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Police take contract fight to airwaves, slam Ecker


The Howard County Police Officers Association this week continued its fight for a contract settlement with the county by running radio ads criticizing County Executive Charles I. Ecker.

The union has spent about $2,500 on different campaigns, including radio and newspaper ads, to gain public support in contract negotiations, said union president Dale Hill.

"Unfortunately we don't want to have to deplete our treasury, but this is a serious issue," Hill said. "We had hoped that we could settle this without going public, but we will continue doing what we have to do to get a fair settlement."

The police contract expires June 30. The county and police missed a deadline for reaching an agreement last Friday that xTC would have allowed them to settle on a new contract by July 1.

Three advertisements ran on the radio last week and newspaper ads were published last month with the title "It costs so little to be FAIR." Each of the radio ads, which end today, addressed the stalled talks and criticized Ecker for ignoring an independent mediator's recommendations to give merit raises July 1. Ecker wants the raises to be given on each officer's anniversary date.

"Obey the law, Mr. Ecker. Give Howard County Police what an independent fact-finder says they deserve," said one of the three ads on WCBM-AM radio.

Another ad said, "The fact-finder made his ruling. The police officers accepted it. Mr. Ecker did not. His was the only vote that counted. In this free society of ours, nothing is more important than respect for the law. Which is why Mr. Ecker's actions are so inexcusable. And so embarrassing."

The county executive's office had no direct comment on the radio advertisements because no one there had heard them, said Raquel Sanudo, county chief administrative officer.

"However, it's unfortunate the union has felt that they have to take this tact, but I guess that's what free speech is all about," Sanudo said. "We feel that we have given them every opportunity to come to an agreement that would be advantageous to them, but obviously they don't agree.

"We've worked very diligently to accommodate their requests," she added.

Determined not to back down from the fight, the union also sent 2,000 cards to businesses and residents to forward to the county as a gesture of support for the police. Also, spouses and children of police protested for two days last week in front of the county government building in Ellicott City.

Sanudo said the county would not back down from its stance. She said that although the county hopes to come to an an agreement, the union's demands have "far-reaching ramifications not limiting to just officers. It can potentially impact other bargaining units and impact on the morale of all county employees. And in these difficult times, we want to treat all county employees equally."

The union may run more radio ads and possibly purchase commercial time on local cable television stations if a settlement is not reached, Hill said. An union action committee of volunteers will also coordinate future publicity.

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