MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The actions of four former Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of George Floyd are spurring changes within the department.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced Wednesday that he’s withdrawing from negotiations with the police union — the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation — and will take a close look at parts of the contract.
“This is about examining those significant matters that touch on things such as critical incident protocol, use of force, the significant role that supervisors play in this department, and also the discipline process to include both grievances and arbitration,” Arradondo said.
He hopes restructuring the union contract will be part of providing greater community transparency.
The union contract, first signed in 2017, expired at the end of 2019, but the city tells WCCO it’s still in effect until a new contract is approved. So at some point, they’ll have to come back to the table. The union released a statement Wednesday night saying it wants the chief and Mayor Jacob Frey to return to negotiations.
Paul Zech, with Felhabor Larson, is a labor law attorney for more than three decades. He calls the contract fairly typical, but says it makes sense the police chief would want to amend sections to make them more department friendly.
“There’s a critical incident provision in the contract relating to deadly force where if an incident of deadly force occurs, it’s kind of a stand back clause in the contract where no one can interview the involved officer or even the witnessing officers until they’ve had a chance to talk to legal counsel,” Zech said.
He says that makes sense for the officers, but not the department.
“I think clearly the chief’s view would be I don’t want to have to wait for the officers involved to talk to them until they’ve had a chance to talk to their lawyer. When there’s an incident like this, I need to get facts now,” Zech said.
If an officer is disciplined or terminated, they can file a grievance which can go to arbitration. That’s currently required by state law, and the independent person hired to settle the dispute gets the final say. Zech says he would look at opening up the pool of arbitrators.
“They have a locked-in group of arbitrators by agreement who just rotate, and no matter what they do or how they decide a case, they’re going to be selected in order, and they cannot be removed except by mutual consent,” Zech said.
And while there have been several calls for the federation president Lt. Bob Kroll to step down, Zech says the city has no authority over union officers or leaders. Only union members can vote Kroll, or anyone else in a position of leadership, out of office.
The police union statement said it continues to welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the city for training, and to improve accountability, and added, “Change needs to be made for many reasons but primarily to prevent another horrific event such as [George Floyd’s death] or even less egregious types of misconduct.”
WCCO-TV anchor/reporter Liz Collin is married to Bob Kroll. To avoid any potential conflict of interest, Collin has not reported on Minneapolis Police and Minneapolis Police union issues for at least two-and-a-half years.