Baltimore police union rejects city-proposed contract trading salary increases for change to shift schedule

The Baltimore police union voted overwhelmingly Thursday to reject a city-proposed contract that would put patrol officers on a shift schedule preferred by commanders in exchange for future salary increases.

Two different units of the union voted to reject the contract by wide margins, 98 percent and 96 percent, respectively. Union officials had urged officers to vote down the offer.

After the vote, Fraternal Order of Police president Lt. Gene Ryan said union leaders “want to go back to the table and for the city to negotiate in good faith.”

Anthony McCarthy, spokesman for Mayor Catherine Pugh, said Thursday night that the mayor would discuss the outcome of the union vote with the police commissioner and city solicitor before responding.

The proposed contract would not have added civilians to trial boards for officers accused of misconduct, a provision that union officials have long rejected but that Pugh and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis have said was a top priority for the city in the contract negotiations.

The union’s bargaining team unanimously voted to reject the city’s offer, according to the materials provided to members.

T.J. Smith, a police department spokesman, declined to comment.

The proposed contract would have created a 28-day patrol schedule of three shifts of eight hours and 35 minutes each, under which officers would work five days, have off two, work four days and then have another two off, according to the materials provided to members. The contract would have been retroactive to July 1 of last year and last through June 30, 2019.

The contract would have eliminated a requirement that the department provide officers with 14 days’ notice of any change to their regular days off.

In exchange, officers would have received a one-time $500 bonus in lieu of a salary increase for last year, a 3 percent salary increase retroactive to this past July 1, and another 2 percent salary increase effective July 1, 2018, according to the materials provided to members.

The proposed contract would also have required the department to fill all funded positions up to the rank of lieutenant within 60 days of becoming vacant.

Members now work four 10-hour shifts a week, a schedule that — along with restrictions on when and how the department can change officers’ days off — has strained the patrol division.

Police and union officials both acknowledge that the department does not have enough patrol officers to fill shifts under the current shift structure and that that has hurt the department’s ability to control and prevent crime.

The current shift structure has been in place since January 2015, after the city and union’s last round of contract negotiations. The city created the structure, cut 200 positions and gave 13 percent salary increases to officers in that deal, with the expectation that it would help the department rein in overtime costs. The opposite occurred.

Overtime expenses — tens of millions of dollars annually — have ballooned in recent years, despite the department’s annual budget of about a half-billion dollars.

The department is short on patrol officers, despite efforts to recruit and train more cops through the academy. Patrol shifts routinely go out understaffed, despite police officers routinely being drafted to work overtime.

Davis has said shift changes like those in the proposed contract would provide the department with more flexibility in staffing and alleviate the current strain on patrol. The union has argued that the department simply needs more officers.

According to the materials provided to members, the union’s bargaining team had put forward its own proposed contract terms last month, but the city rejected them.

Those terms included $1.50-per-hour and $2-per-hour increases on overnight and evening shifts, respectively; a $500 one-time bonus for last year; a 4 percent salary raise next year; a 3 percent salary raise in 2019; and 2.5 percent salary increases after 10 years of service, 14 years of service, 18 years of service and 22 years of service, respectively.

The union proposal also called for new protections for officers against being drafted into overtime, unless they waive those rights; on-call pay; and payment of overtime pay within two pay periods, among other provisions.

The addition of civilians to trial boards, which Pugh and Davis previously supported but is not in the proposed contract as laid out in materials provided to the union’s members, has been supported by police reform advocates as a critical change in order to hold police accountable.

Police advocates have rejected the idea, saying civilians don’t know what police face on the street and therefore can’t make informed decisions about alleged policy violations and discipline.

Panels that oversee various other professions in the state do include civilians.

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this report.

krector@baltsun.com

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