In the midst of an FBI probe, the City of Seattle is changing the way officers obtain off-duty work.
Federal agents are investigating claims of possible criminal conduct by a small number of officers. The FBI and SPD Chief Kathleen O'Toole have confirmed the investigation is now underway, but declined to discuss details.
KING 5 has learned there are allegations of threats and intimidation, as well as reports of price fixing for off-duty work, such as directing traffic at parking garages and construction sites. The head of the Seattle Police Officers Guild denies the allegations.
The city says that until now, officers' off-duty work had been mostly managed by private, third party groups. Newly appointed Mayor Tim Burgess says that needs to change.
"The recent news that the FBI is investigating allegations of public corruption within our police department was a surprise," said Burgess. "But the issue of secondary work has been with us since at least 2005. The current system involves obvious conflicts of interest and creates a serious public trust challenge."
So on Wednesday, Burgess signed an executive order that requires the police department to manage officers' outside work.
Burgess says the internal office, that will manage secondary work, will be staffed and operated by civilians and won't require extra funding from the city.
He wants recommendations for implementation from a task force by November, and anticipates the new system and regulations will take effect in 2018.
"It should've happened earlier, and as a council member maybe I should've done more. But I wasn't mayor then. And I am now, and we're acting," said Burgess.
He says the plan has the support of Chief O'Toole, who issued a short statement not long after the mayor signed the executive order.
"I appreciate the mayor's leadership and support on this important issue. We will continue to engage collaboratively and with a sense of urgency, to develop and implement a modern system for the management of secondary employment that promotes accountability, efficiency, and transparency," said O'Toole.
But the Seattle Police Officers' Guild questions the plan for reform.
"Why the need for another executive order?" said Kevin Stuckey, SPOG president. "If there are changes sought by the city, why can’t those changes be accomplished at the bargaining table?"
Stuckey, who heads the police union that represents all sworn Seattle Police Officers, said they're not opposed to the changes laid out in Burgess' executive order. For him, it's a collective bargaining issue.
"When the mayor puts out an executive order and says we're doing this, you pretty much circumvent the collective bargaining process. That's not how things are done," said Stuckey. "We immediately filed a Demand to Bargain this issue, in hopes that we can get the city to sit down, follow state law, and negotiate with us."
He says that state law requires the city and the police union to negotiate any changes to officer working conditions. And since Stuckey feels the executive order regarding off-duty work is a change in working conditions, he believes the issue is subject to collective bargaining.
The union is now waiting for the city to respond to its Demand to Bargain.
The dispute is similar to the ongoing debate over police body cameras in the City of Seattle. The police union says use of the body cameras is also subject to collective bargaining. SPOG has already filed an unfair labor practice complaint over that issue.
"We are not going to stop officers from being able to work off duty," said Mayor Burgess. "That's a legitimate activity they engage in. We're going to regulate and manage how that is done."
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