The City’s Police Contract: What’s in There?

"I would characterize this contract as a good contract for both [the City and the Fraternal Order of Police"-that’s what the head of the City’s FOP said in a newspaper article yesterday when responding to a question about the newly negotiated pact between Pittsburgh and its 885 member police union. It might be so good that the police membership may actually vote to ratify the contract instead of it proceeding to Act 111 binding arbitration, the latter being the norm for the past three decades.

There are no real details as of yet, but it will be interesting to see how the contract treats some key components of reform suggested by the Act 47 team in its amended report. For instance:

  • Civilianization: The recovery team noted that Pittsburgh "has an unusually high ratio of sworn officers to civilian employees", especially compared with other police departments around the country. It suggested that some functions could be turned over to civilians. The 2004 Act 47 report started this discussion, and the amended plan said that "the City needs to make more progress toward civilianization".
  • Overtime Reduction: The Act 47 team wanted the Police Bureau to "develop a comprehensive strategy for controlling overtime expenditures". This could be accomplished by adjusting court time and overall scheduling.

Beyond these specific recommendations there are general goals of moving long-term benefit costs lower by looking for lower cost options on health care premiums and possibly lower cost defined benefit pension plans for new hires. Recall that the last police (and fire) contract eliminated retiree health care for those hired after December 31, 2004 and put the onus for paying premium increases on retirees who did not retire by that date based on recommendations of the recovery plan.

It is hard to fathom the hard work being over for the City and its largest bargaining unit, but the talk as of now makes it seem like the worst is behind them.