State Administrative Judge Determines City of Boston Violated Law for Unilaterally Imposing a Voluntary Mediation Program

August 17, 2017

A union has a right to bargain aspects or impacts of a voluntary mediation program for citizen complaints against police officers, according to a new ruling by a Department of Labor Relations Hearing Officer. Attorney Patrick Bryant successfully persuaded the Hearing Officer that the City of Boston's unilateral implementation of a "voluntary mediation program" violated the City's bargaining obligations to the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation. The Hearing Officer also determined that the City violated similar bargaining obligations as to the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association (BPPA).

The Federation supported the City's proposal to establish a program that allows for citizen complaints to be resolved amicably and without prejudice to the individuals involved. The Federation's primary concern has been to ensure that any mediation program is consistent and transparent, so that its members are treated fairly and equitably. In other words, the Federation did not want the program to be used to benefit connected officers and/or to harm officers without connections (or the wrong connections). The City initially agreed with the Union to have a more transparent process, but then changed its mind. The City insisted on having the final say on who gets to participate in mediation or why certain individuals get to participate. The City refused to explain its bargaining position.

The Hearing Officer ruled that the Boston Police Department has a right to decide to implement a mediation program for citizen complaints. Nonetheless, she also ruled that the City has to bargain aspects or impacts of the program with the Federation and its sister union, the BPPA. She found that the City failed to bargain to resolution or impasse before implementing the program and therefore violated state law.

She ordered the City to email a notice acknowledging its violations of the Law to all members of the Federation and BPPA, and to bargain with the Unions about the program.

Related Attorney: 
Patrick N. Bryant