UNLIKE OTHER CITIES, where negotiations with unions representing public workers are highly visible, Seattle's labor talks are conducted under an omerta-like silencein part, the result of ordinances stipulating confidentiality. But as the city and the Seattle Police Officers Guild work on a new contract, police-accountability advocates want in. On Monday, Sept. 22, a crowd of them gathered in the Seattle City Council chambers to request a public hearing. "We hope and believe that some of you are pressing for better accountability measures in the current negotiations," Diane Narasaki, chair of the Minority Executive Directors' Coalition, told council members. "However, because every stage of the negotiations is behind closed doors, we cannot effectively mobilize the community in support of your efforts." Accountability advocates still smart from the last contract, in 2000, when several hard-won aspects of the quasi-independent Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) were watered down.
The Guild sees the citizens as interfering. "They can't show where it's [OPA] broken or not working," says Ken Saucier, president of the union. "They can't accept the fact that Seattle has a good police department." Kevin Haistings, union vice president, wrote to the council: "Most citizens are not interested in commenting on or debating the minutiae of government." Counters Eddie Rye of the Community Coalition for Police Accountability: "All we are asking is for the police to be fair and do business above board." Whether a council hearing would be legal is to be decided at a closed meeting of the city Labor Relations Policy Committee.