Union's request for Arlington cops' personal info. draws controv - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Union's request for Arlington cops' personal info. draws controversy

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Two unions are fighting for the right to represent Arlington police officers, but one of those unions is asking for personal information that officers say would put them and their families in danger.

The city ordered the two unions to put it to a vote. The unions couldn't agree on the rules of an election, so an arbitrator will handle it.

However, to get ballots to officers to vote, their phone numbers and addresses are needed.

"We're not trying to get people's private information so it could ever be turned public,” said Officer Frank Smith with the Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association.

Smith admits his request to the city to release the addresses and phone numbers of police officers is far from common practice, but he says he's doing it for their benefit.

"We're just asking them to comply with the state law and allow the triple A, the American Arbitration Association, to conduct this election,” said Smith.

With the addresses, the Arbitration Association would be able to mail a ballot to the more than 600 sworn officers so they can vote on which union they want to represent them.

Smith says the AMPA would never see the addresses or have access to them; only the arbitrator would.

"The majority of officers that work in the city and are covered by the meet and confer law preferred us, the Arlington Municipal Patrolman's Association, to become the meet and confer representative,” said Smith.

The two unions include the Arlington Police Association, which is an affiliate of Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, or CLEAT, and the Arlington Municipal Patrolman's Association.

The APA has had bargaining privileges with the city since 2006.

The AMPA says officers want a change, and filed the lawsuit last month to get the addresses and phone numbers.

This week, the city declined to release them.

CLEAT, the state's largest law enforcement association, says releasing the information is flat out dangerous.

"State law makes it pretty clear that for the past 35 years, Texans have not been allowed to have that information,” said John Moritz with CLEAT. “There are security reasons, there are practical reasons. And a lot of it is because officers face a very real threat every day they're on the job, and sometimes those threats can follow them home."

CLEAT helped get a law passed in 1979 that makes telephone numbers and addresses of police officers exempt from disclosure. It says the city is just following that law.

"It is our position that no one, no third party, is entitled to this information under any circumstances,” said Moritz. “The law is clear. It’s been on the books since 1979. CLEAT fought to get this law on the books, and we are not going to allow it to come undone.”

The AMPA says the law protecting the information applies to open records requests, which this is not.

The APA says the arbitrator is a third party, and it would open the door for others to get the information, too.

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