LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Jeffersonville, police union physical fitness dispute settled


A long-running dispute between the Jeffersonville City Council and the city’s police union about physical fitness requirements was resolved Monday by arbitrators ruling a police officer wouldn’t be fired for failing to pass a physical fitness test but wouldn’t be eligible for promotion.

The three-member arbitration panel also ruled the police would receive $300 wage increases for 2011 and 2012.

The arbitrators — Irvin Sonne, Robert Colone and Kerry Thompson — also said the Jeffersonville Police Merit Board should develop rules and procedures within 90 days for enforcing the physical fitness standards and for handling appeals by officers whose promotions might be denied because they didn’t pass the test.

“I think it was a good compromise,” said Council Member Ed Zastawny, who has been a leader of council efforts to incorporate the standards in the FOP contract.

Joe Hubbard, president of the Jeffersonville FOP, declined to comment on the arbitration beyond a written statement that the FOP and City Council Lawyer Mickey Weber issued.

The physical fitness requirement is part of the four-year police contract agreed to by the city council and FOP in 2009, which included language allowing additional negotiations on the physical fitness and salary language of the contracts after two years with binding arbitration if the council and police couldn’t reach agreement.

The FOP rejected proposed physical fitness language earlier this year, and Hubbard said his membership was overwhelmingly opposed to the “punitive” nature of the contract, requiring termination for officers hired after Jan. 1, 2010, who couldn’t pass the physical fitness test in three tries.

After intense debate throughout 2011, the city council in a special meeting Friday rejected language approved by the FOP saying that not meeting the fitness standard “may be used by the merit board when considering promotions.”

Council President Mike Smith and member Connie Sellers voted in favor of the FOP language and Zastawny, Nathan Samuel, Barbara Wilson and Wayne Carter voted against it.

Zastawny said he and other council members opposed the contract language approved by the FOP because it didn’t require any action if an officer failed to pass the exam. But in his view, Zastawny said, being a police officer requires physical fitness.

The council’s rejection of the FOP approved language led to Monday’s arbitration, which was conducted in Sonne’s office in New Albany and was concluded by early afternoon.

“I consider it a positive,” Zastawny said of the arbitrators’ ruling. That’s because it keeps physical fitness requirements in the police contract.

But the contract will have to be negotiated next year, since it terminates at the end of 2012, Zastawny said, and the physical fitness requirements could be contentious again.

He hopes that the police department — and the fire department, which also has physical fitness requirements in its union contrat — will develop department rules for physical fitness rather than continuing to rely on contract language.

Such department rules would be based directly on the physical demands of police and firefighting positions, Zastawny said, eliminating disputes between the council and union over such requirements.

“I’m glad its over,” Zastawny said of the long-running dispute with the FOP.