Pennsylvania Deputies Are ‘Police’ For Bargaining Purposes

Pennsylvania’s basic public safety collective bargaining law is known as Act 111. Act 111 grants to “police officers” and firefighters the right to binding interest arbitration in the event that negotiations fail to produce a voluntary agreement.

When the Allegheny County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association sought Act 111 rights for the County’s deputy sheriffs, the matter wound up before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. A divided court sided with the Association and found that the deputies were entitled to Act 111 rights.

The Court found that “the controlling factor in this case is that the General Assembly, in two separate pieces of legislation, specifically singled out for definition as police officers, deputy sheriffs of counties of the second class. No other deputy sheriffs in this Commonwealth have been so defined by the General Assembly. Indeed, the general definition of ‘police officer’ in the Crimes Code does not simply include the Deputy Sheriffs; rather, ‘deputy sheriffs of a county of the second class who have successfully completed’ state training are the only law enforcement personnel mentioned as being included in the definition of ‘police officer.’ Based on these circumstances, we now hold that deputy sheriffs of counties of the second class are police officers for purposes of Act 111.”

Two dissenting judges argued that “the question of whether deputy sheriffs in counties of the second class are ‘police officers’ for purposes of collective bargaining under Act 111, is ultimately a question of legislative intent, and there is no statutory provision that plainly expresses this intention. The Majority gleans its conclusion instead from what amounts to vague, indirect or circumstantial evidence of legislative intent, based on definitions in the Crimes Code, and the Municipal Police Education and Training Law. Our prior determinations that Act 111 applied to certain employees derived from the language of the relevant statutory scheme governing those specific employees, which conferred policing powers, and not from external or circumstantial sources for the conclusion.”

Allegheny County Deputy Sheriffs’ Ass’n v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Bd., 2012 WL 1033679 (Pa. 2012).