Lobbyist Report

DNA Swab Normal Part of Booking

A ruling made on June 3, 2013, by the Supreme Court of the United States in MARYLAND v. KING might be of interest to some readers.  The Court determined that it is lawful to take a DNA swab as a normal part of the booking process for a serious offense.

The case started with the arrest of Alonzo King in 2009 for first and second degree assault charges.   Seems like some people didn’t like it when he showed up with a rifle and started bothering them.  When being processed into the Wicomico County jail in Maryland, the Corrections Officer obtained a DNA sample with a cheek swab. In Maryland it is perfectly legal to swab those being booked for serious crimes.  It is legal in all states to swab during a felony arrest.

When the sample was run through the Federal database, it matched a DNA sample obtained in a rape case from 2003 that was never solved.  Armed with the DNA evidence, King was brought to trial on the rape charge.

King’s lawyer objected to the admission of the DNA evidence based upon the fourth Amendment.  He claimed it was an unlawful search and challenged the legality of the search.  The Judge in the Circuit Court found the search to be legal and the trial ended with his conviction.  However, the Maryland Court of Appeals found the search violated King’s constitutional rights.

In their ruling, the majority found that the Fourth Amendment allows for reasonable searches when a suspect is detained and taken to a jail due to a serious offence, thus eliminating the need for a warrant.  The check swab is similar to taking a picture or fingerprinting a prisoner.  Much as pictures and fingerprinting have improved police work and the justice system in the past, DNA testing can and is vastly improving them now and into the future.  Unlike pictures and fingerprinting, DNA evidence seems to be almost completely reliable.

The Court did place several limitations on the retrieval and use of DNA.  For example, the retrieval of the DNA should not threaten the detainee’s safety.  The method of extraction must minimize pain and shouldn’t require surgery.  Until an individual is ar­raigned for a serious crime, their DNA can’t be added into any database.  Furthermore, if the suspect isn’t found guilty their DNA must be eliminated from the system.  The fact that a swab is so painless, quick and easy was important to their thinking these searches are reasonable.

On the topic of wage increases, there is an upward trend once again.  Of course it couldn’t have gotten much lower.  There have been way too many low and no wage increases over the last few years.  Even those municipalities that weren’t hurt by the recession could get away with small increases.  As the economy continues to slowly improve, wages should continue to increase.

Many of the Eastern Counties are seeing a lot of land being leased or sold for the right to drill wells.  Thanks to the process called “Fracking”, some people are getting quite wealthy.  Hopefully that wealth will be spread to higher wages as well!

Last Updated (Tuesday, 24 September 2013 05:15)


Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders

I have written a lot of my articles about the economy and wage increases lately.  Most everyone is interested in the outlook for wage increases and most of us have been impacted by the recession that started in 2009.  In fact, most of us are still being impacted today.

However, I noticed an article recently that many represented by the OPBA might be interested in.  It relates to the use of strip searches at jails and other detention facilities based upon the recent ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, #10-945, 132 S. Ct. 1510, 2012 U.S. Lexis 2712.

In the instant case, the arrest was made due to a bench warrant that was no longer good.  He had fallen behind on paying a court fine, but had actually paid it off several years prior to his arrest.  He was then strip searched at one prison and transferred to another six days later.  He was then strip searched again, which lead to his complaint.

Mr. Florence felt that he should not have had to endure the humiliation of a strip search based upon the charges against him and his good behavior. Both of the prisons had a blanket policy of strip searching any and everybody when they arrive regardless of the charges.  This was the focus of the ruling.

Prior to the Florence ruling, a reasonable suspicion standard was the law of the land.  There had to be a detailed analysis to prove the need to strip search an inmate.They had to consider such issues as what type of inmates they were housing, what type of offence they were charged with, and how they were behaving.

Four of the Justices felt there should be a reasonable suspicion that the detainee might be in possession of contraband that could be a threat to the safety and/or security of officers in order to conduct a strip search. They felt there were other options available rather than forcing the humiliation associated with strip searches.

Although they did mention that it is difficult and dangerous to work in such environments, they pointed to the seven federal courts that have ruled for a reasonable suspicion standard for strip searches.  They also noted that ten states have made the reasonable suspicion standard the law.

The dissenting judges also pointed out that many correction officer organizations believe that in most circumstances strip searches should only be done for reasonable suspicion.  They further noted the amount of contraband found during the strip searches was quite small.

Rather than strip searching without reasonable suspicion, they said much more reasonable methods could be just as useful without being so humiliating.  Among their suggestions were metal detectors, pat downs, and searching clothing while the detainee is showering.

However, the majority ruled otherwise.  They acknowledged the inherit dangers in the Corrections field and the requirement for safety at length.  Further, they noted that those in the field understand the risks and dangers much better than anybody else.  Therefore, they should be the ones to create proper policies.  As such, they gave the administrations a great deal of latitude in the creation of such search policies.  In effect, they ruled that the interest in safety and properly running the institution trumped the inmate’s constitutional rights.  Of course they also noted that different institutions may not have such rights given the differences in facilities and their populations.

