Philadelphia police officers have a new labor contract. An arbitration award announced is bringing smiles to both city and union officials.
The 16 page award determined by a three-member panel covers three years, from July 1st of this year thorugh June, 2017. The part of the award both the city and the cops primarily have to deal with is the wage increases, which are 3 percent retroactive to the first of July, then increases of another 3 and a quarter percent for each of the next two years.
Mayor Michael Nutter says the city decided not to appeal the decision, as it has with both police and fire arbitration awards in the past.
“because the critical steps that it takes in giving Police Commissioner Ramsey the tools that he needs in running the department combined with fair and appropriate compensation is an award that we stand by.”
The tools as the mayor puts them are vastly increased management flexibility, including Commissioner Charles Ramsey says, more discretion in awarding promotions to the department’s top command posts. For the rank of captain and above, Ramsey will no longer have to rely solely on scores in Civil Service exams.
“There are many people who are qualified good leaders who do not test very well, so from the rank of captain and above 20 percent can be made on merit. I will be meeting with the FOP to establish the guidelines, the criteria we will use to manage these selections.”
Fraternal Order of Police head John McNesby says he’s not happy with some parts of the contract, but it’s not enough for the union to appeal.
“The main concern for our officers out there is our medical coverage and the money in their pocket and I think this delivered both. I think there are some administrative changes within the contract which I believe we can deal with.”
Among those changes is the ability to rotate people out of Internal affairs and the Narcotics units after five years, something McNesby has long opposed. The Commissioner has been seeking the ability to do so for years and used this week’s federal charges against six Narcotics officers as an example of why he wanted the rotation program.
Ramsey says they are also able to expand drug testing of some of his officers.
“Narcotics, evidence our forensic services, that is not meant to suggest we have an issue there in terms of our officers using drugs but obviously we have to make sure that we don’t have any issues in that very particularly sensive area. So in addition to the random drug testing there will be at least two times a year where people can go down and submit to a drug test.”
Nutter says the award will cost the city more money than anticipated.
“This award has a total cost of 218 million dollars, or 97 million dollars more than the 121 million dollars that the city actually included in our five year plan that was approved by PICA just last week.”
The mayor stresses they will be combing the budget to find the money to cover the cost of the deal WITHOUT service cuts.