Frederick police officers will see a 3.26 percent pay increase, a work schedule adjustment for patrol officers and an increase in the amount of extra pay earned by multilingual officers under an agreement approved Thursday by the city’s Board of Aldermen.
The agreement was the result of negotiations that began in late November last year between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police, Francis Scott Key Lodge 91, the union formed to represent the interests of sworn police department employees. The aldermen approved two sets of agreements at the evening hearing, one for the commissioned officers — consisting of lieutenants and captains — and another for non-commissioned officers, which includes sergeants and all subordinate ranks in the department. The conditions of the new agreement, with a few exceptions, will go into effect July 1, with the advent of fiscal 2020.
The pay increase, which includes a 1.48 percent cost-of-living adjustment, was calculated in part using standards set forth by the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Area Consumer Price Index, according to Sgt. Charlie Snyder, the current president of Lodge 91.
“The pay scale is always a work in progress,” Snyder said when reached for comment before Thursday’s hearing. “The FOP is always making sure that we are keeping up with neighboring agencies. We want to make sure that our salaries are competitive with the other agencies so that we do not lose officers because our pay is not competitive.”
Under the new agreement, patrol officers will begin working 12-hour shifts in January 2020, adopting a day-to-day schedule of two days on, followed by two days off, then three days on, two days off and finally two days on and three days off. Currently, patrol officers work 10.5-hour shifts, Snyder said, explaining that the new schedule will result in more days off overall for patrol officers, who will also get every other weekend off under the new schedule.
Other benefits for non-commissioned officers include a slight increase in the amount of money officers are given to have their uniforms cleaned, an agreement from the city to fund home kennels for new K-9 officers — under the current agreement K-9 officers build and pay for their own kennels — and a bump in the amount of extra money given to officers who speak more than one language.
In addition to recognizing the demand for multilingual officers to serve an increasingly diverse community, the language increase, from $82 to $100 per pay period, is also practical from a recruiting and retention standpoint, Snyder said.
“This pay increase is closer in line to other agencies near us,” the sergeant said. “We are competing for these officers.”
Alderman Ben MacShane voiced some initial concerns that the negotiations did not involve the aldermen in any way, saying he was only able to assume that both the city and the FOP were satisfied with the agreement without having any inside perspective into the exact dealings.
“This is the first labor agreement of this sort that’s come before us. ... I’m a little bit surprised that this was not work-shopped or brought before us in any way [previously],” MacShane said.
Citing the long negotiations process and the close involvement of everyone involved, including the city’s bargainers led by Mayor Michael O’Connor, Snyder, again, speaking before the hearing, described the negotiations as generally amicable.
“The most challenging part is finding the money to fund those benefits that cost money,” Snyder said.
Snyder repeated his sentiments at Thursday’s hearing, backed by Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak, who told MacShane that, based on her experience, if the negotiations had been contentious, the board would have likely heard about it long before Thursday’s vote. Kuzemchak mentioned past negotiations where members of the FOP had contacted her and other board members to voice their frustrations with the negotiations.
“That didn’t happen this time and I’m so grateful for it,” Kuzemchak said. “... All of us could not be in the same room working on a collective bargaining agreement. I look at this and I’m actually pretty pleased with how it turned out, so thank you to everybody, both from city staff [who are] non-police and from the police department.”
Meanwhile, O’Connor acknowledged MacShane’s reservations, but cautioned that the process long employed by the city was to involve only the mayor’s office and city staff in such discussions. O’Connor nevertheless pledged to look into ways in which the board could be kept better informed in the future.
“I’ve heard some of the comments that the aldermen have made and it’s got, you know, thoughts knocking around in my head about ways in which we can make sure that, [while] it’s hard to open up the process completely, but I have to think that there are ways that we can make sure that, as we move through the process, it’s not just presenting ratified agreements to you seeking your approval,” O’Connor said. “But there are some challenges to doing it other ways, but we’ll give it some thought.”