Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Scranton Police Union File Grievance After Chief Makes Off-Duty Arrest

Scranton police file grievance after chief makes off-duty arrest
By Steve McConnell (Staff Writer)Published: April 19, 2011

The Scranton police union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the city for an off-duty drug arrest made by Police Chief Dan Duffy in March.
The complaint, which was filed with the state Labor Relations Board on April 14, takes issue with the chief arresting a man who was allegedly in possession of marijuana because the chief is not a member of the collective bargaining unit and was "off duty" when the March 20 arrest was made.
"I think it's absurd. I'm not going to turn my head on crime that takes place," Chief Duffy said. "I took the same oath (as a police officer) that everyone else took.
"On my day off and I'm driving around as the police chief, and that's wrong?" he asked.
The complaint states that "the work of apprehending and arresting individuals has been the sole and exclusive province of members of the bargaining unit," and that the city did not inform or negotiate with the union that the chief would be "performing bargaining unit work."
Because of this, the union says the city violated the state Labor Relations Act and the Policemen and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act.
While the chief has been known for several off-duty arrests in the city, the complaint only makes mention of the March 20 incident.
On that day, Chief Duffy said he was not scheduled to work but decided to check on citizen complaints about possible drug activity in a part of West Scranton.
While driving through the area, he arrested a man who had an outstanding bench warrant issued by Lackawanna County Court. The chief also searched the man and allegedly found he possessed a marijuana joint and drug paraphernalia, leading to the man's arrest on drug charges.
Sgt. Martin acknowledged that the chief is "morally and legally obligated" to act if he sees a crime happen and to make an arrest if necessary.
But, the union president said the chief, as member of management, should not actively root out crime or randomly patrol neighborhoods while off duty because it violates union agreements that protect rank-and-file officers' employment. The union is concerned city administrators will have more leverage to lay off police officers because "Chief Duffy will step in" and do the work, Sgt. Martin said.
"It's a perception and it leads to that," he said. "We're threatened with layoffs."
The union is asking an agreement be drawn up about the chief making the arrests.
Chief Duffy said he will not stop patrolling neighborhoods or making arrests if he receives reports from citizens, whether on or off-duty, because of the complaint.
"It's not like I am getting the information and keeping it to myself and playing hero," the chief said. "I will continue to do this. I'm a public servant."
On March 20, while not on duty, Scranton Police Chief Dan Duffy decided to take a drive through West Scranton, following up on complaints about drug activity. He saw a man he had arrested before walking on Division Street, according to arrest papers. Chief Duffy ran his name, confirmed there was a bench warrant issued for his arrest, and pulled him over. "I consider myself always on duty," Chief Duffy said at the time.

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