Wednesday, July 19, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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City police guild approves contract

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle police officers, who rejected a proposed three-year-contract two months ago, have approved a contract with an improved financial package that calls for a citizen panel to review complaints against officers.

With 808 - nearly 70 percent - of 1,196 members voting, the Seattle Police Officers Guild ratified the proposal with 497 members favoring the contract.

The contract goes today to the City Council's Public Safety Committee for approval and to the full council for final ratification later this month.

Both sides said they were pleased yesterday by the approval, which followed protracted and difficult negotiations that began last summer.

The contract formalizes the position of a civilian director of a new Office of Professional Accountability to oversee the Police Department's Internal Investigation Section and calls for the continuation of a part-time auditor to help oversee that department.

It also provides for a group called the OPA Review Board, a panel of citizens who will be granted access to citizen complaints against police officers. The group will have other limited authority.

Once the contract receives final approval from the council, guild and city officials will have 60 days to negotiate the details of the review board, including its exact makeup, eligibility requirements for becoming a member and whether and how the panel will issue reports.

The board, which will consist of at least three citizens appointed by the City Council, will be allowed to review all complaints against officers and all closed internal-investigation files, said Fred Treadwell, the city's lead negotiator. However, board members won't be given the names of officers under investigation, he said.

If the OPA director and auditor can't agree over whether more investigation into a particular complaint is warranted, the board will be able to make that determination so long as the director and auditor agree to forward the case, officials said.

Mike Edwards, guild president, said he was comfortable with plans for the review board, partly because the panel will see how many baseless reports are filed against officers.

"We feel in the long run it will give a greater insight into the inner workings of what goes on," he said.

The contract, which covers the years 2000 to 2002, calls for a 3.5 percent raise each year, with a matching contribution to a deferred-compensation program of up to 3.5 percent beginning mid-2002. It also provides for further negotiations if the cost-of-living index next year and the year after that exceeds 4 percent. The proposal that was rejected in May didn't provide a cost-of-living adjustment.

The approved contract also calls for 32 hours of annual training for police officers in first aid, use of force and other areas.

The previous contract expired at the end of last year.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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