County Loses Arbitration Ruling to Police Union

April 9th, 2012

BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD &#8211 An effort to move Baltimore County Police Department lieutenants out of the union that represents active and retired police officers has been struck down by an independent arbitrator.

The ruling, handed down late Friday night by arbitrator Ira Jaffe, rolls over the current contract between the county and officers represented by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4.

“The ruling allows us to protect the folks we represent for an additional year,” said Cole Weston, president of the union.

County officials were not immediately available for comment.

The county had attempted to force the union to move lieutenants from the union to the Police Executives Corps. County officials told the arbitrator the move would save the county money, according to the ruling.

The county wanted to move lieutenants into the Police Executives Corps, which is not technically a union and cannot negotiate contracts like other formal unions. Last week, the county announced that it had reached an agreement with the bargaining unit that represents police captains and above.

George Gay, director of the county Office of Human Resources, attempted to explain the move in a March 15 email sent directly to union members.

“As you may know, the question of whether lieutenants belong in the FOP bargaining unit is not new,” wrote Gay.”The scope of the lieutenants responsibilities has evolved to the point where the lieutenant is more accurately defined as a commander than a rank-and-file employee. These responsibilities include authority over overtime and mileage reimbursement; allocation of human resources; disciplinary actions; oversight over specialized units once commanded by captains and recently their expanded authority during times when the captain is not on duty.”

“We have not seriously explored the possibility of removing lieutenants from the bargaining unit until now because there was no need,” wrote Gay. “However, given the economic times and the FOPs insistence on a one-year contract, we feel we must look at this change.”

But Jaffe said the county failed to negotiate in good faith by bringing up the issue of the lieutenants only in its last offer and forcing the issue to an impasse. He added that the county failed to prove that moving the officers out of the union would save the county money.

Jaffe also cited current county law which places the rank of lieutenant in the police union.

As a result of the ruling, the county will continue to honor step and longevity increases contained in the last contract. The county also would be required to provide the same salary increases to police officers that it gives to other county employees.

Weston said the so-called “me too” language protects police officers in the unlikely event that other unions successfully negotiate a cost of living increase.

The county is also barred from furloughing or laying off police officers for the next fiscal year beginning July 1.

From The Essex-Middle River Patch.