When Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, and when Jason Van Dyke fired sixteen rounds at Laquan McDonald who was walking away from the responding officers, were Chauvin and Van Dyke acting exclusively of their own volition, or were their actions indicative of a deeper, systemic issue? Nearly 60% of law enforcement officers enjoy collective bargaining protections from their police unions, but these protections create a lack of accountability.
Police unions can bargain collectively with police departments because of state legislation, which typically allow for negotiation over matters affecting wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment. This broad language has allowed many police unions to negotiate contracts that: shield law enforcement officers from liability for misconduct, permit officers to delay being interrogated for up to forty-eight hours following a critical incident, allow police departments to expunge officer disciplinary records after a few years, require all disputes to be settled in binding arbitration by arbitrators often selected by the police union itself, and limit transparency of disciplinary records to the public and to civilian review boards.
One way to solve all these troubling issues is to forbid police unions from bargaining for matters affecting wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment, or at the very least matters affecting “terms and conditions of employment.” The appendices to this Article include samples of current statutes permitting collective bargaining among police unions, a collection of statutes from all the states that forbid public unions and police unions from collective bargaining, and model statutory language that states may adopt to remedy the aforementioned harmful provisions and ultimately hold law enforcement officers like Chauvin and Van Dyke accountable.
Falco A. Muscante II,
Police Brutality & Unions: Collective Bargaining is the Problem, Not Law Enforcement,
13 U. MIA Race & Soc. Just. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.miami.edu/umrsjlr/vol13/iss1/4