Collective bargaining agreements with police too often constrain department leadership and tilt the playing field away from accountability for officers' misconduct. Community trust is at stake.
State and local elected officials reacted quickly to the deaths of George Floyd and other African Americans at the hands of police last year by passing a raft of new laws and enacting new policies to reduce police violence against civilians. While those measures seek to change police practices from the top down, reformers' next step should be to work from the bottom up to enhance police accountability through collective bargaining processes.
Opportunities abound. Major cities, including Houston and St. Paul, are currently renegotiating their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) covering police. Other major cities with police union contracts expiring this summer include Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Memphis, Phoenix and San Francisco. Chicago has been in the midst of heated contract negotiations between the local police union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
CBAs determine many police department policies, and are typically renegotiated every three to five years. The stakes are high: America's 20 cities and counties with the largest police departments paid over $2 billion to settle claims of officer misconduct between 2015 and 2020.
Daniel DiSalvo is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and professor of political science at the City College of New York-CUNY.
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