Police union wins drawn-out, residency battle

Police union wins drawn-out, residency battle

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

On Nov. 27, the Rockford City Council approved the contract for the Rockford police.

The announcement that police will have a new contract for 1999, 2000 and 2001 was made Nov. 21. Arbitration proceedings began early this year.

Arbitrator Elliott H. Goldstein ruled in favor of the Policeman’s Benevolent and Protective Association request to live outside the city, after an ongoing clash between the police association and the City of Rockford.

Police can live anywhere in Winnebago County or within 15 miles of the Public Safety Building. Police hired after Oct. 1, 1995 would have to abide by the rule of living in the city until Oct. 1, 2001.

Goldstein also allowed for bargaining-unit employees to receive a 3.5 percent increase for each of the three years of the agreement. Investigators will receive a 1.5 percent increase for 1999 and 2000. The shift differential for patrol offices would get capped in the future at the highest rates.

City Legal Counsel Ron Schultz said both sides mutually agreed on most provisions. “A lot of the minor changes are operational things that should be for the good of the department,” Schultz stated. “We were disappointed that the residency clause was not upheld by the arbitrator, otherwise it’s fine.”

He said he feels that way, based on “the whole rationale for having officers live within the city. We think it provides for a safer community.”

He said that when officers are off duty, they can intervene in situations that officers would deal with while they’re on duty. “They can be there to consult with their neighbors,” Schultz remarked.

The police union established the requirement of living in the city in 1984. “Every officer knew full well he had to live in the city,” he said. “We were disappointed this was the conscious choice of the police.”

He said this was the first time a police contract went into arbitration. “The union made a rather convoluted proposal that took extra time for everybody to argue that,” he said. “They made five offers on four issues. That added a whole lot of time.”

Schultz said he couldn’t specify the particular offers on wages and residency and said Goldstein ruled that five offers couldn’t be made.

Police association President Doug Block declined comment on the offers.

Block also said the union is not fully happy with the arbitration, “but we’ll live with it. We still feel that we’re below comparable cities for benefits and wages, but we’ll address that in the next contract. We need to move on.” He said in comparable cities, police are behind in wages and benefits.

Pat Hoey, who serves on the union’s Negotiating Committee, said he’s pleased with the provisions.

But Hoey remarked that being paid less in the past several years is the fault of the union. “The whole membership, over the years, accepted it,” he said.

He said for the next contract, the union hopefully will negotiate for higher pay.

Hoey also commended Block for his efforts on the union. “The credit is all his,” he said.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!