Cincinnati police union president Dan Hils Wednesday accused City Manager Harry Black of holding desperately needed police cruisers hostage in order to host a press conference with the new fleet.
Hils, President of Fraternal Order Of Police Lodge #69, posting in the Facebook group “Support The Blue With FOP #69, said: “We have over 50 cars ready to be delivered to the districts, but they are being held for a June 14th press conference with the City Manager. The report I heard is Mr. Black wishes to stand in the middle of this large fleet of vehicles for an aerial picture with (him) in the middle.”
Black said while a press conference is tentatively scheduled for June 14, the allegation he’s holding back cars for a photo op is simply not true. The cars, he said, haven’t been fully outfitted with computer equipment and decals.
“These items have a long lead time; they are trickling in,” Black told The Enquirer. “We are excited about it. However, they have to be outfitted. As soon as they are ready, in terms of being properly prepped, they will be moved into service immediately.”
According to the city, the last delivery of the 53 cruisers arrived Wednesday. Crews are working overtime to outfit them with decals, logos, computers, lights and license plate readers. The first of the finished vehicles is scheduled to hit districts June 14, Black said. Not all 53 will be ready; those that aren’t will go into service as soon as they are ready.
City taxpayers, in the approved fiscal year 2016 budget, are spending $100 million over 12 years to fix the city’s roads and upgrade the city’s outdated fleet of police cruisers, ambulances and salt trucks. The cars in question are part of that purchase.
The total city fleet is 2,450 pieces of equipment.
The Facebook post comes in the midst of contract negotiations between the police union and the city. The two are at odds over raises.
The police union has asked for three raises: 6 percent this year, 5 percent next year and 4 percent in 2018. That would, according to Hils, leave Cincinnati police salaries on average $3,000 per year below what Columbus pays today’.
Black has said the city has set aside money to give officers up to a 3 percent raise for three consecutive years in exchange for officers paying more of their health insurance costs — a contract he said would mirror the recently approved fire contract.
Hils said the city also wants to ; eliminate in the contract what’s known as dead time pay, the two hours of straight time for any officer who is called to court when they are off — money on top of the overtime they get.
Hils wrote in a separate Facebook post in the same group: “City Hall does not get it. Our police officer’s job has gotten tougher and more dangerous, but CPD remains the best law enforcement has to offer. However, our wages have continued to slide in comparison to other agencies.”
Black’s take: “The city had a mutually amicable, constructive negotiation session with the fire union. The result was one where it was a win for us as well as them. It is my hope we can achieve the same result with the FOP. There will be limitations as is always the case with negotiations when we have a finite amount of resources.”
The police union contract expired at the end of May so hammering out a new one is a priority. Nobody is talking strike, but the union is willing to take the issue to arbitration, which would take the decision out of city leaders’ hands.
The next negotiating session is June 6.