Howard County police officers have overwhelmingly ratified a three-year union contract that cuts 15 positions from the department, offers earlier retirement benefits and changes the work schedules of patrol officers.
Union officials said Friday that the 202-17 vote marked the largest turnout for a contract decision in county history. Of the county's 327 sworn officers, 260 are in the union.
"For many years, there's been somewhat of a general feeling of apathy about voting for union contracts," said Cpl. John Paparazzo, president of the local police union. "There was something in this contract for everyone."
Thursday's vote brought 11 months of negotiations between county and union representatives to an end.
Under the new contract, police officers and corporals would be eligible for full retirement benefits of 50 percent pay at 20 years of service -- five years earlier than the previous contract.
For each year served after 20 years, a retiring officer would receive 1.5 percent more, to a maximum of 65 percent.
Previously, union officers were eligible for full retirement benefits of 50 percent at 25 years of service.
The estimated $650,000 cost of the retirement program would be absorbed by changing the officers' work schedules from a 9.5-hour shift to a 12-hour rotation.
The 12-hour work schedule would put more officers on the streets by creating a rotating schedule of two platoons a day.
By staggering the shifts, more officers would be on the streets at the same time with little or no time for overlap, said Maj. Wayne Livesay, deputy chief of operations.
"This contract is great because the new schedule allows the officers to have more time with their families," Livesay said, "and at the same time allows us to have more officers on the street at one time."
He said there would never be a time when there weren't any officers on patrol, and that no one on the force would lose a job as a result of the new contract.
"There's certainly not going to be any mass exodus and we won't be laying anyone off," he said. "We expect that the layoffs will be obtained through retirements or resignations."
County Executive Charles I. Ecker will present the contract to the County Council at its first session in January.
Once it is approved, officers will be eligible for all provisions of the contract back to July.
Pub Date: 12/08/96