A combination of state laws makes it harder for elected officials to discipline not only police officers but virtually all categories of public employees, according to a report issued today by the Empire Center for Public Policy.

“Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers rushed last month to pass ‘policing reform’ measures, but they ignored self-inflicted obstacles that prevent our elected officials from holding police officers, and other public employees, accountable,” said report author and Empire Center fellow Ken Girardin. “Any worker accused of misconduct or incompetence deserves fair treatment, but New York’s public-sector discipline system is fundamentally broken.”

Girardin examined how union contracts negotiated under the state’s public-sector collective bargaining law have distorted laws first crafted to shield workers from improper firing. In many cases, elected officials have surrendered or have been stripped of all their power to discipline their employees.

Girardin’s findings include:

  • Arbitration rules in union contracts stop state agencies and other employers from firing employees who commit violence or other extreme acts of misconduct.
  • State law makes the discipline process artificially expensive, forcing elected officials to weigh the cost of discipline and likelihood of success before pursuing it, to the public’s detriment.
  • Some mayors cannot discipline their own police officers because of arbitrary factors ranging from the size of the city’s population to the age of its charter.

Girardin laid out a number of steps that state lawmakers and local officials can take to increase transparency and accountability around the discipline process.

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.

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