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After months of quiet negotiations, Philadelphia reached an agreement for a new three-year contract with the city’s police union. The contract promises salary increases for officers and brings in some of the long-anticipated reforms seen by advocates after a year of historic protests against aggressive policing.
City police have been working under an extended one-year contract enacted by Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration during the height of the local COVID crisis.
the new deal, written by a three-member arbitration panel, marks the first long-term agreement since the 2020 social justice protests that put the national spotlight on the PPD for its use of force, and critics of disciplinary policies say that They protect officers in trouble.
Some advocates hoped to address those issues at the negotiating table. Instead, under the new contract, which runs through 2024, officers will receive a combined $ 133 million increase in salaries and benefits over the next three years, while Kenney walked away with less than what he sought to accomplish with the reforms.
Officers will see a 2.75% salary increase during the first year, followed by a 3.5% increase during the next two years. There is also a one-time bonus of $ 1,500 per officer after the deal is ratified. Pension and health benefits would remain virtually unchanged, but the agreement increases paid paternity leave to four weeks and adds June as a holiday for city workers.
During negotiations, the Kenney administration also sought to force officers to live in the city during his tenure, ending a previous union agreement that allows officers to leave after 5 years in the force. That did not happen; the separation also remains intact under the new agreement.
The administration touted some victories. The new contract includes an increase in penalties for certain disciplinary infractions and defines several procedural changes aimed at making disciplinary officers more objective.
“We believe the reforms … will help improve the relationship between the police and the community and ultimately help keep us all safe,” Kenney said Tuesday. “While the award rendered by the arbitration board did not include everything we expected on this front, we believe it is a fair and positive step in the right direction.”
The contract also includes what Kenney touted as a blanket ban on officers fraternizing with hate groups: a known occurrence in recent years, although it is not clear if that language has force.
The Lodge 5 Fraternal Order of Police, representing approximately 6,000 uniformed officers, portrayed the deal as a victory that “100% protected” the rights of officials in disciplinary and grievance processes.
“Overall, we took some hits in areas, which we expected, and the city took some hits in areas, which I know they expected,” FOP President John McNesby told WHYY News and Billy Penn. “I think it is a fair deal for both parties.”
There are three changes to the disciplinary rules for Philadelphia police officers:
- an increase in the strength of penalties for various crimes
- an increase in the time certain penalties remain on an officer’s record
- adding some new offenses to the books
However, the arbitration panel rejected a series of city recommendations to increase penalties.
“It is important that the code is not too harsh, and therefore the panel is refusing to make all the changes sought by the city, including removing the penalty range from reprimand to dismissal for a number of charges,” wrote the panel in the letter announcing the contract.
It is not clear how one of the most notable new crimes would be applied: the ban on fraternizing with “hate groups”.
The amendment does not specify any specific group by name. Rather, it broadly prohibits an officer from knowingly associating with groups that advocate criminal actions against a group of people, or any group that “compromises” an officer’s credibility.
A first offense could result in a 10-day suspension, with a second offense resulting in automatic termination.
When asked how officials would designate a hate group under these terms, Rich Lazer, Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for labor, said it would be decided in discussions between the PPD and city attorneys.
The agreement will bring a significant change to the Police Investigation Board, the department’s internal panel that reviews evidence and rules on disciplinary cases.
In its current form, the panel consists of a captain, a lieutenant, and a base officer. Under the new arrangement, the board will include at least one civilian member and exclude from the panel any officer of the same rank as the offender.
For the first time, the contract also allows unsworn witnesses and even attorneys to present evidence to the board.
These changes fall short for some advocates who criticized redundant layers in the disciplinary process, which may include Internal Affairs investigations, a Use of Force Review Board, the Police Investigation Board, and additional union arbitration, even after officers are hit with disciplinary charges or dismissal.
In fact, the new agreement creates another review board, one that the Kenney administration says is designed to make it difficult to rehire truly troublesome officers.
The new contract creates a “Police Dismissal Arbitration Board” that would see that the city and the FOP would appoint an equal number of arbitrators trained to review the firings of officers, at least 40% of whom will be people who identify themselves as women. , people of color, or another “underrepresented group.”
Kenney also said the new agreement will help the city finally transition from the former Police Advisory Commission, a long-standing civilian oversight board, to the more powerful Civil Police Oversight Commission. This independent group, outlined in legislation passed by the City Council last year, would be given subpoena power to independently investigate allegations of police misconduct. The group is still in the process of hiring and appointing new commissioners.
PAC CEO Anthony Erace praised the elements of the new agreement, but said he was concerned about language indicating that any commission activity that was “under negotiation” could only occur with the written consent of the FOP.
“I’m concerned because, for the FOP, everything is up for negotiation,” Erace said. “The idea that a reform-minded oversight agency would need the consent of the FOP to do its job is outside the spirit of reform.”
In one case, the panel rejected a request to require more mandatory rotations for officers in troubled police units because the requirement already existed, and the department simply never implemented the changes.
Under the 2014-2017 police contract, the union agreed to regular staff rotations between narcotics officers and internal affairs personnel. That reform stemmed in part from widespread corruption scandals that emerged within specialized units, such as narcotics, dating back to the 1970s. Previous Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey sought rotational powers make these units less isolated and theoretically less prone to corruption.
But that change was never implemented, the panel wrote. And instead of demanding a new rotation program for the specialized units, the arbitration panel chose to give the city and the FOP another opportunity to voluntarily implement the rotation system agreed upon in the previous contract.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said she would work with department heads to try to make sure the changes happen this time.
There was little public indication that the FOP intends to change rotation policies. Its tweeted notice about the new agreement informs its members that all existing “transfer protections” will be maintained.
Overall, FOP President McNesby anticipated that the disciplinary changes outlined in the new contract would have limited impact on his membership.
“They are basically the same structures that we had before. Now there is more civil involvement, ”McNesby said. “Stay out of trouble. I mean, that’s basically it. If you’re getting into the disciplinary process, you’re looking to get in trouble and we don’t want that. “