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Police negotiations with the City – more depth on their demands

May 26, 2014

Ok, like I said in the beginning, I’ll try to put the arguments presented here as they were presented, without my commentary, in an attempt to be objective. I’ll give you my take after I’ve laid out the arguments as presented. You know, dear reader, that I’ll have MUCH to say about the whole thing.

12% SALARY ADJUSTMENT

I heard these arguments before while on Council (May 2010 – May 2012). The argument is that the City is losing officers and Watauga turns into a training city for bigger cities’ Police departments because once Watauga trains new officers, the officers then go somewhere else. I seem to recall that we lost officers to NRH and Fort Worth, though there may have been other cities. Part of the rationale behind this theory is that it costs so much to get an officer trained ($80,000) and the city loses all of that when an officer leaves. JS (John Something from Texas Municipal Police Association) explicitly said that we need to pay more to get the best officers we can and to keep them.

One of the interesting things about this argument is the cities that are used as “competitive cities”. The PA (Police Association) and their reps want to use the biggest cities they can get away with, because they pay more. City Council may be more inclined to find cities of a similar size, even if they are not in a metroplex because they’ll tend to pay less. Determining which cities are used for comparison plays a big role in what numbers are used to determine how much more “competitive” the city has to be. This is a big gotcha.

When I was on Council, right before I got off, this was brought to Council and City Staff had selected the cities. Not that they did a poor job, but I can tell you that there was some pretty widespread thinking that the cities had not been the best picks. You may be able to see that, depending on one’s position, there is motivation to use different cities to further the agenda most desirable to the negotiator.

CM (City Manager, Greg Vick) pointed out that on the last salary survey done by the city, Staff had picked the cities. The Council I was on had asked that there be some discussion about which cities would be used. Marcia Reyna mentioned that it had been brought to Council (after I was off) and no action had been taken. I guess I can’t say that punting was a stupid option because my council did the same thing, but it might have been nice if they had ironed that out so that there could be some concrete basis for both sides to justify (or not) the levels of funding that they were asking for.

Another aspect of this pay issue is that Police have had a 3% increase every year until 2008(?) when the step increases were frozen due to lack of funding by the Council. Although there have been a couple of pay increases to Police, those raises have not been sufficient to have brought them to the level they would be at had the contractual steps from long ago been paid and maintained. Supposedly, this will bring a great improvement in the morale of our Police Department.

When the CM (City Manager, Greg Vick) asked if they had done a cost analysis of this request, the PA (Police Association) said no because it would save the up front costs of training officers and pay for itself in this way.

INCREASING CERTIFICATION PAY

This was yet another item that was mentioned as a “competitive” move. Supposedly, other “sister cities” are paying more than Watauga. A lot of this comes down to which cities are selected, but I’ve mentioned that already.

When the CM (City Manager) asked if there had been a budget impact document on this policy, the PA (Police Association) said no because the impact would be minimal and was needed to bring the city into alignment with our “competitive cities”.

ASSIGNMENT PAY FOR FIELD TRAINING

The proposal for this was fairly convoluted. I’m not sure I really followed all of the logic in this, but I’ll lay it out as best I can.

Apparently, a new officer goes through four phases of training: Orientation phase, 6 weeks of patrol, 6 weeks of something else, and then a final week. I couldn’t write fast enough to get all of that down. The way things are now, whichever officer is doing the training gets $500 per phase or $87/week.

The new structure would be $100 paid monthly for field training officers (FTO). There would be five FTOs, one for each shift and one for a named officer who’s done a lot of the training stuff already. There would also be provision for weekly pay should one of the five FTO’s need assistance.

The PA suggested that this would be a savings overall, and just a change in the structure. They also suggested that it might provide an incentive for other officers to become FTOs.

14 DAY PAY CYCLE

Marcia Reyna suggested that the 14 day pay cycle hadn’t been in place since she’d been with the city and suggested that it might even have been as far back as 2000 that it had been used. During the course of the discussion, it seems that the 28 day pay cycle only impacts patrol officers. But I may have been mistaken on this.

I may have to do some more digging to understand this and why they’re asking for it, because I didn’t hear anything that indicated why it would be a benefit to the officers or why it had been changed from before. Both of those would be worth knowing.

When asked about the implications, the PA said that most other city departments were on a 14 day pay cycle and that the biggest impact would be on morale.

LONGEVITY PAY TIMED TO HOLIDAY

Vacation buy back is paid out in the last week of November. This gives employees a “lump sum bonus” right before the holidays. The PD would like for their longevity pay to be delivered in the same way – a lump sum. They suggested that December would be a great time to do it.

According to the PA, this wouldn’t cost anything either, it would just be a matter of paying it once per year instead of spreading it out over the year.

INPUT INTO THE SELECTION OF THE CHIEF OF POLICE

The largest benefit to this would be the increase in morale for the department.

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