More than four dozen Bloomington police and their family members filled the city council’s chambers Wednesday night. They were there to support members of their collective bargaining team, who addressed the local lawmakers at their regular meeting on the topic of better pay.
The police department’s budget for next year was not on the city council’s agenda for Wednesday.
Still, the show of interest from the Bloomington Police Department (BPD) fit into a general timeframe of budget decisions for 2020. The city council will vote in early October on the budget after getting the final proposal on Sept. 25.
A city council chamber filled with police officers also fit the context of current collective bargain negotiations between the police union and the city. Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 88, told councilmembers on Wednesday that the 18-month long negotiations had reached a point when the city’s negotiating team declared an impasse and mediator was brought in.
The result of the mediation process, Post said, had produced a written proposal from the city’s team. Post delivered bad news. “Unfortunately, that proposal was not enough,” Post told councilmembers, adding that it was voted down by union membership, because, “it did not adequately meet the financial needs, nor was it designed to meet the recruiting and retention needs so many of you have recently pointed out.”
Responding to a query from The Beacon, the city administration says it’s putting together some material to add context to the Wednesday’s presentation to the city council given by the police union.
City council a receptive audience
In his remarks, Post alluded to comments from some councilmembers who responded to police chief Mike Diekhoff’s proposed 2020 budget, which he presented to the council a couple of weeks ago. They wondered if the department’s budget was adequate to meet police department staffing needs. Diekhoff’s proposed $20.6 million budget, included two additional sworn officers. Two more would bring the department’s total to 105 approved sworn positions.
That number got a lukewarm reception from the council—because it seemed to them like it might be too low. The measure of the council’s potential discontent with the police department budget could be found in the four abstentions from the straw vote the council took that night. Abstaining from such a vote is a way for councilmembers to signal their concern. Only four councilmembers voted in favor of the budget as presented.
Based on the budget hearing, police union reps who addressed the council on Wednesday were talking to a generally receptive audience.
Not present for the departmental budget hearing was councilmember Allison Chopra. On Wednesday, she indicated her support for the department at the start of the meeting: “I’m glad to see so many members here.” She added that she is a deputy prosecutor in Lawrence County, so part of her job is to read police reports. And if you read police reports, you see how important law officers are for the community, Chopra said.
Presentation from FOP to the council
On Wednesday, Post sketched out a grim general picture of departmental staffing levels and the impact it is having on officers: “We appreciated [councilmember Susan Sandberg’s] comments about officer wellness and how the extra work might be affecting the officers. And I can tell you, it has. They are tired and fed up.” Post said that over the recent Labor Day weekend, police officers had their time off canceled or had to work extended hours on their regular days off, to cover the necessary shifts.
The actual staffing levels in the department reflect the fact that not all the officer positions authorized in the budget are filled. The information that Diekhoff presented to the council as a part of his budget proposal indicated that out of 103 sworn officer positions approved in the department’s budget, only 95 are currently filled.
It’s a challenge to fill BPD positions, because of low pay compared to other departments, police department bargaining team representatives said Wednesday night.
When Trae Luck, the BPD day shift representative to the collective bargaining process, took the podium, he gave councilmembers some rankings based on the base salaries that departments certify to the state’s 1977 police and fire pension fund. Bloomington is population-wise the seventh largest city in the state, Luck said, but in 2019 ranks 66th on the list of salaries certified to the pension fund.
Based on the numbers provided to The Beacon by FOP Lodge 88, the median total (base and longevity) of all 154 police departments on the list was $53,253. Bloomington’s figure of $54,916 is about $1,500 more than the median. It’s about $6,500 less than West Lafayette’s number ($61,523), which makes the home to Purdue University 42nd on the list.
Luck said that based on the pension fund certified lists, the department knew that the city’s salary survey, done by Management Advisory Group International, would show that officers in Bloomington’s department are underpaid compared to their peers. Bloomington was in the bottom quarter of departments surveyed by MAGI, Luck said.
