Employer Has Ability To Remove Officer From Canine Assignment

An officer with the Town of Westerly, Rhode Island served as a canine officer for seven years. When the officer’s dog was retired, the Department informed him that while he would be assigned a new job, it could not guarantee him any particular continued assignment length as a canine officer. When the Department subsequently reassigned the officer and assigned his new dog to another officer, the officer’s labor organization, Local 503 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, challenged the Town’s decision in arbitration.

An arbitrator rejected the grievance. The Arbitrator pointed to the language in the collective bargaining agreement that guaranteed assignments only for a maximum period of five years, and reserved to the Police Chief the discretion to extend assignments for longer periods of time. In the Arbitrator’s view, the canine officer’s assignment simply came to an end. In addition, the Arbitrator believed the contract language was designed to encourage rotation through specialty assignments. As phrased by the Arbitrator, specialty assignments “are meant to be for a specific duration and made available to all officers at some time or another.”

Town of Westerly, Rhode Island, LAIG 6828 (Hanson, 2010).

This article appears in the June 2010 issue