When a student disappeared from a local school, the Multnomah County, Oregon Sheriff’s Office set up a search and rescue operation. The SAR operation involved eight deputies and sergeants and hundreds of state certified volunteers and the criminal investigation included law enforcement officers from Multnomah County as well as from 39 agencies throughout Oregon and Washington. Federal agencies were also involved, including the FBI, DEA, ICE, U.S. Customs, and Secret Service.

The County used corrections officers to prevent unauthorized entry into the command post area. The Multnomah County Deputy Sheriffs Association, which represents the County’s deputy sheriffs, protested the assignment of the corrections officers, and pointed to the availability of off-duty deputies to perform the work. When the County rejected the Association’s protest, the Association filed a grievance demanding that the County cease the practice of having corrections employees perform law enforcement duties and that the MCDSA members who should have performed this work be compensated as if they had performed the work.

An arbitrator upheld the grievance. The Arbitrator’s decision turned on the management rights clause in the Association’s collective bargaining agreement. The clause has a phrase that allows the County the right to determine “the levels of service and methods of operation including subcontracting (except duties determined by the Sheriff to require performance by sworn law enforcement officers).”

The Arbitrator relied upon the job descriptions for the positions of corrections officers and law enforcement deputies, the nature of the Search and Rescue operation, and the evidence regarding the expectations of the corrections officers at the scene. The Arbitrator concluded that “by definition, the work of a corrections officer is performed in a jail or other detention environment and involves the custody, care and humane treatment of adult male or female inmates. All of the listed duties involve inmates. The knowledge, skills and abilities that are listed as being required are intended to carry out the objectives of a corrections program. The specific training provided to a corrections officer is a five-week program that is designed to enhance the required knowledge, skills and abilities that are required for the position. The Arbitrator could find no indication that a corrections officer was required or trained to perform any duties related to the detention of the general public in a public location.

“The work of a deputy sheriff however by definition involves duties such as ongoing interactions with the public and the community including: Talk to residents of patrol areas; observe traffic activity and conditions; survey area for activity that appears irregular or suspicious; elicit information from citizens. The specific training provided to a deputy sheriff is a 17-week program that is designed to enhance the required knowledge, skills and abilities that are required for the position. State law specifies the right to stop or redirect traffic as being a community caretaking function to be performed by a peace officer which by definition does not include corrections officers. It is difficult for the Arbitrator to understand why there was any consideration given to the use of corrections officers as the personnel that would be able to deny access to unauthorized members of the public while traveling on a public road.”

By way of remedy, the Arbitrator ordered that the Association members “who would have been entitled to perform the duties at the command post shall be compensated as if they had performed the duties.”

Multnomah County and Multnomah County Deputy Sheriffs Association (Skratek, 2011)(unreported decision; copies available from LRIS).

The above article has appeared in a previous issue of Public Safety Labor News and has been reprinted courtesy of Labor Relations Information System. These articles are for informational purposes only.