The city council could help end BPD’s collective bargaining woes.

The Sun’s editorial was correct that the shift schedules of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) should not be subject to collective bargaining (“Baltimore police patrol schedule puts the public — and officers — at risk,” Oct. 16). The editorial, however, was not correct in asserting that removing shift schedules from the scope of collective bargaining with the FOP is the responsibility of the Maryland General Assembly.

Excluding the negotiation of shift schedules and other aspects of deployment and scheduling from the scope of collective bargaining is the prerogative of the Baltimore City Council. It is a responsibility that the council has ducked for years.

State law does govern binding arbitration if the city and the FOP fail to reach agreement on the terms and conditions of employment, but that state law is limited to matters involving “direct compensation.” Issues relating to “deployment or scheduling, including eligibility and assignment to details and positions” of police officers are expressly excluded by state law from the definition of “direct compensation.”

Under Section 16-8A(a) of the Code of Public Local Laws for Baltimore enacted by the General Assembly, the scope of collective bargaining between the city and the FOP over issues not involving direct compensation is subject to the Municipal Employee Relations Law enacted by the City Council. The City Council draws its power to regulate the scope of collective bargaining from Section 55 of the City Charter.

The City Council could remove shift schedules from collective bargaining with a simple amendment to Article 12, Section 3-2 of the City Code. It has not done so because of its chronic fear of antagonizing the FOP. In the meantime, money is wasted, shifts are understaffed, and public safety is compromised.

The City Council likes to lament its limited influence over the BPD when it suits its purpose and to point the finger of blame at the state. The council exploits public confusion about its role vis-à-vis the BPD. Let’s not be confused, however, about the council’s responsibility to fix the costly and dangerous problem created by taking away the control of scheduling and deployment of officers from the Police Commissioner.

David A. Plymyer

[Published as a Letter to the Editor by The Baltimore Sun on October 18, 2017 but not posted to my blog until April 15, 2018.  The date of posting that appears above was backdated to place all posts in the order in which they were written.]

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