Must Municipalities Negotiate Police Discipline
as a Part of Collective Bargaining?

Few areas of the law are more difficult to understand than those cases where two very important concepts are codified into laws that appear to be in direct conflict with one another. This is the case involving the right of police officers to bargain collectively with their municipal employer and the right of the municipality to maintain discipline of its police force.  On the one hand, Civil Service Law §§75 and 76 generally govern the procedures for disciplining public employees, including police officers. On the other hand, Town Law §155 and Village Law §8-804, for example, specifically grant the authority for disciplining police officers to the pertinent municipality.

In the Matter of Town of Wallkill v. Civil Service Employees Association, Inc. (Local 1000 AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Town of Wallkill Police Department Unit, Orange County Local 836), the New York State Court of Appeals resolved the apparent tension between the State’s strong support for collective bargaining under the Civil Service Law and its policy favoring strong disciplinary authority for those in charge of police forces by noting an exception in the Civil Service Law.  Civil Service Law, §76(4)  states, in pertinent part,  that “(n)othing contained in section seventy-five or seventy-six of the (Civil Service Law) shall be construed to repeal or modify any general, special or local” preexisting laws. Since the above mentioned Town Law and Village Law existed prior to the passing of the Civil Service Law and since they specifically grant the authority to discipline their respective police forces, “…the subject of police discipline resides with the (municipality) and is a prohibited subject of collective bargaining between the (municipality) and (its) PBA.”

Therefore, police discipline may not be a subject of collective bargaining under the Civil Service Law when the Legislature has expressly committed disciplinary authority over a police department to local officials.


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