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Police Officers Association and Police Board to sign agreement

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 31, 2011 - The St. Louis Police Officers Association and the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners will formally sign later today their first collective bargaining agreement, which had been touted as the linchpin in what turned out to be a failed legislative effort this year to win local control of the St. Louis police department.

The ceremony is being held this afternoon at the association's headquarters, 3710 Hampton Ave.

After more than a year of bargaining, the deal was struck on May 10th, during the final week of this year's session of the General Assembly. City officials and their legislative allies had pressed for the agreement, which had been sought to obtain a deal with the police association to drop its longstanding opposition to allowing City Hall to regain jurisdiction over the police department. The state of Missouri has controlled the St. Louis police department since the Civil War.

The state House approved local control in February, but the measure died in the state Senate during that final week. Some senators had been cool to the idea of local control, and some opposed the granting of collective bargaining rights.

Local control backers say they plan to try again next session.

In any case, the police association last week ratified the three-year contract, with 95 percent of the members voting for it.

The association noted in its announcement that "police officers in Missouri have been fighting for collective bargaining rights for over 50 years but they were prohibited from unionizing until the State Supreme Court reversed a long-standing ruling in 2007."

Among the agreement's provisions:

  • "Binding arbitration and restoration of funding for the officers' previously frozen salary matrix."
  • "Codifies disciplinary procedures and grandfathers current officers on the city's residency requirement.
  • "Preserves current vacation, holiday and sick-leave benefits for officers."

The association noted that the agreement applies only to the department's roughly 1,000 officers below the rank of sergeant. "Mayor Francis Slay has made a public commitment to pursue a separate but similar agreement with the department's sergeants," the association added.

Even so, association president Tom Walsh called the agreement "a major milestone in our association's history."

Association business manager Jeff Roorda, a former legislator, called the contract "a home run for our members in a time when other public servants and their unions are under attack all across the nation. We are very appreciative that the Board of Police Commissioners and Mayor Slay had the foresight to see that this trend of attacking public employee unions is bad for the community."

Board President Richard Gray said the five-person board congratulated the police for their ratification of the contract. "This is an important day for all of those who have tirelessly worked for this ratification," he said.

Slay, who also sits on the board, praised the agreement as signaling "the beginning of a new day in the police department."

"It is an important step to local control," the mayor said. "It will also create a new partnership between the department and our officers. It is my hope that the more our officers are involved in the department's operations, the more effective they will be. I certainly hope it will result in better law enforcement and a safer city."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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