Mar 14, 2016

IBPO Regional Director Schools Selectmen, Wins Support for Budget

After a selectman from East Longmeadow, Massachusetts blamed the town’s high police department overtime costs on a contract he considered too generous, an IBPO regional director wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper defending the contract and won renewed town support for the police budget.
 
“The appropriations chair who had the problem with the budget item in the first place heard my letter read at the next meeting and admitted he hadn’t understood why the overtime account was so high,” said Robert Dickson, regional director for the IBPO. “He apologized and will support putting the money back in the line item at the town meeting.”
 
According to local news reports, a $150,000 line item for police overtime had been removed from the proposed town budget. East Longmeadow Appropriations Committee Chair Eric Madison said at the committee’s February 9th meeting that one of the reasons for the town’s high police overtime budget was that the contract with the town’s police officers “allows for it.” The town selectmen had allowed the overtime to increase over years of negotiations, he said, and went on to place additional blame on vacation, personal time, and sick time for officers.
 
Upon learning of Madison’s remarks, Dickson wrote an impassioned letter to the editor of The Reminder, a local newspaper serving East Longmeadow and several surrounding towns. The longtime police representative and negotiator wrote:
 
…East Longmeadow has 1.62 officers per 1,000 residents, far below the average in the contiguous communities which is 1.93 officers per 1,000 residents, and East Longmeadow would need to hire four new officers to reach the average. But let’s blame the contract….
 
Four new officers would generate approximately 7,500 work hours per year and eliminate and equal amount of overtime. But let’s blame the contract….
 
High crime and low staffing are the reasons for overtime, not the agreement negotiated by the officers and their Union, the IBPO. And let us not forget, the contract was a pact negotiated with the Board of Selectmen and approved annually by the Town Meeting, and the members of the Local. The amount of money set aside for the overtime line item is not dependent on the dollars budgeted by other communities, as each community has its particular issues with crime and specific needs for staffing. But let’s blame the contract…
 
If the Town of East Longmeadow wants to understand the appropriate amount of overtime, it has to recognize that overtime is driven by the needs of the community to remain safe. This is only accomplished when there are significant numbers of Police Officers on the streets – whether on straight time or overtime. The staffing of the Department will determine that.
 
You can see the entire letter in The Reminder here.
 
“The town’s leaders and residents deserve to know the facts about their police and their budget, and I’m glad the Reminder gave me the opportunity to set the record straight,” said Dickson. Madison reportedly has apologized for his comments and pledged his support to restore the $150,000 line item by the May 18 town meeting.

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