Employee FAQs

If you have questions you'd like to see featured on this page, please send an email to opa@seattle.gov.

Frequently Asked Questions

In collaboration with Patrol, OPA created a pilot program in which allegations that are clearly refuted by evidence can be handled by the chain of command instead of being referred to OPA. In these instances, supervisors are tasked with conducting a preliminary investigation and sending OPA an email listing the allegations and reasons why they can be conclusively disproved. OPA then reviews the information, looks at relevant video, and either concurs with a chain of command review or requests a referral. OPA has proposed that the program be officially integrated into SPD Policy 5.002 and that future screenings take place through BlueTeam. The revised policy has been approved by the Court and is now with the Department for implementation.

A Notice of Receipt of Complaint, also referred to as a 5-day notice, is required by the SPOG contract to notify employees named in an OPA complaint within five business days of receiving the complaint. It does NOT imply a full investigation will take place. It is provided to every employee named in every complaint.

In the first 30 days after a complaint is filed, OPA investigators will conduct a preliminary investigation, referred to as an intake investigation, into the complaint to determine how the complaint will be classified (Contact Log, Supervisor Action, Expedited Investigation or Full Investigation). This includes interviewing the complainant or witnesses and reviewing evidence related to the incident. Within 30 days, you and your chain of command will receive notice from OPA of how the complaint will be addressed. Please see the Employee Complaint Process page for a complete timeline.

A complaint is classified for Expedited Investigation if OPA believes it can issue findings based primarily on its intake investigation and without interviewing the involved employee(s). Per collective bargaining agreements, if OPA does not interview a named employee, allegations against that individual cannot be sustained. For this reason, Expedited Investigations are sometimes used to resolve allegations OPA is required to investigate - such as excessive force, bias, and violations of law - but where an objective assessment of available evidence (typically In-Car Video and/or Body Worn Video) establishes that no policy violation occurred. This type of investigation was developed to minimize the impact on named employees.

Cases that contain multiple complaint classifications are called bifurcated investigations. OPA bifurcates cases in order to focus on the allegations that are potentially more serious or where there are allegations that OPA is required to address, while other allegations are either referred back to the chain of command or closed through a Contact Log. Currently, this is most often done by investigating one portion of the case while referring other allegations to the employee's supervisor as Supervisor Actions.

Rapid Adjudication is a contractually-bargained alternative dispute resolution that may be used when an employee recognizes their conduct was inconsistent with required standards and is willing to accept discipline in place of undergoing a full OPA investigation. Rapid Adjudication is not contemplated for allegations of serious misconduct.

OPA recommends that you prepare for your interview by reviewing relevant video, documentation, and policies. You are permitted to do so pursuant to Appendix A - Body Worn Video of the SPOG contract, except in instances of FIT investigations. If you don't have access to these files, please ask your assigned OPA investigator and he or she will arrange for you to review them at the OPA office prior to the interview. During your interview, you will likely be asked to describe your understanding of the policies alleged to have been violated in the Classification Report and the relevant training you have received. Try to arrive at least 10 minutes prior to your scheduled interview. 

OPA recently began issuing “FYI” Supervisor Actions for complaints it deems unfounded, but that, due to restrictions on the use of Contact Logs, cannot merely be closed. In these cases, OPA directs the chain of command to take no action other than informing the named employee of the complaint. In general, a Supervisor Action classification is used when there is a performance issue or minor policy violation that does not warrant a full investigation. Almost all Supervisor Actions—which are training-focused rather than disciplinary in nature—direct the named employee and their chain of command to discuss the issue at hand; some require a follow-up with the complainant.

OPA sometimes investigates cases even though the employee has already been counseled by their chain of command. A PAS entry does not preclude OPA from conducting an investigation, however OPA may take prior counseling into consideration when issuing a finding.

A discipline meeting is held for the purpose of reaching a consensus on recommended findings and discipline. The discipline committee generally consists of the OPA Director, the employee's chain of command (Captain and Assistant Chief), a representative from SPD Human Resources, and SPD legal counsel. After the discipline meeting, the committee's recommended findings and proposed range of discipline are presented to the Chief of Police, who has the sole authority to impose discipline.

Proposed discipline is determined through a consensus based on the employee's disciplinary and employment history, as well as on the discipline imposed for comparable cases over the last several years. The final determination of discipline rests solely with the Chief of Police.

Mediation can help to build shared understanding and improve future interactions between law enforcement and the community. As an SPD employee, you will be given a face-to-face opportunity to explain policing policies and procedures as well as to learn more about community concerns and needs. If your case is successfully resolved through mediation, your case will be dismissed and will not appear in your personnel file or OPA Officer Card. Additionally, mediation is considered on-duty time, and you will be compensated for the time you spend mediating your case.

The investigation process is largely unchanged. Pursuant to the Accountability Ordinance and the SPMA collective bargaining agreement, OPA no longer has Lieutenants or a Captain in our office. Sergeants will continue to investigate complaints involving SPOG members. For investigations involving SPMA members, the lead investigative function will be performed by a civilian Investigations Supervisor or the Deputy Director of Investigations. Case findings are still issued by the civilian OPA Director.

OPA does not view it as appropriate or within its authority to pursue false reporting charges. Our experience is that complaints intended to retaliate against or harass officers are infrequent, particularly now that the Unsubstantiated Misconduct Screening program, which seeks to eliminate meritless complaints, is in place. However, the OPA Director does indicate in his case certification memo when he believes a case is meritless. SPD employees can pursue charges on their own, in consultation with their union and legal counsel, if they so choose. In those cases, OPA would act as a witness concerning the substance of the investigation.

OPA distributes a bulletin approximately twice a month highlighting cases of significant officer interest, cases that contain information that may inform officers' day-to-day work, and pertinent policy recommendations. To add your name to the email distribution list, please email anne.bettesworth@seattle.gov. All previous Case & Policy Updates are published online here.

OPA is in the process of building an easier and more convenient way to access your OPA case history. In the meantime, you have two options. First, you can enter a Public Disclosure Request for your OPA files. Please do this if you wish to have digital or hard copies of your files. Second, you can call the OPA office at (206) 684-8797 and schedule an appointment to review your files. Please note that OPA currently does not provide digital or hard copies of your files to take with you.

OPA protects the identities of named employees and therefore will not publish your name online. As a public entity, however, OPA may release your case information, including your name and badge number, if we receive a Public Disclosure Request.