For years, the city of Seattle has been moving forward with police reform, accelerating the process in the last few weeks, hoping a federal judge would give his stamp of approval on the city's new police accountability legislation today.
But U.S. District Judge James Robart refused to do it and told the city leaders Seattle was not yet fully compliant with federally-mandated reforms despite its recent progress.
"We went into the courtroom this morning thinking we might get a thumbs up on our legislation," said Councilmember Tim Burgess, who shared his disappointment with the federal judge's decision.
Robart told city leaders their actions were "premature." He would not sign off on Seattle's recently passed police accountability legislation because the provisions could change under collective bargaining.
"I think we heard from a frustrated Judge Robart and frankly, I share his frustrations," said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.
Holmes said the next task at hand is to prioritize which provisions of the police accountability program are most urgent, for Robart to approve individually.
"We have to continue meeting Judge Robart's expectations while honoring our labor requirements," said Holmes.
But with a warning to the police unions, Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez quoted Robart.
"'The citizens of Seattle are not going to pay blackmail for constitutional policing.' And that is a concept we heard loud and clear as a city," Gonzalez said.
The Seattle Police Officer's Guild insists it's not dragging out negotiations. SPOG's president is still steaming over the mayor's executive order to mandate body cameras before negotiating with the union.
"[The mayor] is violating state law, there are collective bargaining rights we all have to adhere to," said Kevin Stuckey.
The body camera program is set to roll out this weekend, starting with bike patrol officers in the West Precinct.
The Community Police Commission says it has broad public support and can still move forward.
"The bottom line is that the mayor has decided he has the legal authority to move forward with cameras," said CPC Commissioner Lisa Daugaard. "It's up to the union to decide if they agree with that."
The City Attorney's Office is meeting with the U.S. Attorneys office Wednesday to come up with a list of the most urgent provisions of the police accountability legislation that need Robart's approval.
The CPC hoped the list would include filling crucial oversight positions of Inspector General and the new Office of Police Accountability.
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