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D.C. Police Union Loses Appeal Over Floyd-Spurred Discipline Law

Aug. 19, 2022, 7:46 PM

A police union lost its challenge to a District of Columbia law banning negotiations over officer disciplinary matters after the D.C. Circuit found that lawmakers rationally could have concluded that the law “furthers a legitimate interest in improving police accountability.”

The D.C. Council passed the police reform initiative in summer 2020 in response to continued nationwide protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. In addition to blocking bargaining over discipline, the measure includes restrictions on neck restraints and establishes a commission on reforms.

Taking disciplinary procedures off the bargaining table gives management more flexibility in resolving allegations of misconduct, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held Friday.

An affiliate of the 350,000-member Fraternal Order of Police, which represents D.C. police, alleged in its lawsuit that the D.C. law violates the equal protection, bill of attainder, due process, and contract clauses of the US Constitution.

The measure also discriminates against police by making them the only district employees stripped of the right to bargain over disciplinary matters, and the lawmakers’ intent was to punish D.C. officers for the misconduct of those involved in Floyd’s death, the suit added.

US District Judge James Boasberg dismissed the case in November 2020.

Judge Gregory G. Katsas, who wrote Friday’s opinion on behalf of the appeals court, said there’s no evidence to support the union’s argument.

Lawmakers have “significant leeway to pass emergency legislation to protect the public safety or welfare,” and the union made “no serious effort to show that the Council acted beyond its discretion,” Katsas wrote.

Judges Judith W. Rogers and Patricia A. Millett joined the opinion.

Representatives for the parties didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is Fraternal Order of Police v. District of Columbia, D.C. Cir., No. 21-7059, 8/19/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Khorri Atkinson in Washington at katkinson@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Laura D. Francis at lfrancis@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com