Judge rules against city’s new po­lice dis­ci­plinary guide­lines

Un­clear how many cases af­fected by vic­tory for FOP

Chicago Tribune - - CHICAGOLAND - By Dan Hinkel | Chicago Tri­bune Chicago Tri­bune’s Jen­nifer Smith Richards con­trib­uted. dhinkel@chicagotri­bune.com

An ad­min­is­tra­tive law judge has rec­om­mended that the Illi­nois La­bor Re­la­tions Board throw out the Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment’s new dis­ci­plinary guide­lines, deal­ing an early de­feat to the city as it at­tempts to stan­dard­ize the pun­ish­ments of an er­ratic and of­ten tooth­less po­lice dis­ci­plinary sys­tem.

The find­ing in fa­vor of the city’s largest po­lice union, the Chicago Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice, de­ter­mined that the de­part­ment vi­o­lated la­bor law by fail­ing to bar­gain with the union over the new guide­lines.

The rec­om­men­da­tion from Ad­min­is­tra­tive Law Judge Anna Ham­burg-Gal calls on the state board to force the Po­lice De­part­ment to re­scind any dis­ci­pline im­posed un­der the ad­vi­sory guide­lines since they were adopted in Fe­bru­ary and re­assess the pun­ish­ment to be im­posed un­der the more in­for­mal sys­tem in place be­fore the guide­lines ex­isted. While it is un­clear how many cases could be af­fected, the city closes hun­dreds of dis­ci­plinary cases in a typ­i­cal month. Through the first five months of this year, for ex­am­ple, the de­part­ment had closed more than 2,000 dis­ci­plinary cases, though his­tor­i­cally the de­part­ment has found mis­con­duct and levied pun­ish­ment only in a slim per­cent­age of cases.

The rec­om­men­da­tion, is­sued last week, does not carry the force of law, and months will likely pass be­fore the state panel makes its rul­ing, said the board’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Kim­berly Stevens. The de­part­ment and union can file briefs in sup­port of their po­si­tions on the rec­om­men­da­tion in the com­ing months, and the board’s rul­ing could lead to fur­ther chal­lenges in court.

“This is a great vic­tory for our mem­bers,” FOP Pres­i­dent Kevin Gra­ham said in a state­ment on the union’s blog. “The City is ob­li­gated to ne­go­ti­ate with us. Ac­cord­ing to this rul­ing, they will now have to. We will fight every at­tempt by the City to make changes with­out ne­go­ti­at­ing first.”

Law De­part­ment spokesman Bill McCaf­frey voiced dis­ap­point­ment in the rec­om­men­da­tion and said the city’s lawyers would chal­lenge it.

“The Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment has au­thor­ity from the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment to im­pose dis­ci­pline, and the dis­ci­plinary ma­trix is de­signed to pro­vide cer­tainty for of­fi­cers and serves as a man­age­ment tool so that rec­om­men­da­tions are con­sis­tent across the de­part­ment,” he said in a writ­ten state­ment.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and de­part­ment of­fi­cials vowed to over­haul the po­lice dis­ci­plinary sys­tem in the wake of the scan­dal sparked nearly two years ago by the re­lease of video of a white po­lice of­fi­cer shoot­ing black teenager Laquan McDon­ald 16 times. The con­tro­versy high­lighted the fail­ings of a slug­gish dis­ci­plinary sys­tem that has of­ten levied light pun­ish­ments or none at all, even when ev­i­dence sug­gested wrong­do­ing.

Be­fore Fe­bru­ary, the de­part­ment had never used stan­dard­ized pun­ish­ment guide­lines for most dis­ci­plinary cases, though ex­perts and pan­els sug­gested it for years. The guide­lines of­fer a range of pun­ish­ments for var­i­ous com­mon vi­o­la­tions, and su­per­vi­sors are in­structed to con­sider “mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors,” such as an of­fi­cer’s in­ex­pe­ri­ence or ac­knowl­edg­ment of wrong­do­ing, as well as “ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tors” such as at­tempts to cover up mis­con­duct.

Along with the Po­lice De­part­ment, the city’s new po­lice watch­dog agency, the Civil­ian Of­fice of Po­lice Ac­count­abil­ity, also uses the guide­lines as it makes rec­om­men­da­tions for dis­ci­pline to the de­part­ment.

The Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice filed a charge with the la­bor re­la­tions panel, ar­gu­ing that the new guide­lines should have gone through the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing process that is now on­go­ing. The union has taken sim­i­lar ac­tion re­cently in re­sponse to new de­part­men­tal ini­tia­tives such as the in­tro­duc­tion of body cam­eras; those cases are pend­ing.

In the case of the dis­ci­plinary guide­lines, the ad­min­is­tra­tive law judge sided with the union in find­ing that the de­part­ment had made a uni­lat­eral change to a manda­tory sub­ject of bar­gain­ing. The city ar­gued that the guide­lines re­sulted in lim­ited change by sim­ply putting in writ­ing the de­part­ment’s in­for­mal process for for­mu­lat­ing dis­ci­pline.

The union chal­lenged the new guide­lines be­fore elec­tions in April swept in new FOP lead­ers who have been vo­cal in their op­po­si­tion to the city’s ef­forts to re­vamp dis­ci­pline.

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