Police Command Officers: trust destroyed!

According to a claim made by the Sterling Heights Command Officers Association in a letter to City Council, the tactics City Administration have employed during this year’s contract renegotiation have resulted in the trust between the Police Department and the City Administration being destroyed. For this reason, the Command Officers Association is refusing to accept wage or benefit concessions for the 2011-12 fiscal year. This should cause grave concern to anyone who is reading this.

When the working relationship between a city’s Police Department and City Hall is adversarial, as apparently is the case here, the residents suffer. Police Officers have a duty to serve and protect, and when they do not trust their employer, a pall is cast upon the level of service they provide. Response times can become longer. Attitudes towards the public they interact with can become surly. Officer safety, always a prime concern, can begin to take precedence over duty itself. In short, the department begins to suffer the same type of attitude problems that are commonplace in hopeless situations such as the City of Detroit.

From my outside-looking-in position, I cannot assess the situation completely and assign any sort of blame to one side or the other. I cannot tell if the Police unions are over-reacting to the demands made by an Administration caught in an untenable financial situation, or if the problem stems from an administration which has elected to play hardball for no justifiable reason. This is a byproduct of both the closed door negotiation process and a failure on the part of the local media to cover these negotiations adequately. Our local branch of the ‘fourth estate’ is letting us down.

As a concerned resident and tax paying citizen, I have the expectation that the most highly paid Police Officers in the state will work well with what must be one of the most highly paid City Administrations in the state. I expect labor issues to be a non-issue for residents, and that the cost of keeping our Police on the job will be in line with that of other communities of our size. Further, I would hope that the party or parties responsible for this break-down will be removed from the negotiation process so that it may proceed and forward progress will be made.

When I see a letter to City Council from a Police union complaining that the city is not negotiating in good faith, I fear for the well being of my city. I sincerely hope that reassurance from both the Police and the City Administration will be forthcoming immediately that negotiations have resumed in good faith.


Posted on July 12, 2011, in Labor Contracts, Public Safety. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Geoff,
    The “we are not going to negotiate with you” attitude seems to be the thing right now. It may work with other employees, but the Police have binding arbitration to fall back on. My department just got our arbitration award and it was much more than we were willing to settle for. We went to the table saying ” We will be happy to just continue our contract as is” This would mean a 3% raise. They said, “you guys are pigs, we are taking money from you, Making you work holidays without pay, etc.” “If you don’t like it take us to arbitration”
    Left with no choice, we went to arbitration. The Police do not like to do this because unless you are in a big city, the FOP cannot fund the whole bill and we had to pay some lawyers fees out of our pockets. The County did not use their solicitors, they hired an outside firm. (I wonder if they were campaign contributors?). The final award was pay raises of 1%, 4% and 4% for the next three years, what we had asked for in the first place. A better health plan ( They had taken this plan from us and gave us a cheaper one) and post retirement health benefits which we have never had. (This was why I could retire).
    The county then appealed because they did not like the award. That is not grounds for an appeal but it dragged things out another 6 months and cost both sides more money. We won the appeal and got the benefits that were awarded.
    In all it cost the tax payers a ton of money that could have been saved had the County just bargained in good faith from the start.

  2. I agree with your assessment. No one likes to take pay cuts, or in this case a pay freeze. Everyone needs to understand that the milky way of over inflated tax revenue is gone. In turn, your expenses need to adjust to your income. This economic shortfall is a national issue. Asking residents to continue to pay more and more when their income is so much less is unfair, and unjust. The private sector has been scaling back for 7 years. My suggestion is to exempt any SH city worker that lives in Sterling Heights from these concessions. Maybe this will serve as an incentive for others to move to the greatest and safest city in America. Thankfully our police cheif partakes in this ideology.

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