The Appellate Division, Second Department, in a landmark labor law ruling, has upheld the validity of a local law that deals with the adjudication of all town police disciplinary matters. In Town of Wallkill v. Civil Service Employees Assn., Inc., a unanimous panel of the Appellate Division held that police discipline was not subject to collective bargaining under the Taylor Law and that the town board had the authority to establish hearing procedures for officers charged with misconduct.
The ruling represents a sea change for collective bargaining negotiations state-wide. Until now, towns and villages have negotiated with police officers and their unions concerning the manner in which charges of misconduct would be handled, often resulting in charges being determined by outside arbitrators, not the local board.
The message of the Town of Wallkill decision is clear: if your town or village currently has a collective bargaining agreement that contains procedures for determining police misconduct, those contractual terms are now invalid and unenforceable, and the governing body must take immediate action to adopt and implement, by local law, rule or regulation, procedures under which charges of police misconduct are to be adjudicated. This is a unique opportunity for local town and village boards to regain control over the disciplinary process that they may have bargained away in past years.