The Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), the union representing Seattle's street cops, has filed a complaint with the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (a labor board that functions much like a court), claiming that Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes is trying to wrongly deny police their private defense attorneys.
In a complaint that's a little dense, SPOG makes two claims: (1) that their preferred private law firm is an insurance benefit that the city can't change except by collective bargaining; and (2) that the city doesn't provide attorney-client privilege in conversations between cops and the city attorney's office. (Here's the full complaint.)
According to the police union, Seattle cops sued for wrongful arrest, misconduct, excessive force, or civil-rights violations have a legal right to defense lawyers from an expensive private firm—paid for by taxpayers—called Stafford Frey Cooper. But Holmes insists they don't.
As I reported last week, he requested bids from other law firms and got 12 proposals back; Holmes estimates the city can save $800,000 a year by bringing most of the cops' defense work into his office and allowing one of those outside bidding law firms to handle cases when the city has a conflict of interest.
To give this some political context: It appears to be another example of SPOG scrambling to get the upper hand as it loses traction at City Hall.
The city has until June 29 to respond to SPOG's complaint, and Holmes hasn't issued a formal reply. However, Holmes says that he's invited SPOG to join the committee that will recommend the winning law firm—thereby allowing them to root for their beloved Stafford Frey Cooper—but SPOG never responded.
SPOG also hasn't responded to a request to comment on this story.