City And Police Union Reach Tentative Deal

December 11, 2009|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper , julie.scharper@baltsun.com

After months of negotiations, city officials and the Baltimore police union have hammered out a deal that would cut $5 million from the police budget while bringing long-sought changes to shift schedules.

Under the new agreement, which must be ratified by union members, officers would no longer be forced to work six-day weeks and would gain an average of seven days of vacation, though they would not be paid for five of those days, making them de facto furlough time.

The plan would control the number of officers who could take off on a given day, limiting the amount of overtime needed to fill vacant shifts.

The current system creates a "feast or famine" effect in which shifts are often understaffed or overstaffed, said Robert F. Cherry, president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police. "In this new schedule, we've been able to spread the leave groups out so that we're maximizing the officers on patrol."

The city government is facing record budget shortfalls because of declining revenue and deep state cuts.

City officials said they were pleased with the deal. "We're hitting our [budget] target without having to take officers off the street," said Deputy Mayor Christopher Thomaskutty.

Under the plan, police officers would be given 1 1/2 hours of compensatory time for each hour spent in court. If an officer spends more than 40 hours in court, he would be paid overtime.

Members of other city unions agreed in September to five furlough days in an effort to slash $62 million from the city's $2.3 billion budget. Last month, after extensive negotiations, the fire unions consented to furloughs and to forgo added pay for professional development days.

The new agreement is to be voted on Tuesday by police union members. If approved, the contract would be in effect Jan. 17 through June 30, the end of the budget year. Then the parties must negotiate a new deal.

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