KPD sergeants get another denial in quest for union membership

The six sergeants of the Keizer Police Department (KPD) are supervisors and not eligible for inclusion in the Keizer Police Association, the group that represents non-supervisory officers in collective bargaining. Those are the finding of the state’s Employment Relations Board (ERB) in response to an objection lodged by an attorney for the union after a hearing in January. 

Since last year, KPD’s sergeants have been seeking access to the union, which would have resulted in smaller contributions to healthcare coverage and larger contributions to their retirement accounts on the part of the city. However, an administrative law judge denied the claim that sergeants were not supervisors in October 2018 and that decision was upheld by the governing members of the ERB last week. 

“We conclude that the sergeants are supervisory employees because they responsibly direct others, use independent judgment in doing so, and hold that authority in the interests of city management,” ERB board members wrote. 

Attorneys for the union contended that sergeants do not act as supervisors and that administrative personnel undermine their attempts to do so. 

“Although the units vary in the types of tasks directed by the sergeant running each particular team, the record as a whole demonstrates that all the sergeants direct their teams,” board members wrote. They added that multiple sergeants testified during hearings that they had assumed control of crime scenes and other events and directed other officers to tackle duties in line with perceived strengths. 

Ultimately, sergeants are responsible for the actions of the others on their shifts even though none have been disciplined for the poor performance or conduct of those other officers in recent times. 

“The standard is whether there is a ’prospect of adverse consequences for the putative supervisor if the supervisor does not take action to correct subordinates’ work performance issues,” board members wrote. 

While administrators have overridden some decisions or recommendations by sergeants, those incidents do not outweigh the preponderance of the incidents when sergeants act as supervisors in other areas. 

In regard to the final question of whether sergeant’s act in interests of city management, the board found ample evidence that they do. 

“One sergeant’s reprimand of an officer describes the officer as ’disrespectful’ and ’insubordinate’ — two terms that reflect an awareness of a hierarchical structure and a management expectation that officers respect the authority of the sergeants to responsibly direct them,” the board wrote. 

The dispute over the union inclusion has cost the city $53,606.44.