Basic Overview of the Fraternal Order of Police
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is a labor union consisting of sworn law enforcement officers in the United States. It reports a membership of over 325,000 members organized in 2100 local chapters (lodges), organized into local lodges, state lodges, and the national Grand Lodge. The union attempts to improve the working conditions of law enforcement officers and the safety of those they serve through education, legislation, information, community involvement, and employee representation.
The FOP is a trade union and a Fraternal Organization, having both Labor Lodges & Fraternal Lodges and describes itself as a “full service member representation organization.” It lobbies Congress and regulatory agencies on behalf of law enforcement officers, provides labor representation, promotes legal defense for officers, and offers resources such as legal research. It also sponsors charities such as Easter Seals, Special Olympics, memorials for fallen officers, and support programs for spouses and family members of police officers.
In 1915, the life of a policeman was bleak. In many communities they were forced to work 12 hour days, 365 days a year. Police officers didn’t like it, but there was little they could do to change their working conditions. There were no organizations to make their voices heard; no other means to make their grievances known.
This soon changed, thanks to the courage and wisdom of two Pittsburgh patrol officers. Martin Toole and Delbert Nagle knew they must first organize police officers, like other labor interests, if they were to be successful in making life better for themselves and their fellow police officers. They and 21 others “who were willing to take a chance” met on May 14, 1915, and held the first meeting of the Fraternal Order of Police. They formed Fort Pitt Lodge #1. They decided on this name due to the anti-union sentiment of the time. However, there was no mistaking their intentions. As they told their city mayor, Joe Armstrong, the FOP would be the means “to bring our aggrievances before the Mayor or Council and have many things adjusted that we are unable to present in any other way…we could get many things through our legislature that our Council will not, or cannot give us.”
And so it began, a tradition of police officers representing police officers. The Fraternal Order of Police was given life by two dedicated police officers determined to better their profession and those who choose to protect and serve our communities, our states, and our country. It was not long afterward that Mayor Armstrong was congratulating the Fraternal Order of Police for their “strong influence in the legislatures in various states,…their considerate and charitable efforts” on behalf of the officers in need and for the FOP’s “efforts at increasing the public confidence toward the police to the benefit of the peace, as well as the public.”
From that small beginning the Fraternal Order of Police began growing steadily. In 1917, the idea of a National Organization of Police Officers came about. Today, the tradition that was first envisioned over 90 years ago lives on with more than 2,100 local lodges and more than 325,000 members in the United States. The Fraternal Order of Police has become the largest professional police organization in the country. The FOP continues to grow because we have been true to the tradition and continued to build on it. The Fraternal Order of Police are proud professionals working on behalf of law enforcement officers from all ranks and levels of government.
Emblem and motto
The Fraternal Order of Police emblem is a five-pointed star. According to the FOP:
The five-cornered star tends to remind us of the allegiance we owe to our Flag and is a symbol of the authority with which we are entrusted. It is an honor the people we serve bestow upon us. They place their confidence and trust in us; serve them proudly.
Midway between the points and center of the star is a blue field representative of the thin blue line protecting those we serve. The points are of gold, which indicates the position under which we are now serving. The background is white, the unstained color representing the purity with which we should serve. We shall not let anything corrupt be injected into our order. Therefore, our colors are blue, gold and white.
The open eye is the eye of vigilance ever looking for danger and protecting all those under its care while they sleep or while awake. The clasped hands denote friendship. The hand of friendship is always extended to those in need of our comfort. The circle surrounding the star midway indicates our never ending efforts to promote the welfare and advancement of this order. Within the half circle over the centerpiece is our motto, “Jus, Fidus, Libertatum” which translated means “Law is a Safeguard of Freedom.”
When adopted, the motto was believed to be Latin and assumed to mean “Fairness, Justice, Equality” or “Justice, Friendship, Equality”. Actually, the motto is a grammatically impossible and hardly translatable sequence of Latin words; the current interpretation is the best that could be made of it.
In the center of the star is the coat of arms of the city of Pittsburgh.
Organization and Membership
The FOP constitution and bylaws provide that active membership is open to “any regularly appointed or elected and full-time employed law enforcement officer of the United States, any state or political subdivision thereof, or any agency may be eligible for membership” and that “each state and subordinate lodge shall be the judge of its membership.” Local lodges often have provisions for retired law enforcement officers. The subordinate lodges are supported by state lodges which are subordinate to the Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodge is the national structure of the order.
In 1978, the Order had 138,472 members, 1,250 lodges and 34 state structures.
In the late 1970s, the Order’s headquarters were located in Indianapolis, Indiana. The national organization has three offices: the Labor Services Division in Columbus, Ohio, the Steve Young Law Enforcement Legislative Advocacy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Grand Lodge “Atnip-Orms Center” National Headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.
Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary
The Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary (FOPA) is the auxiliary organization of FOP for family members of FOP members. It was formed by a group of wives of Pittsburgh police officers in 1920, and Kathryn M. Milton became its first national president, in 1941 as the Fraternal Order of Police Ladies Auxiliary. It reports over 2,000 members in 140 Auxiliaries in 25 states. In 1985, non-female members older than 18 were admitted for the first time; in 1987, the current name was adopted, dropping the term “Ladies.”
Fraternal Order of Police Associates
The Fraternal Order of Police Associates (FOPA) is a civilian affiliate organization that is made up of FOP supporters not eligible for membership. Its members include friends and family of members, business people, professionals, and other citizens. It is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
Passed legislation supported by FOP includes the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act, and HELPS Retirees Act. Pending legislation that FOP lobbies for include the Social Security Fairness Act, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007, and the State and Local Law Enforcement Officers’ Discipline, Accountability and Due Process Act.
The FOP distributes questionnaires for candidates for president and Congress asking them about their views on issues relating to police officers.
FOP has the following issue positions:
» Supports the Social Security Fairness Act, which would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) in current law.
» Supports the recommendations of the President’s Commission To Strengthen Social Security to privatize Social Security, and opposes “mandating participation in the Social Security system for either current or newly hired State and local government employees that do not currently participate in Social Security.
» Supports “minimal collective bargaining rights for public safety employees,” including law enforcement officers and firefighters, and supports the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007.
» Supports due process rights of law enforcement officers in non-criminal administrative proceedings and supports the State and Local Law Enforcement Discipline, Accountability and Due Process Act.
» Supports the Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act, which would expand the definition of “law enforcement officer” under the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System to include all Federal police officers, as well as Customs and Immigration Inspectors.
» Supports the REAL ID Act.