Following news that the FBI is investigating officers' off-duty work, Mayor Tim Burgess is requiring the Seattle Police Department to manage all secondary employment for its cops.
Burgess on Wednesday signed an executive order to establish an internal, civilian-run office for SPD to manage secondary jobs held by police officers. Private employers alleged officers—along with the Seattle Police Officers Guild—were involved in intimidation and price-fixing while working secondary jobs directing traffic, The Seattle Times reported. Police chief Kathleen O'Toole last week confirmed the allegations against a "small number of Seattle police officers," having referred them to the FBI and Office of Police Accountability, and said they will be held accountable if those charges hold true.
"We will no longer allow police officers to assign off-duty jobs to other police officers. ... We will not let the private interests of the few police officers tarnish the reputation of our entire police department," Burgess said. "The current system involves obvious conflicts of interest and creates a serious public trust challenge. This untenable system ends, and the work of fundamentally reforming it begins today."
Burgess said expects new regulations would take effect in 2018. He ordered that the city create a task force. By November 14, it would come up with recommendations on what those regulations will look like and a timeline for the new internal office, which will be staffed and run by civilians and "cost-neutral" to the city, Burgess said. He said he intends to act on those recommendations before he leaves the executive office on November 28.
While officers need permission from command staff for off-duty work, it's been difficult to track or manage and has been a concern of police reform advocates for several years.When asked why it's taken years for Seattle to implement changes that are in step with other police departments' common practices, Burgess responded, "It should've happened earlier and as a council member, maybe I should've done more. But I wasn't mayor then, and I am now, and we're acting."
Burgess said the city won't prevent officers from being able to work secondary jobs but manage it within the department and not through third parties—changes could include addressing liability concerns when officers are wearing their SPD uniforms or keeping better track of the hours worked per day. The legislation would eventually prohibit private companies from using police officers for off-duty work, Burgess said. Other parts could be subject to collective bargaining with police unions.
"We will continue to engage collaboratively, and with a sense of urgency, to develop and implement a modern system for the management of secondary employment that promotes accountability, efficiency, and transparency," O'Toole said in a released statement Wednesday.
SPOG president Kevin Stuckey in a statement on Facebook said officers working secondary jobs are required to have off-duty work permits, that the changes were unnecessary but could've been brought to negotiations with police unions, and criticized the city for going 1,000 days without a labor contract with officers.
"Rather than announcing that he is ordering both sides back to the bargaining table, Mayor Burgess has chosen to issue an executive order on secondary employment," said Kevin Stuckey, SPOG president, in a released statement on Facebook. "SPOG will be taking legal action on this order. Not to oppose the changes, but to demand that the city stop circumventing state law."
Both mayoral candidates Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon said they're interested to see what recommendations the task force comes up with and want more accountability.
Durkan, who was U.S. attorney during the Department of Justice's settlement with the city, said she has concerns about the effect on pensions by making the work internal so "you want to make sure you do it right."
"It's been an issue that I've been concerned with for a number of years, and I think it's time the city acts on it," Durkan said. "The number one thing we have to do is, there's got to be accountability, make sure that the work doesn't interfere with what they do at the city, and that there's no hint of corruption or misconduct."