In addition, they pointed out that case law upheld the use of strip searches due to the decrease in the likelihood of carrying contraband into prisons.  The amount of contraband actually found wasn’t a major factor in such cases.

New inmates may not even be fully researched when they enter the system.  Some may be weekend inmates because they are low risk, but that would make it easier for them to bring contraband into the system on a regular basis.

Furthermore, given the ever changing populations, it creates a large burden to monitor them enough to properly weed out those who should be strip searched.  Given the large number of injuries committed with contraband, it doesn’t make sense to create such burdens.  Over ten thousand COs are injured annually from inmates, and many more inmates are hurt by each other.

There are also some benefits to the actual inmates being searched.  In doing so, illness and infectious diseases can often be noticed.  Thus treatment can begin and the rest of the population can safely avoid it. Furthermore, gang symbols are easily detected, which allows officials to place them accordingly.

Last Updated (Monday, 11 March 2013 18:08)


The Serb Wage Increase Breakdown pt.2

by: Jeff Perry

The economic news we are hearing every day has been much better than what we were hearing during 2009, but not nearly so good as 2011. The economy is still growing in the USA, but not quite as fast as predicted.  Unfortunately, the predictions were already anything but quick.

There are many who fear the economy is heading into another recession due to the economy slowing down worldwide and the dept crisis in Europe. Hopefully, that is not going to be the case.  If that prediction comes true, we will all be in for a rough time.

The various branches of the government are generally improving economically.  While there are few jurisdictions that are hiring yet, the number of layoffs has decreased markedly, and revenue has returned to the general vicinity of pre-recession numbers.

The State Employment Relations Board (SERB) has released the wage settlement report for 2011.  The economic mess really hit around the last quarter of 2009.  The negative impact from recession hit the public sector twelve to eighteen months after.  The impact to wage increases is plain to see.  This is by far the worst average wage increases ever recorded by the SERB.

The State wide average increase is wages for 2012 was 0.57%.  In 2006 it was 3.01%.  The average wage increase has decreased every year since then.  The range over the ten years of the survey was 0.57% in 2011 up to 3.59% in 2002.  This is a trend that must end!

The Cincinnati region had the largest decrease in wage rate increase from the following year of 0.71%, down to 0.49%.  The lowest regional increase award goes to Cincinnati as well.  Bad year for the south west section of Ohio!

Only one of the regions saw their rate of wage increase go up from the last wage survey, Southeast Ohio.  Their wage rate went up 1.38% from 1.23% last year.  That was the highest increase in wage rates as well.  The Columbus Area has the distinction of having the second largest increase in wage rates from 2011 to 2012.  Their average increase went up 1.12%.  These were the only two regions that had wage increases averaging over one percent!

Townships were the jurisdiction that had the highest increase in rate of wage increase over 2011.  They had the highest percent for the third year in a row.  They were the only jurisdiction to get over a one percent wage increase as well.  However, they had the largest decrease in wage increase from 2011 to 2012 as well, going from 1.99% to 1.25%.  School Districts came in last with a meager 0.35% increase.

Police did have a smaller decrease in the percent of wage increases compared to the other unit types.  However, the Fire did much better than police once again, with 0.27 percent more.  Fire did much better than any other unit type for the last four years, and seven out of the last ten years.  The teachers found themselves on the bottom of the pack again.  They increased their percent wage increase by an average of 0.36%.  That meager wage increase resulted from the largest decrease from last year, of 0.62%.

The first year of most contracts usually had the smallest wage increase of the contract last year.  The last year of the contracts had the largest.  This is referred to as back loading a contract.  Unions usually prefer to get the most we can as soon as we can, since it maximizes the amount of money earned over the life of a contract.  

News of the State budget looks pretty good so far.  However, that doesn’t mean the Governor has any plans to return any money to the local government funds.  He still wants to squeeze the Cities so he can spend the tax money as he sees fit.  Hopefully, things will change in Columbus come November.


So what happens if is Issue 2 is defeated

By: Joseph D. Rice

By the time you read this, the 2011 elections will be history but the dust still may be settling.

At this writing - 13 days before the election - it appears certain that Issue 2 will be defeated. The most recent poll gave opponents a lead of 25% and that would seem to be insurmountable.

The only group of voters supporting Issue 2, which would retain Senate Bill 5, are Republicans and 30% of them oppose it. But most Democrats and Independents, men and women, oppose it.

Build a Better Ohio, the pro-business group fronting for Issue 2, was closing the gap until they stole the video of a Cincinnati grandmother whose granddaughter was rescued from a burning home by a Cincinnati firefighters. In the anti-Issue 2 ad sponsored by We Are Ohio, grandmother came out against Issue 2. Build a Better Ohio twisted the footage so that appeared she was for Issue 2. I’ve seen a lot of dumb political moves but this one may have been the dumbest.

