Baltimore City police spoke resoundingly last week, sending a message to City Hall that additional cuts to our department layered on top of the massive blows to the pension system are simply not workable. In a historic turnout Thursday, officers voted overwhelmingly to reject the city's newest contract proposal, which included five days of forced leave in exchange for an almost 2 percent pay cut.
This is not simply a rejection of this specific stipulation, but a symbolic rejection of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's disregard for her city's public safety workers. Police and firefighters experienced a nullification of their existing contracts earlier this year when Ms. Rawlings-Blake jammed through extensive cuts to the pensions system. Members simply cannot stomach this latest slam. Morale in the department has been demolished.
Time and again, Mayor Rawlings-Blake has made it clear she is not willing to work with us. But we continued to work toward a solution. When she told us the budget needed to be fixed and the difference would come from our pocket, we brought $70 million worth of concessions to the table, only to be disregarded and denied. The mayor continues to lobby against binding arbitration for our members so that an independent third party can come to a fair and workable solution for both parties.
Crime numbers are down, and the mayor touts this as one of her successes. But Baltimore police officers cannot continue to be trampled upon by their mayor and City Council while sacrificing and risking their lives on a daily basis. These men and women are expected to take a bullet for their city, while City Hall continually turns its back on them.
Doing more with less is a task that simply cannot be sustained after a certain point. And gambling with the public safety of Baltimore's citizens is something that should not be tolerated. That is the message our membership sent to Mayor Rawlings-Blake Thursday.
Robert F. Cherry Jr., Baltimore
The writer is president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #3