Judge asks if new Seattle police contract undermines reforms

SEATTLE (AP) — The federal judge overseeing federally mandated reforms at the Seattle Police Department is questioning whether the city’s new contract with the police union undermines some of the changes made in recent years.

U.S. District Judge James Robart on Monday suggested that a review board’s decision last month to overturn the firing of an officer who punched a handcuffed woman in the back of a patrol car in 2014 raises concerns about police accountability. The board instead suspended Officer Adley Sheperd for 15 days and reinstated him with back pay.

Under an accountability system the city adopted last year, that firing would have been reviewed by a three-member commission whose members were not employed by the city or police department. But under the new collective bargaining agreement, that system was abandoned in favor of a return to the old Disciplinary Review Board and Sheperd was returned to duty.

The judge ordered the city and Justice Department to brief him within two weeks on whether the city has failed to comply with its 2012 consent decree mandating reforms.