HISTORY OF LODGE 19
Back in 1985, life as a police officer in Commerce City was bleak. Like many other communities across the country, the department required officers to work 12-hour shifts, but they were never at full strength. A typical shift should have consisted of four officers and a sergeant, but they were often lucky to have two or three officers. The department had a shortage of staff, and the administration did not try to get a replacement for that shift. Officers had to work grueling shifts with little time for rest or respite. The Commerce City Police Department was one of the most underdeveloped departments in the Metro area. Officers had to provide their own sidearms, and the Chevy Malibu's they drove were at least five years old until the city got them the new Chevy Citations. If an officer wanted a ballistic vest, they had to pay for it out of their own pocket. On top of all that, the Commerce City Police Department was one of the three departments in the area with the lowest pay for officers.
It was hard for police officers to improve their working conditions, as there were no organizations or unions to represent them and fight for their rights. This left them with little bargaining power and no voice to be heard. Despite this, sixteen officers tried to join the Municipal Government Union, but their first attempt failed when the State Union Representative presented the case to the City Council. Despite their difficult working conditions, police officers had few options for improving their situations. There were no organizations or unions to advocate for their rights or make their voices heard. They were at the mercy of their employers, with little chance for negotiation or change. That is when sixteen police officers made their first attempt to join the Municipal Government Union. This attempt failed terribly after the State Union Representative tried to present the case to the City Council.
At that time, Police Chief Niel Wikstrom and the entire City Management were against police officers "unionizing." The officers had no representation or contract, and legal representation was non-existent. One of their goals was to eventually obtain Collective Bargaining and Legal Defense. However, the City Administration was completely opposed to the idea of a union. In order to get the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) into the City Charter, the officers had to get enough signatures to get the issue on the next election ballot. Despite facing opposition, a handful of officers and civilian employees spent many days off work, knocking on doors and getting enough Commerce City citizens, who were registered voters, to sign their petition. Some of the officers who played a significant role were Joe Marino, Chuck Baker, Chris Solano, and Joe Dougherty. Under the guidance of Scott Goff of the State Lodge, the first attempt to gather enough signatures failed. However, they did not give up and tried again. On the second attempt, they succeeded and won the election.
On March 15, 1987, the Commerce City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 19 was officially established. One of their primary goals was to obtain Collective Bargaining, which was only granted to two other police departments at the time. The City Administration strongly opposed their efforts, but the Lodge managed to gather enough signatures from the Commerce City voters to get the issue on the ballot. It was a successful attempt, and they won the vote on the first try. The City Administration was unhappy about the outcome and made things as difficult as possible for them. All of this could have been avoided if the city council had simply agreed to add it to the City Charter.
Commerce City FOP Lodge 19, along with Thornton FOP Lodge 16, initiated the establishment of Colorado Metroplex during the interim. The two lodges collaborated to raise funds for various events, including a concert featuring Garth Brooks. The tickets for this concert were free and even included backstage passes.
When collective bargaining began, Joe Marino and Troy Tyus were the first negotiators for the Lodge. They negotiated with Chief Wikstrom and the City Prosecutor. After several days of negotiation, an agreement was finally reached. However, as soon as City Manager Tim Gagin learned of the terms, he walked into the negotiation room and tore up the prospective agreement. Following this display of immaturity, both the city and FOP Lodge 19 hired attorneys. The city's primary objective during the negotiations was to do away with retiree health insurance, a benefit that was previously granted to all employees upon hiring. The city added Pat Greer of Human Resources to their legal team, while FOP Lodge 19 assembled a team of its members including Joe Marino, Chris Solano, and Diana German. This entire process took years and required a great deal of determination and dedication.
In the meantime, FOP Lodge 19's membership grew to include most police officers from Lieutenant to PO1. The Legal Defense Fund was a significant factor for many officers in joining the Lodge. Additionally, a Women's Auxiliary was established, which included many of the officers' spouses. These ladies were extremely valuable in organizing events.
During their time as a group, they had the opportunity to organize various events and activities that brought the community and the membership together and created memorable experiences. One such event was the annual Christmas party held for the children of Commerce City at the Commerce City Recreation Center. Thanks to the generous donation of hot dogs by Shamrock Foods, the children were able to enjoy and have a great time. The highlight of the event was the arrival of Santa Claus, Joe Dougherty, who made an impressive entrance via Flight for Life onto the city field.
In addition to the Christmas party, other activities were organized such as FOP picnics, raft trips, and our own FOP softball and football teams. In 1992, FOP Lodge 19 had the honor of participating in the World Police and Fire Games held in Colorado Springs, where the Lodge represented our community with pride.
As the police department grew, so did the FOP membership, which led to better working conditions and more complicated contract negotiations. However, it was the hard work and dedication of the initial 16 charter members that laid the foundation for the success of the FOP. Joe Marino had the privilege of serving as the first Lodge 19 President for five years, and during that time, he also held other positions such as Vice President and Sergeant of Arms until his medical retirement in 2004. Chuck Baker took over as President in year six, while Joe Marino was still serving as Vice President, and other Presidents who followed include Troy Tyus, who served for three years.Troy Tyus deserves special recognition for his instrumental role in collective bargaining, whichgreatly impacted the success of the FOP.
The Fraternal Order of Police has established itself as the biggest professional police organization in the United States. The FOP's growth is attributed to its dedication in upholding the organization's tradition and finding ways to improve upon it. The Fraternal Order of Police takes pride in being a group of skilled professionals who work tirelessly to support law enforcement officers regardless of rank or government level.
FOP Lodge 19 expresses its sincere gratitude to Past President Joe Marino for his invaluable guidance and expertise. Without his assistance, our Lodge would not have achieved the success it enjoys today. We are forever thankful to Brother Joe Marino, whose boundless dedication knows no limits.