The legal battle between Yale University and its police union, the Yale Police Benevolent Association, may reach an agreement in late April after a date for third-party arbitration has been agreed upon by both parties.
The YPBA, a union that represents 65 patrol officers and six non-supervising detectives at the Yale Police Department, alleges that Yale did not bargain in good faith as the University unilaterally handed down a revised general order regarding firearms qualifications last April. This new policy, called General Order 302C-Firearms, states that an officer who fails his or her annual firearms qualification test can be fired after a 30-day remedial period. General Order 302C is a significant departure from the previous regulation that did not predicate employment upon firearms qualification.
According to an October interview with the News, YPBA spokesman and YPD Officer Mike Hall said 302C unfairly fast-tracks YPD officers to termination because the department has not provided adequate facilities, such as an in-house firing range, to train the officers who do not pass the qualifications on their first two appointments.
After the University refused to renegotiate the terms of the new general order, the YPBA filed an unfair labor practice grievance with the regional National Labor Relations Board in late September, accusing Yale of bargaining with a lack of good faith. The NLRB found merit in the YPBA’s case and deferred it to third-party arbitration, said YPD Officer John Grottole.
Grottole, a YPBA member and 28-year veteran of the force, added that an independent arbiter will rule on whether the April order complies with federal labor laws.
The Office of General Counsel, which represents the University in the arbitration, deferred requests to comment to the Office of Public Affairs and Communications. University spokesman Tom Conroy confirmed that the April arbitration date is the most recent development in the University and the YPBA’s ongoing dispute.
The YPBA attorney Patricia Cofrancesco did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The ongoing labor lawsuit, however, may have intensified the relationship between the YPD’s management and its officers, especially after the YPBA protested outside of the department’s building last November, Hall said. The information picketing focused mainly on the general order’s effects on employment security and targeted the lack of response from the department’s leadership, such as Chief Ronnell Higgins, who signed off on the general order.
Hall added that YPBA officers had a positive relationship with YPD management officials prior to the rally, but that recently, the department has been strictly enforcing other unrelated policies, which Hall said he views as hostile responses to the picketing.
According to Hall, Higgins’ office asks supervisory officers to print out daily logs of GPS activities, which are recorded by the tracking devices in department-issued vehicles. Hall said these GPS trackers have been installed for several years but are strictly intended to ensure officers’ safety.
“If they are unable to contact an officer in emergency situations or couldn’t get an officer on the radio, we would know their car is here and start our search there,” he said. “It’s now being used to track our movements daily.”
The general order dispute is concurrent with the collective bargaining between the YPBA and the University focusing on employment contract renewal. During this period, Conroy said in an email, the University does not want to comment on “specific issues raised by the YPBA.” He also denied allegations of any retaliatory behavior, adding that such suggestions are “offensive.”
“We continue in good faith to negotiate and are hopeful we can reach agreement soon,” Conroy said.
The University’s previous general order regarding firearms qualifications was signed into effect in 2009.