Win-Win in New Police Contract? True Civilian Oversight for 1st Time, More Money

City officials and police union leaders all pointed to improvements in the new contract with the Fraternal Order of Police announced Tuesday.

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A three-year contract between Philadelphia's police union and the city announced Tuesday will add civilian participation "from start to finish" in officer disciplinary hearings and provide officers with $272 million in pay increases.

The new contract that runs through June 2024 was hailed by both sides as providing improvements to policing in Philadelphia. The deal was bargained in June and July before three arbitrators, who had final say over the agreement's details.

The contract is the first for the police union following the 2020 summer of civil unrest in Philadelphia that was followed by promises from city elected officials to increase independent oversight and tighter budgets for the police department.

The city's top labor negotiator said an important clause in the new contract puts a civilian on the police department's disciplinary panel for the first time. Two police officers, however, will remain on the three-person panel.

"We have civilian participation in every aspect of the (discipline) process," Deputy Managing Director for Labor Rich Lazer said. "That’s a massive change to have civilian participation from start to finish."

The police union's famously pugnacious president, John McNesby, said that the union was happy with the pay increases and the arbitration panel's decision to leave in place a majority of police on the disciplinary board.

“This contract award recognizes the hard work and tireless dedication of our 6-thousand rank and file police officers especially during a world-wide pandemic," McNesby said. "The contract award is a fair resolution for both sides.  Our work continues today to make our city safer in every neighborhood across this great city."

City finance officials did say that there will need to be a re-examination of Philadelphia's five-year budget plan following the contract's salary increases of 2.75%, 3.5% and 3.5% over the course of the three years.

One of the three arbitrators, who was appointed by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, dissented in an attached letter to the contract, saying that the pay raises, which amount to $272 million over the course of the contract, will put the city in a financial bind.

"These wage increases are projected to cost $271.8 million over the life of the approved FY2022-2026 Five-Year Plan (Five-Year Plan)—more than the entire $200 million approved in the current labor reserve for all of the City’s bargaining units. To push this number in context, the nearly $272 million in added costs for police officers is more than the City’s Community College subsidy, more than the City’s Library budget, and more than the License & Inspection budget over the Five-Year Plan," the arbitrator, Shannon Farmer, wrote in the letter.

HERE IS A LINK to the full three-year contract between the City of Philadelphia and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.

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