Newark seeks to slash cops' pay, hire 65 more officers in 2015

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on October 22, 2014

NEWARK — Newark would like to make cuts in city cops' compensation packages in order to save enough money to hire an additional 65 officers in 2015, officials announced.

But the proposed cuts are likely to spark a new fight with the Fraternal Order of Police, which is currently renegotiating its contract with the city.

"They have presented us with a proposal that looks to take away thousands dollars from our members," said FOP president James Stewart Jr.

The city's contract with the union, which represents about 800 officers, expired in January of last year, according to Stewart.

Under the proposal, the city would get rid of stipends paid to detectives on top of their overtime payments, make weekends part of regularly scheduled workweeks, and eliminate gasoline allowances for detectives, officials said.

“The measures that we are recommending are more than cost-cutting steps," Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement. "We are looking at ways to make our police department more efficient, more responsive to our residents’ needs."

More specifically, non-patrol detectives would either work a Saturday to Thursday workweek or a Tuesday to Sunday workweek. The detectives would no longer be paid overtime for Saturdays and Sundays.

The city would also stop automatic on-call time for police personnel, and stop allowing department vehicles to be available for 24-hour personal use, officials said.

The city expects to save $2 million annually through the measure, and plans to use the money to hire 65 new officers, city officials said. Baraka said the city also hopes to increase police salaries by two percent.

“Public safety is the center of my administration’s efforts to transform Newark into a city we can all believe in, and a more efficient police department with more officers will be a gigantic step towards doing so,” Baraka said.

But Stewart cast doubt on city's revenue expectations.

“I don’t know where they came up with the dollar amounts,” he said.

The union started negotiating a new contract with the city under former mayor now U.S. Senator Cory Booker's administration. The talks continued under former mayor and current at-large councilman Luis Quintana, and were very close to a final agreement, according to Stewart.

But once Baraka took office, his administration sent a new proposal for a contract agreement. The union has responded with its own contract proposal, Stewart said.

“Unfortunately this administration had decided to start fresh," he said.

Stewart also criticized the Baraka administration for sending a press release about their proposals but not fulfilling the union's request for a one-on-one meeting. The union has not met with the administration since Baraka took office in July, Stewart said.

“Deals aren’t hammered out in the public, they are hammered out across the table,” he said.

City spokeswoman Sakina Cole said the city sent out the press release to keep the public informed about the mayor's efforts to fight crime. Cole added that the Baraka administration has kept the union aware of its proposals.

The Mayor’s proposals must be approved by the Fraternal Order of Police, as well the two other unions representing officers in the top ranks of the force.

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