NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Phoenix Police Conduct Union Business on the Taxpayer Dime

July 17, 2014

The Arizona Court of Appeals will soon decide a case that challenges an obscure portion of the city of Phoenix's labor contracts that allows police officers and other public employees to conduct union work while being paid by Arizona taxpayers, according to Jillian Kay Melchior at National Review.

The court will decide whether or not "release time" or "official time" contractual provisions are constitutional. 

Phoenix's release time policy is one of the most generous in the country:

  • Six city police officers may work on union business full time, receiving their regular pay and benefits, in addition to 960 hours of guaranteed overtime.
  • Other officers can perform 2,000 hours of union work.
  • The Phoenix Police Department estimates that the release time costs taxpayers roughly $1 million per year.

Release time moves police officers off of the streets and into union headquarters, despite increases in violent crime in the city. According to Police Chief Daniel Garcia, those officers would be serving the city and fighting crime were they not on release time.

A lower court issued an injunction against the practice, and now union advocates are challenging the decision in the Arizona Court of Appeals.

The Goldwater Institute argues that allowing police officers to conduct union work on taxpayer-funded time is a violation of the gift clause in Arizona's constitution. The clause bars the gifting of public funds to private entities in the absence of a clear public benefit.

Source: Jillian Kay Melchior, "Tax-Funded Union Work," National Review, June 16, 2014.


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