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Labor Board finally issues complaint over COPA’s ongoing unilateral and unlawful actions
The saga continues. As discussed in the past, on Feb. 19, 2019, shortly after approval of the feder- al consent decree, the Lodge filed an unfair labor practice charge over the various changes that Ci- vilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) in- vestigators implemented when taking state- ments during disciplinary investigations.
On Aug. 19, 2020, after 18 months of an ini-
tial investigation, the State Labor Relations
Board opted to defer the matter to griev-
ance arbitration.
Subsequently, the parties selected Arbitrator George
Roumell and participated in an extensive arbitration hear- ing. On June 28, 2021, after hearing from many witnesses and reviewing thousands of pages of exhibits, Arbitrator Roumell issued his opinion and award, sustaining, in large part, the Lodge’s challenges over the recent changes implemented by COPA investigators when taking statements during disciplinary investigations. In essence, the arbitrator found that for the past several years, COPA’s investigators had not been complying with the Bill of Rights protections set forth in Article 6 of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.
Although the parties resolved several other important is- sues prior to the arbitration hearing in a separate, written set- tlement agreement, the main issue resolved at the arbitration hearing involved whether or not the City violated Section 6.1 by COPA’s failure to give officers criminal rights in appropriate
circumstances, rather than simply administrative rights. Of sig- nificance, the arbitrator quickly rejected the City’s arguments attempting to justify COPA’s refusal to provide officers with their criminal rights when appropriate, stating that the City’s
“approach fails to recognize that Article 6.1(I) is there to be read; but because it is general language, the Parties have adopted a past practice in applying the language” as pre- sented by the Lodge. The arbitrator further rejected the testimony of COPA’s now–chief administrator, Andrea Kersten, instead crediting the testimony of the Lodge’s witnesses. Moreover, he gave credence to various letters introduced at the hearing from the predecessor agency, IPRA, to find that the past practice was to delay investigations while the state’s attorney considered filing criminal charges, be- cause “there were cases where either Criminal Rights were given or OPS and IPRA investigators were awaiting for the decision of the State’s Attorney’s Office to determine Administrative or Criminal Rights would be given.” Such a practice stopped in the wake of the anti-police culture and with the emboldened au-
thority of COPA.
However, one issue not addressed by the arbitrator focused
on police officers who had previously been allowed regularly to review all statements and documents, along with any vid- eo footage available, prior to providing any statement. This practice changed, and officers are not able to do so anymore. Furthermore, one of the other changes not addressed in the ar- bitrator’s award involves how the parties have been resolving

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