The police union and county negotiators failed to agree on a new contract last week, escalating fears that officers will work without a contract next month.
"We were told the county gave us their final, final, final offer," said Dale Hill, president of the Howard County Police Officers Association. "It's still not acceptable."
"I'm very disappointed," County Executive Charles I. Ecker said. "I thought the contract was very good."
Although other incentives were offered, both sides refused to budge on the date merit pay raises would be given.
The union and the county have until Friday to come up with an agreement for the County Council to approve before June 30, when the current contract expires. The two sides have been bargaining since last November.
Hill said officers want pay raises July 1 -- as recommended by an independent mediator -- because many of them have not received salary increases in two years. Ecker proposes a merit pay raise of at least $400, paid according to each officer's years ++ in service and anniversary date.
"We put more on the table," Ecker said. "At some point, you have to say, 'This is it.' And this is it."
Hill said officers are considering a peaceful protest in front of the county government building next week to show their concern. He said he didn't know how working without a contract would affect the police force.
"Each officer has his own morale problem with what's happening," he said. "I don't want to say anything about what's ** going to happen. But the officers are humans, too, and they're just going to take so much until they react to how they're treated.
"We either get the decision of the fact-finder, or we work without a contract," he said. "The fate of labor relations between the Police Department and county government is in the county's hand."