Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Supreme Court Rules:
City Need Not Negotiate Racial Profiling Study With Police Union
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A police department did not violate state labor law by implementing a racial profiling study by requiring officers to track the race of each person stopped while driving without negotiating the policy with the officers’ union, the California Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
In a unanimous decision, the high court overturned a contrary ruling of Div. Three of this district’s Court of Appeal. Justice Ming Chin, writing for the court, said the new policy did not have a significant adverse effect on the officers’ compensation or working conditions and thus did not fall under the “meet-and-confer” requirements of Government Code Sec. 3505, part of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act.
The MMBA requires local government employers and employee representatives to discuss changes in working conditions before they are implemented, although the employer may unilaterally implement a change if the parties are unable to reach an agreement.
The ruling is a victory for the City of Claremont, whose policy was supported by the ACLU, the League of California Cities, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which filed amicus briefs. The Police Officers Research Association of California’s Legal Defense Fund filed a brief in support of the Claremont Police Officers Association, which challenged the implementation of the policy.
The policy, implemented in July 2002, required officers to fill out a written form for every vehicle stop.
The information that each officer was to collect included the time and date of the stop, age group and gender of the driver, driver’s race or ethnicity, officer’s perception of the driver’s race or ethnicity before the stop, initial reason for the stop, initial reason for any search and type of search conducted, outcome of the stop, driver’s city of residence, general location where the infraction occurred, duration of the stop, year of the vehicle, and whether the police vehicle was equipped with a camera.
The policy replaced an earlier program, which was in effect when the union and the city negotiated their last contract, under which officers radioed in a report for each stop not resulting in arrest or citation. The only information reported, however, was the driver’s race, age, and gender, and the department determined that the study was insufficient.
Meet and Confer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Conrad R. Aragon sided with the city, ruling that the policy involved “consideration of the merits, necessity, or organization of [a] service or activity provided by law or executive order,” exempting it from the meet-and-confer rule according to the MMBA.
The Court of Appeal reversed, reasoning that the implementation of the new policy represented a significant change in working conditions, rather than a fundamental policy decision, because an accusation of racial profiling could affect an officer’s prospects for promotion and relations with the public, or subject him or her to discipline.
Chin, however, said that in determining whether an employer must meet and confer concerning a management action, a three-part balancing test must be applied.
If the action does not have a significant and adverse affect on wages, hours, or working conditions, there is no obligation to meet and confer, Chin said. If the action has a significant adverse impact, and that impact does not arise from the implementation of a fundamental managerial or policy decision, the duty to meet and confer applies, the justice said.
But “if both factors are present—if an action taken to implement a fundamental managerial or policy decision has a significant and adverse effect on the wages, hours, or working conditions of the employees—we apply a balancing test,” the justice explained, in which the court determines whether the employer’s need to implement the decision is outweighed by the benefits of collective bargaining.
In doing so, Chin added, the court may consider “the transactional cost of the bargaining process.”
‘De Minimis’ Effect
The policy adopted by the Claremont Police Department, Chin went on to say, had “de minimis” effect on the officers’ working conditions. There was undisputed evidence, the justice explained, that it takes only two minutes to complete the stop form and that an officer will typically need to fill out four to six such forms in a 12-hour shift.
The possible effect on future discipline and promotions cited by the Court of Appeal, Chin concluded, was not properly part of the analysis because it was not part of the policy. The issue of whether the city would have to meet and confer over discipline resulting from implementation of the policy, the justice said, was not before the court.
Justice Carlos Moreno, joined by Justice Joyce L. Kennard, wrote separately to say that given the seriousness of the issue of racial profiling, he had no doubt that the city would have a duty to meet and confer before disciplining an officer based on the outcome of the racial profiling study.
“Although the City plainly has the authority and responsibility to discipline officers who persistently engage in racial profiling, its unfettered right to do so does not outweigh the Association’s interest in ensuring, through negotiations with the City, that any such discipline follows due process and that the study results have been accurately and fairly analyzed,” Moreno wrote.
The case is Claremont Police Officers Association v. City of Claremont, 06 S.O.S. 4231.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company