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July 21, 2011

Civil deputy sheriff should not have to wait to be harmed before being given weapon and firearms training

Civil deputy sheriff should not have to wait to be harmed before being given weapon and firearms training
Mtr. of Monroe County Deputy Sheriffs Assoc.; Arbitration Award, PERB Case A200-439

Monroe County and the Monroe County Deputy Sheriffs Association submitted the following issue to PERB Arbitrator James A. Gross: Whether the Monroe County Sheriff's Office created an unusual work condition by failing to provide firearms and proper training in connection with firearms for the Civil Bureau.

Holding that the Sheriff's Office did, in fact, create an unusual work condition by failing to provide civil deputy sheriffs with firearms and training, Arbitrator Gross directed that Monroe County “provide firearms to civil deputies when they perform their duties.”

The parties apparently conceded that the grievance, as presented to the arbitrator, was subject to the contract grievance procedure pursuant to Article 36.2.1. of the collective bargaining agreement. Article 36.2.1 set out the definition of a grievance and provides as follows:

A grievance shall be defined as any claimed violation of a specific provision of this agreement, or any matter that relates to employee health and safety.

The County argued that “the issuance of weapons does not comply with the duties and functions of non-criminal civil deputies position [sic]” and that its civil deputies are not performing police functions. The County also maintained that there was no evidence that any civil deputy had been injured performing his or her duties “for at least 30 years” as a result of his or her performing civil deputy sheriff duties.

The Association contended that the civil deputies should carry a weapon because they are perceived to be law enforcement personnel and displayed badges. According to the Association:

1. A badge is recognized as a police presence; and

2. Any person identified as a law enforcement officer is automatically in a high-risk situation either by becoming a target for hostility or by being drawn into hostile and dangerous situations involving others.

Arbitrator Gross ruled that the County violated Article 36.2.1 by failing to provide firearms to its civil deputy sheriffs. 

After considering the testimony of witnesses, the arbitrator's concluded that:It would be irresponsible to deny these Civil Deputies the equipment they need to meet the greatest threats to their safety simply because no Civil Deputy in Monroe County has been killed or seriously injured in the performance of their duties - as has happened elsewhere in New York State. No person should have to wait to be harmed before being given adequate protection.

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