Big raises for disciplinary change? Gainey’s offer rejected by Pittsburgh police union

Pittsburgh motorcycle officers Downtown during a June 4, 2020 rally against racism and police violence. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

The Fraternal Order of Police rank-and-file rejected the administration’s proposals, triggering binding arbitration and testing Gainey’s commitment to a core campaign theme.

by Rich Lord, PublicSource

The City of Pittsburgh offered its police union substantial raises for new hires, but also sought big changes to disciplinary procedures, in a final offer that the rank-and-file ultimately rejected.

That September rejection — by a vote of 377 to 206, according to Fraternal Order of Police [FOP] President Robert Swartzwelder — sends the union and city into binding arbitration with its contract set to expire on Dec. 31.

Police will still be working on New Year’s Day; a 54-year-old law will keep them on the job as three arbitrators hear both sides and craft the next contract.

It may be up to the arbitrators, though, to determine whether the new administration’s vision for policing gets beyond the embryonic stage.

Mayor Ed Gainey ran last year on a platform of implementing community-oriented policing instead of “overpolicing” of Black neighborhoods; recruiting more minority officers; disciplining and firing police who commit misconduct and shifting some funds from law enforcement to social work.

His administration’s final offer to the police union suggests that the cost of policing will be going up and outlines an ambitious plan to revamp discipline which has proved, so far, to be a hard sell.

“We are disappointed that the FOP has decided to reject our last, best, and final offer,” Gainey said in a statement provided in response to 12 questions from PublicSource. The administration, he continued, “believed that our proposal would have created a fair contract that would have helped us build the right type of policing to reflect the values of our city.”

Big raises, skewed to the bottom

The raises offered by the Gainey administration to the FOP range from 24% for first-year officers to 6% for lieutenants. Inflation is now estimated at more than 8% over the last 12 months.

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