Detroit officers win day in court, raise questions about future of city's consent agreement

Aug 17, 2012

Detroit police officers have won a day in court—and the temporary suspension of new contract terms that were set to go into effect in the coming week.

The case’s legal outcome could have major implications for Detroit’s consent agreement with the state.

Mayor Dave Bing imposed new contract terms on most city employees, including police, last month.

Those changes included a 10% pay cut, and throwing out old work rules—which led the department to implement new 12-hour shifts for officers.

But those measure haven't gone into effect yet. And now, after the Detroit Police Officer’s Association filed suit, a Wayne County judge has issued a temporary restraining order that prevents those from kicking in on schedule next week,

“The city can’t come and change any of our work rules, or anything as it pertains to any of our contract terms,” said Scott Pellerito of the Detroit Police Officer’s Association.

The DPOA argues that the imposed contract terms should no longer be considered legitimate because the state’s emergency manager has since been suspended.

“Our basic argument was that since Public Act 4 is suspended--and [Detroit is] under a consent agreement, which was taken from Public Act 4--then that no longer is in effect,” Pellerito said. “And the city terms of employment should be rescinded.”

Arguments in the case are set for next Friday.

A state labor board has also approved the DPOA’s right to seek binding arbitration. That’s granted to public safety officers—who cannot legally strike under Michigan law--by Public Act 312.

City officials asked the board to dismiss the request because of the consent agreement. But the Michigan Employment Relations Commission rejected that argument, saying denying arbitration was no longer justifiable after the suspension of Public Act 4.

A Bing spokeswoman says the city plans to appeal both decisions. State and some city officials maintain the suspension of the emergency manager law does not impact Detroit's consent agreement.