Columbus Police And Fire Unions Contest New GPS Devices

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Columbus Firefighter's union president, Jack Reall, says mid-term bargaining is necessary to resolve a dispute with Public Safety managers over installation of GPS devices in marked cars.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/wosu)
Columbus Firefighter's union president, Jack Reall, says mid-term bargaining is necessary to resolve a dispute with Public Safety managers over installation of GPS devices in marked cars.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/wosu)

City of Columbus police and fire unions contest new GPS tracking techonolgy being put into marked cars. The two unions, which represent about 3,000 employees, have asked city officials to re-open labor contract talks.

“At this time both unions have requested mid-term bargaining.” Says Department of Public Safety spokeswoman, Amanda Ford.

Ford adds only informal discussions are taking place now.

Jack Reall, president of local 67 of the International Association of Firefighters, identifies a list of concerns brought forward by union members. And, he says those concerns should be negotiated as part of a formal contract.

“What are we doing with the information. We need to be concerned about how the information is going to be used for disciplinary purposes.” Says Reall.

Reall says police and fire vehicles are currently equipped with sensors that can detect location. That’s for public safety.

“…And that’s to tell what truck is closest to what incident. So when you call 9-1-1 you get the closest vehicle. And it’s based on real time. It’s not based on where they’re station is located.” Says Reall.

The newer, more sophisticated tracking sensors transmit data to a remote server through a contract vendor with the city.

“There’s privacy issues with it. What’s available through public records requests? What can be used to track down firefighters and investigators and things of that nature? So, we felt that these kinds of issues should have been addressed before the implementation of the program. Unfortunately that didn’t happen so this is our way of accomplishing those discussions.”

Whether contract talks will be re-opened is uncertain. Department of Public Safety spokeswoman, Amanda Ford, declined to talk specifically about privacy or public records issues.

“We feel it’s inappropriate for us to discuss those issues. So obviously we’re having some informal discussions with both of our unions about the issues surrounding GPS.” Says Ford.

Both the police and firefighter’s union contracts with the city expire next year. The firefighters pact expires in October 2014. The police contract ends in December of next year.

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