Police under Pressure: Resolving Disputes

Police under Pressure: Resolving Disputes

Police under Pressure: Resolving Disputes

Police under Pressure: Resolving Disputes


What is it like to be a cop in America today in the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict? In a risky environment when dangerous weapons are used and snap decisions are required? How should police officers be treated and their grievances be resolved? A long-time expert in the settlement of disputes writes in a popular vein and describes real cases to demonstrate common disputes and ways to settle grievances through arbitration.


Even though the rights of police officers are spelled out in collective bargaining contracts, individual cops are on dangerous ground when they challenge departmental policy. Those confrontations pit the individual officer against the department and against a structure of supervision and management that is notoriously authoritarian.

In most grievance arbitration cases, the relationship between the officer and supervision has deteriorated. Compromise is no longer possible, and the grievance cannot be settled through negotiations. When an arbitrator is called in, these kinds of situations are usually beyond the point of compromise.

"Conduct unbecoming an officer" is a frequent charge in police disciplinary proceedings, and the phrase appears in many collective bargaining contracts. It is a broad definition that is applied to insubordination, as well as to general misbehavior. Insubordination is particularly threatening to authoritarian organizations like police departments.

Police departments adopt elaborate rules of behavior. Some are imposed by state regulation, some reflect the views of a police commissioner, and others have been accumulated from decades of organizational experience. Codes of behavior are also sometimes negotiated as part of the collective bargaining process.

In the police environment, behavioral regulations take on great importance, because an authoritarian command structure usually emphasizes the . . .

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