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Updated Monday, December 17, 2012 at 10:16 PM

Officers challenge choice for Seattle police-reform post

By Steve Miletich
Seattle Times staff reporter

The association that represents captains and lieutenants in the Seattle Police Department has filed an unfair-labor-practice complaint alleging that the city failed to bargain with the association when a person outside the department was chosen to help carry out police reforms.

In a complaint filed Friday, the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) said one of its members should have been assigned the job under the terms of its bargaining agreement with the city.

SPMA asked the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) to find that the city breached the agreement when it hired Steve Brown, a retired Seattle police captain, to serve as the Police Department's compliance coordinator as part of a settlement reached in July with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The coordinator is to serve as a liaison between the Police Department, the Justice Department and an independent federal monitor in the implementation of reforms aimed at curbing excessive force and biased policing.

According to the complaint, SPMA learned of Brown's hiring in early October without being given advance notice. Brown, 56, joined the Police Department in 1980 and retired in March.

The 65-member association asks in the complaint that the city be required to fill the position with a member of its unit. SPMA said it had made clear to the city and the Police Department that the settlement with the Justice Department should not result in changes of mandatory subjects of bargaining without SPMA's consent.

Before the settlement agreement, SPMA had been repeatedly assured by city officials in various meetings that no such changes would occur, the complaint said.

Lt. Eric Sano, the SPMA president, said Monday that the city gave away "our body of work" by hiring a civilian.

Kimberly Mills, spokeswoman for the Seattle City Attorney's Office, said her office will defend the city.

The Seattle Police Officers' Guild, which represents officers and sergeants, has said it supports the reforms as long as the state's collective-bargaining laws are respected.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com


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