Philly Police Allowed to Name Officers Who Shoot Civilians, Board Rules

Protesters on June 26th, 2017 call for the arrest of Officer Ryan Pownall for the shooting of David Jones. By Kristi Petrillo

By Austin Nolen

The Philadelphia Police Department is allowed to continue releasing the names of officers who shoot civilians, according to a ruling last month by the state labor board. The union that represents Philadelphia police officers is now appealing that order.

The policy of releasing names, as well as other new use of force rules, was implemented during the summer of 2015 by the Department after a report by the Office of Community Oriented Policing of the federal Department of Justice.

These new policies were quickly challenged by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, the union that represents Philadelphia police officers.

The FOP alleged that city officials violated state labor law by implementing these reforms without bargaining over them with the police union.

However, according to the August 16th ruling by Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board hearing examiner John Pozniak, the FOP actually filed their challenge a bit too quickly.

Pozniak ruled that, by filing their complaint before the challenged policies took effect, the FOP was acting prematurely, and he dismissed their challenge.

Pozniak also went on to rule that, even if the complaint had been filed in the correct time frame, he would have dismissed it on the ground that the policies at issue were proper exercises of management discretion.

Pennsylvania courts have ruled that certain management decisions are exempt from collective bargaining laws covering government employees. For instance, in 2010, the state Supreme Court held that Pennsylvania’s legislature had “no intention or expectation that the collective bargaining process would permit public employees to set matters of public policy.”

When Police Commissioner Richard Ross took the stand for a December 2017 hearing in the FOP’s challenge, he defended his ability to set these policies by explaining his view of the negative consequences his Department would face without them.

“You have to have the opportunity to implement policies that you feel will keep officers safe, the public safe and engender trust,” he said. “Without that, you’re going to have a problem you can’t control. When things go awry, they’re coming to me.”

Pozniak also dismissed another complaint by the FOP that alleged city officials had violated a collective bargaining agreement by refusing to provide a Philadelphia Police Department security detail to an officer who lived outside the city whose name was released.

According to the ruling, police officials lacked legal power to station city officers outside of Philadelphia but attempted to arrange for a detail from the local police department.

A City spokesperson told The Declaration that “we are gratified that the Hearing Examiner found in favor of the City on all the issues. We are particularly gratified that the Hearing Examiner found that the release of names policy is also within our managerial prerogatives.”

The FOP did not respond to multiple requests for comment. However, a spokesperson for the Labor Relations Board told The Declaration that the union filed a timely appeal of Pozniak’s decision to the entire Board.

The party that loses before the full Labor Relations Board is entitled to an appeal to the courts.

Union officials previously tried to stop the Police Department from releasing officer names pending Pozniak’s decision. After a heated protest in front of the home of Ryan Pownall, who shot David Jones during the summer of 2017, the union went to court to request an injunction.

Court of Common Pleas Judge Daniel Anders denied that request, however, and city officials continued to release the names of officers who shot civilians pending the labor board decision.

Pownall was fired because of the shooting in September 2017. Last week, he was charged with first degree murder based on the recommendation of a county grand jury.

The Declaration will continue to cover this case going forward.

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