So what happens if is Issue 2 is defeated?

The Republicans who control the General Assembly may revisit some portions of the SB 5 language. But if the Issue 2 vote is lopsided against it, I don’t think the GOP leadership will have the stomach for another fight with labor, especially with the 2012 legislative elections on the horizon.

State Senator Shannon Jones, whom sponsored Issue 2, will have been discredited and probably eliminated as a contender to succeed Senate president Tom Niehaus in 2013. She wanted to become president and to use SB 5 as a vehicle to accomplish it.

State Senator Keith Faber, her prime opponent, also is a fan of Issue 2. He also could be eliminated by a big Issue 2 loss.

Senate Bill 5 demonstrated how far out of touch the Senate GOP leadership is with the people of Ohio. That’s what happens when people from southwest Ohio call the shots. The same can be said for Kevin DeWine, the state GOP chairman, who is from Dayton.

Governor John Kasich, who embraced SB 5, was to a great extent the issue in the Issue 2 campaign. With a 36% approval and 52% disapproval rating, an Issue 2 defeat will make Kasich toast and his dreams of the White House just dreams.

House Speaker William Batchelder wanted to exclude the safety forces from SB 5. Kasich, Niehaus and Jones refused. Now, Kasich is said to regret that decision and it appears doubtful that any future legislation will be targeting the safety forces.

I anticipate any future legislation may address pension pickups, where a city pays part of the employee’s pension contribution. This usually is a trade off for a lower wage settlement.

Of the 376 police departments and sheriff’s offices we looked at, 53 have some form of pension pickup but only 22 have full pension pickups. The OPBA has six bargaining units with partial pension pickup and 11 with full pension pickup.

We don’t know yet what the changes might be. They probably will be addressed in a pension bill as opposed to collective bargaining legislation.

The key thing for the safety unions will be retaining binding arbitration and the right to negotiate staffing levels and transfers, promotions, hiring and firing, and other conditions of employment.

Other issues a pension bill might address are the retirement age (48 for police and deputy sheriffs), the DROP program and how it is structured to encourage participation, and how a pension is calculated, based on the number of years at top salary.

The legislature had been scheduled to deal with a pension bill last year. They ducked because it was election year. They want to do the same thing next year and wait until 2013.

What has come out of the campaign against SB 5 is a bonding between the safety forces, teachers, and other public sector employees. The Republicans may have lost forever the votes of these groups because of SB 5. They overreached and the public rebelled.

The funding issues confronting local governments will remain because Kasich cut local government funding, leaving local governments three options to save money: gut civil service rules, junk existing contracts, or layoffs. SB 5 never was as much about saving money as it was about destroying unions.

Last Updated (Sunday, 08 January 2012 22:44)


Day of Reckoning

By: Joseph D. Rice

The stage is set for the biggest battle for organized labor in Ohio since right to work was on the ballot in 1958.

The right to work issue resulted in a Democratic sweep in that year’s state elections. If Senate Bill 5 is repealed November 8, it will have serious implications for Governor John Kasich, the other Republican state office holders and the Republican majorities in the Ohio House and Senate.

We Are Ohio, the coalition of labor unions spearheading the repeal effort, collected 1,298,301 signatures on referendum petitions. Secretary of State John Husted certified 915,456 valid signatures, almost four times the number needed to qualify for the ballot. The signature count was a record.

The next step is for the Ohio Ballot Board, made up of Husted and four other persons, to give the issue a number and to approve the ballot language. It is expected that the repeal vote will require a “no” vote.

Despite public bravado from SB 5 supporters, the number of signatures submitted and verified stunned some top Republicans. The 915,456 valid signers represent a formidable block of voters and one would expect them to vote to repeal SB 5.

A July Quinnipac poll had SB 5 being repealed by a margin of 56-32%. After the undecided is factored in, that amounts to a 63% vote to repeal SB 5.

While he didn’t sponsor it but strongly encouraged its passage, this election will, to a large extent, be a referendum on Kasich. His approval rating is at 35%, unemployment just increased, and many Ohioans do not like his policies or his style of government. Kasich believed he had a mandate when he defeated Ted Strickland in 2010. How wrong he was. Voters were unhappy with Strickland and wanted a change. They did not bargain for what they got in Kasich.

The OPBA and other safety force unions have been in the forefront of the SB 5 repeal. Our members collected signatures, mobilized for rallies at the State House, and now are preparing for the general election campaign.

While election strategy will be developed by a number of consultants, the election will be won or lost by OPBA members and the other unionists whose livelihood is threatened by SB 5.

Our members are the best selling point to repeal SB 5. They do their jobs every day, often under difficult and dangerous conditions. If we just keep doing our job of serving and protecting the public, we will win and our enemies will know that in November 2012 there will be a day of reckoning for the politicians who want to destroy public sector unions.

Last Updated (Monday, 26 September 2011 19:05)

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