LOUISVILLE, KY - A Jefferson Circuit judge has upheld a state Labor Cabinet ruling that said Louisville metro government cannot charge police officers for use of take-home patrol cars without negotiating the fees as part of their contract, according to The Courier-Journal.
Judge Mitch Perry issued the ruling in an appeal filed by the city, which asked that a July 2009 ruling by the state Labor Cabinet be overturned.
The Labor Cabinet had ruled that the city violated collective-bargaining laws when Chief Robert White imposed fees on officers who use their patrol cars after hours.
Fees were imposed initially as part of metro government's plan to cope with a $13 million budget deficit in the 2008 fiscal year. The fees were raised again the following year when the city faced a $20 million revenue shortfall.
Each instance prompted the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents Louisville officers, to file grievances.
Under the program, officers were ultimately asked to pay $100 a month to take home their patrol cars, which they may use for personal errands. The city pays for insurance, maintenance, and fuel for those cars.
The program was designed to increase police presence in neighborhoods. The police department has about 1,300 vehicles, of which about 1,100 are used as take-home vehicles.
In July 2009, the Labor Cabinet agreed with officers who argued that take-home cars had been considered a benefit of employment and any fees imposed on that benefit should have been negotiated in their contract.
Louisville spokeswoman Lindsay English said metro officials are reviewing Perry's decision, which was issued Monday, to determine what their next step will be.
The city has the right to appeal to a higher court, said Bill Patteson, a spokesman for the Jefferson County attorney's office.
In his ruling, Perry denied the FOP's motion for an order forcing the city to reimburse officers immediately for the fees that have already been collected. But Perry upheld the Labor Cabinet's ruling that the union and the city should negotiate the reimbursement, according to The Courier-Journal.