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Two Agencies to Give Raises to Officers

July 01, 2002

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Two Agencies to Give Raises to Officers

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Baton Rouge Police Contract with Union Expires Monday Amid Dispute

by Melissa Moore

The Baton Rouge Police Department's contract with its union expires Monday, the same day two other law enforcement agencies are giving raises to their officers.

The union contract was set to expire in December but was extended until 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Officials from the city-parish and the union said Friday that they have been unable to agree on officer pay and no further negotiations are scheduled.

Also Monday, sheriff's deputies get a 5 percent pay raise and some state troopers get a bigger boost.

Sheriff's Chief Criminal Deputy Col. Mike Barnett said starting pay for the Sheriff's Office will go from $2,101 a month to $2,206. That's an annual increase from $25,212 to $26,472. Barnett said that does not include the $3,600 in state supplemental pay that deputies get after a year of work.

With state pay, a deputy who had worked at the Sheriff's Office a year would make $30,072.

State Police Capt. Jim Mitchell said state troopers' starting pay goes from $22,044 a year for cadets to $31,304, a 42 percent increase.

They also get a raise after graduating from the academy to $32,243 a year and another raise on their first anniversary of employment that brings their pay to $33,210, Mitchell said.

State Police do not get state supplemental pay, he said.

Baton Rouge Police start at $24,807 and make $29,038 after one year, including state supplemental pay, according to city-parish reports.

Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat said the raises for sheriff's deputies and state troopers put city police pay further behind, and the union is fed up.

"They are, in effect, working without a contract," he said.

Pinsonat announced a Baton Rouge Union of Police press conference at 10 a.m. Monday. He said the union will be starting an informational campaign that day to make sure the public understands what the low police pay means for officers, who complain that they must work overtime and extra jobs to make ends meet.

He also said Mayor Bobby Simpson has not really tried to reach an agreement with the union on pay.

"It's not impressive the amount of effort they've put into solving the problem," he said.

A memo issued Friday to Metro Council members by Paul Thompson, Simpson's top aide, and Special Assistant Parish Attorney Dawn Guillot held the union responsible for the pay impasse.

Simpson proposed a raise that varied from 2 percent for starting officers to 5.6 percent for some veterans. His proposal, which was contingent upon voter approval of a 3-mill property tax that he said he would support, also would have phased in three "steps" at the upper end of each rank's pay scale.

That would have provided three years of raises for police officers who had previously reached the maximum pay for their rank.

"The pay plan was provided by the administration to the union's attorney, Floyd Falcon. The mayor proposed an informational meeting which the union rejected," the memo says.

"We were informed today (Friday) by Mr. Falcon that at a union meeting conducted last night (Thursday) the plan was rejected unanimously and that he had no counteroffer for the administration to consider," the memo said.

Union President Sgt. Noel Salamoni said the pay offer was "a slap in the face."

He said he also was insulted by the way the offer was delivered.

"You call me. You don't call an attorney," he said.

Salamoni said he doesn't believe Simpson's administration has given appropriate consideration to the pay plan proposed by the union.

"We've been ignored," he said. Salamoni has said that Simpson's Police Wage Study Committee "was just an attempt by the administration to buy time."

The union's pay plan would completely revamp pay and set up a pay plan that would start officers at $28,407 and would step up pay in a way that ensures officers of higher rank would make substantially more than the officers they supervise.

Salamoni said that under the union pay plan, an officer with about 10 years of experience would make nearly $41,000. Sergeants would make up to $49,500, he said.

The city-parish memo said the union pay plan was rejected because it would cost $10.9 million a year after six years and would require an 11-mill property tax.

Salamoni said the administration could implement the plan by finding $3 million in the budget for police pay next year and an additional $3 million in each of the next two years.

The one thing both sides agree upon is that the dispute over pay and the expiration of the contract will have no effect on police protection for the public.

Pinsonat said officers are "committed to doing their jobs and doing them as well as they always have."

Police Chief Pat Englade said the public will not see any difference.

"The department's going to run exactly the same way it's always run," he said. "I assume the union will have to do what the union will have to do."

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