Police union: Scrap Police Board, use arbitration for misconduct cases
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org October 11, 2011 1:58AM
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:19AM
The Fraternal Order of Police is urging Mayor Rahm Emanuel to disband the Chicago Police Board and send disciplinary cases involving police officers to arbitration — one month after reforms designed to shine the light on the board’s secretive proceedings.
FOP President Mike Shields argued that more than $1 million a year could be saved — including office rent and hearing officer pay — if independent arbitrators replaced the nine-member board.
The Police Board decides disciplinary cases in which the police superintendent is seeking to discharge or suspend an officer for more than 30 days as well as cases where the superintendent and the Independent Police Review Authority disagree. Suspensions ranging from six to 30 days are also reviewed upon request.
“It has nothing to do with fairness. It’s just too expensive,” Shields said.
“The Police Board is appointed by the mayor. An arbitrator has no ties to Chicago. They fly in. They hear the facts and go away. It costs more money for the court reporter in an arbitration than it does for the arbitrator.”
Police Board President Demetrius Carney, a veteran lobbyist recently reappointed by the mayor, dismissed cost-saving as a union smokescreen.
“They’ve always wanted to do away with the Police Board. They don’t like the idea of an independent civilian review board [passing judgment on] police officers. That’s really their gripe. It’s not about the money,” Carney said.
He added, “The purpose of the Police Board is to create a system of due process and provide citizens with transparency. We now have our own website. It gives citizens a level of confidence if they have any issues with police officers. We do a phenomenal job. We’re fair. Citizens want it.”
Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) argued that arbitration would “take away some of the transparency” created by the Police Board reforms he championed, including attendance standards and a mandate that decisions and the rationale behind them be posted online within ten days.
“I’ve had arbitration decisions that just rule `yes’ and `no.’ They’ll issues rulings, but they won’t need to give reasons. Transparency would be lost. There would be no accountability,” Fioretti said.
“Arbitration could also end up being as costly, if not costlier than what you have currently. Do you do a one-person, a two-person or a three-person panel? It sounds so easy but it’s much more complex.”
The 2012 budget that Emanuel unveils Wednesday is expected to include deep cuts in the Chicago Police Department’s previously-sacrosanct, $1.3 billion-a-year budget concentrated in the exempt ranks.
Not to be outdone, the FOP hired a consultant to scour the police budget for potential cuts.
The politically-explosive proposal to disband the Police Board is just one of several ideas identified by Public Works LLC.
In addition to cuts in police brass, the firm is also expected to recommend that the Cubs, Sox, Bears, Bulls and Black Hawks be required to reimburse the city for the cost of police protection at professional sporting events and concerts held at sports venues.
In 2004, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley created the Traffic Management Authority and replaced police officers directing traffic around Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field, Soldier Field and the United Center with traffic control aides.
At the time, team owners were required to compensate the city for the cost of the traffic control aides they use. The Cubs currently contribute $600,000-a-year.
The use of traffic control aides dramatically reduced, but did not totally eliminate the need for police officers at sports and entertainment events. That continues to be covered by the city’s nine percent amusement tax.