Vacation time doesn't add up Howard County: Leave policy for police officers should have been changed with new 12-hour shifts.

July 09, 1998

IT WAS A mistake for Howard County to implement 12-hour shifts for police officers without changing the way their vacation time is calculated. Now the county is paying the price.

Having officers on duty for 12 hours should save money by reducing the number of shifts that have to be staffed. But the money saved is being eaten up to pay for the extra vacation time that officers have accrued since the new shifts began in March.

A vacation day is calculated as one-fifth of a work week for Howard County employees other than police officers. If you work 40 hours per week, each vacation day is calculated as eight hours.

But for police officers, a vacation day is calculated as 12 hours. Thus officers can accrue vacation time as if they are working more days than they actually are.

Trying to give officers this additional time off has created scheduling problems that have led to more overtime.

The problem was apparent before the county began the 12-hour shifts. But they were implemented anyway, in exchange for the police union's agreement to a pension plan that is less expensive than the one that officers wanted.

The county has tried for weeks to negotiate a change in calculating police vacation time. But there was little optimism yesterday that the matter would be resolved soon.

The police union says the extra vacation time officers gained through the 12-hour shifts is equal to a 6.5 percent pay raise.

But giving police such a huge increase would prompt other county employees to demand big raises, too.

Lame duck County Executive Charles I. Ecker says he won't leave it to his successor to work out a deal next year when three-year contracts are negotiated.

That's good. Compromise must be reached now. There is a bidding war in the area for good police officers. Howard County must remain competitive.

But it can't afford to give so much vacation time to officers that there aren't enough of them to staff every beat.

Pub Date: 7/09/98

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