Philadelphia Contract Gives Police Raises and Tougher Discipline Procedures

By Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas:
September 28, 2021 Updated: September 28, 2021

The city of Philadelphia recently announced the details of a new, three-year police contract which will be followed through June 30, 2024.

It includes annual raises of 2.75 percent in the first year of the contract and 3.5 percent in each of the following two years.

Although it passed, arbitrator Shannon Farmer attached a dissenting opinion to the Sept. 14 contract, saying Philadelphia cannot afford the raises, projected to cost $271.8 million in added costs over the city’s official fiscal five-year plan which runs 2022-2026.

“The wage increases under this award are inappropriate in light of the city’s financial condition,” Farmer wrote in the opinion. “The city faces significant long-term and short-term challenges due to the impact of the pandemic, as well as its significant long-term and structural challenges, and every city employee and bargaining unit—including the (Fraternal Order of Police)—should receive wage increases that reflect those difficult economic realities.”

The contract makes the discipline process more transparent, has modifications to the arbitration process, and incorporates civilians into the disciplinary process, the city said in a press release.

The contract revises discipline for officers who are alleged to have engaged in misconduct. It keeps written disciplines on an officer’s record longer; increases penalties for some offenses, and adds new offenses.

For example, officers are prohibited from fraternizing with members of hate groups. Specifically, the contract says Philadelphia police officers are prohibited from knowingly and intentionally associating, fraternizing, or socializing with persons actively engaged in criminal conduct or an organized effort advocating criminal behavior against any individual, group, or organization on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, ancestry, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity; or fugitives from justice; or others that compromise, discredit, prejudices or otherwise makes suspect an employee’s authority, integrity, or credibility.

In such cases, internal affairs will investigate, and if it believes the officer engaged in conduct that violates department policy, a police board of inquiry reviews the information and, if the officer requests it, holds a hearing. From there, a recommendation is sent to the police commissioner who makes a final determination on whether the officer committed any disciplinary offenses and if so, the penalty to be imposed.

The new contract allows individuals outside the bargaining unit to determine the disciplinary charges to be brought against officers. It also allows the police commissioner to use non-sworn or even outside advocates to present the department’s case at the Police Board of Inquiry, which reviews evidence and evaluates whether the officer is guilty of charges.

Contract Defines Conduct

The contract also adds Juneteenth as a city-recognized holiday and changes the name of Columbus Day to National Columbus Day/Philadelphia Indigenous Peoples Day.

It also defines a host of conduct officers must follow. For example, failure to stop or at least try to stop another officer from using force when that force is no longer necessary could result in discipline ranging from 10 days suspension to dismissal from the job.

Any conduct or inappropriate communication which constitutes discriminating or harassing behavior based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, ancestry, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity will result in a reprimand or dismissal.

Omitting a title when addressing any superior officer, failure to remove keys from a police vehicle when unattended, and sleeping on duty are against the rules. Socializing or drinking in an alcoholic beverage establishment in full or partial uniform while off duty or being intoxicated off duty while in full or partial uniform is not allowed.

Officers could face transfer, demotion, or lose their job as disciplinary actions.

Members of the Philadelphia Police Department must be morally and ethically above reproach at all times regardless of duty status, the contract says. All members shall respect the sanctity of the law and shall be committed to holding themselves to the highest standard of accountability. No member shall depart from standards of professional conduct or disobey the law.

Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas: