Columbus, Ohio Police Union Files Grievance over GPS Tracking

Columbus’ fire and police unions have filed a grievance stating they will not accept any discipline that stems from newly installed GPS tracking units unless the city changes their contracts.

The complaint comes as the city installs GPS units in all marked police and firefighter vehicles to better track employees, reduce fuel costs and prevent misconduct.

“When we found out last month or so when the GPS units were being installed, we notified the city they had a responsibility to negotiate any discipline,” said Jason Pappas, the president of the city’s police union. “(The city) basically said, ‘Yeah, well we’re not.””

Both Pappas and Jack Reall, the president of the fire union, say their members don’t oppose the GPS units. But they want to know how employees will be punished if the units point to misconduct.

Some city vehicles such as police cruisers and some fire vehicles have been equipped with tracking devices for years. But the new GPS units track speed and idling time and can monitor an employee’s route in real time.

Safety officials “are having informal discussions with both unions about the issues,” said Amanda Ford, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Public Safety.

Pappas said the city and the police union negotiated placing video cameras in police cruisers, and the GPS devices create similar issues. Reall did not return calls yesterday seeking comment.

The unions’ grievance comes as city officials investigate why seven firefighters were speeding — at times more than 100 mph — according to the GPS devices.

Fire Chief Gregory A. Paxton has said investigators are trying to determine whether those firefighters were heading to an emergency. The investigation, which began last month, is taking a long time, officials said, because multiple firefighters drive the same vehicle, making it difficult to sort out who was driving.

Division policy allows firefighters to exceed the speed limit if they are responding to emergencies and if road and traffic conditions are “favorable.” There are no internal police investigations involving the GPS units.

The fire union contract is valid through October 2014, while the police union contract expires in December 2014.

Any discipline agreement could ripple throughout the city’s other departments that have the GPS units. The city plans to install GPS tracking in 2,000 of its marked vehicles by the end of the year. That is less than half of the total fleet and includes other departments besides police and fire.

Unmarked and covert vehicles will not be equipped with tracking devices.

From The Columbus Dispatch via

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