By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The safest spot in Philadelphia right now is the Hyatt Hotel at Penn’s Landing. That’s where more than 500 police officers are meeting for the state conference of the Fraternal Order of Police.

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The Pennsylvania FOP represents 40,000 police officers, and the meeting comes at a critical time for the union.

“This representative group here are the delegates from each of 114 local lodges across the state,” says president Les Neri.

Neri says the FOP has never felt so threatened — and not by criminals on the streets.  He says that politicians have the union in the crosshairs, seeking to reduce collective bargaining rights the FOP won with a change in the state constitution in 1968.

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“We are upset at the fact that it seems many have tried to use us as political pawns,” Neri says, “to make public servants public enemies.”

Two bills now circulating in Harrisburg would limit arbitration awards to police and firefighters. Neri says delegates at this meeting will be discussing how to respond.

“This is the most important thing to every law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania,” he says.

Delegates will also endorse candidates for statewide office. The conference continues through Thursday.

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