MPD Chief Cathy Lanier

The Metropolitan Police Department’s “All Hands on Deck” initiative violates the terms of officers’ labor contract and must be ended, an arbitrator has ruled.

“AHODs,” three-day periods during which all sworn police officers are required to work eight-hour patrol shifts, have been a favorite tool of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chief Cathy L. Lanier since 2007. They’ve credited the initiative with being at least partly responsible for record low levels of violent crime. But police union officials have long decried the AHODs as essentially a publicity stunt that generate goodwill for politicians at the expense of rank-and-file officers. The Fraternal Order of Police filed a grievance challenging the practice earlier this year.

In an opinion released today [PDF], arbitrator John C. Truesdale largely agreed with the union’s arguments, ruling that the AHODs violated several terms of the police contract. He declined to take into account the policing value of the AHODs, calling them “apparently well received in the District of Columbia.” But due to the contract violations, he ordered the department to rescind the 2009 AHOD order and pay time-and-a-half overtime to officers who participated in the six AHODs that have taken place this year.

Two more AHODs are scheduled for this year—-starting Nov. 13 and Dec. 17. A request for comment from city officials, including on whether those AHODs will continue, was not immediately returned. Lanier vowed in a statement to continue the AHODs and appeal Truesdale’s ruling.

Despite the victory, police union chief Kristopher Baumann was not in a gloating mood. “It’s sort of bittersweet, because this turned out to be a big waste of time and money….This was an initiative or a program that was not effective.”

The department can now appeal to the Public Employee Relations Board, and on to Superior Court if necessary. Baumann calls on Fenty and Lanier to “respect the decision, respect the law, respect the contract and not appeal it again and again and cost the District hundreds of thousands.”

“The odds of them prevailing on appeal are almost zero,” he says.

UPDATE, 7 P.M.: Lanier has released a statement: “I disagree with the arbitrator’s decision and am confident it will be overturned on appeal. I announced the dates for the All Hands on Deck a year in advance out of consideration for the officers and their families. The crime emergencies of the past were reactionary, costly and extremely hard on the officers and their families. Notwithstanding today’s ruling, the All Hands on Deck initiatives will continue pursuant to my authority under both the labor agreement and District personnel law. As our reduction in violent crimes and homicides this year demonstrates, the initiative is in the best interest of our city and the safety of our residents. I do intend to appeal today’s decision and look forward to a ruling on the legal conclusions reached by the arbitrator in this action.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery