Transforming the System


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Ensuring that police union contracts promote fairness

Unions have played a critical role in improving work conditions and ensuring that civil servants are paid fair wages. They have been critical in contributing to the growth of the middle class in the United States.

However, given the unique role police play in society as beneficiaries of the legal authority to use force to enforce the law, the police have a special responsibility to maintain community relationships that promote legitimacy. Contracts between municipal bodies and police unions must not only acknowledge this special role, but also foster police compliance with civil rights and human rights standards to ensure that these contracts are valid in both the constitutional sense and the community accountability sense.

To this end, state legislatures should pass legislation to promote accountability in policing, including in police union contracts, that:

  • Requires police departments to retain the personnel files of police officers who have been investigated for excessive force and/or deadly force;
  • Requires civilian review for instances in which officers have been accused of improperly using deadly and/or excessive force;
  • “Removes barriers to effective misconduct investigations and civilian oversight, including allowing officers to wait 48 hours or more before being interrogated after an incident, and other barriers that:
    • prevent investigators from pursuing other cases of misconduct revealed during an investigation
    • prevent an officer’s name or picture from being released to the public
    • prohibit civilians from having the power to discipline, subpoena or interrogate police officers
    • state that the Police Chief has the sole authority to discipline police officers
    • enable officers to appeal a disciplinary decision to a hearing board of other police officers
    • prevent an officer from being investigated for an incident that happened 100 or more days prior”
    • allow an officer to choose not to take a lie detector test without being punished, require the civilian who is accusing that officer of misconduct to pass a lie detector first, or prevent the officer’s test results from being considered as evidence of misconduct
  • Permit mayors to terminate police officers for gross misconduct, including multiple excessive force investigations; and
  • Void union contract provisions that are inconsistent with the legislation.

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