Statement on proposed Police Union Contract

Dec 12, 2023

On Wednesday, December 13 City Council will vote on a new police union contract. It includes a clause that would allow all police misconduct cases to go to arbitration, rather than using our existing system of police accountability. This is extremely dangerous. If this passes, it will completely undermine the system of accountability in Chicago that was established by the historic ECPS Ordinance.

We are urging a NO vote on the specific piece of the proposed police union contract that would allow all police misconduct cases to be settled via arbitration rather than the Police Board. 

In addition, the other parts of the proposed police union contract present major setbacks for other elements of police accountability. We support alders who are voting NO because the new police contract makes NO progress on *any* of the accountability issues that civil rights and grassroots organizations highlighted in 2021 (when we urged the City Council to vote “no” on the proposed FOP contract). And there are NEW elements that further undermine police accountability.

Thank you to the Better Government Association, Alderman Matt Martin and the Coalition for Police Contracts Accountability for providing this summary of the elements of the proposed contract that have raised concerns:

  1. No progress on *any* of the accountability issues that civil rights and grassroots organizations highlighted in 2021 (when many urged the City Council to vote “no” on the proposed FOP CBA).
    1. Allow for the investigation of anonymous complaints: Anonymous complaints no longer require the complainant to sign a sworn affidavit, but they now require “certification” from the head of COPA or BIA (unless re criminal conduct, a verified medical roll abuse or residency violation, or made by another officer). Certification states that they have reviewed objective verifiable evidence and it is necessary and appropriate for investigation to continue.
    2. Prevent disclosure of a complainant’s name prior to the interrogation of an accused officer:No changes to requirement that officers be informed of names of complainants prior to interrogation.
    3. Eliminate the 24-hour delay on officer statements in shooting cases:No language explicitly stating that officers involved in a shooting provide a statement within 24 hours. No changes to requirements on the timing of the statement. 
    4. Eliminate an officer’s right to review and amend statements previously made to investigators without possible consequences for lying: The language does not actually prohibit officers from changing their statements after viewing video or audio footage. Instead, it just allows investigators to consider all statements when determining if an officer willfully made a false statement. The language also does not remove the provision that an officer cannot be charged with a Rule 14 violation (prohibition against making a false report) if they were never allowed to review video or audio evidence and amend their statements. 
    5. Eliminate the need for the Superintendent’s authorization to investigate complaints that are five years old or older: No changes to provision requiring Superintendent authorization to investigate complaints that are five years old or older.
    6. Require officers to disclose secondary employment: No language mandating disclosure of secondary employment.
  2. There are new problematic provisions in the proposed CBA.
    1. Foot PursuitAdds language specifically requiring that an officer shall not be disciplined for engaging or not engaging in or terminating a foot pursuit so long as it is done in accordance with the department’s foot pursuit policy.
    2. Body Worn Cameras PolicyNew language restricts the use of body worn cameras and gives police and the FOP additional control over use of BWC footage in disciplinary cases. According to the new language, body worn cameras cannot be used to record conversations with other police during “routine, non-law enforcement activities” or in places with a reasonable expectation of privacy such as locker rooms and restrooms. The policy also prohibits the use of BWCs to record “post-incident conversations with any Department members or supervisors” and allows officers required to wear BWCs to turn the camera off during times in which the officer is not actively engaging the public. Any recordings falling afoul of the new restrictions would not be eligible for use in disciplinary proceedings, providing a significant shield to officers caught committing wrongdoing on body worn cameras.
    3. “Peoples’ Court” Abbreviated ArbitrationIn addition to the changes in arbitration of serious disciplinary cases that was offered as a separate item (and recommended “do not pass” in committee), the contract contains a new option for officers facing suspensions of thirty days or less to go before an arbitrator for an “abbreviated hearing.” Parties in the abbreviated hearings would not be allowed to submit written arguments in support of their positions, and the arbitrator would issue a final and binding decision on the same day as the hearing, with no further review or reprimand allowed in the matter. The proceedings would not be recorded by a court reporter.
    4. Investigation Time LimitsNew language stipulates that if an investigation took more than 18 months to conclude, measured from the date on which the investigation was opened, the union can request arbitration to determine whether there was a reasonable basis for the investigation to take more than 18 months, with the Police Department bearing the burden of demonstrating reasonable cause for delay. If the arbitrator deems there was not reasonable cause, the hearing on the merits of the discipline cannot proceed. Allegations of a criminal nature as defined by Section 6.1E of the contract are not covered by this language. 

Read more on the Better Government Association’s website on their analysis of what is in the FOP contract.

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