SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 5, 2014

Council skeptical of police raises

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — City councilors are raising questions about a new contract that would give police patrol officers a retroactive 6 percent raise.

The contract grants police 1.5 percent raises for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, a 1 percent raise for 2014 and a 2 percent stipend for “community impact officers.”

Councilor Jim Latter said he is troubled that the pay raises are higher than those received by other city unions whose contracts have already been settled. He said the city has traditionally tried to deal “equitably” with all of the unions.

“I’m concerned that all of a sudden, one bargaining unit by holding out to the end is getting a larger raise than the other units got,” Latter said at Monday night’s City Council meeting. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

Representatives of the Beverly Police Benevolent Association, the patrol officers union, could not be reached for comment.

Police patrolmen have been working without a new contract for almost three years. The agreement was signed by former Mayor Bill Scanlon in December, but its funding must be approved by the City Council. It is retroactive to 2011 and expires in June of this year.

Mayor Mike Cahill has asked the council to transfer $269,018 to cover the cost of the retroactive raises. Cahill, who took office in January, said he is obligated to support the contract because it was signed by the former mayor.

After asking several questions, councilors sent the request to their finance and property committee for further discussion.

Many of the questions concerned the 2 percent community impact stipend. Police Chief John LeLacheur said the stipend is in exchange for patrol officers agreeing to be switched off their regular shift to perform community policing duties, such as traffic enforcement, or to train reserve officers.

Councilor Jason Silva said it would be less expensive to fill those needs by creating a community policing unit with officers who perform those tasks as part of their regular duties.

Finance Director Bryant Ayles said the 2 percent stipend will cost the city $77,000 in fiscal year 2014. The stipend will be included in future contracts unless it is negotiated out, he said.

“It’s unfortunate we took that approach,” Silva said. “I wholeheartedly support having a community impact unit. I think it’s a real important and effective way to encourage community policing. But this is a very expensive way to accomplish that goal when I would say there’s a much more affordable way to do it.”

LeLacheur, who was hired in November, told councilors he was not involved in the negotiations, but he supports the contract.

“It gives me flexibility to move people,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to get back into the community and get out into the neighborhoods.”

The contract also has a new provision that rewards officers who do not use a sick day for any three-month period with a “healthy day.” Officers can take the “healthy day” off with pay as long as it does not create overtime. Unused healthy days can be credited to an officer’s sick-leave buyback bank.

As part of the contract, the city will pay incentives for officers who earn college degrees. The program replaces the Quinn Bill, an educational incentive program that has been underfunded by the state.

The Beverly Education Incentive Program, as it is called, will be funded by a reduction in officers’ sick time accumulation from 20 days to 15 days; by the consolidation of two officers into one position; and by reducing from four to three the number of officers on the same shift authorized to take a day off.

The Beverly Superior Officers’ Benevolent Association, the union representing superior officers, has also been without a new contract for nearly three years. Cahill said the two sides are looking to schedule a mediation session.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.

 

 

 

Police patrolmen contract highlights