Sparking a Feud

On November 8th six police officers lost their jobs. The action came just days after the city and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) reached a contract agreement after 18 months of negotiating.

The sudden layoffs sparked a feud between the two sides.

Negotiators for the police union say they had no idea six officer layoffs were coming. They came less than a week after the two sides agreed to a retroactive pay raise for police, adding up to more than nine percent over three years.

But the City of Naperville has a $5.5 million budget shortfall; in order to pay those raises the city says it needed to lay off the officers, which represents $700,000 in savings.

“We’ve always had what I thought was a relationship built on mutual trust,” said Tamara Cummings, General Council for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council. “Sure we’ve had our differences, but this has really done disastrous things for employee morale.”

City staff says they turned down a no layoff provision during negotiations, but what’s not clear is whether layoffs were discussed as an option to help the city afford the police pay raises.

“During the negotiation process, the FOP brought up and requested a no layoff provision. At that time I rejected that request,” said City Manager Doug Krieger.

“That’s sort of a half truth,” said Cummings. “What happened was we were down to the final hours trying to settle and our officers were looking for little sweeteners to sweeten the deal. I don’t know where he’s coming from with that.”

The conflict continues as the police union is now filing an unfair labor practice suit against the city.

“We believe that the city violated the act when it didn’t bargain in good faith by offering a settlement they apparently had no intention of honoring, and by retaliating against our officers by basically laying them off because we entered into a settlement agreement that was a good agreement,” said Cummings.

While city officials say the police force can absorb the layoffs and that citizens’ safety wont be compromised, the union disagrees, saying this is the second time the force has been cut. Twelve positions were eliminated back in January.

“The men and women of our police department are some of our greatest employees,” said Krieger. “They do a great job, have in the past, are today, and will continue to do so in the future. This is obviously a very difficult day and time period for them, but I have full confidence that they will continue to be the best in their field.”

As for Naperville citizens, they have mixed opinions on going from 138 officers to 131.

“While it’s a shame that we loose six officers, sometime you ride around and you see 2 or 3 officers pulling over someone for something as routine as a speeding ticket,” said Naperville resident Yasser Mostafa. “I think while it would be nice to keep those six officers, it seems like the rest are still looking for things to do.”

“I think it’s very unfortunate, and I think our local police and fire do a great job. It’s sad that the revenues aren’t there; it’s a shame. I think we need all the good people we can here,” said Naperville resident Joel Pear.

Eliminated positions include four patrol officers, one juvenile crimes officer, one general assignment investigator and one traffic officer. The losses would reduce each patrol shift from 20 to 19.

City staff says that while the police layoffs helped lower the budget deficit by $700,000, they still have a hole to fill and are looking at other city positions and services to cut in the future.

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