Bargaining in Blue, a monthly newsletter from Ballotpedia, provides news and information on police collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), including the latest news, policy debates, and insights from Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population.
In this month’s edition of Bargaining in Blue, we examine union representation for law enforcement officers during misconduct investigations. We review an ongoing investigation in Connecticut and a lawsuit to withhold the names of officers involved; arguments from scholars and the media on union representation of law enforcement officers; and insights on the topic from Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population.
In this edition:
- On the beat: Judge denies Connecticut State Police Union request to withhold officer names from misconduct investigation
- Around the table: Arguments from the negotiating table, scholars, and the media on union representation for law enforcement officers
- Insights: A closer look at union representation for law enforcement officers in CBAs and key takeaways from Ballotpedia’s analysis
On the beat
Judges denies Connecticut State Police Union request to withhold officer names from misconduct investigation
A Connecticut Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit on September 7, 2023, from the Connecticut State Police Union aiming to withhold the release of names of officers involved in an ongoing investigation. The state is investigating 130 state troopers for the alleged misconduct of falsifying traffic stops.
The University of Connecticut in June 2023 published an audit of traffic stops submitted to a state database and found evidence alleging that traffic stop data had been falsified by state troopers. The investigation into the alleged misconduct is ongoing and certain state troopers have been cleared of wrongdoing as of September 21, 2023. The state police union representing the officers’ argued against disclosure of the officers’ names while the investigation was ongoing, with the union’s executive director Andrew Matthews claiming, “We have no problem with the public ultimately knowing who is at fault when there is an impartial investigation, not an audit that isn’t done properly,” according to Fox News.
Connecticut Superior Court Judge Rupal Shah denied the union’s request, arguing that the state’s Freedom of Information Commission—a government organization tasked with ensuring citizen access to state agency meetings and records—had not ruled on a pending appeal regarding whether the names must be publicly released prior to the request. Judge Shah claimed that the union may submit another request to withhold the release of names of the officers involved if the Freedom of Information Commission orders disclosure of the troopers’ names.
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Around the table
Arguments about union representation for law enforcement officers
In a 2021 article published in The New York Times, reporters Noam Scheiber, Farah Stockman, and J. David Goodman argued that the protections granted to law enforcement officers by police unions, such as representation and defense during misconduct investigations, prevent accountability reform efforts from taking effect:
They aggressively protect the rights of members accused of misconduct, often in arbitration hearings that they have battled to keep behind closed doors. And they have also been remarkably effective at fending off broader change, using their political clout and influence to derail efforts to increase accountability.
In a 2018 article published by Police1, Bloomington, Minnesota Police Chief Booker Hodges argued that police unions are responsible for advocating for members, which includes representing members during misconduct investigations:
Legally unions are responsible for representing their members. The public seems to support this premise when it concerns other labor unions, but not those who represent police officers. Even members of other labor unions, particularly those who belong to educator unions, don’t seem to support this premise when it comes to police unions.
Many of them have taken to the streets to protest against police officers, criticized police unions for defending their members and called for an end of binding arbitration for police officers.
Connecticut CBA on union representation for law enforcement officers
The Connecticut State Police Association entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the state of Connecticut in 2018. The CBA allows state troopers to request union representation during an investigation into a complaint or misconduct.
Article 15 Section 14 of the CBA between the state of Connecticut and the Connecticut State Police Union states the following:
Troopers may request Union representation consistent with Section 7 of this Article for any investigation or inquiry into a Complaint.
The agreement was renewed and certain provisions were amended in 2022.
Key takeaways on union representation in CBAs
Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population featured the following information about union representation during misconduct investigations in police CBAs, as of December 2021:
- There are 21 state CBAs and 45 city CBAs that specify who may represent or defend law enforcement officers during a misconduct investigation
- There are 22 states and 17 cities that do not have police CBAs
- There are 2 states and 4 cities in which the request for information on police CBAs was denied or information could not be verified