On April 9, 2018, the WLEA board took an important step forward for our membership. If you are a member in good standing with the WLEA, you are now a member of the newly created entity called the WI State Patrol Lodge 17.
What does this mean for you? First, I would encourage you to take a look at fop.net and wifop.org. You will see that there are a number of benefits for simple membership with the FOP. The crown jewel, and the main reason for me, of having an affiliation with the FOP is the Legal Defense Fund.
Looking at the news on any given day you will probably see a story of an officer who is in legal trouble for something they did while on the job. Most of you probably read the news reports and think: I wouldn’t have done that. You then go about your business and do what the state pays you to do. I’m guessing none of those officers in the news expected to be the main story of the New York Times either. For an example, close to home and a situation we do as a normal course of duty, take a look at the story of Minnesota Trooper Scott Reps. Trooper Reps was involved in a fatal crash in 2014 while responding to a motorcycle crash. Trooper Reps had nearly 30 years on the job and was charged with two counts of manslaughter. It was a tragic incident that in some form or another could happen to any of us. Was Trooper Reps right or wrong in his actions? I don’t know enough to make that judgement. What I do know is that if you are charged with a crime, the State of Wisconsin is going to view your actions as being outside of policy and I would not expect them to be coming to your defense. The FOP will.
If you are a member of the WLEA you will soon be covered by the FOP legal defense fund. We are not currently paying into the FOP legal defense fund. We will be having a vote of the membership in the near future to decide on our union’s direction. There will be more information coming out on that very soon. To give you a brief idea of what those choices will be, I can tell you this: Tracy made a point of mentioning at every in-service meeting last year that your union dues will be increasing. How much they go up and what you want to get out of the union will be up to you.
The cheapest option is to stay as the WLEA and simply have an affiliation with FOP to obtain the general member benefits and to have the Legal Defense Fund as well. The more expensive option would be to go fully on-board with the FOP and to have their labor services. We would sign a three year contract to have them as our labor representative for bargaining and it would also open up their purse to us to be able to pay for legal representation beyond what our dues could cover alone.
I mentioned before, there will be more information coming out with concrete numbers for the costs.