Friday, January 5, 2018

Chicago Police Department’s Expanded Body Cam Program Violates Labor Relations Act

The Illinois Labor Relations Board found earlier this week that the City of Chicago engaged in an unfair labor practice when it expanded it expanded its body camera program beyond the “pilot program” to which the parties had agreed.

The Body Worn Camera Pilot Program was initiated in 2014 with a limited number of cameras located in Chicago’s North Side neighborhoods. Three years later, in December 2017, this program expanded that number of cameras to each and every one of the 7,000 patrol officers employed by the Chicago Police Department. The police union contends that this extension was a violation of their bargaining agreement, looking specifically at the disciplinary impact of such cameras as a mandatory subject of bargaining. The City, on the other hand, argues that such effects were bargained for already in their existing in-car camera program. It argues that since the safety issues associated with the camera equipment were already negotiated in the in-car camera program, no material change occurred when the body worn camera program applied to every patrol officer.

However, Labor Relations Board Administrate Law Judge Anna Hamburg-Gal disagreed with the City, stating that there was, in fact, a material change to the officers’ terms and conditions of employment resulting from the extension of the body worn camera program. Hamburg-Gal stated the program impacted employee discipline, safety and privacy with bargainable effects.

Specifically mentioned in her decision, Hamburg-Gal states that the program created greater opportunities for employee discipline by having the potential to record more of an employee’s work time than that in the in-car camera program. Additionally, officers must wear the cameras at all times and can be disciplined for losing them. The program also presents the distinct safety issue raised when their stealth mode feature fails and the indicator light remains active during covert operations. Last, the cameras raise concerns over officers’ privacy by having the potential to record individuals while in the restroom.

While the City challenges the Union’s argument by stating the Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act preempts the bargaining agreement with the Union, Hamburg-Gal rules otherwise. She wrote in her decision,
“The Illinois Public Labor Relations Act specifies that other laws that pertain, in part, to matters that impact terms and conditions of employment ‘shall not be construed as limiting the duty to bargain collectively.’” 
Hamburg-Gal continues by asserting that the Union remains entitled to bargain for greater officer protections than those laid out in the Worn Body Cameras Act.