The suit accuses the Council of enacting legislation as a “reactionary concession to anti-police rhetoric and protests.” It says the changes violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution and the due process rights of officers. It also notes that giving unions a say in discipline was initially done to ensure “employees are protected against coercion for partisan political purposes.”
D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham has complained for years that it is too hard to fire officers for misconduct, and that he has been forced to rehire terminated officers who appealed through arbitration. But he also has said he would keep some appeals provisions as he restructures the disciplinary process under the new law.
Mendelson, reacting to the lawsuit, defended the changes as necessary to hold officers accountable, and he dismissed the central argument behind the legal challenge.
“I don’t think government relations with unions are uniquely covered by the Constitution,” the Council chairman said.
Mendelson made no apologies for singling out police, saying their unique job of enforcing laws and their ability to take away citizens’ liberties means they need to be held to stricter accountability standards than other District workers.
He said he supports unions “but that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain processes that shouldn’t be reserved exclusively to management.”
Mendelson said the law was enacted quickly because the public demanded change, and he noted there will be an opportunity for public input this fall when the permanent version of the bill comes before the Council.
But, Mendelson said, “We will not change the disciplinary issue.”