Police talks with county deteriorating Parties will meet today

FOP warns time to talk running out

April 03, 1997|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Contract negotiations between county and police union officials are deteriorating, despite high hopes from both sides that an agreement would have been struck by the end of last month.

As the parties prepare to meet again today, Fraternal Order of Police President Dennis Howell warned that this meeting may be the last.

"We're still talking but we're probably coming to a closure of discussions," he said. "We're allowed all day to try and work out the differences. If we don't, I don't know that there's going to be a whole lot more talk."

Last year's contract negotiations turned into a battle between the more than 450 patrol officers represented by the union and the county government, which refused to pay for raises. Losing lowered officer morale and ignited an internal struggle among police officers for another union.

The Teamsters lost their bid to represent county police by three votes in February.

This year's negotiations may already be tainted for police by County Executive John G. Gary's move to eliminate county laws that would decrease police Chief Larry Tolliver's salary by $12,000. County officials argued that the proposal was designed to keep the chief's salary competitive with surrounding jurisdictions.

Union members have frequently complained that their pay is the lowest among area jurisdictions.

County attorney Phillip F. Scheibe said it's unfair to compare the chief's salary with those of the officers.

"The chief of police salary is a small matter in comparison to an increase to a 500-plus work force," he said. "No one can deny that they certainly have a credible argument that they need an increase in their salaries, but we only have so much to work with. I can't just write a check, it's not that simple."

But Scheibe said the county and the union will soon reach an agreement.

"We're going to do everything we possibly can not to go to impasse," he said.

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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