Sergeants Association plans lawsuit to force mayor to hold lieutenants exam

The Chicago Police Sergeants Association intends to file a lawsuit this week seeking to compel Mayor Rahm Emanuel to hold a lieutenants exam that they suspect he is delaying because the sergeants endorsed Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) for mayor.

The lawsuit will accuse Emanuel of violating a 2012 agreement to schedule the lieutenant’s exam as soon as possible.

The agreement to hold Chicago’s first promotional exam to the rank of lieutenant since 2007 was not written into the sergeants’ contract.

Sources said that’s because City Hall did not want the Fraternal Order of Police or the Chicago Firefighters Union Local to know that it had bargained with the sergeants over the issue of promotions for fear of setting a precedent for those other unions.

The city has long maintained it does not bargain over promotions outside of the bargaining unit.

After two years of foot-dragging on the issue of the lieutenants exam, the Emanuel administration declared in October that it intended to hold a lieutenants exam in the “first quarter” or spring of 2015. But no date for the exam was set.

The lawsuit, aimed at compelling City Hall to set a date for the lieutenants exam, comes just two weeks after the sergeants association endorsed Fioretti, citing the alderman’s promise to bolster the police force by 500 officers and the commuter tax he has proposed to solve the city’s $20 billion pension crisis.

The timing is “suspicious” to say the least, according to Tom Pleines, an attorney representing the sergeant’s association.

“He knows all the major unions make endorsements. He knows and was invited to participate in the sergeants association’s endorsement process. He chose to ignore that invitation, so they endorsed Fioretti,” Pleines said.

“We’re suspicious that this promotional opportunity was being dangled out in front of the sergeants in order to induce them to endorse the mayor,” he said. “We don’t want City Hall holding promotional opportunities depending on how people vote.”

In the politically charged atmosphere of a mayoral campaign, there also has been speculation that Police Supt. Garry McCarthy may be working behind the scenes to persuade Emanuel to eliminate the requirement that candidates have two years on the job as sergeants to qualify for the lieutenants exam.

Sources said McCarthy told the last group of sergeants promoted that they would be able to take the lieutenants exam, but City Hall overruled him.

Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins said “the most important point” is that CPD will offer a lieutenants’ promotional exam in 2015, something that has not been done for eight years.

Collins also said that in the past three and a half years, CPD has significantly increased the pace of hiring and promotions at all levels and graduated 1,149 new officers from the academy. Besides the planned lieutenants exam, the department last year made the first promotions to detective in five years and offered the first sergeants promotional exam in seven years.

“These are important opportunities in the careers of every officer, and we take them very seriously,” Collins said.

Pleines said the long wait between promotional exams to the rank of lieutenant was causing morale among sergeants to plummet to record lows.

“The last test they gave was eight years ago. That means someone with an average career of 20 or 22 years as a police officers would only get two chances to ever be promoted,” Pleines said.

“The department picks furloughs in November for the following year. When this announcement came out in October, every sergeant who wants an opportunity to become a lieutenant picked a 2015 furlough that allowed them time to study and time to take the exam during scheduled vacation,” he said. “Now, the exam date is all up in the air. These people don’t know if they’ve wasted their furlough.”

Last year, the union representing 1,088 Chicago Police sergeants asked a judge to order Emanuel to pay $5 million in retroactive pay raises with 5 percent interest mandated by an arbitrator’s ruling ratified by the City Council.

City Hall insisted then that the mayor’s 2014 budget included $6.5 million for retro pay and that the delay stemmed from the painstaking process of calculating amounts owed to individual sergeants — not from a cash-flow crunch. The money was ultimately paid and the lawsuit was dropped.

The 8 percent pay raise over four years was handed down by an independent arbitrator after the rank-and-file resoundingly rejected a negotiated agreement the mayor had touted as a road map to solve the city’s pension crisis.

In endorsing Fioretti over Emanuel earlier this month, Sergeants Association President Jim Ade argued that Fioretti had “the best vision” for the future of the Chicago Police Department.

“He wants to hire more police officers, which is always a plus for us,” Ade said then. “His ideas of trying find ways to pay for pensions was a big part of our decision as well. He had better ideas than anyone else on ways to get alternative funding for the pensions where it would not hurt the employee or pensioner as much.

“The city faces a $550 million balloon payment in 2016. There’s no plan on how to raise some of that money. It’s got to come from somewhere,” he said. “I don’t think [it] should come on [the] backs of city employees.”

Emanuel campaigned on a promise to hire 1,000 additional police officers, then revised the pledge after taking office by adding 1,000 more “cops on the beat,” more than half of them by disbanding special units.

The other half were primarily officers working desk jobs reassigned to street duty.

The mayor also balanced his first budget in part by eliminating more than 1,400 police vacancies.

When shootings and murders spiked and Chicago started making headlines as the nation’s murder capital, Emanuel used runaway overtime to tamp down the violence — to the tune of $100.3 million in 2013 and $95 million last year.

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