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October 20, 2014
SPOG President Rich O'Neill Addresses the City Council on February 26, 2014 Regarding the SPD Disciplinary Review/ OPA Process
Updated On: Mar 04, 2014

I am speaking today as President of The Seattle Police Officer’s Guild on this my last day in this assignment after 8 years.  There has been so much misinformation in the media the last few days and I hope to make the record clear.

When an officer faces discipline they go before the Chief of Police in what is called a Loudermil Hearing. Most of the time the officer accepts the finding and sometimes they only disagree with the amount of discipline proposed: a suspension, a reprimand, etc.

The Chief of Police alone has the authority to issue discipline and may change a sustained OPA finding after listening to the officer.  Let us keep in mind that just because the OPA recommends a particular finding, that decision is not infallible.  At times mistakes are made in the OPA investigation or in the analysis.

Following the hearing before the Chief the officer has the right to appeal the decision before either the Public Safety Civil Service Commission or a Discipline Review Board with a civilian arbitrator as the chair.

Again most of the time there is no appeal, but on the few occasions where there is an appeal the hearing is usually set far in advance.  These hearing are time consuming and costly for the City of Seattle and the police guild.

Every single Chief of Police in my 34 years on SPD has settled grievances and discipline appeals prior to an actual arbitration hearing. This is done to save time and resources.

The reason for the backlog of appeals and grievances, some dating back to 2011 was because especially in an election year, no one wanted to make a decision.

Chief Harry Bailey was brought in to the Seattle Police Department to make decisions. He has made more decisions and created more positive change in just two months than anyone has done in the last few years.

By settling cases, Chief Bailey has done nothing different that every other Chief before him has done.  Chief Bailey has more police experience than anyone in this room and I find it appalling and extremely disrespectful that the first African American chief in the history of this city has to have press conferences and be brought before the city council to justify making a decision in a minor administrative case involving a violation of “courtesy.” 

And while we are talking about a minor violation of “courtesy” why don’t we explore the fact that in 2008 the City had a citizen’s blue ribbon panel chaired by a Judge Terry Carroll with distinguished members including Hubert Locke and Jenny Durkin. The citizens recommended that OPA should focus on serious acts of misconduct and all others should go to mediation or to the officers’ chain of command for action.  That has never been implemented. The case in question this past week should have been sent to mediation so the officer and the complainant could sit down like adults and explain their positions, instead of grandstanding in the media.

I fear that the events of the last few days will hamper our search for a permanent Chief of Police. Who in their right mind will want to apply for the Seattle job if they have to check with eight different people and check the “political winds” before making a decision on administrative issues?

The events of the last few days are nothing by a power grab by some who want to wrestle authority away from the Chief of Police. They are using these minor administrative case decisions to further that agenda. If they want to run the police department, let them apply for job!

Give the Chief of Police, especially Chief Harry Bailey the respect and confidence that he has earned to make decisions and run the police department.

Thank you for this opportunity to address you.

To view the video, please click: http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?ID=2401411 and go to the "public comment" section or 64 minutes 11 seconds on the video.


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