Police Union Response And Investigation Procedures
Bargaining in Blue, a monthly newsletter from Ballotpedia, provides news and information on police collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), including the latest news, policy debates, and insights from Zenger News’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population.
In this month’s edition of Bargaining in Blue, we examine internal investigation procedures for police officers accused of misconduct. We review the union response to an investigation in Baltimore, Maryland; arguments from scholars and the media on investigation procedures, as well as the relationship between the number of police officers and crime rates; and insights on the topic from Zenger News’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population.
Baltimore police union calls for more staffing in response to shooting
“The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police is defending police officers involved in an ongoing internal investigation conducted by the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) following a July 2, 2023, mass shooting at a block party. The union argues that the incident resulted from a lack of staffing in the area rather than officer misconduct,” said Ballotpedia.
The department initiated an internal investigation into the incident, including reviewing body camera footage and officer communication. Acting Police Commissioner Richard Worley said during a press conference on July 13, 2023, that officers “would have had to reach for extra resources which we had available throughout the city that we could have sent there” and did not.
“The incident was attributed to a lack of police staffing in the city,” said Mike Mancuso, the union president. Mancuso defended the police officers’ response to the shooting and called for the department to focus on recruiting more officers. He tweeted that the BPD “have continued to reduce patrol staffing” and argued that without “a massive retention and recruitment campaign to fill the 700 vacancies, chaos will reign.”
The scope of police union involvement in internal investigations varies across departments. The degree of involvement can range from no involvement, to notification of the investigation without input, to hands-on involvement in the investigation procedures.
Arguments about internal investigation procedures for law enforcement officers
In a 2020 article in the American Bar Association Journal, Stephanie Francis Ward assessed the relationship between police union contracts and what she refers to as police reform. The article cited Holly E. Oliva-Van Horsten, general counsel of the International Union of Police Associations, who argued that the protections offered to officers by police union contracts cover the officers’ due process rights during internal investigations:
Holly E. Oliva-Van Horsten, general counsel of the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO in Sarasota, Florida, says many terms for discipline and investigations in police contracts are fundamental due process rights. Even if municipalities complain about what’s in the contract, she adds, they still agreed to conditions as part of the collective bargaining process.
In a 2023 article published in the journal National Affairs, Daniel DiSalvo wrote about arguments against police collective bargaining and the protections unions provide to police officers:
Current concerns focus on the rules inscribed in collective-bargaining contracts negotiated under the rubric of ‘conditions of employment.’ In many jurisdictions, these conditions establish disciplinary, grievance, and arbitration procedures for officers accused of misconduct. Such job protections are said to shield incompetent or abusive officers, as union leaders have a legal duty to defend all members equally.
Jon Guze, a senior fellow for the John Locke Foundation, a 501(c)(3) think tank, argued in a 2020 article that areas that hire more police officers will experience a reduction in crime: Fewer crimes will mean fewer arrests and convictions. And fewer arrests and convictions will mean lower levels of incarceration. Similarly, higher pay scales will attract a larger and better-qualified pool of applicants to police programs.
Sociologist Dr. Tamara K. Nopper argued that crime statistics are limited in their commentary on police staffing levels and reduced crime rates, according to a 2021 article in The New York Times:“ If crime is low, the police are doing their jobs. If crime is high, we need to give more money to the police. The police always win,” said Nopper.
Baltimore CBA on procedures for investigating misconduct
The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the city of Baltimore, Maryland, in 2022. The MOU specifies procedures for investigating police misconduct, however, it does not specify the scope of the union’s involvement in those proceedings.
Section E of Article 15 of the MOU between the Baltimore City Police Department and the Baltimore City Lodge No. 3, Fraternal Order of Police states the following:
When an employee is required to give a statement pertaining to a complaint of misconduct by the employee, the Department shall provide the employee with a notice of internal investigation that includes notice of: (a) the employee’s right to legal counsel; (b) the date and location (if applicable) of the incident; (c) the nature of the conduct for which the employee is being questioned, including a brief description sufficient to provide a reasonable employee with notice of the allegations against him or her; and (d) the nature of the allegations (e.g., excessive force in making an arrest; the circumstances involved in the discharge of his/her weapon including the date and location; unlawful arrest; etc.). The Department may question the employee (as part of the statement) regarding any matter relating to the misconduct in question regardless of whether it is specified in the document(s) provided.
The agreement does not dictate the degree to which the union is involved in internal investigations into alleged department mistakes or shortcomings.
Key takeaways on procedures for investigating misconduct in CBAs
Zenger News’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population featured the following information about misconduct investigation procedures in police CBAs.:
- There are 19 state and 44 city CBAs that specify how law enforcement officers will be investigated for misconduct
- There are 22 states and 17 cities that do not have police CBAs
- There are 2 states and 4 cities in which the request for information on police CBAs was denied or information could not be verified
Produced in association with Ballotpedia
Edited by Judy J. Rotich
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