Chicago police officers have been working without a contract since their previous agreement with the city expired in June 2012. So far, Mayor Emanuel hasn’t made any public offers or indications as to how far he’s willing to go to accommodate the police union’s latest contract demands. But it seems the CPD’s proposal isn’t all that demanding. Here are the details.
Current expired contract
In 2005, the city and the police union were at an impasse regarding contract negotiations. An independent arbiter gave police officers a 15.5% pay raise over 4 years. In return, officers would have to pay 1.29% of their healthcare insurance premiums, with taxpayers picking up the rest.
Then, four years ago during the next round of contract negotiations, former Mayor Daley offered the CPD a 16.1% pay raise, but pulled the offer when the global economy began to crash. The FOP had asked for a 24% raise. But another independent arbiter finally offered the police union a 10% raise over 5 years. That amounted to the smallest pay raise for the CPD in 30 years. At the time, most Chicagoans seemed to think that offer was more than fair considering a majority of Americans had seen their pay lowered over the same time period.
FOP contract offer
A proposal from Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police made public yesterday and detailed in today’s Chicago Sun Times shows that the police union wants a 12% pay raise over the next 2 years. But that’s not all. Union officials are also asking for a roll-back in the 1.29% insurance co-pay, as well as a number of other concessions from the city.
Complaining that Chicago police officers are forced to live in the city of Chicago against their will, and even worse, forced to send their kids to Chicago schools, the union’s proposal is requesting a $3,000 annual payment to all officers to compensate them for the city’s residency requirement. Another item in the union’s offer asks that the department only make 10% of its promotions based on ‘merit’, instead of the 20% mandated now. They also want the name of the promotion changed from ‘merit’ to ‘administrative’ or something similar.
In addition to the pay increase and reduction in insurance co-pays, the union is also asking for $3,620 per year for something called ‘duty availability pay’, as well as $2,100 annually for uniform reimbursement. Regarding health insurance co-pays, officers saw their portion raised from 1% to 1.29% in 2005. Now, the union wants that percentage rolled back to1% again.
In exchange for lower healthcare premiums, the police union is offering to accept between $1,500 and $5,000 in new bonuses. FOP officials insist that rewarding officers financially for not taking sick leave will save the city money in the long-run. Currently, CPD officers are entitled to take a half year off with pay for sick leave. The union devised a bonus program that pays officers $1,500 for each year they don’t take a single sick day. If they go 5 straight years, they’ll receive $4,000, and $5,000 for 10 years without a sick day. Officers would also be able to exchange up to 200 of their unused sick days for cash each year.
Unlike some of the demands detailed above, there are some good ideas in the FOP’s contract proposal. In an effort to prevent the city, and its police officers, from finding themselves short-handed and outmanned, the union is asking the city to set a ‘minimum staffing’ number and alert the union any time too many officers are retiring at the same time, putting the department in a difficult and under-staffed position.
Another contract request by the union seems fair enough on the surface, but not so much once it’s compared to other city departments. The CPD proposal says the city, ‘must provide adequate heating, hot water; air conditioning and sanitary facilities.’ Most Chicagoans probably assume police stations already have these amenities. But considering Chicago’s school children still go without the perks of things like air conditioning, cutting in line before the kids seems wrong. And when police officers start dying from lack of air conditioning the way Illinois’ prison population does, then it’ll become an issue of safety.
Another complaint the FOP wants addressed is the condition of the city’s aged fleet of police cars. The union’s proposal asks City Hall to retire and replace police vehicles when they hit 90,000 miles. Considering the abuse the officers must subject their cars to during the course of their daily duties, it’s a wonder the vehicles make it to 90,000 miles at all. And with automobile deaths being the number two cause of accidental death in America, second only to prescription drugs, giving officers functioning and safe cars seems like a no-brainer.
Chicago police officers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, somewhere between the Navy Seals and the Army infantry. And yet their pay rate never seems adequate for the deadly and psychologically scaring job they do. Starting pay for a Chicago police officer is just $43,104 per year. After one year, that rate jumps to $61,530 annually and tops out at $86,130 after 25 years on the job. By comparison, the median household income in 2011 was roughly $51,000. The union’s new contract proposal would also let officers reach the maximum pay level after 20 years instead of 25 years. Again, a seemingly legitimate request considering the job.
The negotiations between the FOP and City Hall include union concessions too, sure to anger many rank and file police officers. The biggest suggested change is to cut the number of yearly paid sick days in half from 365 every 2 years, to 365 every 4 years.
For Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s part, he is asking for the right to drug test police officers’ hair along with their urine. They also want officers to get the city’s permission in writing before they take second jobs in addition to their jobs on the force. Cops working two jobs would be forced to limit their second job to 20 hours per week, and never within 4 hours of starting a police shift.
One of the biggest and most ominous demands by City Hall is the right to use criminal accusations against officers that were officially deemed ‘not sustained’ in future disciplinary hearings against those police officers for other, unrelated complaints. Those ‘not sustained’ records would be fair game against the police officers for up to 7 years after the incident. The city’s proposal specifically lists crimes such as criminal conduct, excessive force and verbal abuse.
Another contract change aimed at cutting down on police brutality cases, and the multi-million dollar settlements that come with them, is the city’s demand to use ‘sustained’ accusations of wrongdoing against the officers at any time throughout the duration of their career on the force.
While this column occasionally takes issue with the corruption and brutality that has infected much of the Chicago Police Department, the FOP’s latest contract offer seems to demonstrate the department’s willingness to negotiate in good faith and even bring some good ideas to the table. $43,104 per year, before taxes, doesn’t seem quite enough for the starting pay of a police officer here in Chicago. Maybe in the quiet, peaceful suburbs and small towns that haven’t seen a murder in decades, it’s fine. But not for a cop in Chicago.
Consider this statistic:
In 2012, 311 US active duty soldiers were killed, not including the 325 suicides that year. Out of a military with 1,400,000 active duty personnel, that equals one death for every 4,501 soldiers. By comparison, 5 Chicago police officers were killed in 2010 out of a total officer pool of 12,500. That amounts to one death for every 2,500 officers – almost double the fatality rate for a US military soldier fighting in 2 wars. And while a CPD officer’s pay rate proves to be average among the rest of the US population, the danger and deadliness of their job is anything but average.
Subscribe to this Chicago independent political column. It’s FREE and you can unsubscribe at any time. Simply click on the ‘Subscribe’ link just below the headline at the top of the article or in the Author Bio section below.