County report on police contract missed the mark on transparency, Tasers

Bizar Male

Bethesda Beat’s article “Report says it’s ‘impossible’ for public to decipher county’s contract with police union” demonstrates how badly the Office of Legislative Oversight report misunderstood the collective bargaining agreement with our union.

OLO senior legislative analysts Leslie Rubin and Aron Trombka wrote in the report: “… It is impossible for a third-party reader to identify the terms and provisions of the collective bargaining agreement between the County and [Fraternal Order of Police] Lodge 35 because the parties do not agree on the primary document.”

First off, nowhere in county collective bargaining law does it say that a third party or the County Council need to be able to decipher all collective bargaining documents. They are legal documents and should be understood by the parties who are subject to them — in this case, the county executive (the employer) and the Fraternal Order of Police (the employee representatives).

Second, the County Council is required by law to provide funding to those provisions that require funding as presented by the executive. Decisions on annual funding do not abrogate an agreement between the executive and the FOP.

Further, the executive branch not providing a complete copy of the agreement for public review cannot be attributed to the collective bargaining process or to the FOP.

Because memorandums of agreement and side letters are not included in a table of contents does not make a document difficult to understand or incomplete. The collective bargaining agreement does portray current conditions.

If the County Council wants the documents available via the county website, it can talk to the county executive’s office to have the document uploaded.

The FOP makes the contract available to its members.

The FOP is not responsible for the county’s shortcomings. Our job is to follow the collective bargaining law and we’re doing our job.

And then there is the Taser issue. This is just another absurd claim by Council Member Hans Riemer.

The FOP had asked the council to fund additional Tasers for uniform officers and for a general wage adjustment. They were both denied.

Riemer is claiming the executive agreed to a Taser policy that was contingent on pay raises. That is simply not true.

The Taser agreement between the FOP and county executive is an agreement on the priority of issuance and has nothing to do with the County Council funding Tasers. If no additional Tasers are provided, the priority of issuance does not go into effect.

The agreement on issuance has nothing to do with the policy on use that was referenced in the OLO report. It is as simple as that.

The truth is that the council did not fund additional Tasers.

When equipment is needed, the council can make it a priority to provide funding. That’s its job.

As for Riemer’s decision to not fund a request for nonlethal weapons, and his misunderstanding that the use of force policy he recently voted on included the policy on Tasers: Who is not doing their job?

County workers are essential employees who are tasked with providing services to the most vulnerable in our community.

Officers put their lives on the line, and Riemer and the OLO want to demonize an employee’s voice in the workplace through collective bargaining. My members are showing up every day and doing extraordinary work in the middle of a pandemic.

County collective bargaining law was voted in 40 years ago to create labor harmony between the county and its employees. Riemer would have us go back to when tumult ruled. You can’t move things forward that way.

Let’s all do our jobs according to the law. We’ll negotiate pay and working conditions with the county executive’s office, and County Council members will decide to fund or not fund those elements of the agreement presented to them that require funding.

That’s county collective bargaining law and that’s Riemer’s job. Get to work.

Torrie Cooke is president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35.

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