Dover council postpones vote on new police contract

DOVER — City council postponed a vote on a new police union contract Monday night after about 20 residents urged officials to not reinstate suspended police Cpl. Thomas Webster IV.

Cpl. Webster, found not guilty last week of assaulting a suspect with a kick to the jaw during an Aug. 24, 2013, apprehension, has been suspended without pay since May.

While the two issues were not linked at Monday’s night meeting, council voted unanimously to postpone their decision on a collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police until Jan.11.

02dsn James Hosfelt Jr. by .

James Hosfelt Jr.

“We heard from the community tonight,” Councilman James Hosfelt said. “Emotions are running high. I think these are two separate entities and I don’t think a 30-day period is a bad idea and that will give Chief Bernat and the human resources to see what actions can be taken in regards to Mr. Webster because I don’t know if all of those options have been considered at this point.”

Chief Paul Bernat and Mayor Robin Christiansen will determine Cpl. Webster’s employment fate.

But no decision has been made yet.

The labor contract identifies the terms of the benefits and finances of the Dover Police Department.

The labor agreement is a three-year deal that will run from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2018.

The salary scale will be adjusted with increases concentrated in the lower ranks and employees for fewer years of service.

Also a starting salary for new officers out of the police academy will be raised to about $50,000, said city manager Scott Koenig.

New hired officers will pay 20 percent of their total health care premium instead of 15 percent.

Upon retirement these officers will have to work for 20 years to get healthcare in their retirement and the city won’t contribute to the health care for their dependence upon retirement.

Officers will also be required to take a yearly fitness test as well.

Also under the current contract, management of the dover city police department in the direction of all department personnel including the right to hire, assign, suspend, promote, discharge or discipline for the violation of the rules and regulation of the department will be determined by the police chief.

Councilman David Anderson believes the city is on the right path for the future.

“I think that language has the potential to solve future problems,” Mr. Anderson said. “I know that’s there’s a review of it and I want to make sure our policies have explicit language to ensure that the excessive use of force that creates serious injuries is a dismissible offense. I think that’s important moving forward.”

But citizens were determined to speak out about the Webster case before the formal meeting..

“I think there was an injustice,” said Smyrna resident Larry Bryant. “I don’t want to compound it by doing another injustice. What I saw in that video was wrong. I just hope you guys make the right decision moving forward.”

Dover resident Fred Tolbert said: “Officer Cpl. Webster committed an act in which he wasn’t punished for and he should have been punished,” said “It’s incumbent upon council to make sure that these types of acts don’t continue to occur.

“It’s time to stop slapping your very good citizens in the face,” he added. “We’ve asked you nicely and respectively to do what is required and necessary for the city. Do the right thing. Enough is enough.”

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