Seattle Courant Archive

Seattle Police Say YES to Top Pay

Seattle Police Say YES to Top Pay

By Scott Gutierrez
May 18, 2008

The contract would boost a rookie officer's salary from $47,340 to $64,312 by 2010 -- an increase of about 36 percent. A 12-year veteran's base salary would increase at least 25 percent -- from $72,072 to $90,516 -- by the contract's final year.

The pay raises follow 15 months during which officers worked without a contract while negotiators were at loggerheads and officer morale dipped.

About 90 percent of 1,027 ballots cast were in favor of accepting the city's four-year contract offer, according to the guild. Ninety-four officers rejected the proposal, and 12 ballots were invalidated, said Sgt. Rich O'Neill, the guild president.

The City Council now must ratify the agreement, which would apply retroactively to January 2007.

The contract vote garnered the most participation since a no-confidence vote six years ago pertaining to Chief Gil Kerlikowske and his handling of the Mardi Gras riots in 2001.

Typically, about 600 to 700 ballots get returned, O'Neill said.

"This just shows that officers were very concerned about this contract and wanted to voice their opinions," he said.

The contract, which O'Neill said recognizes "the hard work done by all Seattle police officers," includes:

# An 8 percent base increase for 2007, 4 percent in 2008 and 5.5 percent in 2009. Entry-level officers would get an immediate 8 percent pay raise on top of the overall pay raises. In 2010, the increase would be between 6 percent and 9 percent, depending on cost-of-living increases.

# Back pay of $6,807 for 2007.

# No changes in officers' health care. The city covers about 95 percent of the costs.

# A $5,000 hiring bonus, a $2,500 stipend for equipment and compensation for up to $14,000 in moving expenses for new recruits.

# A new 10-hour patrol shift for officers to help meet the new neighborhood policing plan, which would deploy more officers at different times of the day and in certain neighborhoods.

In a statement, Mayor Greg Nickels said the contract would make Seattle more competitive in recruiting 150 officers to meet demands of the policing plan.

"The professionalism of our force -- and the seriousness with which we approached police accountability -- ushered a new era of labor relations with a contract that will allow us to recruit the best in the nation," he said.

In recent years, police wage increases in Seattle haven't kept pace with departments in such cities as Renton and Lakewood.

It was a public controversy over police oversight that seemed to be the impetus of the guild's winning favorable wage increases in exchange for more accountability.

"The contract also illustrates that significant change can best be accomplished at the bargaining table when both sides bargain in good faith," O'Neill said.

The guild agreed to adopt all 29 recommendations made in January by the Seattle Police Accountability Review Panel to bolster the department's civilian-managed Office of Professional Accountability and other components of the three-tiered civilian oversight system.

Nickels appointed the 11-member panel after a scandal over two high-profile cases -- one involving two officers who were accused of dishonesty and later cleared in a drug arrest downtown and one in which Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, a black resident, was beaten after challenging a littering violation on Capitol Hill.

The department's civilian review board and some community groups criticized the investigations and Kerlikowske's managing of them.

Among the panel's recommendations, it urged expanding the role of the department's civilian auditor to review cases and trends and suggested that Kerlikowske be required to explain in writing any time he overturns a misconduct finding by the OPA director.

City Councilman Nick Licata sponsored legislation last fall that placed the latter requirement into ordinance, although the guild vowed to challenge it without its first being approved through collective bargaining.

Licata, who chairs the council's labor committee, said he hadn't yet seen the contract and had small concerns that oversight changes might not be as strong as the panel suggested.

"But if we adopt measures that are reasonable and the police feel comfortable with them, then I think we've removed some significant roadblocks," he said.

"If we're diligent, I'm hoping we can accomplish more effective policing so we end up with fewer complaints, or at least we can treat those complaints in a more effective manner."

O'Neill said the contract includes language that protects personal information about the officer from being disclosed in the chief's report on overturning a misconduct finding.

The contract could be heard before the labor committee within two or three weeks, Licata said.

Councilman Tim Burgess, a former police detective who chairs the public safety committee, said earlier this month that he expected the City Council to approve the contract.
P-I reporter Scott Gutierrez can be reached at 206-903-5396 or