Demanding Accountability in Law Enforcement

Date Filed: 08/12/2020

Download the Police Union Contract Toolkit here.

Police union contracts frequently contain provisions that shield officers from discipline and create barriers to the timely, thorough investigation of police misconduct complaints. This toolkit will help guide the public through the process of inquiring about the status of police union contracts in their localities, with the goal of promoting transparency and accountability by encouraging the removal of these provisions.

LDF’s toolkit consists of six sections that we identified as areas of concern after reviewing 112 police union contracts in 82 of the country’s largest cities. Each section describes how its designated area of concern can impede investigations of complaints or shield officers from discipline for misconduct. It also includes a list of questions that individuals can use to help them pinpoint areas where changes are needed in their locality’s police union contracts.

The six areas of concern are: (1) delays in interviewing officers accused of misconduct; (2) limits on time periods for imposing discipline on officers accused of misconduct; (3) requirements that complaints be signed or sworn; (4) removal of disciplinary records from police personnel files; (5) the use and composition of disciplinary hearing boards; and (6) the use of vacation or other leave time in lieu of suspension.

In addition to the guided section questions, our toolkit also contains a comprehensive list of recommended changes to police union contract provisions that members of the public can use as a guide as they advocate for changes to their local police union contracts. These recommended contract reforms include:

  • Avoid delays in interviewing officers involved in alleged misconduct.
  • Eliminate time limits or allow sufficient time for victims of police misconduct to file complaints.
  • Eliminate time limits or allow sufficient time for an officer to be disciplined for misconduct.
  • Permit the filing of anonymous complaints.
  • Maintain disciplinary records long enough to uncover repeated officer misconduct.
  • Eliminate trial boards or ensure members are impartial and diverse.
  • Prohibit the use of vacation leave in lieu of suspensions.

LDF’s toolkit includes direct links to 112 police union contracts, as well as a chart of Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) by state. LEOBOR laws often mandate the inclusion of certain contract provisions that hinder the investigation of complaints and place restrictions on discipline for officer misconduct. In states with stringent LEOBOR laws, advocates should consider encouraging state legislators to repeal problematic provisions.

Download the Police Union Contract toolkit here.