Today Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told reporters that it was the responsibility of the city’s police union to make its contract public.
“Why doesn’t the media ask the police union to make the contract public?” Brown said. “Why are the requests always of the city?”
Well, the union did release it — yesterday. The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association forwarded a copy of the contract to Investigative Post so that we and our partners at WGRZ-TV could analyze it.
The document is 382 unwieldy pages, comprising agreements, amendments, arbitration awards and memoranda dating back to 1986.
“The union contract is a collection of documents that stretches back about 30 years. It hasn’t been consolidated,” Jonathan Manes, former chairman of the Buffalo Police Advisory Board, told Investigative Post last week.
“So in order to figure out what it means, you have to look at about a dozen different agreements and arbitration results that are just sort of layered on top of each other.”
Have a look:
Activists and journalists have been asking the Brown administration to make the current contract public, in light of protests demanding greater police accountability and transparency.
The contract has in fact been publicly available for some time. The Buffalo Police Advisory Board acquired a copy last year, which it shared with Investigative Post. A Buffalo activist tweeted out a link to the document last week. Police union members can look at it whenever they’d like by logging on to the union’s website.
John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, told Investigative Post on Monday that the last two contract negotiations with the Brown administration have included an agreement to consolidate the contract into one coherent document. But the city, Evans said, has never made an effort to do that.
“It would take them assigning someone from the law department to go through it and simplify it, I would think,” Evans said.
“My impression is that the only people who really know what the contract says are the union’s lawyers,” Manes said. “Maybe some folks in city hall.”
The current police contract expired June 30, 2019. Negotiations toward a new contract are stuck in the mediation phase; the next stop is binding arbitration, in which a state labor board will determine what it considers an equitable agreement. That might be as far as a year away.
Investigative Post and our partners at WGRZ-TV will break down the contract — in particular as it influences issues of police accountability — in the days to come. If you have questions you want answered or observations about the document, email firstname.lastname@example.org.