Armed police return to patrols at UW dorms after dispute with union
After ending armed police patrols of student housing in the wake of the George Floyd protests, the University of Washington has reversed its decision and will bring back armed police patrols of UW dorms.
The Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) found that UW failed to bargain with Teamsters Union Local 117, which represents the University of Washington Police Department, over the end of patrol shifts around the dorms. The report found that the university failed to inform UWPD about removing armed officers from the residence halls before introducing unarmed Campus Security Responders (CSRs).
The original 2021 decision to reassign armed patrol units with unarmed civilian CSRs stems from several demonstrations done by students and an open letter to divest from UWPD from the Student Government and the Black Student Union.
“The employer’s decision to create the CSR position and, eventually, assign CSRs to patrol residence halls at night in lieu of armed Campus Police Officers was made by the employer in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and in response to demands by the Black Student Union on campus,” the report reads. “One of the demands was to “Disarm and Divest from UWPD.” In a letter addressing those demands, UW President Ana Mari Cauce recognized the police violence that Black students and community members have witnessed and “the painful history of systemic racism that has been with us since the founding of our country.”
In an investigation done by PERC, they determined that the university did not properly meet with the representatives from Local 117 to bargain over the shift change, violating Washington State Labor Laws. The university argues that the expiration in June 2021 of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between UWPD and UW Housing and Food Service, which established the patrols of the dorms, allowed them to change their security strategy for student housing.
The report concludes that the interest of the unionized officers to maintain their patrol shifts outweighs the university’s priority in rehabilitating its image in relation to public safety officers on campus.
“The employees’ interest in maintaining bargaining unit work outweighs the employer’s interest in a speedy reimagining of public safety on the employer’s campus … Instead, the employer determined that it needed to respond to campus interests and ignored its bargaining obligation.”
The decision was not unanimous though, with Commissioner Mark Busto noting that UWPD and the union failed to provide any proof that reassigning dorm patrols away from armed officers and assigning civilian safety officers had any financial impact on union members.
He also argues that since the university had an interest in removing armed patrols as a part of the university’s entrepreneurial control. Specifically due to the possible repercussions among students and faculty, and the university’s interest in limiting student interactions with armed security when they might not be trained for handling interactions with students.
“The employer neither removed CPOs from bid positions nor laid off CPOs. The union did not present evidence that the CPOs suffered any financial impact from the transfer, such as the loss of overtime,” Busto wrote in his dissenting opinion. “With respect to their job duties, the CPOs continued to respond to nearly all the calls for service on campus and dispatches to the dormitories. In short, CPOs retained their law enforcement responsibilities and activities and ceded only their patrol and outreach function in the residence halls to the CSRs, who were authorized only to ‘observe and report.'”
The commission has ordered UW to restore the patrols for officers of UWPD and pay any lost wages to officers that might have lost income due to the change.