San Francisco Police Union Loses A Round
January 2, 2017 (Fault Lines) — In San Francisco it is widely held that the primary obstacle to police reform and rebuilding trust between cops and the public is the Police Officers Association. Recent efforts by the SFPOA to block police use of force reforms are proving the assumption true.
But last week, a state judge refused to block two new policies handed down by the San Francisco Police Commission after the union took them to court in an effort to retain the practice of shooting at moving vehicles in certain situations. The union is also upset that the commission eliminated the choke-hold or carotid restraint from their arsenal.
The Police Commission unanimously adopted the new policy which had not been updated since 1995.
The SFPOA was denied a temporary restraining order and injunction blocking the reforms from taking place. A win in court for the SFPOA here could have thrown the whole process into a molasses-like state, slowing down reforms and establishing reform limbo.
Martin Halloran the local POA president stated:
We’re a labor union and our members have a right to negotiate over working conditions. The Commission wants to ignore those labor rights. The Charter is clear that our dispute must go to arbitration, so we’re asking a judge to order the Commission back to the table.
Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer Jr. wasn’t swayed by any of the POA’s arguments and ruled that California’s Meyers-Milias Brown Act and established case law clearly show that use of force policies are managerial decisions and not subject to bargaining, as are “wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.”
Factors for granting injunctive relief are likelihood of success at trial and interim harm. Ulner didn’t think they would succeed at trial on the merits, and rejected the POA’s cited reason for interim harm: That its “standing in the eyes of its members” would be harmed if it were seen as unable to protect member bargaining rights. This didn’t quite stack up to the interim harm to the city which would suffer more without a clearly established use of force policy in place.
Plus: It’s laughable. The union leadership by their own actions has lost plenty of standing with a number of their members recently. Not to mention the public. Despite this, they have money and influence. They will do anything they can to delay, obfuscate, deny and generally block any reform measure that removes power from their officers.
The lawsuit is intact, so these issues have yet to see court time. For now, the cops will be facing consequences if they shoot at a moving vehicle or choke someone. The SFPOA is trying to control policy decisions every way they can. The police commission is a body representing the people of San Francisco which doesn’t care for cops running around killing unarmed people who happen to be driving cars, even if they may be stolen. The cops are there for the people of San Francisco, yet when you listen to the union officials it sounds like they think the exact opposite is true.
No city can afford to lose a battle where the police union wins a court ordered right to dictate policy in the police department. Even Mayor Ed Lee can see the danger ahead and that’s why he went with an outsider to head up the department instead of sticking with the interim POA member.
The union was not happy. Let’s hope that after the court case is resolved they are even less happy.