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New London - The city's police union will try out a new system of "bid shifts" in February that will allow officers to pick their daily work shifts by seniority for three months at a time.
Officers currently switch different shifts - known as days, evenings, midnights and some that span sections of two adjoining shifts, every 28 days, without the benefit of picking which one they'll work. The new trial system, according to union president Todd Lynch, allows officers to pick their shifts - with more senior officers picking first - every 84 days, or three months.
The more seniority an officer has, the more choice. And, Lynch says, officers can pick a shift that better fits their personal lives rather than have to go "from nights to days and back again."
Most departments in the region employ a variation of the system, each revolving around the principle of seniority. In Norwich, shifts are picked by seniority but are permanent, rather than being bid every three months. In Waterford, the least senior members get a shot once a year to pick first for a three-month period. Ledyard officers pick two shifts and are assigned to one for a week at a time.
The trial here will lasts for three months and then a decision will be made to implement it full time.
The arrangement, which was negotiated into the current two-year union contract that expires in June because officers wanted to pick their own shifts, hasn't come without some controversy. Intended to be in place by Jan. 1, the document wasn't signed until Jan. 18 with a scheduled Feb. 24 date of implementation.
Lynch said the union filed a grievance against the city when the contracted deadline was missed. Because the current union contract with the city was signed in July 2011, "there was plenty of time to implement the system before (Jan. 1)," Lynch said.
Negotiations were bogged down because Police Chief Margaret Ackley refused to sign the contract, Lynch said, even after she was given a city-set 3 p.m. Jan. 18 deadline to do so.
Finizio said the "signatory authority" for such documents is his and trumps that of department heads.
"If it's so needed in a particular circumstance … I was here, so I signed it," he said. "It was logistics, not anything else."
Ackley did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Lynch is an outspoken critic of Ackley's and has a pending federal lawsuit against her and the city for alleged civil rights violations.
"The union has been open to sit down with anyone, including the chief," Lynch said. "She wants to take corrective actions after the work is done but won't sit in a room with us. She assigns the deputy chief to sit in the room with us and then she doesn't like the outcome."
Finizio said he could not discuss the contract negotiations since they took place among the union executive board, Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover and Deputy Chief Peter Reichard. He did commend the group for coming to a "favorable resolution." The Jan. 1 deadline in the union contract, Finizio said, was a "target date" missed because of "multiple things we're working on."
Ackley, who is limited to two hours of work per day for health reasons, "wasn't allowed to be as intimately involved" because of her schedule, Finizio said.
"She was consulted on negotiations throughout," he said.
Finizio said the positive outcome is potentially soured by Lynch's insistence to "score a political point."
"If we can't go into a room as the union and administration and work out a deal that's properly executed and leave it at that, that potentially jeopardizes our ability to negotiate in good faith," Finizio said. "We negotiated a good agreement, I've signed it, he's (Lynch) signed it, it's good for membership. Why can't we just leave it at that?"