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Capitol Police, Union Continue to Negotiate Personnel Policies

Capitol Police officers eager for a verdict on whether they can display certain tattoos on the job will have to wait a little bit longer.

While management and union representatives had hoped to reach an agreement on a new policy by Aug. 15, that proposal and a handful of others — including how leave is processed under the Family and Medical Leave Act — are still being negotiated.

Meanwhile, “several dozen” less controversial directives making up a thousand-page policy document go into effect starting today.

“The Department continues to work with internal stakeholders to implement the remaining policy directives,” Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider told Roll Call. “Updates as to the status and implementation of other policy directives will be forthcoming.”

Schneider would not elaborate on what policy directives are currently being enforced but confirmed that more contentious directives relating to grooming standards and FMLA requests were not among those cleared.

One such directive would require members of the force to cover tattoos and body markings “whenever possible” and mandate that tattoos covering “more than one third of the area of exposed skin on an arm or leg ... must be covered while on duty.” Some officers have pushed back against the proposal, saying it would violate their freedom of expression, not to mention create a nuisance on hot summer days.

But the bigger issue at stake, says Capitol Police Labor Committee President Jim Konczos, is that the union was never consulted on that or any other directive during drafting of the document. Konczos argues that the union should have had a chance to review the directives before they were approved for immediate implementation by former Chief Phillip Morse as he was preparing to depart the force for a job with American University’s security office.

In a good-faith effort, acting Chief Tom Reynolds agreed to postpone enforcement until the union had an opportunity to provide input and negotiate any proposals they wanted to see stricken or reworked from the list of nearly 100 directives.

The union, overseen by an attorney, concluded a line-by-line review of the directives a little over two weeks ago and submitted to management concerns over “nine or 10” proposed changes, according to Konczos.

Konczos has expressed appreciation for Reynolds’ decision to delay implementation and work with the union on finding common ground.

However, if both sides cannot reach an agreement, he said, the union could pursue an unfair labor practices complaint with the Office of Compliance, which is for most Congressional employees the first step leading to litigation.

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