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GOOD COP, BAD COP

Chief finds union’s unfair labor complaint ‘absurd’

The unfair labor practice filed by the police union last week against the city takes issue with an arrest Chief Dan Duffy made on March 20 in West Scranton.

Go Lackawanna File Photo

SCRANTON – In 1998, Dan Duffy was hired by the Scranton Police Department through its Comm-D, or Community Development, Program as a patrol officer. The hire did not place Duffy in the department’s collective bargaining unit as the program was funded through Community Development Block Grants.

As beat officers, Duffy said Comm-D workers were used as a “nothing more than a bargaining chip” in contract negotiations during that time.

When he was sworn in as the city’s chief of police on September 8, Duffy was removed from the bargaining unit in line with a Dec. 27, 2002, order that approved the city’s petition to remove the superintendent from the bargaining unit.

His position became an issue this week as the police union filed an unfair labor complaint against the city of Scranton dated April 14 for his March 20 arrest of John J. McHugh for possession of marijuana. McHugh was also wanted for an outstanding bench warrant.

While the complaint is against the city administration and not against the chief, as clarified by Fraternal Order of Police President Bob Martin, Duffy said he’s still offended by it.

“Here I am at a high point in my career when I’m doing as much as possibly can for the city of Scranton…and I’m a bargaining chip again,” Duffy said. “I was out being proactive when I was a non-collective bargaining unit member in 1998. I’m back in the same boat again.”

The chief’s non-duty arrests since taking office last year have made headline news, and he assumes he’s had a dozen or so of those criminal apprehensions since September. The complaint, he said, is senseless.

“How it was put was, ‘You can’t actively go out and look for crime.’ Yeah. OK,” Duffy said, dismissing the complaint. “I’m a policeman. I don’t know what else to do.”

What it won’t do is deter his personal proactive policy, he said.

“I’m still going to be a citizen, I’m still going to be a police officer, and I’m going to take a vested interest in this city. For me not to act, I should be fired. My oath is still the same as their oath…You don’t take and oath and say, ‘I, Daniel J. Duffy, do solemnly swear to be a collective bargaining unit member.’ The first oath of office you take is that you’re a policeman.”

Duffy said phone calls and e-mails from citizens have shown their support, along with the individual visits he’s received from his own officers. Those men and women, he said, don’t represent the union’s complaint.

“I know that the majority of our department does not agree with this, and they find it very embarrassing,” Duffy said. “Other people who have headed up different lodges of the Fraternal Order of Police that have called me or walked up to me and apologized. If that’s not a huge message to the union representatives, I don’t know who the message is to.”

In the complaint, union officials state that “the work of apprehending and arresting individuals has been the sole and exclusive province of the members of the bargaining unit,” including off-duty arrests. The 2002 order excludes the superintendent of the department from the bargaining unit as a managerial employee.

“Do I believe the chief should be in the bargaining unit? No way! I have to make decisions that will ultimately impact the department,” Duffy said, adding that if his leadership resulted in union complaints that he shouldn’t benefit from any legal battles.

Duffy said he hopes the complaint doesn’t negatively affect the public’s views of officers in the Scranton Police Department.

“They’re the ones that go in and do that job day in and day out,” he said. “I respect what they do because I do what they do. I’m just leading by example. I’m a supervisor, but that doesn’t eliminate me from being proactive and going out and arresting criminals.”

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