Baltimore police officers secured a 3 percent pay raise and a $500 bonus in a short-term contract the union ratified Thursday after lengthy negotiations with Mayor Catherine Pugh’s administration that are expected to begin again within weeks.
The deal between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 does not require officers to make any concessions such as agreeing to greater civilian oversight.
Pugh’s office and the police union confirmed details of the deal Friday, a day after officers ratified the agreement after casting votes all day at their lodge. The pay raise is retroactive to July 1, 2017, for the new contract, which expires June 30. City officials estimated the deal will cost $3.5 million.
The contract talks have been going on for more than a year and officers had gone without a pay raise since the last contract expired in June 2016. Officers rejected a previous proposal in October and city officials hired a new out-of-town negotiating team in January.
The protracted talks had caused bitterness between officers and city officials, which spilled out into other disputes — including one about whether the city would cover legal payouts for officers in some misconduct and brutality cases.
Labor Commissioner Deborah Moore-Carter said the deal was struck to secure “labor peace” and that negotiations for the coming year will begin almost immediately.
“We already know what we want and we’re going to fight hard to get it,” Moore-Carter said.
Lt. Kenny Butler, the police union’s vice president and a negotiating team member, said Friday that more than 90 percent of sergeants, lieutenants and officers voted to ratify the contract on Thursday.
Butler said the deal was the result of a “tough negotiation,” and represents a gesture of good faith from both the union and the city heading into more robust negotiations for the next contract.
“This is a positive step, because we were almost at a stalemate, and that was something that we did not want,” he said. “I know we will be going to the table again very soon, and hopefully we can just feed off of this.”
The short-term deal does not resolve two serious sticking points in negotiations: The shift schedule officers are required to work and the inclusion of civilians on internal department disciplinary boards.
On Thursday, in a meeting with the Baltimore Sun editorial board, Pugh said the demand to appoint civilians to the boards was “non-negotiable.”
Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said when the negotiations begin again “the makeup of trial boards and the schedule will be a priority.”
“I am committed to transparency in the process,” De Sousa said.
The attorneys the city hired earlier this year counseled officials on the strategy and Moore-Carter said the current no-concession deal won’t encourage officers to simply dig in their heels on future rounds of talks.
"That’s not the way it’s going to work out,” she said. “That’s not our strategy.”
Councilman Brandon Scott, the chairman of the City Council’s public safety committee, said the deal raised a lot of questions.
“What happened to all the tough talk? What happened to civilians on trial boards? What about the schedule?” he said.
Butler said no police officers like working without a contract, and ratifying the agreement through June 30, 2018, gives them “one less thing to worry about” as they patrol the city.
“Even for myself, I feel a lot more secure,” he said. “That’s just one thing off the table. Now I can concentrate on what I do — and that’s police work.”
Butler said he’s not sure the new contract will help the department recruit more officers, which has been an issue locally and nationally.
“It can’t hurt,” he said. “But to think that it’s a panacea? No.”
Pugh’s annual budget for next year calls for hiring 100 more officers.