New four-year Bloomington police contract could get one-step approval by city council next week

Negotiations between Bloomington and its police union, which have lasted the better part of two years, concluded in mid-November with ratification by the union of a new four-year contract.

The contract runs through 2022. The agreement and its corresponding salary ordinance appear on the city council’s meeting agenda next week for Wednesday, Dec. 4. The new agreement includes raises each year between 2 and 2.9 percent.

It’s possible the city council could give the salary ordinance final approval on the same day, at the same meeting when it’s first introduced. Ordinances normally require waiting for a second reading, at a subsequent meeting, for final approval.

Swifter action by the council would allow police officers to see in their Dec. 20 paycheck much of the money they would have received under their new contract, if it had been approved by the start of 2019. The accelerated process would require unanimous consent of the councilmembers present.

Bloomington police have been working thorough 2019 under a so-called “evergreen” clause in their previous contract, which expired at the end of 2018. So they’ve been working through 2019 with the same compensation they received in 2018.

The new contract calls for 2 percent more money in 2019 than in 2018, but the increase is not being applied retroactively, because it “creates administrative complications,” according to a memo to the council from the city’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie.

Instead of applying the increase retroactively, police officers will receive a $1,000 bonus payment for 2019. The bonus is about $60 less than 2 percent of the base salary for an officer, which was $52,916 in 2018.

In the new contract, the additional 2 percent for 2019 still feeds into the calculation for the raise in 2020, even though it was paid as a bonus not as salary.

YEAR PCT increase from previous year Salary
2018 $52,916
2019 0.02 $53,974
2020 0.0265 $55,405
2021 0.028 $56,956
2022 0.029 $58,608

A few weeks ago, just after the union voted to ratify the contract, Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Don Owens Memorial Lodge 88, told The Beacon that the compensation in the new contract still leaves the department uncompetitive with other peer departments across the state, and does not address challenges the department has with retention.

The council has three items on its agenda related to the new police contract: a resolution approving the contract; revision of the salary ordinance for 2019 to reflect the $1,000 bonus; adoption of salary ordinance for 2020.

Shift bidding

In her memo to the city council, Bloomington’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, characterizes a change to the way officers are assigned to shifts as “the most complicated and perhaps most significant change to the contract.”

The department operates on three shifts that overlap by half an hour: morning (first) shift from 5:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.; afternoon (second) shift from 1:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; and night (third) shift from 9:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

In the new contract, the shift assignment system will no longer rely on a pure seniority system of bids. Just 75 percent of the slots on a shift will be assigned based on seniority. The remaining 25 percent will be assigned by police department administration. In one example from the new contract, for a shift of 20 officers, five would be assigned by administration, not based on seniority. The administration is still supposed to take into consideration the preferences of officers as expressed in their bids.

The contract also starts the process of phasing out the bidding process based on seniority. For officers hired after Jan. 1, 2020, the new contract eliminates formal “bidding” in favor of “preferences.”

What’s wrong with the bidding system, according to the administration? Guthrie says in her memo that the seniority system results in a staffing of the afternoon shift, which is the shift with the highest call volume, with the department’s least experience officers. The department administration wants to be able to use shift assignments to “co-mingle” experienced and inexperienced officers

Guthrie calls the new contract’s approach to shift coverage “creative” and says it will “help to diversify the experience level of officers on morning shift and afternoon shift, and we appreciate the union’s willingness to work with us to this positive end.”

Here’s a breakdown of calls in 10-minute increments through the day plotted against the shifts, based on data available on through the city’s data portal:


One-step ordinance approval

If the city council does decide on Wednesday to approve the police salary ordinance after just a single reading, it will be at least the second time this year the council has done that. At its Jan. 9, 2019 meeting, the council approved the salary ordinance for AFSCME union members, so that employees would see their raises reflected in their first paychecks of the year.

Here’s the part of Bloomington’s municipal code that makes it possible for the city council to approve an ordinance at the same meeting on the same day that it is first introduced:

2.04.300 – Ordinances and resolutions—Readings required.
(a) Every ordinance shall be given two readings before a vote may be taken on its passage and no ordinance shall be passed on the same day or at the same meeting as it is introduced except by unanimous consent of the members present, at least two-thirds of the members being present and voting. An ordinance may not be debated or amended at its first reading or introduction unless state or federal requirements provide otherwise.