After friction, Covington police union and city hammer out a new contract

After friction, Covington police union and city hammer out a new contract
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COVINGTON, Ky. -- It took time, but an agreement between the Covington Fraternal Order of Police and the city is finally done.

The two-year contract for the FOP was signed Oct. 28 and is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016. It includes wage increases for Covington’s officers, which was a goal for both the FOP and the city. There was a market wage adjustment to bring the city more in line with other local departments, and there will be at least 2-percent wage increases for 2016 and 2017.

“We feel it was fair for our members and the city. I think our members benefited from it,” said FOP Lodge No. 1 president Bryan Bogard. “We became competitive with our starting wage, which means we’ll be able to attract good, quality officers.”

Both attracting and retaining quality officers was foremost in the minds of both the FOP and the city administration, as it takes just about a year for a new officer to be on patrol by himself or herself. A new officer must go through 26 weeks of academy training, then rides with a field training officer until that time.

“If they go through all of that and go elsewhere, we’ve basically wasted our time and our money,” Bogard said. “Our wages are competitive with the region for now. We weren’t trying to break the bank, but we wanted something fair for our officers and to be able to retain our officers.”

“We want to be competitive, and we want to be fair to the taxpayers,” City Manager Larry Klein said. “I’m proud of what the commission approved, proud of the FOP for working with us. We’re very appreciative of Bryan and the FOP. They’re tough negotiators and do a good job representing their members.”

Initially, a four-year contract was on the table, but the sides agreed to a two-year contract to better enable the city to budget for wages.

“A two-year contract is more predictable for the city budget,” Klein said.

The department recently hired four officers, bringing them to 109 members of the police force. They are budgeted for 110. The city also added 31 new vehicles to Covington’s police fleet this week to replace aging equipment, and it's purchased a new generation of body cameras.

The new members and equipment will be welcome for a department that has handled in excess of 60,000 calls so far this calendar year.

“We are extremely unique in Covington,” Bogard said. “We run more calls than every other department in the area. We deal with residents from Ohio, the highway, a lot of social services are located here – and all of that touches on the police department.”

Because the city and union signed the contract late in the year, the next round of negotiations isn’t that far off – but the next round shouldn’t take as long, either.

“A lot of legwork was done on both sides,” Bogard said. “We should be able to update a few things and pick up from there.”

He also wanted to thank the people who helped in making the contract happen.

“We have a team. When we go in there, we’re thinking about our members and their families,” he said. “I want to congratulate my entire team -- it was a great effort getting this done.”