Suit could help Philadelphia’s police union become next political powerhouse

A legal battle in Philadelphia could make the city police officers’ union a powerful political force. The union is suing to require the city to collect contributions for the union’s political committee by deducting the money directly from police officers’ paychecks.

In 2006, Philadelphia City Council passed and the Mayor John Street signed a bill authorizing payroll deductions for the Fraternal Order of Police’s political action committee, a benefit other city unions already enjoy. FOP attorney Tom Jennings says without payroll deductions, the cop’s political committee putters along on meager contributions from officers active in the union.

“They pass the bucket around, they have the 50-50’s, that sort of thing,” said Jennings. “But in the real world in which we live, in order to express your opinion, it costs money, and you need a constant flow of income.”

Jennings emphasizes that the money could not be deducted without the officers approving it.

The city refused to implement payroll deductions because the city charter specifically bars police officers from making any political contributions. A similar ban for firefighters was struck down in a separate court case. The union hopes this case will yield the same result. 

Currently about 2,100 city employees make payroll contributions to their union political funds.

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