Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration won some but not all of the changes it sought in a new contract with Philadelphia’s police union, which was unveiled Tuesday and is central to Kenney’s plans to improve police accountability following last year’s racial justice protests.
The three-year contract includes raises for the city’s more than 6,000 police officers and gives Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw greater authority over disciplinary matters, according to the mayor’s office. The contract, which was written by a three-person arbitration panel, also increases the amount of time that disciplinary actions remain on officers’ records.
Officers will get one-time bonuses of $1,500 in addition to raises of 2.75% this year and raises of 3.5% in 2022 and 2023. The contract is backdated to July 1, when the previous contract expired, and it ends on June 30, 2024.
“Our police officers are on the front lines — sworn to protect and serve our residents with honor and I want to thank them for their dedication and steadfast service in the face of adversity every single day,” Kenney said in a statement. “While most officers serve with integrity, we also recognize the tension and concern that many residents feel in their interactions with police. We believe that the reforms in the Award will help improve the relationship between the police and community, ultimately helping keep Philadelphians safer.”
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, the local police union, successfully defeated the administration’s attempt to require all officers to live in the city. It said the contract ensures that officers’ “discipline grievance and arbitration rights” are “100% protected.”
“This contract award recognizes the hard work and tireless dedication of our 6-thousand rank and file police officers especially during a world-wide pandemic,” FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby said in a statement. “The contract award is a fair resolution for both sides. Our work continues today to make our city safer in every neighborhood across this great city.”
Kenney has resisted activists’ calls to “defund the police,” saying the city can’t afford to have fewer cops at a time of soaring gun violence and homicides. Absent layoffs, the contract will increase the Police Department’s budget. A total price tag for the contract was not immediately available.
Mayors typically negotiate multi-year deals with the city’s unions in the first year of their terms. But last year, the first of Kenney’s second term, the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Philadelphia shortly before contract talks were set to begin. The administration instead negotiated one-year contracts for all four unions that included small raises and largely maintained the status quo.
Those deals expired at the end of June, and the city’s unionized employees have been working without contracts since then. About 22,300 of the city’s 26,800 employees are represented by unions.
The contracts for the FOP and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22 are determined through arbitration, in which a three-person panel selected by the parties decides the details.
The new contract will allow people besides officers to be more involved in the department’s disciplinary process — a priority for the city and many reform advocates who have criticized that system as ineffective.
For example, outside advocates will be now able to present a case against an officer to the Police Board of Inquiry, which hears cases against accused officers and determines penalties. And outsiders may also now be added to the board itself, the city said.
It wasn’t immediately clear how frequently the city might yield such responsibilities to non-departmental personnel. But the administration said some of those changes will allow a new, independent police oversight board to be involved in the disciplinary process, something advocates have long sought.
McNesby said the union is prepared to work within that new system, and noted that officers will still be able to raise grievances through the arbitration process.
The city touted a change to arbitration, highlighting what it called a new panel of more diverse and experienced arbiters to hear disputes over penalties and discipline.
But McNesby said the panel would have no impact on the actual process, and is simply a way to have a predetermined list of arbitrators who would hear cases on a rotating basis.
“The termination board kind of works for both sides,” he said. “The process is still the same, scope is still the same. … It’ll make it a lot easier.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.