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Seattle police contract debate heads for Tuesday showdown

Representatives from more than two dozen groups are speaking out against the collective bargaining agreement the Seattle Police Officers' Guild reached with the city. The Seattle City Council will vote on the agreement Tuesday afternoon.

Pressure is building for the Seattle City Council to reject the collective bargaining agreement the city reached with Seattle Police Officers' Guild.

Representatives from more than two dozen community groups held a press conference against the collective bargaining agreement, claiming it undermines police accountability in the city.

The union represents 1,300 officers and sergeants who haven't had a raise in four years.

"Officers should get their pay," said Andre Taylor, founder of Not This Time. "That's not the fight."

The groups say the fight is over specific details in the collective bargaining agreement involving police accountability, such as the 180-day limit on misconduct investigations. They point to Officer Cynthia Whitlatch, who was fired for biased policing after a 2014 arrest of a black man who was carrying a golf club.

Also see | Seattle council member wants independent review of police contract

Whitlatch was reinstated on an appeal because the investigation took more than 180 days from when her supervisor first learned of the incident.

Last year the city council passed police accountability legislation that fixed the 180-day deadline. Now, there is worry the tentative agreement brings it back.

"This was a woman, who collected over $100,000, was unfired so she could retire," said Chad Goller-Sojourner, organizer of the Walking While Black March. "This is a woman who during the case admitted under oath to sending jokes with her friends that had the n-word."

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan assured the public the new contract wouldn't change the council's reforms.

"It would not happen under this agreement," said Mayor Durkan. "We made sure that 180-day rule could be recalculated in any case involving bias or significant force."

Also see | Union leaders, Seattle police commission at odds over proposed contract

In federal court, Judge James Robart declined to intercede on the matter until the council votes to approve the contract.

"Not only is there a controversy over the tentative agreement, but there is a controversy over where do we go from here," said Robart said.

That leaves it up to the council, who can only approve or reject the tentative agreement, not change it.

The Seattle City Council is set to vote on the collective bargaining agreement this Tuesday afternoon. Seven out of the nine council members need to vote yes for it to pass.

Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez is urging her colleagues to approve the new contract for SPD.

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