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After months of muted negotiations, Philadelphia reached a deal for a new three-year contract with the city’s police union. The contract promises pay increases for officers and brings in some of the reforms defenders long awaited after a year of historic protests against aggressive police.
City police are working under a one-year extended contract promulgated by Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration at the height of the local COVID crisis.
The new agreement, written by a three-member arbitration panel, marks the first long-term deal since the 2020 social justice protests that put the PPD in a national spotlight on its use of force, and disciplinary policy critics say protect officers in charge of problems.
Some advocates hoped to bring these issues to the bargaining table. Instead, under the new contract, which runs through 2024, agents will receive a combined pay and benefits increase of $ 133 million over the next three years, while Kenney walked away with less than what he was trying to achieve on the reforms.
Officers will see a salary increase of 2.75% for the first year, followed by increases of 3.5% for the following two years. There is also a one-time bonus of $ 1,500 per officer after the agreement is ratified. Pension and health benefits would remain largely unchanged, but the deal increases paid parental leave to four weeks and adds Juneteenth as a public holiday for city workers.
During negotiations, the Kenney administration also sought to force officers to live in the city throughout their tenure, ending an earlier union deal that allows officers to leave after 5 years in the force. This does not happen; the exclusion also remains intact under the new agreement.
The administration has touted some victories. The new contract includes an increase in penalties for certain disciplinary offenses and sets out several procedural changes aimed at making disciplinary officers more objective.
“We believe the reforms… will help improve police-community relations, while helping to keep us all safe,” Kenney said Tuesday. “Although the award rendered by the arbitration board does not include everything we hoped for on this front, we believe it is a fair and positive step in the right direction.”
The contract also includes what Kenney has trumpeted as a blanket ban on officers fraternizing with hate groups – a known event in recent years – although it is not clear whether this tongue has teeth.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which represents approximately 6,000 uniformed officers, depicts the agreement as a victory that “100% protected” the rights of officers in disciplinary and grievance processes.
“Overall we took a few hits in areas, which we expected, and the city took a few hits in areas, which I know they were expecting,” the president said. from FOP, John McNesby, to WHYY News and Billy Penn. “I think it’s a fair deal for both parties.”
There are three changes to the Philadelphia Police Disciplinary Rules:
- an increase in the strength of sentences for several offenses
- an increase in the length of time certain sanctions remain on an officer’s file
- the addition of some new offenses to the books
However, the arbitration panel declined a number of the city’s recommendations for increased penalties.
“It is important that the code is not too harsh and therefore the panel refuses to make any changes sought by the city, including removing the range of sanctions from reprimand to dismissal for a number of charges, “the panel wrote in the letter announcing the contract.
It is unclear how one of the more notable new offenses – the ban on fraternizing with “hate groups” – would be enforced.
The amendment does not specify any specific group by name. On the contrary, it broadly prohibits an agent from knowingly associating with groups advocating criminal action against a group of people, or any group that “compromises” an agent’s credibility.
A first violation could result in a 10-day suspension, a second violation resulting in automatic dismissal.
Asked how officials would designate a hate group on those terms, Rich Lazer, deputy mayor of work for Philly, said it would be decided in discussions between the PPD and city prosecutors.
The agreement will bring a significant change to the Police Investigation Commission, the department’s internal committee that reviews evidence and rules on disciplinary cases.
At present, the panel consists of a captain, a lieutenant and a base officer. Under the new arrangement, the board will include at least one civilian member and exclude any officer of the same rank as the offender from the panel.
For the first time, the contract also allows unsworn witnesses and even lawyers to present evidence to the commission.
These changes are grossly insufficient for some advocates who have criticized redundant layers of the disciplinary process – which may include internal affairs inquiries, a use of force review board, police board of inquiry and arbitration. additional union, even after officers face disciplinary charges or dismissal.
In fact, the new agreement creates another review board – a board, according to the Kenney administration, designed to make it harder to rehire really problematic officers.
The new contract creates a “Police Termination Arbitration Committee” which would see the city and the FOP appoint an equal number of trained arbitrators to review officer terminations – at least 40% of whom will be people who identify as women, people of color or some other “under-represented group”.
Kenney also said the new deal will help the city finally transition the old Police Advisory Board, a long-standing civilian oversight board, to the more powerful Civilian Police Oversight Board. This independent group, described in legislation passed by city council last year, would be granted subpoena power to independently investigate allegations of police misconduct. The group is still in the process of hiring and appointing new commissioners.
PAC Executive Director Anthony Erace praised the elements of the new deal, but expressed concern over wording indicating that any commission activity that is “negotiated” can only take place. with the written consent of the FOP.
“I’m worried because for the FOP everything is subject to negotiation,” Erace said. “The idea that a reform-oriented watchdog agency would need the consent of the FOP to do its job is outside the spirit of reform. “
In one case, the panel rejected a request to require more mandatory rotations for officers in distressed police units because the requirement already existed – and the ministry simply never implemented the changes.
Under the 2014-2017 police contract, the union agreed to regular staff rotations between narcotics officers and internal affairs staff. This reform stems in part from widespread corruption scandals that have emerged within specialist units, such as narcotics, dating back to the 1970s. Former Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey asked for rotational powers make these units less insular and, in theory, less prone to corruption.
But that change was never implemented, the panel wrote. And rather than demanding a new rotation program for specialized units, the arbitration panel instead chose to give the city and the FOP another chance to voluntarily implement the rotation system agreed in the previous contract. .
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said she would work with department heads to try to make sure the changes happen this time around.
There was little public indication that the FOP intended to change rotation policies. Its tweeted opinion on the new deal informs its members that all existing “transfer protections” would be maintained.
Overall, FOP president McNesby predicted that the disciplinary changes outlined in the new contract would have a limited impact on its members.
“These are basically the same structures that we had before. There’s a little more civilian involvement now, ”McNesby said. “Avoid trouble. I mean, that’s basically it. If you get into the disciplinary process, you’re looking for trouble and we don’t want it. “