Police (Union) Brutality: Montgomery County Police “Effects” Bargaining Bludgeons Public Safety

This November, voters in Montgomery County, Maryland, will decide whether the police chief or union boss should determine public safety policy.

The voter initiative, which will appear on the ballot as Question B, reads, “Shall the Act to modify the scope of collective bargaining with police employees to permit the exercise of certain management rights without first bargaining the effects of those rights on police employees become law?” A vote in favor of Question B eliminates effects bargaining.

Question B’s origins began in 2011, when the all-Democratic County Council unanimously passed legislation to repeal the union’s power to challenge, then bargain, over basic police chief directives. Before the reform, police department management needed union approval to implement any new policy. Even asking officers to check their email became a contentious ordeal. The union power over management derived from what is called “effects” bargaining, a privilege the local police union does not intend to lose.

To maintain the status quo or preserve effects bargaining for the county’s police, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) local gathered more than 40,000 signatures — more than enough to put Question B on the ballot.

Current Montgomery County police chief of staff Lt. Dave Anderson says effects bargaining  makes contract negotiations never-ending by giving unions a “second bite at the apple.” What FOP cannot gain from the county in contract negotiations it can bargain for later in this manner.

A pro-Question B website lists 15 police department policies the FOP held up with effects bargaining claims. A few examples of postponed police policy:

“The distribution of critical police equipment, the redeployment of officers to crime hot spots, and even the revised policy on “Use of Force” – important to protecting the public and officers alike – which was sent to the Police Union for its “approval” on June 27, 2008.

Under effects bargaining, police officers still don’t have to sign their time cards. The chief of police could not even require police officers to have County email accounts – or to check their email. It took months to negotiate that.”

Voters should keep in mind the problems with allowing FOP or any public-sector union official to possess overreaching power over their government employer’s decision-making process. Union bosses’ allegiance lies solely with their members and not the public. When negotiating contracts or bargaining the effects of management decisions, the sole objective for labor representatives is to negotiate the most lucrative contracts with optimal working conditions for their members they can. This conflict of interest hinders governments ability to provide essential services in a reliable fashion.