Seattle City Council votes to approve SPD officer contract; critics push back

SEATTLE  --  The highly anticipated proposed contract for Seattle Police officers passed the City Council by a vote of 8 to 1, with the no vote cast by Councilwoman Kshama Sawant.

This is a six-year contract for officers who’ve been without one for about four years now and there are many critics who oppose it, specifically where it addresses the matter of police reform.

“It goes beyond the consent decree.  It increases and continues reforms, which is what we want to do,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said after the vote.

Both Mayor Durkan and police chief Carmen Best said they feared the city would lose more officers if the contract wasn't passed.

But this proposed contract has faced sharp criticism from police reform advocates.  People like Andre Taylor, who has been working to address issues related to police practices, including use of force, since his brother, Che Taylor, was killed by Seattle Police in February 2016 during a confrontation.

“They do not care what the community concerns are. They look at things through a prism of their own liking. Never one time understanding what the community is saying. This is outrageous,” Taylor said during public testimony.

We also heard from the family of Charleena Lyles, shot and killed in a standoff with police officers in 2017.

"It is a slap in the face to family members who have lost their loved ones to law enforcement. Like myself, Charleena Lyles. You all represent the community and with that being said, please pay the officers their long overdue wages, but reject the rest of the contact that further marginalizes and endangers impacted communities,” Katrina Johnson, cousin to Lyles, said in part during public testimony.

On Monday, we caught up with Best during a "walking tour" focused on crime and safety in West Seattle, as business owners along California Avenue requested more police officers on streets.

“I believe, if this contract does not pass, we are going to lose more officers and we certainly aren’t going to be able to add to the numbers that we have now. We want to increase our visibility and our ability to provide public safety and we just can’t do that without people,” said Best.

Both Durkan and  Best noted other communities are offering hiring bonuses to draw officers to their departments. Just last week, the Bellevue City Council approved a $16,000 hiring bonus for experienced police officers.

Durkan and Best say SPD will continue to focus on reform, but the passing of this contract boils down to retaining the officers Seattle currently has and the ability to recruit more in a competitive market.

“They have worked really hard and deserve fair wages and compensation. This vote today signals to them that they’re respected and deserve this contract and couldn’t be more happy about that outcome,” says Best.

A federal judge will now have to sign off on because of the federal consent decree with Seattle police against biased policing.

Katrina Johnson sent a statement to Q13 on Tuesday night:

The vote to approve the SPOG contract by the Seattle City Council was entirely disappointing. The majority of the city council displayed cowardice and hypocrisy. The contract did not include any of the changes from the consent decree. There is no accountability to reform in this contract. Seattle City Council cannot fancy themselves as progressive or reformers with this vote. They have aligned themselves with the likes of Jeff Sessions by completely defying the consent decree process. My cousin, Charleena Lyles, was killed even though the reform process was well underway. I hoped the reforms that were supposed to be in place would mean on some level that her unnecessary and brutal death was not completely in vain. I was hopeful this “progressive” city council would do the right thing and hold SPD accountable. I hoped the reform measures would actually be connected to performance. I hoped Rob Johnson would have learned something from the two high profile murders by police officers in his district. The vote by Seattle City Council has shown me that my hope was ill placed. Shame on you! Seattle City Council demonstrated by this vote, they are not concerned with actually improving police behavior or the lives of vulnerable people. Seattle City Council has taught me Black and Brown lives in their districts DO NOT MATTER to them. The majority of Seattle City Council are not representative of all of us. They are aligning themselves with existing racist power structures at the expense of the rest of us. The police and judges equal political will to them, not the Black and Brown and poor and vulnerable people their damaging institutions kill and harm, even when we try to work with you on reform. You use us, you make tokens of us and you betray us. We are discouraged today. We will continue to fight tomorrow.

Not This Time,

Katrina Johnson