by Thomas Funke

The first National Joint Police Union-Management Executive Symposium was held in East Lansing, Michigan at the Kellogg Hotel from October 27-31, 2008 and was sponsored by the Labor Education Program of the School of Labor and Industrial Relations at Michigan State University.

The five-day symposium consisted of the following presentations: The Future of Policing, Managing Change in a Joint Environment, Interest-Based Approach to Problem-Solving, Applying Joint Strategies and Initiatives, and Next Steps to Moving Forward Jointly. The week long event encouraged all newcomers to the area and lifelong Michiganders to experience some of Mid-Michigan and share their experience with new friends. The contact building experience didn’t end with the day long seminars, but transferred to the nearest public establishment for evenings of fun and laughter.

Unions from across the nation as well as Ottawa and London, Ontario, Canada, Sydney and South Wales, Australia, and the Turkish National Police participated in the joint effort to relieve tensions and learn to understand each others specific positions and needs within their specific police environment. Representatives from the following Michigan police departments joined in this inaugural event: Lansing PD, Kalamazoo Public Safety, Saginaw PD, Ingham County DSA, and Livonia PD.

Chiefs and Union Executives worked all week on building bridges over their former hostilities and assumptions towards each other. The symposium relied on the advancement of interpersonal relationship skills that would benefit both union and management. Workshops were created throughout the week that encouraged all participants to be honest and respectful while allowing the others to do the same.

I was impressed with the level of calm discussions and reasonable solutions that were presented throughout the course of the seminar. I learned that at times, it is in the best interest of the union executives to work with management/command and personnel within the city or county that they’re employed. The discussions made looking at both sides of an incident easier and not turning it into an “us vs. them” moment.

I was approached by my Chief of Police (Livonia) and asked if I would be interested in joining him for this week long event. I agreed and have not regretted a moment of this learning experience. I would highly recommend that anyone with the opportunity, should express interest to their command/management that they jointly attend the next symposium.