OKLAHOMA CITY – An arbitrator sided with the Police Officers Union that a portion of the department’s body camera policy violated the contract between the city and the union.
“The heart of the issue is they didn’t negotiate the policy to start with. It’s not that we are against cameras, but we have a policy in our contract, and they did not follow that,” said John George, union president. “I’m really frustrated that we had to do this over something everyone knew they should have negotiated in the first place.”
George said, before the body camera program started in January, the union was working on a new contract with the police department.
“Then, the chief decided I’m going to go ahead and implement this anyway,” George said.
Chief of police Bill Citty said that decision was within his rights.
“If management has to wait to get an agreement – there are a lot of things that are public safety issues that could come down to life or death, you wouldn’t be able to do if I had to wait to get an agreement with the unions.”
George said there are several areas of concern with using cameras.
One of the main issues is random monitoring.
“We were all in favor of if there were complaints, critical incidents, if you can justly why you were looking at it, fine. We didn’t want supervisors just to be able to go on a fishing expedition,” George said.
Citty said policies will prevent that “The concern is that it will be misused by front line supervisors if there is an officer they don’t like. That’s not appropriate and that shouldn’t be done.
But, the chief also said supervisor have the right to monitor officers.
What George said would be a better solution is to apply the same policy used for vehicle gps.
“If you are in a wreck or a complaint that you can look at it. That policy says supervisors cannot go on fishing expeditions. So, they just can’t pull it up to see how fast you were driving that day and say you were driving five over, we are going to write you up. You have to have reasons to look at it, and that’s all we wanted here, same thing,” he said.
The next step if for the union and police department to continue negotiations.
If they can’t reach an agreement, the issue goes back to an arbitrator.
The arbitrator would chose between the two sides.
Once a ruling is reached on policy, the cameras can be used again.