New London police secure new three-year contract with city

New London — The City Council this week approved a new three-year contract with city police that provides 2 percent raises to police officers each year through 2020.

Steve Fields, the city’s chief administrative officer, said months of negotiations led to an agreement that he considers “reasonable and fair.”

“The city is in a very challenging fiscal environment, no doubt,” Fields said. “We went into the negotiations with that clearly in mind. I think the union understood that.”

The impact on the budget will be $279,000 combined over three years: $60,000 in the first year and $111,000 and $108,000 in the subsequent years, Fields said. The first year will cost the city less, since the contract is retroactive to the beginning of August and not back through July, which is the department’s busiest month.

The last three-year contract, which contained 1, 1 and 1.5 percent raises over three years through 2016, was approved in 2014 and added $425,000 to the police department’s budget in the first year alone. Part of the increase was associated with a change in the patrol officers’ schedules that provided an extra day off for every officer every two weeks.

The contract approved on Monday increases health insurance costs for the officers who had been paying 16.5 percent. Under the new contract, that cost incrementally will rise to 20 percent in the third year. The city also ended a provision that gave each union member a $500 bonus every time the department was accredited, for a savings of $33,500.

The contract reduces by one the number of officers allowed to be off on any given shift, a move that Fields said is intended to help curb the amount of overtime.

Todd Lynch, the local police union president, said the union acknowledges the city is working under tough financial constraints but added, “it’s no mystery the men and women of the police department have been doing more with less for some time now.”

“There was give and take on both sides. The union certainly wanted to maintain the benefits that we have now,” Lynch said.

The 2 percent raise, Lynch said, is on par with departments across the state and in line with raises given to firefighters and public works employees in the city. Lynch said the negotiations were “respectful and professional,” and less contentious than they had been with past administrations.

He said union membership overwhelmingly approved the contract.

After the three-year contract signed in 2014 the union secured a one-year contract in 2016 that came with a 2.5 percent raise and boosted starting pay for a police officer from $60,234 to $61,739. That contract expired on July 1.

In addition to Fields, a retired state police lieutenant colonel, the city’s negotiating team included Personnel Administrator Tina Collins and Finance Director Don Gray.

g.smith@theday.com

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