PHOENIX, AZ – A Phoenix police union has filed a lawsuit against the city seeking compensation for its 2,500 members who were forced to toss out a patrol uniform.
The union, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, claims in the lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court in April that patrol officers’ compensation package was reduced because, over the years, they spent the money on clothing that is now banned.
“We are asking for class action and whatever the determined value is, which we think is upwards of $2 million,” said Joe Clure, union president.
The suit, also asks for reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees and any other relief deemed just and proper by the court.
The lawsuit claims the city breached the union contract, which allowed a black, cotton-blend polo shirt and cargo pants uniform, popular with the rank-and-file for nearly 15 years. Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia banned that uniform last year.
City officials denied they broke the contract, saying in the city’s response they never promised to allow patrol officers to wear the black uniform.
The city asks the court to dismiss the union’s suit and award it attorney fees.
Garcia banned the uniform in October, saying they offered a greater opportunity for criminals to impersonate officers. All patrol officers now wear the dark blue button-down shirts and dress-style pants.
Garcia’s decision effectively rendered useless officers’ collection of the black uniform and accompanying equipment, the union suit said.
“We think it’s a topic of bargaining,” Clure said Wednesday. “He failed to confer and negotiate about it and made an unilateral decision that ultimately cost our people money. He should have negotiated about the loss use of uniforms and the value of that.”
The annual uniform allowance is part of an officer’s wage-and-benefits package.
The allowance helps officers buy clothing and equipment for the job, but they are not obligated to spend the money on uniforms. This fiscal year each officer received $1,150.
A union survey released in May showed most officers— 78 percent of the 1,722 polled— support Garcia’s ban on the more casual police uniform.
From The Arizona Republic