A meeting held last Thursday by Bloomington city council’s four-member public safety committee got some initial comments from the public on the topic of policing in the city.
Opening remarks from committee chair Jim Sims included the statement: “We are here to listen to you, the public.” Sims wrapped up his remarks by saying, “A deeper look into the local law enforcement operations is warranted. We just know that tonight we are here, and we need to listen.”
Sims indicated there would likely be additional such meetings.
During public comment at the committee meeting, an appeal to sell the Bloomington police department’s (BPD’s) Bearcat armored vehicle—purchased two years ago for $225,000—came from a dozen different commenters. They want the proceeds to be spent on social services.
Paul Post, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Don Owens Memorial Lodge 88
The police chief or his designee is the sergeant of arms for the city council.
Mike Rouker, city attorney, addressing Bloomington’s city council in December 2019.
Bloomington police officers now have a contract with the city for the next three years, through the end of 2020. The four-year deal, approved by the city council on Wednesday night, stretches back to the beginning of 2019, when the current contract expired.
Officers have been working this year under an “evergreen” clause of the old contract.
The 2-percent raise for this year was not applied retroactively, though it feeds into the schedule of raises each year for the next three years, which range from 2.65 to 2.9 percent.
Instead of applying the raise retroactively, which according to city staff would have been administratively too complex, officers received a $1,000 bonus. The bonus is about $60 less than 2 percent of the base salary for an officer, which was $52,916 in 2018.
Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Don Owens Memorial Lodge 88, told the city council that the main point of contention—about which the union members were not happy—was a move away from seniority as the sole factor in determining shift assignments.
On Thursday night, Bloomington’s city council approved just five of the six items on its agenda that make up the legislative package covering the roughly $170 million budget for 2020.
The one item that didn’t get approved was the salary ordinance that sets police and fire salaries—they’re part of the same ordinance. It was put off, with a motion to table, which passed 9–0 on the nine-member council.
The decision to table the question appeared to be based on a hope for some kind of breakthrough in collective bargaining negotiations between the city and the police union.
A meeting with the city, the police union and a mediator, is scheduled for Oct. 24. The talks, which started with four meetings in 2018, did not conclude with an agreement by the end of that year, which was the end of the contract. So Bloomington police have been working thorough 2019 under a so-called “evergreen” clause.
Councilmembers also got clarification Thursday night that the proposed salary ordinance for 2020 means police would paid the same next year as they were in 2018. “It doesn’t appear that anyone wants that,” councilmember Steve Volan said.
Two factors seemed to give councilmembers the comfort they needed to entertain the idea of putting off a vote on the police and fire salaries.
They learned Monday night from council attorney/administrator Dan Sherman that they did not need to pass the salary ordinance by Nov. 1—which is the deadline for passing tax rates and appropriations. They also learned from controller Jeff Underwood that he had authority to pay firefighters and police through the end of 2019, based on the current salary ordinance.
Councilmembers Dave Rollo (foreground) and Isabel Piedmont-Smith (to Rollo’s left) were among the climate strikers who filled city hall last Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)
An officer from Bloomington Police department is assigned for duty at city council meetings. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
At a special meeting held on Wednesday night, the Bloomington city council got a formal first reading of the half dozen ordinances that make up the 2020 budget, proposed by Mayor John Hamilton’s administration.
At their committee-of-the whole meeting, which followed on the heels of the special meeting, the council took a series of non-binding straw votes on the ordinances.
The outcome of those straw votes formed a record of their discontent.
They’re disappointed that the city and the police union have not yet reached an agreement after more than 18 months of negotiation, and they’re frustrated by the sheer volume of conflicting information about staffing levels, morale, recruitment and retention that they’ve heard from the police union and administration.
They’re also disappointed that the mayor declined to add a top-level position to manage the city’s response to climate change.
ASL interpreter Sandra Grissom had more than one occasion to use the sign for “police officer” as part of the interpreter services she provided to the Bloomington city council meeting on Sept. 18, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)
Paul Post, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 88, addresses the city council on Sept. 18, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
The 2020 budget that’s included in the Bloomington city council’s meeting packet for this Wednesday is virtually the same as the one that was presented in a series of departmental hearings in August.
It does not include, as a couple of councilmembers had suggested, the creation of a top-level position to direct the city’s action to meet goals related to climate change. The administration’s budget also does not include any additional police officer positions—beyond the two extra officers that were already a part of the budget proposal. The possibility of adding more officers had been suggested by some councilmembers.
Bloomington city councilmembers listen as members of the police union talk about recruiting and retention in the department. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
Jeff Rodgers, who represents the detective division in the collective bargaining process has put in 13 years with the department. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 88. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
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.”
Bloomington’s police chief, Mike Diekhoff, making the department’s budget presentation on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)
Two additional patrol officers, which would bring Bloomington’s total sworn police force to a total of 105, are a part of the 2020 budget that the chief of police, Mike Diekhoff, presented to the city council on Tuesday night.