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What you need to know for 03/23/2017

Disgraced former police officers likely eligible for retroactive raises

Disgraced former police officers likely eligible for retroactive raises

The new police contract means that two former police officers will be getting another payday. J

The new police contract means that two former police officers will be getting another payday.

John Lewis, who was recently fired, and Kyle Hunter, who recently agreed to resign as part of a plea deal in criminal court, will likely get their retroactive raises along with every current member of the force.

Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden said he believed the city will have to pay the disgraced former officers.

“I think the answer is yes, they will. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t fight it,” Van Norden said, adding that he thinks the city will have no choice.

Every officer will get two, 2-percent retroactive raises for 2008 and 2009.

Former officer Jeffrey Curtis will not be eligible for the raise. He retired from the force in 2007 after being arrested for stealing cocaine from the police evidence locker and smoking it.

His actions were the driving force behind one of the major changes in the new contract.

The department now has the authority to test officers’ hair for signs of drug use. Until now, the department could only test urine, which only shows signs of cocaine use for 48 hours. Hair retains drug evidence for 30 days.

When asked for the reason for the change, Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett simply said, “Jeffrey Curtis.”

Curtis, a member of the vice squad, was able to easily hide his cocaine addiction because the department could only use urine tests. Now every member of the vice squad — now known as the Special Investigations Unit — will submit to hair tests up to three times a year.

“Nobody will escape,” Bennett said.

The contract also sets the stage for a significant change in leadership in the department. Of the officers eligible for the new early retirement incentive, one-third are in the command staff.

Half of the lieutenants, captains and assistant chiefs could retire. Three of the 18 sergeants could also leave.

The detective division could also be heavily affected. Of the 30-member department, 24 are eligible for early retirement.

Only 20 officers will be accepted into the program. All must give six months notice.

“So we would have time to prepare,” Bennett said, adding that he thinks new commanders could help the department.

“Any time you bring in people that are younger, they come into it with a maximum amount of energy. And every generation brings in fresh thought,” he said. “The downside is you lose the experience.”

The command staff has been repeatedly criticized in investigations from state police, the FBI and a local grand jury. Supervisors also have been criticized by city officials for not checking the officers’ GPS units to make sure they were patrolling during their shifts. Supervisors did not start checking the GPS reports until the Daily Gazette reported that officer Dwayne Johnson was often parking at an apartment overnight rather than patrolling.

One other change in the contract will not take effect until June.

Bennett has prorated the new union leave limits to begin on June 1, allowing union President Robert Hamilton to take the next five weeks off before returning to work. Under the new limitations, it is unlikely that any union president could follow Hamilton’s example and take the entire year off for union business because there would not be enough union days left for union meetings and grievance proceedings.

Hamilton may return to work before June. He has said he will step down from the presidency soon. He is not yet eligible for retirement.

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