City of Philadelphia Announces Reforms Included in New Police Contract

City of Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, PA — The City of Philadelphia announced that the interest arbitration panel issued an Award that will govern the terms and conditions of employment for the City’s police officers over a three-year term from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2024. In addition to annual wage increases that acknowledge officers’ dedication and service in the face of adversity, the Award also achieves several of the City’s priorities that seek to make the police discipline process more transparent and accountable, including modifications to the arbitration process and incorporating civilians into the disciplinary process in key ways.

“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,” said Philadelphia‘s Mayor Jim Kenney. “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.”

Importantly, the Award revises the discipline code and process for officers who are alleged to have engaged in misconduct, increasing accountability and transparency. Changes include:

  • Revisions to the discipline code to increase the time that discipline remains on an officer’s record, increase penalties for a number of offenses, and add new offenses, including prohibiting officers from fraternizing with members of hate groups.
  • Allowing individuals outside the bargaining unit to determine the disciplinary charges to be brought against officers.
  • Allowing the Police Commissioner to use non-sworn or even outside advocates to present the Department’s case at the Police Board of Inquiry (PBI), which reviews evidence and evaluates whether the officer is guilty of the identified charges.
  • Reforming the composition of the PBI panels to add non-sworn personnel, or even non-City employees, to each panel and remove the officer of the same rank; currently, the PBI is made up of one officer of the same rank and two officers of higher rank.
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These changes will also allow the Department to incorporate aspects of the Citizen Police Oversight Commission (CPOC) legislation into the Department’s disciplinary processes. In November 2020, Philadelphians voted overwhelmingly in favor of establishing the CPOC, which will replace the Police Advisory Commission and serve as an independent group to investigate allegations of police misconduct.

The Award also addresses the grievance and arbitration procedure, a key priority for the City, by establishing a new arbitration panel just for police termination cases—the Police Termination Arbitration Board (PTAB). Among the aspects that will build public confidence in the grievance and arbitration process:

  • The City and the FOP will appoint an equal number of arbitrators—at least 40 percent of whom will be people who identify as women, people of color, or other underrepresented groups.
  • PTAB arbitrators will have a broader set of experiences than the existing arbitrators who come exclusively from lists maintained by the American Arbitration Association; arbitrators on the PTAB must possess a J.D. or have at least two years serving as a labor arbitrator or as a labor relations professional.
  • PTAB arbitrators will go through training before hearing any cases, enabling them to draft fairer awards through an understanding of both the legal standards governing arbitration and the Police Department’s policies and disciplinary procedures.
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To further incorporate civilian feedback, the Police Department will review which responsibilities may be conducted by non-sworn individuals (civilians) in order to reduce costs and increase overall efficiencies by deploying uniformed officers to areas with the greatest public safety needs. The Award establishes a process for resolving disputes when the City seeks to move work from sworn officers to civilians where it is appropriate to do so.

The Award also provides for annual wage increases of 2.75 percent in the first year of the contract and 3.5 percent in each of the following two years. In addition, the Award provides for a one-time bonus of $1,500 while also providing that the City will forgo paying any health insurance costs for covered employees for two months—one in 2021 and the other in 2023—which will have a significant, positive impact on City costs; the costs of those months will be covered instead by the health and welfare fund.

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The full Award can be found online here.

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