‘Last Resort’ for Capitol Police Union

Vote of No Confidence Would Be the First Since Force Unionized

Posted October 7, 2012 at 2:59pm

Frustrated that management has not responded to its concerns, the Capitol Police union intends to ask Capitol Division officers to take a vote of no confidence against their supervisors.

It would be the first such vote in the almost 14 years since Capitol Police unionized, according to Capitol Police Labor Committee President Jim Konczos.

The union would only poll officers in the Capitol Division, where Konczos said the bulk of the issues exist. He alleges that supervisors with the ranks of captain and inspector are creating and enforcing their own directives without consistency or consultation with management, ordering officers to report for duty in unsafe working conditions and mishandling time-off requests covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Konczos said he has spoken repeatedly with Acting Chief Tom Reynolds about these issues over the past few months and informed him Friday about the possible union action.

“Unions typically don’t hold no-confidence votes. … It’s a last resort,” Konczos said. “But I told [Reynolds], ‘I can’t keep rehashing everything. Nothing’s changed.’”

The Labor Committee’s executive board is in the early planning stages of scheduling the no-confidence vote, which will either take place online or via secret ballot and likely involve a series of questions relating to Capitol Division supervisors’ practices.

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said he had been briefed on the union’s intentions and hoped the vote could be averted. He also said that management is putting in a good faith effort to respond to the union’s concerns, even as Konczos insists that myriad calls for
action have gone unanswered.

“Communication is very important, and I think there’s a disconnect here, and maybe even systemic issues here that we’ve got to work through. But I know we can work through these things,” said Gainer, a former Capitol Police chief. “The department command feels they are working through them, and the officers in the union feel they are not or they are not getting to the resolution quickly enough, and those things, these polar positions, have to meet someplace in the middle.”

Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider also suggested management would continue to seek common ground with the union.

“Acting Chief Reynolds values the cooperative relationship with the union. The department has the utmost confidence in its commanders, officers and employees, [and Reynolds] continues to work with the union on workplace matters,” she said.

A vote of no confidence that implicates Capitol Police supervisors with misconduct or mismanagement would not have any enforcement effect. It would, however, be an embarrassment for management, especially during the final round of interviews for a new Capitol Police chief to replace Phillip Morse, who resigned earlier this year.

It would also catch the attention of the Capitol Police Board and Congressional oversight committees, which is what happened the last time the union considered a no-confidence vote on top brass.

In 2008, the Labor Committee decided to poll its members across all ranks and divisions on then-Chief Morse’s leadership. He was at that time overseeing a force with low staff morale, which was only compounded when officers learned that 15 recruits, already months into Capitol Police training, had not actually passed the required background, physical and psychological tests before being hired.

Morse received overwhelmingly negative criticism from survey respondents, and the union thought about following up with a no-confidence vote. But that vote never materialized, perhaps because the Senate Rules and Administration Committee quickly convened a hearing on the matter.

Then-Labor Committee President Matt Tighe said that low morale on the force could hinder its ability to carry out its missions and mandates. Four years later, Konczos has similar concerns.

Gainer said he wasn’t worried about that.

“Quibbling over administrative matters, which are important to each side … it certainly interferes with the work environment we all want, but I don’t think that interferes with security,” he said.