June 26, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Body-Worn Cameras Are Not “Personal Safety and Health Equipment” and Therefore Do Not Mandate Collective Bargaining

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Denver Police Protective Association v. City & County of Denver on Thursday, February 22, 2018.

Labor Relations—Collective Bargaining—Body-Worn Cameras—Summary Judgment.

The City and County of Denver (Denver) and the Denver Police Protective Association (DPPA) are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. That agreement implements the City and County of Denver Charter (Charter), which sets forth Denver’s obligations regarding collective bargaining with certain of its employees. A category in the Charter that is not required to be subject to collective bargaining is officer health and safety matters, except for personal safety and health equipment.

In 2015, the Denver Police Department (DPD) promulgated, without bargaining or consultation with DPPA, a policy regarding the use of body-worn cameras (BWCs). The policy required “patrol officers and corporals assigned to all six police Districts, the Gang Unit and Traffic Operations” to wear and use BWCs. DPPA immediately contended that this was a mandatory subject of collective bargaining and demanded that Denver bargain. Denver refused.

DPPA sued, alleging Denver violated the collective bargaining agreement by implementing the BWC policy without first bargaining in good faith with DPPA. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of DPPA and ordered Denver to bargain over the implementation of the BWC policy.

On appeal, the court of appeals considered whether the BWCs are “personal safety and health equipment” subject to collective bargaining as claimed by DPPA and agreed to by the district court, or if they are equipment that relates to “officer safety and health matters,” as Denver argued, and therefore are not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining.

Analyzing the Charter, the court concluded that it is reasonable to restrict the definition of “personal safety and health equipment” to equipment whose principal purpose is the safety of officers. The case thus turned on whether the principal purpose of BWCs is officer safety. While BWCs may incidentally impact officer safety, their principal purpose is not to increase the safety of the officer. The court therefore concluded that BWCs are not “personal health and safety equipment” under the Charter and are not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining.

The judgment was reversed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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