July 2, 2019 update: Staff from the Center for Local History were recently contacted by a former firefighter who was involved in the demonstrations described in this post. He told us that both police and firefighters are pictured in the photo. In addition, he clarified that both fire and police did get a new contract that included a pay raise.
This photograph, taken on July 13, 1974, shows an Arlington County police officer and firefighter protest outside the courthouse after a County Board meeting.
A month earlier, the County Board had recommended an 8 percent pay raise for county police officers; the police, represented by the Arlington Policeman's Beneficiary Association, requested a 10.8 percent increase to keep up with the rising cost of living in the Washington, DC, area. At the board meeting on July 13th, representatives for the police and firefighters urged the County Board to reconsider, but to no avail. After the meeting, this protest was held. County police, along with all Virginia county employees cannot, by state law, strike.
However, Arlington's finest protested in another way. Throughout the month of July and the beginning of August, police officers dramatically reduced the amount of traffic tickets issued, about 75 percent. Many of those that were written were for "violations of state statutes" instead of "violations of county ordinance," so the fines collected would go to the state treasury. The county was losing about $7700 per week, and Arlington motorists were very happy.
The crisis was resolved in mid-August with a new contract for Arlington police and firefighters. Concessions were made on both sides, but the crisis spawned a movement within county employee groups to push for more open and flexible collective bargaining for county wages across all departments.
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