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 investigated and documented by the chain of command and then screened with OPA via email. The OPA Director or their designee reviews the information and relevant video to determine if the allegation is disproved by the evidence or whether it is necessary for the supervisor to formally submit the allegation of potential misconduct to OPA.

As a general matter, allegations that are appropriate for screening include excessive force, violations of law, sexual assaults, and unlawful search and seizure. Incidents that are not fully captured on video and that have complex fact patterns will generally not be appropriate for screening. In addition, bias allegations will generally not be appropriate for screening and should be assessed in either a Bias Review or an OPA complaint referral. The chain of command may screen incidents with the OPA Director if they are unclear whether a Bias Review is required.

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 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 conducts a preliminary investigation, referred to as an intake investigation, into the complaint to determine how the complaint will be classified. 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. In most cases, OPA will not conduct interviews of Named Employees. 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.

Rapid Adjudication (RA) is a collectively bargained alternative dispute resolution and program available to sworn SPD employees represented by SPOG and SPMA. It encourages SPD employees to take responsibility for conduct that is inconsistent with SPD policy. The employee accepts pre-determined discipline in lieu of undergoing a full OPA investigation. RA provides faster case resolution for the complainant, named employee, and OPA while upholding principles of accountability. Rapid Adjudication is not contemplated for allegations of serious misconduct.

If you are interested in participating in Rapid Adjudication, please email opa@seattle.gov to see if your case is eligible.

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.

In some cases, OPA may issue an "FYI" Supervisor Action for a complaint deemed unfounded through the intake investigation that does not meet the criteria to be closed as a Contact Log. In these situations, OPA directs the chain of command to take no action other than informing the named employee of the complaint's closing.

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.

If OPA recommends a sustained finding, the OPA Director or their designee schedules a meeting with the named employee's captain/civilian equivalent, assistant or deputy chief, and SPD employment counsel-which form the "discipline committee"-to review the case and answer any questions concerning the investigation and recommended findings. Each participant receives the investigative file electronically prior to the meeting and comes prepared to discuss the investigation. Unless, based on the discussion, the OPA Director amends all sustained findings to not sustained findings, a disciplinary recommendation is discussed. 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.

For additional insights, read OPA's Case & Policy Update article on "How Disciplinary Decisions are Reached."

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 2017 Accountability Ordinance and the SPMA collective bargaining agreement, OPA no longer has Lieutenants or a Captain in our office. Nine Sergeants and two civilian investigators investigate complaints involving SPOG members. For investigations involving SPMA members, the lead investigative function is performed by a civilian member of OPA leadership. Case findings are issued by the 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. Read past editions on the Case & Policy Updates page.

Sign up to receive updates from the Office of Police Accountability.

Please email opa@seattle.gov. Your request will be directed to a staff member who can email you your Officer Card.

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.