Of all the ideas for policing reform, I have been focused on how the FOP collective bargaining agreement is an obstacle to reform.
I believe that no single solution should be considered without looking at the way policing fits into the entire system of economic inequalities and racism.
As a life-long unionist I feel a certain responsibility to demonstrate how the police unions stand outside of the labor movement.
Today WBEZ reports that this week the Illinois Supreme Court will rule on the legality of language in the FOB/Chicago CBA that requires destroying all records of citizen abuse after five years.
University of Chicago Law Professor Craig Futterman said the case is fundamentally about a question being asked all over the country, whether police unions and city governments should be able to bargain away the rights of the public to have effective oversight of police officers.
As local union president, I encouraged members to request to see their personnel file each year to make sure they knew what was in it and that it was accurate. Nothing in our contract guaranteed automatic removal of negative evaluations or parental complaints.
My own file was the subject of a FOIA request from a far-right Michigan anti-union organization. They received my complete personnel file with only third-party or student names removed.
I had no negatives to hide.
But the rules are different for cops who have a record of abuse.
The FOP wants the record of abuse destroyed.
Attorneys for the Chicago chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents about 12,000 rank-and-file Chicago cops, agree there may be important public policy reasons for preserving police complaint records, but argue that “as important as those concerns may be” they do not give the city the right to ignore the contract, which requires complaint records be destroyed after five years.
“Changes … must come through bargaining, not fiat,” a union motion reads.
There lies the crux of the matter.
It should not have to come through bargaining.
The Mayor should not have to bargain police reform with the police.
The Illinois General Assembly can act to remove from bargaining any language that protects the police from criminal procedures. And they should.
I wrote my state representative, Will Guzzardi.
As my state representative I would request that you introduce and see co-sponsors for a bill that would remove by statute language in the FOP collective bargaining agreement that protects abusive officers from prosecution. It is language that undermines the consent decree. The legislature has the power to remove these part of due process language as issues of bargaining.
See my Sun-Times op-ed.