City attempts to improve standards of police force | Our Opinion | Nov. 18

The divide between the city and the rank and file of its police department widened dramatically this week when the city manager and police chief announced disciplinary action against two police officers, both of whom have served as Bainbridge Island Police Guild officers.

The grumblings from inside the department have been getting louder during the last year and the officers – one suspended and the other resigning in lieu of termination – apparently had allowed their frustrations to be expressed publicly via the Internet. While both actions should be taken seriously, it’s the 160 work-hour suspension of Scott Weiss – and the timing of it – that is most problematic. Why?

While it’s clear that Weiss got in trouble when he integrated his roles as an officer and guild president, he was disciplined for his action as a patrol officer while remaining the guild’s leader. One could argue that there’s a power play occurring by those in charge of the city and the department, and it’s directed at a union that’s litigious by nature. Or, as the city manager believes, it’s the city trying to have police force adhere to a higher standard.

What we know is this: the Washington State Patrol conducted two investigations regarding Weiss’ behavior. One, released on June 8, exonerated him from any criminal action; the second accused him of violating four standards of the city’s Canon of Ethics and standing orders regarding conduct, rules and courtesy of the general orders manual. Thus, the suspension.

Meanwhile, the city administration has made moves toward reorganizing the supposedly independent Civil Service Commission (CSC), actions that Weiss has publicly criticized in a letter to the city manager. The commission itself is in limbo after its three commissioners resigned last month.

Weiss has filed a grievance, a process which will be conducted by the city (including the CSC), then finally by an arbitrator if still unresolved. Yes, lines have been drawn.

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