Friday, April 10, 2009
Chicago Police Contract
One of the most unexpected benefits of my current position is my exposure to law enforcement professionals from a multitude of other departments; local, county, state and federal. It has taught me a number of things, primarily, that the men and women who serve us in law enforcement are a credit and a boon to America and secondly I come from a good department.
I have gotten to know a number of Chicago Officers while I was going through my master’s program and then met even more now we are all working together to pull illicit drugs off the street. They are being disserved by the Daley administration. The officers have been without a contract since 2007 and yet other city services find a way to increase their pay and benefits package (See Chicago Aldermen). Mayor Daley has made the simple calculation that it is cheaper to keep the money with the city and eventually pay out retro checks then to settle the contract quickly, well unless he can get the union to make substantial cuts into the proposed benefit package. This is coming dangerously close to the Cook County Model in which when one contract is finally negotiated, they have to instantly begin new contract negotiations because once the new contract is approved and signed it has expired.
I brought up the problem that Chicago PD is going through to a group of my non-law enforcement friends and immediately the response was, “Well they should be taking a pay cut like everyone else.”
That got me thinking about the unique characteristics concerning Police contracts.
First, the general purpose of the employee contract rather individual employment/ at will employment is to; theoretically, remove the politics and personal gain issues that affect private sector employment. If you are in negotiations as a group, then individual actions can not improve individual employment keeping Officers actions on the street for law enforcement purposes and not for personal gain.
Second, everyone regardless of individual performance gets paid the same. In patrol for instance the lowest ticket writer gets paid the same as the highest. The only change in pay comes with either positions (investigators get paid the same as other investigators but higher than patrolmen), promotion or time on the job.
Third, the reason the Officers do not deserve a pay cut is primarily due to point two. When economic times are positive Officers upward mobility in both position and pay is restricted. Promotion comes only through a testing process that is conducted only once every couple of years. The Officer also does not get increases based on performance but rather negotiated raises throughout the year. In the private sector when a company is successful and the employee is performing at a high standard, their compensation is improved whenever the company deems fit. I get all kinds of calls from my friends wondering why I picked this profession when I could be making so much more money in the private sector. When times are bad I get calls to the reverse. The bottom line is that public sector pay is a slow line increasing up and we can not take advantage of the good times and are not hurt as badly during the down times. However if a pay cut is implemented for a contract employee it is a permanent loss since you do not get a corresponding pay increase when times are good to offset the loss.
Finally, the last in this post but certainly not the last element concerning contracts is the retro check. When a post due contract is finally signed and ratified the pay that the Officer should have received is calculated and put into a check. The problem for larger Police departments unions is sometimes the money that the city can make in interest and alternate use is greater than what they will eventually issue in retro checks. So in essence there is little hurry for the city to negotiate when they are essentially making money by holding up the contract negotiations.
These are just the concepts I brought up that night and there are a multitude more to choose from but I can see how frustrating it can be to work for years without knowing how much you are making and what is your benefits package.
The bottom line is Chicago Officers deserve a contract.