The first 90 days for an organization are crucial as it transitions from one leader to another. In this article, I will report on my first 90 days as President of FOP Lodge 89 and describe several goals for the future of this organization. But first, I must thank Past President Vince Canales for his leadership in the past six years and the mentoring he has provided me. FOP Lodge 89 pledges full support of Candidate Canales on his campaign to become a member of the County Council.
The year began by supporting a member who was placed on a “Brady List”. This is a list compiled by the States Attorney. An officer on this list can be prevented from testifying or the States Attorney can be forced to inform a defense attorney of any knowledge they may have regarding the truthfulness of an officer’s testimony. Our States Attorney elected to deny our officer the right to testify. The problem is the Officer had not been charged with making a false statement. Placement on this list could have caused this Officer to lose a job qualification. We were able to work with the Chief of Police to protect the officer’s job. The Chief agreed with FOP Lodge 89 that the Officer had not been charged with making a false statement and now the officer will be allowed to testify. We worked with the State FOP Lodge, Baltimore County Lodge 4, and others to introduce legislation in Annapolis to protect any officer who would find themselves in this position. Additionally, we were successful in introducing a bill that would enforce the exclusionary rule. This will ban any law enforcement agency from using evidence that is illegally obtained against an officer in a Trial Board proceeding.
The executive Board attended training called “Leadership Matters “which was provided by the National FOP in Nashville Tennessee. This training gave our members an opportunity to view Union Leadership from a National perspective. It was evident at this conference that Maryland Unions have made great strides in protecting the rights, working conditions, and benefits of our members. Senior Management at FOP Lodge 89 also attended a healthcare forum in Washington D.C. to assess the effects of the Affordable Care Act upon our future insurance premiums. Additionally we conducted Shop Steward Training at our lodge. This training was designed to help our Shop Stewards monitor the working conditions at the districts and divisions, and empower them to assist officers involved in departmental accidents and shootings.
One of my goals is to strengthen the pension system. We are pleased to announce the pension funding has stabilized following The Great Recession and is currently headed in the right direction. The pension fund earned over 16% in 2013. All monies lost during the downturn have been recovered. Nevertheless, we will continue working to ensure the pension fund is fully funded.
Two more goals are the maintenance and improvement of our lodge facility. As I travel around the country and visit other lodges, it is clear to see that FOP Lodge 89 is one of the best looking police lodges in the country. But our building is over twenty years old and in need of maintenance. This spring we started the process to replace a well-worn, leaky roof. We are proceeding with plans to replace the floors in the ballroom. Look for improvements to the parking lot prior to our Memorial service on May 8th. One of the projects that I am very proud of is our soldier’s memorial. Many of you remember we lost Corporal Robert Hernandez, an active duty Officer, in 2006 while he was serving in Iraq. His death was not a line of duty death; hence we were never able to give him the proper recognition with other fallen heroes on the wall at FOP Lodge 89. A soldier’s memorial will be erected this spring near our Fallen Heroes Memorial. It will recognize Corporal Robert Hernandez and the sacrifice that he has made.
An additional goal is to protect the rights and working conditions of all members. In the spring of 2010, a video surfaced depicting two fellow officers arresting a suspect in what the media termed “the College Park Celebration”. I don’t know about you, but my celebrations neither entail hurling rocks and bottles, breaking the law, nor burning other people’s property. The more accurate term would be “the College Park riots”. The media made the arrest depicted on the video a lot more than it was. As always, FOP Lodge 89 gave full support to our officers. We defended them during the criminal proceedings as well as during the administrative trial board hearing. I want to thank Chief Magaw for standing behind these officers and working with the FOP to ensure that the process was fair and equitable. I want to congratulate Corporal James Harrison on his retirement and Sergeant Reggie Baker on his promotion and his return to full duty.
The executive members of FOP Lodge 89 attended the budget meeting hosted by the County and received a good understanding of the County’s financial condition. I understand the need for the reduction in overtime and other fiscal restraints that pertain to the police department. Since the beginning of the year we have been working with members of CID to clarify the rules concerning overtime and stand-by pay. One of our members, a senior Sergeant in the Homicide Division, was transferred in retaliation for participating in a follow-up meeting in March to discuss Overtime and Stand-by pay. To say that I am upset is an understatement! I attempt to work out issues in an amicable fashion but when my members are disrespected and retaliated against, I will respond zealously. I am very disappointed that bringing this retaliation claim to the Chief’s attention did not provide a resolution. FOP Lodge 89 filed an unfair labor practice suit against the police department and a hearing is currently scheduled for April 21.
After discovering another Sergeant was transferred out of CID, we filed a Show Cause Hearing. After her case investigation, the Sergeant accepted the discipline, which was a monetary fine. A few weeks later this Officer found herself transferred with no explanation provided. Nowhere in the discipline was a transfer recommended. We recently became aware of a situation where a newly retired Sergeant was not allowed to use his leave after 31 years of service, nor were he paid for it. We consider this to be an illegal practice and will be following up with our attorneys. This kind of unfairness will never be accepted by this FOP. As representatives for the hardworking, honest men and women of the Prince George’s County Police Department, we cannot stand by and watch our members improperly treated. We will provide updates on these cases.
In an effort to provide our members information in the quickest possible manner, we continuously post information on website and our Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter @Dmjonesfop89. I am proud to have this time to represent you as your labor leader and will work as hard as humanly possible to support you.