by Rich Lord
As protesters locally and globally cry out against police use of force, Pittsburgh and its police union are in the midst of a legal and contractual tussle over how officers are questioned after they hurt or kill members of the public.
If a Pittsburgh police officer hurt or killed someone today, they could be whisked off for a prompt interview by Allegheny County police, outside of the presence of union lawyers or leadership. That process has been in place since late 2017.
But if a proposed Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board [PLRB] order stands, handling of police-involved “critical incidents” could revert to an older model. Officers who caused “critical bodily injury or death to any person,” or fired on someone — and therefore faced potential criminal charges — could then typically wait 48 hours before being interviewed, by their city colleagues, and with union representation in the room.
On May 8, the Fraternal Order of Police [FOP] Lodge 1 won the first round of a two-year-old PLRB case the union brought after the city adopted new procedures for handling critical incidents in late 2017. A hearing examiner found that the city unilaterally changed an agreement it had bargained with the union, and ordered a return to the prior practices.
On May 28, the city filed its statement opposing the examiner’s proposed order. After the union responds this month, the three-member PLRB will decide the issue, though that could be appealed to courts.
That unfolding process reflects a bigger trend, said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and author of several books on policing.
“What we’re looking at nationally is that for a long time, collective bargaining agreements with police unions have gone beyond the traditional sorts of wages and basic working conditions and so forth, and cities have granted a certain degree of control over the disciplinary process to the unions,” Harris said. He called that trend “one of the reasons that we are where we are as a country.”
A police van parked at Moore Park in the Brookline neighborhood of Pittsburgh. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)
READ ENTIRE ARTICLE AT: