Last week, New Paltz’s town board members unanimously passed a resolution regarding the professional fate of officer Robert Sisco. Sisco created a storm of controversy when he posted a video to Instagram in which he raps, while apparently on duty, about a number of polarizing political issues.
According to Neil Bettez, the town supervisor, the resolution was a carefully worded legal step in a process to try to terminate the officer. Discipline of police officers is laid out in their union contract, Bettez said, and firing an officer without going through the process laid out in the document would probably put the town on the losing end of a lawsuit. The matter will be decided through binding arbitration, involving a hearing before an arbitrer. Sisco was originally placed on paid administrative leave, but Bettez said he was no longer being paid.
This kind of arbitration clause is common in police contracts, including this one, which Bettez signed soon after coming into office. “The negotiations were done,” he recalled. He’s had opportunity to negotiate since. That contract expired two years ago, he said, and the talks came to a standstill, making it also a matter for binding arbitration.
In this case, the binding arbitration is required because officers give up their right to strike for the next two years, which means that decision will only apply through 2020. Talks have begun on the next contract, and Bettez said that “everything is on the table” due to the political climate, One subject up for discussion could be binding arbitration being required for discipline. “Police contracts used to be the third rail of politics,” Bettez explained. With a thorough review of the concept of policing being challenged far and wide, the atmosphere has changed considerably.