A draft version of the MAGI report, was provided to The Beacon by the city in response to a records request. For “officer first class” positions, data is presented from 12 departments of the 19 cities that were surveyed. Bloomington’s mid-range is shown as $52,916. Of the four departments that included a mid-range number Bloomington ranks third: Evansville ($57,522); Fishers ($54,370); Bloomington ($52,916); Columbus ($42,014). By the time this article was published, MAGI had not returned a phone call from The Beacon asking for clarification about how to compare departments that reported a figure for “actual pay” but no range.
Jeff Rodgers, who introduced himself to the city council as a 13-year BPD veteran, said the best way to measure how well recruitment is going is by how many people show up to a department’s hiring process. In 2019, BPD had 35 people show up to its hiring process, Rodgers said. He then ticked through the larger numbers for other police departments: Mooresville (58); Columbus (85), Jeffersonville (80); Lawrence (143); Greenwood (150); Fishers (60); Carmel (87); Evansville (109).
Rodgers gave the council some attrition numbers—which reflected all departures from BPD, including retirements. For the four years between 2012 and 2015 BPD had 22 officers leave. From 2016 up to now, just shy of the next four-year period, 44 officers have left, Rodgers said.
At the council’s police department budget hearing, council president Dave Rollo focused on the ratio of sworn officers to each 1,000 residents. On Wednesday, Rodgers said that of those 20 cities that MAGI survey (including Bloomington), the average was 1.69 officers per thousand. BPDs ratio is 1.19, if the department is fully-staffed. “We haven’t been fully staffed anytime recently,” Rodgers said.
One of the data points councilmembers requested from the police department at the budget hearing, as they look towards adoption of the 2020 budget in early October, is the amount of overtime the department is using.
On Wednesday, Rodgers told councilmembers that for 2017, 2018 and 2019, the police department’s budgeted overtime was around $327,000. The 2018 actual overtime paid was $695,000, according to Rodgers. So far this year, the police department has paid $571,000 in overtime and is on pace to pay $785,000 for the year, Rodgers said.
At the conclusion of their remarks during public commentary on Wednesday, council president Dave Rollo told police union representatives that he was sorry to hear about the impasse and he appreciated the data they were able to share.
The first reading of Mayor John Hamilton’s final budget proposal is scheduled for Sept. 25. Any increases to the budget for additional pay or hiring more sworn officers would need to be added by the administration as a part of that final proposal. Under Indiana law, the city council can’t increase the police department’s budget—the council can only decrease amounts.
Unrelated to the budget process, the two sides in the collective bargaining negotiation face another deadline of sorts—at the the end of this year. The current contract ran from 2015 to 2018, and expired on Dec. 31, 2018. Officers have been working under an “evergreen clause” goes through the end of 2019.
The members of the city’s negotiating team are set by city ordinance:
2.32.060 – Representatives.
The city and Fraternal Order of Police shall be free to select their own spokespersons and representatives for purposes of carrying out this chapter and shall be free of interference by the other party in that respect. Spokespersons and representatives of the city shall include the mayor or his designees, the director of human resources, and such other persons as the mayor designates and the common council approves prior to the beginning of negotiations. In the event the common council does not designate a spokesperson or representative, the council may designate a person to attend and observe all bargaining sessions.
Post, the FOP Lodge 88 president, told The Beacon that group on the city’s side has included: the city’s controller, Jeff Underwood; HR director Caroline Shaw; deputy mayor Mick Renneisen; police chief, Mike Diekhoff; city legal staff, Philippa Guthrie and Mike Rouker; and typically the city council’s attorney, who is Dan Sherman.
Rouker and Post both confirmed to The Beacon that in Indiana, there’s no mandatory, binding arbitration imposed by the state. That means the City of Bloomington and the FOP will have to work everything out locally.
Responding to an emailed question, Rouker wrote that the FOP vote, which rejected the city’s offer, came just a few days ago, and several members of the city’s team are out of town—so the next meeting has not yet been scheduled.
Rouker added that the city’s bargaining team is working on putting something together that adds more context to the information the FOP presented to the city council on Wednesday.