In a small victory for the city, this afternoon, King County Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen took the first step in overturning a recent arbitration decision that forced the city to begin redacting the names of Seattle police officers from all records requests—even records about internal misconduct investigations when those charges are sustained.
The Seattle Police Officer's Guild (SPOG) insists that labor contracts from 2008 require the names of officers be redacted from all records. An arbitrator agreed with their assessment. However, this afternoon assistant city attorney Paul Olsen argued that the arbitrator "misconstrued the city's contract" with the union. He says redacting police officers' names "violates an explicit, well defined public policy and forces the city to withhold information from the public when there’s no reasonable argument that it’s exempt from disclosure."
Olsen points out that both Washington state and the city of Seattle have "strongly worded mandates" for the broad disclosure of public records, and every redaction be justified by a specific statutory exemption. Furthermore: "The public has an interest in knowing the names of city employees engaged in misconduct," Olsen said.
In the end, Judge Inveen agreed. "We’re talking about a conflict of public policy and state law," she said. "It’s worthy of review. I’m prepared to sign the order."
The order she signed—a writ of certiorari—basically orders another King County Superior Court judge to review the entire case, hear arguments, and uphold or reverse the arbitrator's decision.