Grieved over Grievances?
Posted On: Dec 16, 2011

Many of our members express concern at times over the Lodge's filing grievances for certain individuals who have been terminated or disciplined.  I hear for example, "Why is the Lodge fighting for them?  We all know they did it!"  I've even been told the FOP has a bad reputation for standing up for "dirty cops".  Even on small violations of policy members question why a grievance would be filed if there is no doubt the officer violated the policy even by their own admission.  I had some of the same questions before I was elected to the Board of Directors (Grievance Committee) and learned some important details about Lodge business.

Grievances are filed for many different reasons.  One reason could be that the officer actually denies that the wrongdoing ever occurred and it is up to the Department to prove the facts but that is actually pretty rare.  Other reasons to file are:

1. Was the discipline imposed by the Department disproportionately severe?  Stated another way, did the punishment fit the crime?

2. Was a thorough investigation conducted or were facts left out or all leads not followed up on?

3. Were other employees who had been disciplined for similar conduct treated as harshly by the employer?

4. Was the employee's misconduct caused by action or inaction by the employer?  For example, the employer did not adequately train the employee thus causing the misconduct to occur.

5. Did the Department take into account the employee's good work history?

6. Were there mitigating facts not considered by the employer such as the employee's state of mind or events leading up to the misconduct that could have contributed?

7. Was progressive discipline used or did the employer jump to severe discipline as punishment rather than to correct behavior?

8. Are the Department rules violated clear and understandable?

9. Did the officer receive his or her procedural due process rights during the disciplinary investigation?

The listed examples by no means cover all reasons for a grievance to be filed and discipline to be reviewed by Human Resources or an arbitrator but they are the more common ones. 

If I had to pick one that was the most common here at TPD, it would be whether the discipline imposed was too harsh for the misconduct committed.  This especially comes into play in termination cases.  Was the violation so bad that termination was warranted or could a demotion or severe suspension have been more appropriate? 

The grievance process is in place to simply give officers one last opportunity for their side of the story to be told and for an objective entity to review the facts and confirm or amend the Department's disciplinary decision. 

Remember, just because a grievance is filed, does not mean the FOP is making statement that the employee did no wrong or that their alleged improper behavior was OK.  The FOP is just the vehicle to get the grievance processed and heard.

Clay Ballenger

FOP Board of Directors

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