Proposal includes residency requirement for new officers and a compensation structure that encourages leadership and long-term service
Contract is subject to ratification by PBA membership and approval by Syracuse Common Council
The City of Syracuse announced a tentative contract agreement with the Syracuse Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the union representing Syracuse police officers. The proposed four-and-a-half-year contract provides a 2.5% retroactive pay increase for 2018 followed by 2% annual increases in 2019-2022. The agreement also includes a provision to require new officers to live in the City of Syracuse for their first five years on the job and strategically restructures compensation to encourage officers to take on higher ranks and stay with the force beyond 20 years.
“It’s a win-win agreement that demonstrates we value the important work our officers do every day and lays a foundation for a stronger police department that better serves the people of Syracuse,” said Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner. “We’ll have more officers on patrol who live in the City and at the same time we will be better able to develop leaders from within the Department and encourage experienced officers to stay with the force.”
The 16-point, four-page proposal is retroactive to January 1, 2018 and continues through June 30, 2022. The City and representatives of the PBA negotiated the agreement over a five-month period beginning earlier this year.
“We’re making investments in experience, professionalism and diversity,” said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. “The agreement has terms that are structured in a way that aligns our investments with those outcomes. That’s good for the City, our officers and for the community.”
Terms to build a stronger police force
The agreement enacts a residency requirement for the Syracuse Police Department. Officers who join the Department will be required to live in the City during their first five years of service. The requirement, based on a similar provision successfully implemented in the Syracuse Fire Department, aligns with Mayor Walsh’s goal to increase the number of officers on the force who live in Syracuse without adversely impacting recruitment. This provision would take affect with the next recruiting class authorized by the Mayor and Common Council.
The agreement includes a new “rank differential” schedule designed to encourage members of the Department to take on ranks of sergeant, lieutenant and captain, positions that are critical to running an effective Department. Salaries in those more demanding senior-level roles will rise between 9 and 19%, depending on the rank and years of service. Previously, salaries at those levels lagged behind similar cities, making it increasingly difficult to retain talented, experienced leaders.
To reduce attrition in department staffing due to retirements, the agreement restructures the “longevity scale” to place a greater emphasis on rewarding officers who stay beyond the minimum 20-year retirement period. The contract provides longevity pay of $500 at six years; $1,000 at 11 years; $2,000 at 16 years and $10,000 at 21 years.
The contract establishes a new Education, Language and Military Incentive. It allows officers who have earned higher education, completed military service or demonstrate fluency in a language other than English (including American Sign Language) to receive salary increases of between 1.5% and 3.5%, depending on the category of accomplishment.
“Our goal with these four terms – residency, rank differential, longevity increases and incentives for education, language and military service – is to build a stronger police force for the people of this City,” said Chief Buckner. “With more officers able to speak a language other than English, we can better serve the diverse residents of the City.”
“When members choose to move up the ranks, we will have a stronger pool of officers, including more diverse candidates, to choose from for leadership positions. And we need to offer more competitive compensation to officers after 20 years of service, so they choose to stay with the Department. This will reduce the attrition that has been depleting our ranks,” Buckner said.
The agreement increases the monthly contribution current members make for health insurance and establishes a percentage-based formula for new members. It also sets new guidelines and provisions for sick leave, scheduling and terms for non-emergency shift and duty assignments.
The proposed contract will be presented to the Syracuse Common Council for consideration at its Dec. 2 meeting. Members of the PBA are scheduled to conclude voting on the contract Dec. 3.