Bargaining in Blue, a monthly newsletter from Ballotpedia, provides news and information on police collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), including the latest news, policy debates, and insights from Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population.
In this month’s edition of Bargaining in Blue, we examine state and municipal approaches to police collective bargaining. We review efforts in Hopewell, Virginia, to allow for police collective bargaining; scholarly arguments about the impact of collective bargaining on officer accountability; and insights on the topic from Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population.
In this edition:
- On the beat: Virginia city considers adopting police collective bargaining ordinance
- Around the table: Arguments from the negotiating table, scholars, and the media on the effects of police collective bargaining on officer accountability
- Insights: A closer look at statutes or regulations that prohibit collective bargaining with police unions and key takeaways from Ballotpedia’s analysis
On the beat
Virginia city considers adopting police collective bargaining ordinance
Members of the city council in Hopewell, Virginia, voted 5-2 on November 14, 2023, to adopt a resolution aimed in part at developing a plan to allow municipal police to collectively bargain.
The Virginia General Assembly passed a law in 2020 to allow municipal and public safety employees in the state to collectively bargain, which state statute had previously prohibited. Fifteen local governments passed ordinances approving collective bargaining for municipal and public safety employees since the passage of the law, according to The Progress Index.
The Virginia Police Benevolent Association (VAPBA) in the spring of 2023 presented the Hopewell City Council with model language for a municipal ordinance that the council could adopt to allow police to collectively bargain. The city council did not adopt the model ordinance but instead passed a resolution directing the city to first develop an infrastructure plan and complete and consider a fiscal analysis examining the ordinance’s potential effects on the city.
Rich Goszka, a VAPBA representative, argued that the city should take immediate action to allow collective bargaining to begin in 2024. Goszka argued that the ordinance would aid the police department in recruiting officers and prevent the city from losing potential candidates to other cities, such as Richmond, that have already permitted police collective bargaining.
Councilmember Dominic Holloway argued that immediate adoption of the ordinance was not necessary and that further discussion was part of the negotiating process. Holloway stated, “[VAPBA] presented [their] ordinance, and now we’ve got our outside attorney looking at it.”
The resolution states that the city council will use the findings of the infrastructure plan and fiscal review, which is expected to conclude in 2024, to draft a collective bargaining ordinance.
Want to go deeper?
- States and cities with statutes or regulations that prohibit collective bargaining with police unions
- Virginia General Assembly
Around the table
Arguments about the effects of police collective bargaining on officer accountability
Unlike the discussion in Hopewell, Virginia, about the effects of collective bargaining on municipal finances and officer recruitment efforts, arguments from scholars and policymakers about whether state or local governments should permit police collective bargaining generally center on officer accountability. Daniel DiSalvo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, argued in a 2021 report that collective bargaining can establish mechanisms to support police officer accountability. DiSalvo argued that police unions and policymakers can address topics such as arbitration, misconduct investigations, and recordkeeping requirements through collective bargaining contract negotiations:
By revisiting the details of CBAs, officer accountability can be improved. Accountability is worthy in its own right but may also reduce the unnecessary use of force, changing public perceptions of police departments, and bolstering community trust in the police. …
Working inside the collective bargaining process, policymakers can take steps to enhance accountability and thereby improve the professionalism of local police departments. Reforming any large organization is hard, but such changes will help bolster public confidence in the police and reduce the unnecessary use of force.
Scholar Falco Muscante II published a 2022 article in the University of Miami Race and Social Justice Law Review that argued against collective bargaining for police, claiming that certain officer protections found in CBAs prevent law enforcement officers from being held accountable for misconduct. Muscante proposed model language for governing entities to adopt to prohibit or restrict police union collective bargaining in an effort to increase what he views as accountability and transparency:
Removing police unions from the purview of collective bargaining will also increase transparency. Instead of the confidentiality-laced provisions enshrined in collective bargaining agreements now keeping disciplinary files accessible only to those within the department, communities could form coalitions of concerned stakeholders to promote citizens and police departments coming together to analyze, discuss, and improve the profession that affects everyone in the community. Disciplinary proceedings and any contract negotiations would also become more transparent to prevent cities from ‘using lax disciplinary procedures as a bargaining chip to secure lower officer salaries.’
Statutes or regulations that prohibit collective bargaining with police unions
Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population featured the following information about statutes or regulations that prohibit collective bargaining with police unions, as of December 2021:
- There are five states and five cities that have statutes or regulations that prohibit collective bargaining with police unions, including:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- Birmingham, Alabama
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Gilbert, Arizona
- Mesa, Arizona
- Norfolk, Virginia
- There are 45 states and 96 cities that do not have statutes or regulations that prohibit collective bargaining with police unions