Members of the East Hampton Town Police Department have been working without a contract since Jan. 1, and according to Joseph Fallacara, president of the town Police Benevolent Association, the two sides have a way to go before an agreement can be reached.
“We’ve had three meetings so far,” he said on Friday, which have not been productive. “We’ve filed for mediation.”
Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson declined to comment, saying he believed it best not to negotiate through the press.
If nothing happens in mediation, the next step is arbitration, in which the P.B.A. and the town each select candidates from a list provided by the American Arbitrators Association, searching for one arbitrator they can agree on.
According to the town’s current 2013 budget, most police officers earn about $104,000 a year plus benefits, with sergeants, lieutenants, detectives, and the department’s captain making more, and officers with lesser tenure making less. The only member of the force not covered by a P.B.A. contract is its chief, Edward Ecker.
“We’re not in agreement on wages and benefits,” Mr. Fallacara said, while stressing there was more to the situation than that, including “job safety and staffing.”
One area that officers across the force feel strongly about is scheduling, Mr. Fallacara said. Currently, as with a number of police forces across the country, officers rotate through three time-slotted shifts in a 20-day cycle. Uniformed officers work four consecutive day shifts, starting at 7 a.m. and running to about 3 p. m., followed by one day off. They then work five consecutive afternoon shifts, starting at about 3 and ending at about 11 p.m. After two consecutive days off, they finish out the rotation, working the night shift, starting at 11 p.m. and running to 7 a. m. Finally, they have four straight days off — but, because the first day starts the moment they finish their last nightshift, they effectively have only three, Mr. Fallacara said.
“The divorce rate with regular civilians is 55 percent. With cops, it’s about 90 percent,” said the P.B.A. chief. “It takes a year off your life each year you do it.”
Asserting that “most police departments don’t run that [schedule] anymore,” he said the New York City force now assigns officers set schedules instead. “We’ve offered to split the cost” of research leading to a better scheduling system, he said, and “We have presented different schedules that will save the town money.”
Whether in the area of safety or scheduling or salary or benefits, Mr. Fallacara said the negotiations will all come down to money. The town is “always trying to cut back,” he said. As examples, he added, three officers retired at the end of 2012 but only two new ones were brought on board this year, while four officers who were recently promoted have not yet been replaced in the field. “We have a real shortfall in the street,” he said.
“Police services are a necessary cost to the community,” said Mr. Fallacara. “People want police protection. When you go to work putting on a bullet-proof vest, you need to be paid.”
While Mr. Wilkinson may have to wrestle with what could be difficult negotiations, East Hampton Village officials will have no such worries. The village P.B.A. is under contract through July 31, 2015.
However, things are not so rosy in Sag Harbor, where the 11 officers on the force have been working without a contract for the past three years. One officer left the force several months ago and has not been replaced, and the village board has been threatening to eliminate yet another officer.