Hot Topics (Open to Public)
Police Unions Protection of Cops
Per our commitment to the Mayor to use our voices, we would like to offer some thoughts and opinions specific to topics being discussed relating to police reform and procedures. These thoughts are based on our experiences as Law Enforcement Officers, and it is our hope that we can help to better inform the public as these discussions unfold.
The first topic relates to the narrative that police unions exist to “protect bad cops.” Like many narratives this one is long on generalizations and stereotypes and short on specific facts. We consider ourselves as being knowledgeable about police unions in general but even we, as relative experts, can’t discuss specifics of how all of the various unions function around the country. What we can discuss with clarity is how we, the MPPOA, function. We see our role as mirroring what our role is in our full time jobs, as police officers. Our role is to protect and advocate for the rights, safety, and general well-being of those we serve.
As a union that means that we want to make sure that, as it relates to discipline, that our members are treated fairly and that the State and Federal laws related to employment are followed. We want to make sure that during any investigation or disciplinary finding that our members are treated with dignity and. if possible, that they be allowed to correct and learn from behavior. Those are the same principles that we strive to uphold as officers. We counsel honesty, accountability and acceptance of responsibility. Even the independent OIR report on the MPD mentioned what they saw as a unique culture of acceptance of responsibility and a low level of disputed disciplinary findings on the part of officers and the union. We do not support or seek to retain “bad cops” but we ask that you keep in mind that a mere allegation or an opinion does not make someone guilty. We ask that of you because it’s what we ask of ourselves when we operate as officers.
The media will refer to how union contracts supposedly impair a Chief’s ability to hold people accountable. Again we cannot speak to the contracts of other unions. We would point out that contracts are collectively bargained which means that, ultimately, that department agreed to whatever is in the contract. We can speak to our labor agreement. Our contract mentions discipline exactly two times and only then in the context of the Department needing to follow applicable State law. Nowhere does it restrict a PFC or Chief’s ability to investigate or discipline. Officers subject to a disciplinary investigation have certain rights such as a right to have a representative with them under State Law, not as a result of our labor contract. That representative does not have the ability to interfere with or stop any investigation. Officers do retain rights as citizens and employees and we see our role as making sure those rights are respected and maintained. The media does cite examples in other states where disciplinary findings are challenged or subject to a decision by an arbitrator. They will use this as an example of how unions prevent attempts by police administrators to hold officers accountable. Arbitration of discipline does not exist for MPD officers. Disciplinary findings can only be challenged either by appealing to the Police and Fire Commission (PFC) or Circuit Court as allowed under State Law (not by labor contract).
Our other roles are to advocate for safe working conditions, pay and benefits that can help in recruiting and retaining a high quality individual, assist in policy development to assure that the MPD is the quality organization that all of us want it to be, and to advocate for officers well-being in general.