The City of Philadelphia announced that the interest arbitration panel, which guides the process for renewing contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police, issued an Award that will govern the terms and conditions of employment for Philadelphia police officers over a three-year term, from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2024. 

In addition to annual wage increases that acknowledge officers’ dedication and service in the face of adversity, the Award achieves several of the City’s priorities to make the police discipline process more transparent and accountable.

Revisions to the discipline code and misconduct process

The Award revises the discipline code and process for officers who are alleged to have engaged in misconduct, increasing accountability and transparency. 

  • Revisions to the discipline code include:
    • An increase in the time that discipline remains on an officer’s record.
    • An increase in penalties for a number of offenses.
    • The addition of new offenses, including prohibiting officers from fraternizing with members of hate groups.
  • Revisions to the process for officers who are alleged to have engaged in misconduct include: 
    • Allowing individuals outside the bargaining unit to determine the disciplinary charges to be brought against officers.
    • Allowing the Police Commissioner to use non-sworn or outside advocates to present the Department’s case at the Police Board of Inquiry (PBI), which reviews evidence and evaluates whether the officer is guilty of the identified charges.
    • Reforming the composition of the PBI panels to add non-sworn personnel, or even non-City employees, to each panel and remove the officer of the same rank; currently, the PBI is made up of one officer of the same rank and two officers of higher rank. 

These changes will also allow the Department to incorporate parts of the Citizen Police Oversight Commission (CPOC) legislation into the Department’s disciplinary processes. In November 2020, Philadelphians voted overwhelmingly in favor of establishing the CPOC, which will replace the Police Advisory Commission and serve as an independent group to investigate allegations of police misconduct. 

New arbitration panel for police termination cases

The Award addresses the grievance and arbitration procedure, a key priority for the City, by establishing a new arbitration panel just for police termination cases—the Police Termination Arbitration Board (PTAB). Some of the ways these changes will build public confidence in the grievance and arbitration process are:

  • The City and the FOP will appoint an equal number of arbitrators—at least 40 percent of whom will be people who identify as women, people of color, or other underrepresented groups.  
  • PTAB arbitrators will have a broader set of experiences than the existing arbitrators who come exclusively from lists maintained by the American Arbitration Association; arbitrators on the PTAB must possess a J.D. or have at least two years serving as a labor arbitrator or as a labor relations professional. 
  • PTAB arbitrators will go through training before hearing any cases, enabling them to draft fairer awards through an understanding of both the legal standards governing arbitration and the Police Department’s policies and disciplinary procedures.

To further incorporate civilian feedback, the Police Department will review which responsibilities may be conducted by average civilians in order to reduce costs and increase overall efficiencies by deploying uniformed officers to areas with the greatest public safety needs. The Award establishes a process for resolving disputes when the City seeks to move work from sworn officers to civilians where it is appropriate to do so. 

Wage increases

The Award provides for annual wage increases of 2.75 percent in the first year of the contract and 3.5 percent in each of the following two years. In addition, the Award provides for a one-time bonus of $1,500 while also providing that the City will forgo paying any health insurance costs for covered employees for two months—one in 2021 and the other in 2023—which will have a significant, positive impact on City costs; the costs of those months will be covered instead by the health and welfare fund.