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Originally published Tuesday, July 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Citizen oversight in deputies' tentative contract

The guild representing sheriff's deputies has reached a tentative agreement with King County on a new five-year contract that includes the addition of citizen oversight to help review allegations of officer misconduct, and wage increases for each year of the agreement.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The guild representing sheriff's deputies has reached a tentative agreement with King County on a new five-year contract that includes the addition of citizen oversight to help review allegations of officer misconduct, and wage increases for each year of the agreement.

King County Executive Ron Sims called the citizen-oversight component "historic" in a news release Monday that announced the tentative agreement. The president of the King County Police Officers Guild declined to comment on the proposed contract.

The addition of a citizen-oversight provision to the contract was among numerous recommendations made by a blue-ribbon panel after the Sheriff's Office faced heavy criticism over how allegations of officer misconduct were handled.

King County Sheriff Sue Rahr asked that the panel be formed largely in response to a series of stories published by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer alleging officer misconduct and breakdowns in discipline and accountability — stories Rahr has said wrongly portrayed her department as a place where misconduct is tolerated.

In 2006, the Metropolitan King County Council approved an ordinance that created an Office of Law Enforcement Oversight that will monitor the sheriff's internal investigations of allegations of misconduct by deputies.

The blue-ribbon panel also recommended that the Sheriff's Office hire additional sergeants, create an Investigational Services Unit to oversee internal policies, improve officer training, hire outside attorneys in disputes over discipline, create a system of "early intervention" for problem officers, and beef up the Internal Investigations Unit.

According to Sims' office, guild members will vote on the contract in the next few weeks.

The guild, representing approximately 650 deputies, agreed to begin contract conversations in 2006, a year before the contract expired in 2007.

Details of the financial portion of the contract were not officially disclosed, but the contract includes pay increases for each year of the five-year contract, according to Sims' office. A source familiar with the contract said the agreement calls for a 5 percent wage increase every year for five years, retroactive to January 2008.

A 12-year deputy with the Sheriff's Office, who typically makes around $66,000 per year, would see his salary increase to more than $80,000 by the end of the five-year contract, according to Sgt. John Urquhart, King County sheriff's spokesman.

The tentative agreement was reached while the county is facing a projected $68 million hole in its 2009 budget because of rising inflation and stagnating revenues.

County Budget Director Bob Cowan declined to discuss how much the labor agreement might cost the county but said he expects Sims to ask the County Council for a supplemental 2008 appropriation to cover higher pay retroactive to Jan. 1.

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In May, Seattle Police Officers' Guild members voted to accept a contract that made theirs the highest-paid law-enforcement agency in the state.

According to the agreement, Seattle officers will receive a 25.6 percent raise over the life of the contract, which was retroactive to January 2007 and extends through the end of 2010.

Starting salaries for new recruits were increased an additional 8 percent, according to the contract.

In exchange, the Seattle Guild conceded to 29 recommendations aimed at improving police accountability, streamlining and strengthening the way the department investigates and punishes officers in cases of misconduct.

Under the new Seattle Police Department contract, a 12-year officer's salary will increase from $72,072 to $90,516 over the life of the agreement.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times staff reporters Keith Ervin and Jennifer Sullivan is included in this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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