The Nassau County Police Department’s largest union has filed a complaint against the department alleging a new policy requiring officers to file reports when they use physical force violates the union contract.
The complaint by the Nassau Police Benevolent Association was filed with the state Public Employment Relations Board after the department revised its use-of-force policy earlier this year to say officers must fill out a written form whenever they have used physical force. The PBA contends the form could be used to evaluate an officer’s job performance and is subject to collective bargaining.
“The department has indicated that these new forms will be used to evaluate an officer for continued employment, including for the purposes of discipline,” PBA lawyer Seth Greenberg of Lake Success wrote in the improper practice charge filed Sept. 20. He added that the new requirement violates the contract, which mandates the department negotiates with the union over job performance evaluations.
PBA President James Carver said the union’s action was designed to prevent the department from breaking long-established contractual rules.
“We filed this to ensure that this procedure will not be used for performance evaluation,” said Carver. “Performance evaluations must be negotiated with the union before being implemented and that’s why this was filed. They’re mandatory subjects of bargaining and they have to follow the law.”
Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter and PBA attorneys on Monday attended a conference on the complaint in Brooklyn. In a statement, Assistant Commissioner Tatum Fox, the department’s top lawyer, said the county’s policy and requirement for a written form “are entirely lawful and proper.”
The move by the union comes as the use of physical force by law enforcement has come under the national spotlight after a series of deadly encounters between police officers and civilians, many of them unarmed young black men, have been captured on video.
Joseph Giacalone, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan and a retired NYPD sergeant, said the Nassau department’s use of force policy changes are part of a broader effort by law enforcement across the country to be more transparent in the wake of increased public scrutiny of police.
“It’s part of the reforms that the public and the politicians want and frankly, I think it pushes the narrative of a professional police department that understands that some actions by their police officers can be seen as questionable and they’re held accountable,” said Giacalone. “It’s just where we’re headed. And police departments have to change with the times. They do so stubbornly.”
The PBA complaint is in response to July 8 changes to Nassau’s use of force policy that included giving the department’s Deadly Force Review Board broader authority to investigate anytime an officer uses force, and mandating a written report to be filed by the end of the officer’s shift.
Krumpter said at the time the reports would allow the department to track the incidents and spot trends or potential trouble spots. The department could require training or discipline in some cases, he said.
The department did not provide Newsday requested statistics late Monday on the number of reports — known internally as Form 258 — filed under the new rule.