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Police Federation Election Guidelines: All You Need to Know

October 18, 2023

Elections play an essential role in maintaining integrity and democracy within all organizations, ensuring that leaders are elected through a transparent and fair process. Elections within the police federations are no different. 

With the responsibility of representing the interests of police staff across the country, the police’s election process must be efficient, meticulous, and unbiased. In this article, we’ll discuss what a police federation is and explore how their elections work and whether they use union online voting

The History of Police Unions in the US 

The birth of police unions in the United States can be traced back to the 19th century, when associations like New York City’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association were founded in 1892. These associations and early groups advocated for officers’ concerns but were of modest size and lacked collective bargaining rights. 

In the 20th century, larger debates arose regarding whether police associations belonged to the labor movement, raising concerns over police officers’ divided loyalty during strikes by other unionists. 

The political power of the police came to national attention in 1919, when around 80% of the Boston police force went on strike. These officers, complaining of subpar working conditions, autocratic bosses, and low pay, sought to organize a union, resulting in a number of injured people, property damage, and a ban on police unions when order was restored. 

The landscape changed in the 1960s and 1970s, when state legislation granted collective bargaining rights to government and state employees, including the police. With this, police unions became formalized, leading to increased political activism among police associations. 

By the end of the 1970s, police unions were referred to as a ‘bureaucratic insurgency’ that overcame police-commissioner opposition. In some cases, these unions also served as platforms for launching the political careers of former officials, an aspect recognizable in the unions of today. 

Police Federation Election Process

The Police Federation representatives advise and support members in matters such as:

  • Pay
  • Terms and conditions
  • Equality
  • Professional development
  • Allowances
  • Conduct
  • Operational policing issues

To elect these representatives, elections are held to give members the opportunity to vote for the colleagues they want to represent them in local and national bodies. Interim elections are organized in case a position becomes vacant. 

Police Federation General Elections Guidelines 

In order to help election officials conduct union officer elections in accordance with the requirements of the Labor- Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, the Office of Labor-Management Standards provides guidelines for elections.  We’ve summarized some of the most important guidelines here:

Independent Observer Appointment

Transparency and impartiality are the cornerstones of any fair election process. This is  ensured by having election observers monitor the elections. 

The observer acts as an impartial entity and is responsible for overseeing the election process and verifying its fairness. The observer ensures that the rules and regulations governing the election are properly followed and reports their findings to the union.  This includes announcing the tally results for each office, and reporting the number of ballots counted.

Nominations and Eligibility

To become a candidate in police union elections, members should meet certain criteria, such as length of service or time in the organization. The nomination process is the first step towards determining the candidates and is therefore crucial to the election. Any officials interested in running for positions need to campaign and garner support through nominations from fellow members. 

Voting Process

The police unions utilize a secure and confidential voting process. Members can cast their votes in-person or through postal ballots, ensuring that every member has the opportunity to participate in the election process.  

Counting and Verification

Once the voting period has ended, votes are counted under the supervision of the Independent Scrutineer to maintain the integrity of the election. 

Declaration of Results

After a rigorous counting and verification process, the results are declared. The winners are announced and the transition of power takes place, ensuring a smooth transfer of responsibilities.

Curious about what union police officers belong to? Check out our latest post!

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