On Oct.15, Crosscut published an article that details the specifics of the long-awaited Seattle Police contract with the City of Seattle. The tentative contract, initially agreed upon by the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) in August, sought to reach common ground on wage increases as well as implementation of police reforms that were handed down as a result of the consent decree issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012. Contention over stipulations with reform drove the prolonged negotiation and left SPD without a contract since 2014.
Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the tentative agreement between SPOG and the city by mid-October and promptly sent the agreement to the City Council for approval. The agreement was praised by Mayor Durkan, Police Chief Carmen Best and Kevin Stuckey, who presides as President over SPOG. In contrast to the triumphant mood at the mayor’s office, the Stranger noted that the contract appeared to be rewarding Seattle Police for stonewalling efforts to implement the consent decree and, in effect, giving raises for action that SPD should have been taking years ago.
The sharpest rebuttal has thus far been the response from the Community Police Commission, which expressed concern over language in the contract that, according to Crosscut, “would effectively nullify or alter” key provisions of an accountability ordinance passed in 2017. Furthermore, there is also concern that there would be changes to the amount of evidence required to fire a police officer, thus making standards higher, which is a problematic prospective for an entity that has fought tooth and nail to hamper codification of reformist policy within the department.
One additional layer of this rapidly developing discourse is also that the Martin Luther King County Labor Council (MLKCLC) came out in support of SPOG. In a Facebook event post from Oct. 18, the MLKCLC reframed the conversation to one about a fair contract for “Seattle’s Public Safety Workers.”
Without an intersectional analysis, it appears that the key leaders in this narrative are either women or people of color (Mayor Durkan, Chief Carmen Best, Nicole Grant, Kevin Stuckey). What is disconcerting is that this cohort is moving without consulting the community. The danger is that, though there is obviously visual representation of marginalized voices, those voices aren’t disrupting an inherently unjust infrastructure. In fact, their conditional power is contingent upon preserving order.
The sad reality is that, for many of us who are melanic, this is a systemic luxury we can’t afford. The city’s enforcement apparatus treats many of us as de facto subjects for our corporate overlords. Police accountability is critical to our very existence.
Oscar Rosales grew up in the Yakima Valley and works and resides in Seattle. He has previously contributed to HistoryLink(dot)org and the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project.
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