69°F
weather icon Clear

Arbiter backs state law enforcement union in benefits dispute

Updated July 21, 2021 - 10:05 am

CARSON CITY — An arbitrator has sided with a new state police union on raises and other salary benefits the union sought in its initial contract but rejected its attempt to limit public and administrative review of body camera footage, finding it in conflict with state public records law and internal procedures.

The state is weighing an appeal on the compensation decision on procedural rather than financial grounds that might send the matter to court.

The Nevada Police Union, with 700-plus members drawn from the ranks of the state Highway Patrol, parole and probation, fire marshals, detectives, game wardens, university police and other state law enforcement, claimed victory on the salary questions Tuesday. The two sides went to arbitration after failing to reach agreement last month through mediation.

Besides 2 percent pay increases, the union had sought annual bonuses for longevity and increased pay incentives for obtaining associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. The state had offered a flat 3 percent pay hike.

But the parties failed to reach agreement before the 2021 Legislature adjourned on June 1, setting the state budget for the next two years. As a result, in negotiations following adjournment, the state said it did not have authority to grant raises above a 1 percent cost-of-living increase for state employees approved by the Legislature as part of the final budget.

Union leadership, in a statement, said the decision came after “months of dealing with state representatives pushing an anti-union and anti-police stance during negotiations.” It said current compensation levels for state law enforcement are lower compared to city and county agencies, creating a struggle to attract and retain officers amid a “national anti-police narrative.”

“When the state claimed the agreement should not include raises because the Legislature had adjourned, we fought them again and won,” Union President Matthew Kaplan said.

To take effect, the contract would need approval by the state Board of Examiners and legislative sign-off via the Interim Finance Commission. But the IFC “does not have the authority to appropriate funds that the full Legislature did not first authorize to give out,” said Stephanie Klapstein, spokesperson for the state Department of Administration.

The state, she said, is “evaluating its appeal options” based on legal issues that “precluded us from sticking to the 3 percent (cost of living raises) we offered NPU in May, which they declined, and the session-driven deadlines came and went without agreement.”

She added that the union would likely view an appeal as “a desire by the state to keep fighting. It’s not about fighting. It’s about encountering the pressure points in the new law as we implement it in the real world.”

Meanwhile, the arbitrator rejected the union’s request to curtail release and review of body camera footage on grounds that it violated “a person’s right to view public records” and “interferes with law enforcement agencies’ duty to implement policies and procedures.” The two sides reached agreement on a third outstanding issue involving seniority.

Figures cited by the Department of Public Safety in legislative hearings last spring showed 60 new cadets hired in 2020 with 81 departures, a turnover rate of 135 percent. Over the last four years, 34 percent of those leaving the department retired and 17 percent left to join city and county departments.

This story has been updated to remove language in the decision from a police union motion that was not properly attributed by the arbitrator.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

THE LATEST