The monster that grew into Schenectady’s police contract took years to create, and will likely take years to tame. With the contract approved by the rank and file this week, the task finally seems to have gotten under way.
In exchange for modest raises, a limited early retirement incentive and three extra sick days per year (for cops’ family members, not the officers themselves), the new contract calls for a large reduction in union leave time (which enabled its president to work only a few days in each of the past few years while collecting his full salary plus thousands of dollars in overtime), a cutback on the use of compensatory time (which had created staffing and overtime problems), employee health insurance contributions and tougher drug-testing rules.
On certain changes, the impact on the city’s bottom line will be immediate; on others, it will take years, as newer, less-expensive officers replace older, more-expensive ones. The $20,000 incentive for as many as 20 officers to retire by 2012 should help toward that end, but department administrators should try — any way they can — to limit overtime opportunities for these officers, so they can’t pad their pensions extraordinarily.
It remains to be seen whether the union’s concessions on management issues represent the “culture change” that Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett attributed to them. If, as he claims, there’s truly a large group of new officers with “refreshing” attitudes in the department, when are they going to replace the union’s embarrassing, old-guard leadership?