Covington fire union files grievances over police staffing

COVINGTON, KENTUCKY (FOX19) – A firefighter union contract in Covington mandates police protection when they’re on certain calls.

It’s something union leaders say has been missing, and they’re now taking their complaint to city hall.

Covington fire union leaders filed a grievance with the city on Monday afternoon. The paperwork says police staffing levels are the reason why cops couldn’t respond to several incidents.  They say that violates the fire department’s collective bargaining agreement with the city.

Jimmy Adams, who is president of the Covington firefighter union IAFF Local 38, says the department isn’t getting police back-up as often as they should.

“We started noticing that dispatch is telling us that there are no police units available,” Adams said.

Over the last few budget cycles, fire and police staffing levels have been of great concern in Covington.

“It comes down to making sure that there’s enough public servants on the police and fire side to do the job for each other and the citizens of the city of Covington,” Adams told FOX19 NOW.

In the union’s contract with the city, police protection based on the situation, is mandated.

Article XVIII of that contract reads, “The employer agrees to provide adequate police protection and/or such other protection as may be required according to the situation at the given time for the protection of all employees.”

It goes on to outline a procedure for pulling back from a scene saying, “A fire officer in charge at the scene of a disorder shall have the authority to withdraw employees who are endangered by disorder, in which event fire equipment shall be withdrawn from the scene if possible.”

Adams says that on three EMS runs in one day in late June, police were unavailable. In the grievance, it is written that decreased police staffing is to blame adding that, “Fire scene and safety is compromised and timely service delivery is negatively affected.”

In a letter regarding the grievance filing from Covington Fire Chief Daniel Mathew, he writes, “As is policy, for the safety of the members of the crews, access to the patient was delayed until a police officer was available to clear the scene.” That is in reference to the day in June referred to in the grievance paperwork.

“Myself and the FOP president talk pretty frequently on these matters.  I made sure that him and the police chief knew that this grievance was being filed. It is not a stone thrown at the police department.  They’re just like us.  They’re doing the best they can do with what they have,” Adams said.

The grievance demands the city restore police staffing levels to avoid further violating the fire department’s contract to ensure they can provide safety that was agreed upon in their contract.

Adams says he’s had productive meetings with city leaders in working to find a remedy.

“This will be another piece of documentation that God forbid we go out here to a shooting call, a stabbing call, an overdose call, and a fireman gets hurt or injured,” said Adams.

On Monday, Covington City Manager Larry Klein declined comment until the city formulates their formal response, which could come in a few weeks.

A representative for the Covington police union says they support the fire department, and having more officers on the streets.  That rep says the police union has also filed grievances over staffing levels.

http://www.fox19.com/story/29592279/covington-fire-union-files-grievances-over-police-staffing