COLUMBIA, MO – At the direction of the city, Columbia police lieutenants last year formed an organization separate from the Columbia Police Officers’ Association to represent them in meet-and-confer sessions with municipal officials.
Lieutenants Jason Jones, Krista Shouse-Jones, Geoff Jones, Eric Hughes and Scott Young incorporated the organization, the Columbia Police Lieutenants’ Association, as a not-for-profit with the Missouri Secretary of State on July 17. The association formed because of a Missouri Court of Appeals Western District decision that allows cities to decide whether rank-and-file police officers can be represented by the same person as supervisors.
The lieutenants hired Columbia-based attorney Don Weaver to represent them after the city told Dale Roberts, executive director of the CPOA, he could not fill the duties for officers and sergeants as well as lieutenants. Weaver submitted to the Columbia City Council his group’s sole request: to retain the ability to have a third-party review any decision to fire a lieutenant. Weaver declined to comment on specifics of his talks with city officials.
“I can’t tell you any details of our ongoing discussions right now so we don’t jeopardize the ongoing negotiations,” he said.
Roberts said the department’s seven lieutenants are members of the CPOA but not for bargaining purposes. They are still able to be members of the association and benefit from liability and legal insurance as well as discounted prices under contracts with suppliers, Roberts said.
It was not clear whether the department’s two remaining lieutenants, Barbara Buck and Paul Dickinson, had joined the association since its inception.
The Western District’s decision, handed down in January 2015, has had a minimal effect statewide, said Missouri Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Ahlbrand. Most cities in the state have not formed a separate police supervisor association since the decision, which also gives municipalities the option to force officers and sergeants to be represented by separate units.
Supervisors and officers can be represented by the same union, Ahlbrand said, but the groups’ negotiators, dues paid and meetings about labor issues must be kept separate.
Kansas City police have long had different unions representing sergeants and below and captains and above, Ahlbrand said. There are no lieutenant positions in the Kansas City Police Department.
“There’s a couple places that do it,” Ahlbrand said. “It’s not the norm.”
In St. Louis, where Ahlbrand is a sergeant, there is an ongoing discussion about which union will represent officers and supervisors. Ahlbrand said he expects the Fraternal Order of Police in St. Louis will negotiate for all officers because the union has several attorneys on staff.
Across the country, Ahlbrand said, it’s standard for unions to have separate representatives for supervisors and the officers they oversee.
“I don’t think it’s that big of an issue,” Ahlbrand said.