Cincinnati’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #69 is demanding that city officials give them a pay raise before they agree to officers wearing body cameras.
After officials announced last Wednesday that a group of Cincinnati cops were to become the first in the department to wear body-cams, the police union responded by sending a “cease and desist” letter to the city asking for the program to be halted.
Fifteen officers in the Central Business District had already been equipped with the cameras with the city buying 700 of the devices. A seven-year agreement with TASER International was signed to support the equipment in a move that will cost taxpayers up to $6 million.
By the end of this year 700 officers are expected to be wearing the cameras, and according to the agreement, the city is scheduled to purchase up to 350 additional body-cams next year if funding for them becomes available.
The FOP letter said that until adequate payment for wearing the devices was decided on however, officers should not wear them. The letter argued that “requiring employees to wear [body-cams] will change several aspects of their job and regularly assigned duties.”
“The adoption of new [body-cam] policies will also have a significant impact on the employees’ wages, hours, or other terms and conditions of employment,” the letter stated. “Accordingly such changes are mandatory subjects that must be bargained to impasse with the union before they are implemented.”
On Monday, City Manager Harry Black wrote in a memo to City Council that his position allows him to order cameras be worn without a contract change. He maintained that “having a body camera program fosters transparency, allows the city to better protect the public and protects officers from frivolous and fraudulent claims.”
“The FOP had ample opportunity to bargain over its proposal at various bargaining sessions and during mediation,” the memo said. “The FOP did not focus bargaining towards its [body-cam] proposal. Considering that this is the FOP’s proposal – not management’s – the burden is on the FOP to raise this issue during bargaining.”
The president of FOP Lodge #59, Sgt. Daniel J. Hils, fired back on Thursday saying in an op-ed that “the added complications of video technology and risk that the additional scrutiny will be used for political agendas add up to a need to compensate those who will be forced to wear cameras.”
“The community and current political state of society will require more monitoring of police officers. The FOP and I both realize this fact,” Hils said. “That does not, however, mean that we are jumping for joy about being monitored for each and every one of our interactions with the public.”
The Sgt. asserted that “there is a breaking point or a line that gets crossed where the ordinary people that do this extraordinarily difficult job begin to shut down.” He added that collective bargaining surrounding the issue should continue.
Consequently, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has called for 5 percent raises for four unions in the city, including FOP lodge #59. Any additional pay agreed to for wearing the body-cams would come in addition to these raises. Discussions of the issue between city officials and the FOP will continue.