Labor Board: Police Chief Cannot Do Routine Police Work

SCRANTON, PA &#8211 A Scranton police chief may not do the job of a unionized police officer unless immediate action is required, meaning former Chief Dan Duffy violated labor law by repeatedly conducting routine police work, a state Labor Relations Board hearing examiner has ruled.

Read the ruling HERE

In a proposed order forbidding chiefs from making arrests, hearing examiner Jack E. Marino made it clear former Chief Duffy’s behavior went far beyond making arrests when he spotted a crime in progress. The chief conducted regular patrols that should be done by unionized officers under the union’s contract with the city, Mr. Marino said.

Mr. Duffy resigned in July to direct the police academy at Lackawanna College, but the city police union pressed its challenge to police chiefs doing normal police work.

The ruling becomes final Jan. 24 unless the city challenges it, but no challenge is planned.

The former chief called the decision “foolish.”

“I did what any public servant should do,” Mr. Duffy said. “I would have never done anything in violation of the law nor do I believe I did anything that I should not have been doing.”

Acting Detective Lt. Bob Martin, the police union president, praised the ruling. He said the union never argued that a chief who spots a crime in progress should ignore it.

“If the chief is standing on the corner, and a crime is being committed in his presence, he is morally and he is legally obligated to act. … Absolutely, no problem with that. We endorse that and we would come and aid him in every way. He was doing differently.”

He agreed the chief’s arrests were good for the public, but denied the union wants to block good police work and denied the union had a vendetta against the former chief.

Unless the line between work that a chief can do and union police officers can do remains clearly drawn, the union risks losing its exclusive right to provide police services to city residents, Lt. Martin said. A mayor might then be allowed to hire nonunion officers to do what unionized officers do, he said.

“It’s labor law,” Lt. Martin said. “If we look the other way, then we lose our exclusivity. … If we were to look the other way, then we would forever give up our right to challenge it again.”

Lt. Martin said the union always wanted police chiefs to be able to do all police work, but chiefs lost that ability when Mayor Chris Doherty’s administration won the right to remove the police chief from the union a decade ago in an arbitration case. Regular police work is the job of unionized officers, he said.

Efforts to reach Mr. Doherty were unsuccessful.

Even after Chief Duffy began making arrests, Lt. Martin said, the union was willing to negotiate to allow chiefs to conduct regular patrols, but the city never asked. After spending $8,000 to $12,000 to fight the chief’s removal from the union, the union wasn’t about to offer to let chiefs do the work again, he said.

“I’m trying to protect my members,” Lt. Martin said. “I don’t have anything against Chief Duffy, I don’t have anything against, at all, any of this. I don’t want any of this grief. I really don’t.”

City solicitor Paul A. Kelly Jr. blamed the union for never offering to negotiate and criticized the ruling for saying a police chief can’t intervene when he suspects, for example, illegal drug activity.

But Mr. Marino’s decision in favor of the union was likely made easier because Mr. Kelly decided he would not oppose the union charge of an unfair labor practice after Chief Duffy resigned.

In a letter, Mr. Kelly told Mr. Marino the case was moot because of the resignation and the city didn’t have the money to fight the charge anyway.

The city did not appear at an October hearing on the matter or offer any evidence.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Kelly reiterated both reasons and said he would have had a weak case because the former chief was unlikely to be available to testify if called, though he acknowledged never asking.

“He’s at Lackawanna College, and I’m going to ask him to take a day off to go to Harrisburg with me?” Mr. Kelly said, referring to where the hearing before Mr. Marino took place.

Chief Duffy said he would have been willing to testify.

“If he had asked, I would be obliged to go and I would have gone as an advocate of a pro-active policy,” he said.

But with Chief Duffy gone, Mr. Kelly said, the matter of chiefs making arrests was no longer an issue because acting Police Chief Carl Graziano has taken a different approach. And, when Mr. Marino allowed the union to add other instances of Chief Duffy doing police work to the case record, Mr. Kelly said he felt the city would lose, anyway.

Mr. Marino’s ruling found none of Chief Duffy’s arrests constituted emergencies and were normal police work that union police officers do.

The arrests included:

– A March 20, 2011, arrest when the chief suspected someone was wanted, confirmed that through a check and approached the man who then discarded drugs in front of him.

“(Union) members, and not the chief of police, historically and exclusively perform patrols, confront persons of interest to investigate criminal activity and perform warrant checks,” Mr. Marino wrote.

– A Nov. 8, 2011, arrest of a person wanted by Dunmore police.

– A Jan. 5, 2012, arrest of a drug suspect in West Scranton while on patrol with Lackawanna County Detective John Munley.

– A Feb. 4 heroin arrest after Detective Munley reported a drug deal on Hyde Park Avenue.

– A Feb. 19 bath salts arrest that involved the chief and Detective Munley patrolling together.

– An April 12 drug arrest of a man spotted talking on a pay phone who later showed symptoms of heroin use.

– An April 25 heroin arrest at Valley View Terrace that involved the chief pulling over a vehicle with no taillights.

Chief Duffy said he would have violated a different contract if he had not acted: the oath of office he took to uphold the law and serve the public when sworn in as a police officer.

“I believe a police chief should actively show concern for the city and not be afraid to get involved on the streets,” he said. “This is something that should be expected of a police chief. It should not be a group of union leaders saying, ‘You can negotiate and we’ll give you permission to do something that should not be done’ … For somebody to say the police chief is not allowed to go out and look for trouble? Come on.”

From The Times-Tribune

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