Dover council votes 7-2 to approve new police contract

DOVER — City council approved a new collective bargaining agreement with the police union Monday that will run retroactively from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2018.

Under terms of the agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police, a starting salary for a new officer in the Dover Police Department will be raised to about $50,000, said city manager Scott Koenig.

Scott Koenig

Scott Koenig

In addition, newly hired officers will pay 20 percent of their total health care premium instead of the current 15 percent. They will be required to work 20 years to receive health coverage as part of their retirement.

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

At the meeting Monday evening in which council voted 7-2 to approve the contract, residents urged officials to make changes to the Police Officer Bill of Rights regarding excessive force by officers.

However, council members emphasized that the labor contract didn’t deal with that.

The majority of the changes focus on the salary table, the benefits and compensations associated with the Dover Police Department.

The city of Dover has maintained changes to the current agreement proposal were outlined by its labor attorney at a council meeting on Dec. 14.

Residents wanted a change in the contract after Cpl. Thomas Webster IV was found not guilty last month of assaulting a suspect with a kick to the jaw during an Aug. 24, 2013, altercation.

“During our last meeting we were led to believe that our council was committed to meeting to work together, so that the community could work together and make suggestions for improving the proposed FOP agreement,” said La Mar Gunn, president of the NAACP of Central Delaware. “We want our good officers to receive raises and to have a labor agreement. “However, we can’t continue to operate under a closed government approach geared towards protecting bad officers, we just can’t.”

James Hutchison

James Hutchison

Councilman James Hutchison said residents’ concerns didn’t relate to the contract.

“I’m a firm believer that this contract is the right thing to do for the right reasons,” Councilman Hutchison said. “The men and women that are serving everyone in the city need to be paid for what they do.

“The contract is separate from the issues and concerns that you guys are talking about. I have all the faith that the mayor and the police chief will deal with that.”

“Nothing in this contract prohibits or limits the chief of police to apply to the department’s rules and regulation,” Mr. Koenig said.

“In fact it provides that the Chief of Police has the exclusive right to discharge or discipline officers for violation of departmental rules and regulations.”

Councilman David Anderson, who voted against the contract, said he hoped to amend the city code of procedures.

David Anderson

David Anderson

“I wanted to do that so that excessive use of force that creates serious bodily injuries is a class A offense,” Councilman Anderson said. “That way it would be make it dismissible. That way we wouldn’t have to wait on the court verdict, but we can determine it by our own professional standards.”

Councilman Anderson said he was torn between voting against the contract.

“It’s progress, but I thought it was in agreement before we ratified the contract,” Councilman Anderson said.

“I favor the contract, but I wanted to see that change. Chief Bernat is currently working on it and I have faith in him, but I just wanted to see it before we made this decision.

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