Jon Holtzman

On Jan. 29, 2021, RPLG founding partner Jon Holtzman joined 14 attorneys, judges, professors and policy experts via the Berkeley Center for Law and Work for a five-hour webinar exploring labor relations law as an avenue for police reform.

The webinar included three panels featuring subject matter experts along with remarks from Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and California State Senator Nancy Skinner. The Honorable Thelton E. Henderson, U.S. District Judge from 1980-2017, gave a keynote address. Speakers brought varied viewpoints to the table, creating opportunities for healthy debate and tough questions.

Jon’s panel, titled “Transparency in the Negotiation and Administration of Police Labor Agreements,” addressed recommendations by a group (affectionately, but jokingly referred to as the “Ancients” before Prof. Catherine Fisk joined) to increase “transparency” in police labor negotiations and discipline. In addition to Prof. Fisk, the group included the Hon. Joseph Grodin, Hon. Thelton Henderson, Hon. John True, former Director of the California Department of Personnel Administration and former counsel for public safety employee unions, Ron Yank, and Arbitrator Barry Winograd. For the session, Will Atchison (Counsel for Law Enforcement Officers’ Unions, Portland, Oregon) and Anand Subramanian (PolicyLink) joined Jon in the discussion moderated by Ron Yank.

“It was an honor to discuss this critical issue with this esteemed group of experts in the labor negotiations field,” Jon said. “Many of the issues involved in police reform do not need to be “collectively bargained,” but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be communicating with police unions to ensure that reforms are practical. It is valuable for the public to see that this dialogue is occurring, as the Ancients suggest; but that does not mean I think union agreement is necessary to make many of the changes that are needed, if agreement isn’t possible.”

The other panels included “What is Different About Police Labor Relations and Does It Contribute to Police Violence Against People of Color?” with Georgetown Law professor and Co-Director of the Program on Innovative Policing Christy E. Lopez and former Director of the Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Ronald L. Davis; and “Accountability” with Paul Henderson, Director of San Francisco Department of Police Accountability, Harry S. Stern, Principal at Rains, Lucia, Stern, St. Phalle & Silver and arbitrator Jeanne Charles with Berkeley Law lecturer and former president of the National Academy of Arbitrators, Barry Winograd, as moderator.

The recorded webinar is available for viewing in full on the Center for Law and Work’s event page.

RPLG has taken on a variety of roles in police reform efforts. The firm has been retained to help craft and defend police reform ballot measures, including the City of Berkeley’s Measure II, which passed with over 80 percent of the vote in the Nov. 2020 election. Additionally, RPLG has been asked to revise use-of-force policies, facilitate blue-ribbon committees, develop oversight models, revise policies and negotiate and defend changes in policies. Partner Jon Holtzman recently served as Special Counsel to the Fresno Commission on Police Reform, which produced 73 discrete recommendations that were adopted nearly unanimously by the 40-member commission. RPLG attorneys Julian Gross and Jamal Anderson are advisors to the Berkeley Reimagining Public Safety Task Force. Learn more about RPLG’s Public Safety Reform and Innovations practice group.

RPLG practices throughout California, advising and advocating for public agencies, nonprofit entities, individuals and private entities in need of effective, responsive and creative legal solutions.