KC police union won't seek fees from non-members

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Officers who don't belong to the Kansas City police union won't be forced to help pay collective bargaining legal fees after the leadership decided the issue had become too divisive.

The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/10FFK5t) reports that beginning last Monday, non-members were supposed to start contributing their "fair share." Leaders of the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police said that non-members who refused to pay eventually would be terminated.

But Union leaders didn't seek discipline when the deadline passed with some non-members not paying. Instead, they decided to set aside collection efforts "for the foreseeable future."

"We chose not to get into a battle with the people we work next to," said Sgt. Brad Lemon, a union leader. "This was not our intent to create a war between our brothers and sisters."

He said the issue had become a distraction from bigger issues that officers face, such as the city's efforts to take control of the police department. Currently, the department is overseen by a five-member board consisting of the mayor and four local residents appointed by the governor.

"We need to have as united a voice as we can," Lemon said.

Another obstacle was that officers can be disciplined only for violating a department policy and there was none governing fee collection. Police officials said they were working to create one.

Union leaders say they have more than 900 members, leaving about 300 non-members. An email sent in February told non-members they each owed $73 for 2012 legal fees incurred to get raises and pension reform for all officers.

The FOP recently won the power to collect some legal fees from non-members as part of a settlement of a lawsuit it filed against the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and the city. The "fair share" provision remains in the FOP's contract, which means FOP officials could restart their efforts.

Last month, the National Right to Work Foundation filed a lawsuit alleging the FOP did not follow required procedures when setting the fee. Edward Greim, a local attorney on the case, said the case is going forward.

"Promises and comments aren't enough to remedy the violation of law," he said.

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