Detroit announces plan to boost police officer pay

detroit policeThe City of Detroit doesn’t have much discretionary funding coming out of bankruptcy – but city officials made clear today that public safety would be the priority for the funds that are available.
Mayor Mike Duggan and Police Chief James Craig today announced that tentative collective-bargaining agreements were reached with three unions representing the city’s 2,224 sworn police officers: Detroit Police Officers Association (DPOA), the Detroit Police Lieutenants & Sergeants Association (DPLSA) and the Detroit Police Command Officers Association (DPCOA).  The contracts will provide a 4% across the board raise for all sworn officers and will provide a major raise in starting pay from $31,700 to $36,000, allowing the city to put more officers on the street.
In the closing weeks of the bankruptcy proceedings, Judge Steven Rhodes allowed Mayor Duggan to intervene in order to contest the fees being paid to the consultants.  With the help of Mediator Judge Jerry Rosen, the consultants’ fees were cut nearly $30 million.  The proposed contracts will raise the officers’ pay $41 million over the next 4 years, which will be paid largely with the cuts in consultant payments.
“When our CFO, John Hill, announced that the savings in consultants’ fees could be available to fund other city services over the next 4 years, I urged the Mayor to invest those funds in the Detroit Police Department,” said Chief Craig.  “We are trying to fill more than 200 vacant police officer positions, which is a problem that will become critical if we don’t address it.”
Mayor Duggan agreed with the Chief’s assessment.  “We had a contract running into 2019 that pays our officers much less than suburban departments.  We just aren’t going to be able to continue to recruit or retain the quality of officers this city deserves if we don’t start to address this problem.”
The City of Detroit is operating under a state-appointed Financial Review Commission (FRC), which must approve any collective bargaining agreements after determining that the city can fund the contracts without running a deficit.
Mayor Duggan took a proposal to the October FRC Board Meeting and received general support for a $40 million package based on four principles:
1)      A 4% across the board pay increase for all officers effective January 1, 2016.
2)      An increase in pay for starting officers from $31,700 to $36,000 effective January 1, 2016.
3)      An additional year extension on the contract to June 30, 2020, with an additional 3% base pay increase on July 1, 2019.
4)      A major increase in commitment to professional development and education:

  1. $2,000 per year in tuition reimbursement
  2. A 2% increase in base pay for any DPOA member with 2 years of college
  3. A 2% increase in base pay for any Lieutenant or Sergeant with 4 years of college.

CFO Hill indicated that the $41 million in funding would be paid through three sources:
Reduction in consultant fees                                                                                    $28 million
Funding of construction of new 8th Precinct from capital funds                  $8 million
Other Police Department operational savings                                                     $5 million
Total funding                                                                                                                  $41 million
Hill indicated that the plan of adjustment had allocated $8 million of police operating funds to pay for the construction of a new 8th Precinct on Grand River near Meijers.  Hill and the city’s finance staff identified unused funds in capital accounts that could be appropriately used for construction, freeing up money for this agreement.
“The FRC retains their right to review and approve the final contract,” Duggan said, “but I believe they will be supportive of this package.”
Before it gets to the FRC, the contact must first be ratified by all three unions and approved by Detroit City Council.
“We’re increasing the salary of starting officers so we can attract more quality recruits and increasing wages overall so that we can keep those quality officers,” said Commander Charles Mahone, DPCOA Vice President.  “This is the first time in my career that the City has ever come forward to raise our pay before our contract was up.  This is very positive.”
Members of all three unions took a 10% cut in wages in 2012, in addition to pension and health care cuts received by other unions. In 2014, under bankruptcy proceedings, the unions agreed to a 5 year collective bargaining agreement in which DPOA received an 8% base wage increase and DLSA and DPCOA a 5% increase.   DPOA received higher base wages because they agreed to significant work rule changes that paid for the difference.
“We often lose the officers we train to other police departments that can pay a higher wage,” said Mark Young, president of the DPLSA. “These changes are not only good for our officers and their families, they are good for the Detroit Police Department.”
Added Lisa Carter, chairwoman of the board of police commissioners:
“As the community’s representatives to the Detroit Police Department, our focus is on making sure our citizens are protected,” she said. “This proposed agreement will go a long way to making sure we have enough police officers in our neighborhoods.”
The unions will be submitting the contracts to their members in the next two weeks.  If they are ratified by the unions, the parties hope to get City Council and FRC approval by the end of December so that the officers will see the raises this January.
Mayor Duggan also committed to work with all public safety unions to address issues related to retiree health care.  “When the VEBA was set up, it doesn’t seem like enough attention was paid to maximizing the health coverage the retirees receive, particularly those injured on the job,” Duggan said.  “We’re going to bring in expertise from my former colleagues in the health care industry and make sure the VEBA is getting our retirees the best possible coverage for the dollars.”
Finally, Duggan noted, today’s announcement was just the first step in addressing the needs of all uniformed personnel.  “Our firefighters and EMT’s are also paid well below their suburban counterparts and we hope to work with their unions to begin to address their situation in early 2016.  We are already working on cost-cutting initiatives to free up funds for the firefighters and EMT’s.”
“We can only spend the money we have, and it will take years to address all the inequities created in the years of financial crisis,” Duggan said.  “Today is just the first step in that process.”

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