Capitol Police Union Will Survey Officers on Holding No-Confidence Vote

Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:43am

The Capitol Police Labor Committee will poll officers who work in the Capitol during the next two weeks to gauge support for taking a vote of no confidence against supervisors for alleged misconduct.

Responses will help determine whether the union conducts a no-confidence vote, a course that appeared all but certain a week ago.

“There’s still some misunderstanding of what a vote of no confidence is and … whether an actual vote of no confidence will get us the results we’re looking for,” said Jim Konczos, president of the labor panel.

Konczos and others told Capitol Division officers during a meeting Wednesday morning that while some outstanding issues might not affect them directly, they should care about injustices suffered by colleagues and support efforts to hold responsible parties accountable.

Delaying the anticipated no-confidence vote is not only intended to allow more time for informing the rank and file. It also shows deference to the department’s top brass, with whom the union has made recent inroads after several months of bitter negotiations over upper management’s handling of internal policies.

Until Oct. 17, the union was actively pursuing a vote of no confidence against supervisors with the ranks of captain and inspector, alleging that they have enforced their own directives without consistency or consultation with management, ordered officers to report for duty in unsafe working conditions and mishandled time-off requests covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

According to an Oct. 10 letter Konczos has circulated among Capitol Division officers, supervisors are also disciplining subordinates “based on their own false statements” and sanctioning a “questionable reduction in manpower as we prepare for the presidential inauguration.”

After months of meetings with Acting Chief Tom Reynolds and members of the Capitol Police Board, Konczos said he was tired of talking.

But the threat of a no-confidence vote might have had an effect. While such a vote would have no formal effect, it would be embarrassing for the department, particularly during the search to replace former Chief Phillip Morse.

Reynolds announced last week that beginning Oct. 29, the process for approval of Family and Medical Leave Act time-off requests will be streamlined.

Dan Rosenzweig, a union shop steward for officers in the House chambers, said he has noticed some other recent changes. Management, he said, has codified a longstanding but unwritten practice across all Capitol Police divisions of allowing officers to wear rain jackets to protect against the elements when rain is not falling. Supervisors had begun enforcing a directive prohibiting wearing of rain jackets in all types of weather.

Rosenzweig also said Capitol Division officials have been perhaps too lenient in disciplinary actions. One officer was given a warning not to make inappropriate comments on the job, although it was a second such offense within 12 months.

“This guy, he made a racist statement … and he had a week’s suspension. Now he just gets a slap on the wrist for a second offense,” Rosenzweig complained. “It can’t be a coincidence, all of these sudden eases.”

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer, a former Capitol Police chief, also agreed the possibility of a no-confidence vote may have prompted both sides to look for common ground. “I think it helped force the issues,” Gainer said. “I think each side, the union and leadership and commanders of the department, thought they were in sync. And I think the threat of [a vote] was pretty clear evidence that something wasn’t right.

Reynolds, who is said to be among those under consideration for the chief’s job, could also have a stake in smoothing ruffled feathers. “I’m pleased with our continued progress and productive meetings with the union,” Reynolds said in a statement to Roll Call. “We continue to work diligently and cooperatively to utilize our communication channels to best address and resolve matters of mutual concern in the best interest of the department.”

Konczos echoed the assessment of the situation and lauded Reynolds’ recent actions. “He has showed very good leadership on this,” Konczos said. “And we’re actually very impressed.”

Konczos would not predict the results of the survey or whether or when the Labor Committee might proceed with a no-confidence vote. There remains a need for “accountability” by leadership, he said, and an acknowledgement that those in the leadership ranks behaved inappropriately.

“We’d even take an apology at this point,” Konczos said.

As far as Rosenzweig is concerned, a vote is still necessary despite inroads between the two factions: “I like that things have changed, and that’s good … but my section, House Chamber security, is pretty strongly for it.”