February 4, 2014 in City

City Council praises new 5-year police labor deal

By The Spokesman-Review
 

City leaders appear ready to back a new labor contract for Spokane’s police union.

Spokane Police Guild officers and Mayor David Condon agreed to a five-year labor contract on Monday. Details of the proposal, which still must be approved by guild members and the City Council, were released this morning.

The City Council rejected an earlier proposed four-year contract with the guild in November. Council members said that the earlier agreement did not meet voter-approved requirements giving the city police ombudsman the right to investigate alleged officer misconduct independently of the police department. In the new deal, the guild would allow the ombudsman to conduct independent investigations in some circumstances.

The new contract maintains from the November proposal annual 2 percent raises every year from 2012 through 2015. It adds 2016 with no raise in pay, but an increase instead in “deferred compensation.” Deferred compensation is similar to 401K retirement plans that are common in the private sector. Police, like many city employees, receive pensions and deferred compensation. The city estimates the contract will increase the city’s cost by 2.8 percent a year, the same amount as the November proposal.

“It shows the administration and the guild have given a significant effort that gives us an agreement based on the things we said were lacking in the last one,” said Councilman Steve Salvatori, one of the council members who led the effort to ask voters to enhance citizen police oversight in the City Charter.

But Breean Beggs, a civil rights attorney who represented the family of Otto Zehm, said the city still has not met what voters wanted.

“Under the charter, you can’t limit independent investigative power,” Beggs said.

City Council President Ben Stuckart wrote a letter to Condon earlier this year asking him to reopen contract negotiations to address items the council felt were necessary in the contract.

“This comes pretty darn close to the intent of my letter – as close as you’re going to get in a negotiation,” Stuckart said. “The council spoke. The mayor listened and we have a good path forward.”

The new deal would give the ombudsman the right to conduct an independent investigation if the police department declined to open an investigation and the Spokane Police Ombudsman Commission disagreed with that decision. The commission also could contract with an investigator to continue investigating a case that the commission felt was not thoroughly investigated by the department.

The ombudsman could also conduct interviews related to complaints filed with his office before the department starts an investigation.

“This agreement includes the elements requested by the City Council and the public and delivers to the community unprecedented independent oversight of its police department,” Mayor David Condon said in a new release.

This story will be updated.


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