Langley police officers plan to unionize

Langley’s three police officers are about to form a union.

“We want to start putting protection in place for ourselves,” said Officer David Marks, the point man for the effort.

Marks said Monday that the three officers intend to form a local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, a national organization with 2,100 guilds and a membership of more than 325,000.

Marks said that initially the union would include himself and officers Randy Heston and Charles Liggett. He said the department’s 10 or so reserve officers may be included at a later date.

“Eventually we would want the reserves to be a part of it,” he said.

Marks said the move “has nothing to do with money,” nor the prospect of future department budget cuts as the city continues to wrestle with budget deficits.

He said the main reason for forming a union is to provide safeguards for the officers when Langley Police Chief Bob Herzberg retires.

Herzberg has completed his 30 years of service, “and could retire any day,” Marks said.

“No matter how you cut it, when Chief Herzberg walks out the door, he’ll take 30 years of experience with him,” Marks said. “That’s a huge brain drain for the city.”

“He’s someone we all trust,” he added. “We know that we can rely on him.”

Marks said the three officers began the process of forming a union about four months ago, and hope to have a chapter in place in a couple of months.

He said the next step is a meeting between themselves, city officials and the Public Employee Relations Commission, a state agency that arbitrates between public employers and their employees.

One scheduled meeting between the three parties was postponed by the city, Marks said.

“The ball is in their court,” he said.

Marks said the Fraternal Order of Police was chosen because of its clout.

“It’s one of the biggest guilds in the country,” he said. “We want to take advantage of their legal defense team. They have an army of attorneys available 24 hours a day.”

Marks said several regional law enforcement agencies are affiliated with the FOP, including members of the Coupeville Marshal’s Office, the Island County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol.

Marks, 38, has been with the Langley Police Department for about 4½ years, after working for the state Department of Corrections. Before that, he was a barber in Bellevue.

Liggett also has been with the department about four years, and Heston about one year, Marks said. Marks works the night shift, and the other two work days, he said.

Marks said some minor issues regarding work rules probably would be taken up by the FOP once affiliation is achieved, but that the most pressing issue is what happens after Herzberg retires.

“This is more an endorsement of him than a criticism of anyone else,” he said. “We just want to be protected no matter who they put in that position.”

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