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January 15, 2013 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: In Scranton, union blocks police chiefs from arresting suspects

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – If Batman were real, it’s unlikely he’d be welcome in Scranton.

The Caped Crusader is well-known for helping the cops in fictional Gotham City put away the worst (and sometimes the most comical) criminal elements of society.  But the police in Scranton apparently don’t want any help when it comes to putting potential perps behind bars in The Electric City.

In fact, they don’t even want the chief to help.

From the Scranton Times-Tribune’s Boris Krawczeniuk:

“A Scranton police chief who spots a suspected fugitive may not confront or arrest the suspect and must wait until a unionized police officer arrives to do that, a state Labor Relations Board hearing examiner says.

In his proposed order forbidding chiefs from making arrests, hearing examiner Jack E. Marino upheld the city police union’s charge of an unfair labor practice, filed because Police Chief Dan Duffy arrested several suspects in 2011.”

The ruling would apply to future Scranton police chiefs under the current union contract.

The paper reports that Scranton’s solicitor told Marino the cash-strapped city didn’t have the money to fight the union’s charge of unfair labor practices, and decided to drop the case entirely after Duffy resigned his job last year.

Many of Scranton’s financial challenges can be traced back to the police, fire and other public sector unions.

The city has $300 million in debt, which includes a $15 million arbitration settlement for the police and fire unions and more than $90 million in unfunded pension obligations. A state law governing cities with fiscal difficulties, like Scranton, forbids the renegotiation of collective bargaining contracts as part of a financial recovery.

Faced with those challenges, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty cut all public employees’ wages to minimum wage last July, but the unions took him to court over it.

A recently-passed 2013 city budget includes an estimated $54 million in tax revenue, of which $51 million will be spent on employee compensation – including salaries, benefits and pensions.

But, hey, at least they settled that pesky issue about having too many cops being able to arrest people.

Contact Boehm at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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