by Ted Goodman
The Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association (AMPA), which is one of four police unions in the city, is contesting a new police department policy that prohibits association members from meeting with new academy recruits while off-duty and outside city property.
The AMPA, which represents about 350 of the city’s 600 sworn officers, filed a lawsuit, arguing that the policy violates the officers’ constitutional rights to assemble and right to free speech.
“We think the policy infringes on the rights of freedom of assembly and speech,” Randy Moore, who is representing the association in the lawsuit, said to the Star-Telegram. “When the officer is on duty, they can regulate the officer’s activity. When they’re off duty and on their own time, they should be able to do what they want,” Moore explained.
At least one of the other unions representing officers in the city, the Arlington Police Association (APA) is siding with the city and its policy, citing the fact that the policy lets training recruits focus on training, unperturbed by union recruiting efforts.
“With the policy intact, the four associations have equal access to recruits, he said. Corporals, who supervise recruits, shouldn’t be allowed to influence recruits on what association to join,” JP Mason, president of the APA, said to the Shorthorn.
“We’re just trying to make sure they can be focused on learning how to be a police officer in the academy and not worried about, ‘My boss is telling me I need to join an association,’” Mason said.
“It’s none of the city’s business what he does or who he meets while off-duty,” Chris CeBallos, a board director for the AMPA, asserted. “If we allow the city to control what we do off-duty for one policy, then there will be another and another and another,” CeBallos said. “That’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
The Arlington Police Department created the policy in May, as Moore explained, in order to protect recruits from distraction during their training period. The concern is that corporals and other officers who work with the recruits on training and development, may be burdened by recruitment tactics among the four unions, instead of solely focusing on their training.
The city’s attorneys have not commented on the lawsuit. The AMPA is seeking a permanent injunction.
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