Police Win the Ability to Arbitrate Their Discipline

MADISON—On October 26, 2007, Governor Jim Doyle signed the 2007-2009 state budget into law. In addition to increasing the minimum levy limits imposed on local governments, Governor Doyle used his veto authority to permit police officers to arbitrate their discipline.

The budget as enacted adds language to the Municipal Employment Relations Act (MERA) providing that notwithstanding the police and fire commission law, a collective bargaining agreement entered into between police or fire fighting personnel and a municipal employer may contain dispute resolution procedures, such as arbitration, that address the discipline of such personnel. It further prohibits a municipality from collectively bargaining the prohibition of access to arbitration as an alternative to the police and fire commission disciplinary process. Finally, the new law prohibits a municipal employer from bargaining any reduction to the “Just Cause” standards found in s. 62.13(5)(em)1. to 7., and from bargaining as to the payment of compensation in a way that is inconsistent with s. 62.13(5)(h), which requires that “[n]o person shall be deprived of compensation while suspended pending disposition of charges.” The treatment of these changes first applies to a collective bargaining agreement that contains provisions that are inconsistent with that treatment on the day on which the agreement expires, or is extended, modified, or renewed, whichever occurs first.

In his budget message, Governor Doyle stated “Permitting both law enforcement officers and firefighters to use alternative disciplinary appeal procedures will help relieve the court system work load, expand the opportunities of law enforcement officers and firefighters to select appeals procedures, and allow employers and employees to settle their disputes quickly and effectively.”

This issue has been a WPPA priority for more than 20 years, and these changes in the bargaining law represent a fantastic victory for the WPPA and its members. The compromise budget that was sent to the Governor’s desk permitted the change for fire fighters only. Governor Doyle was able to extend these changes to municipal police officers through his partial-veto authority, a move contrary to the zealous opposition of the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, and the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association.

Anyone with questions or comments is welcome to contact WPPA Assistant Executive Director Jim Palmer, either by telephone at 800.362.8838, or by e-mail at palmer@wppa.com.