards for the parties involved, which often cannot be deviated from without an agreed-upon change in contract. When a CBA expires, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), “almost all the terms of the expired contract continue while the parties bargain.”

The expired Seattle CBA has frustrated reform efforts that Judge James Robart deemed necessary to end a 2012 consent decree between the federal government and the Seattle Police Department. Robart, who is overseeing the consent decree, ended most federal oversight of the police department in September 2023 with the exception of certain officer accountability and crowd control policies, including tactics and use of force. Robart argued in 2023 that federal oversight is unlikely to end until a new CBA addresses certain accountability reforms, according to The Seattle Times.

Negotiations for the CBA are expected to consider provisions related to police officer accountability for misconduct and future funding for the police department. A sustainability assessment published by the consent decree’s court monitor stated that the city’s priorities for the new CBA should address timelines for disciplinary investigations, the subpoena authority of the Office of Police Accountability and the Office of the Inspector General, the standard of review for disciplinary appeals, and transparency in the grievance arbitration process.

A spokesperson for Mayor Bruce Harrell argued that Seattle cannot unilaterally make the recommended changes included in the sustainability assessment and highlighted the need for compromises during CBA negotiations, according to The Stranger.

Click here to explore more information about police CBAs on Ballotpedia’s Police Collective Bargaining Agreements Dashboard.

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