Props. P and C were intended to increase pay for first responders, but city is holding back
By TIM ROWDEN
Crestwood, MO – Members of the Crestwood Police union – Teamsters Local 610 – and their allies turned out in force at the Nov. 14 Board of Aldermen meeting to demand the city negotiate a fair contract with police, something they say city residents voted for when they approved St. Louis County’s Prop. P sales tax increase for public safety and the city’s Prop. C property tax increase that was also partially intended for public safety salaries.
Teamsters Local 610 has been in negotiations with the city for more than 18 months on a first contract. The officers recently voted unanimously to reject a substandard offer deemed the city’s “last, best and final” – with salaries for current officers ranging from $49,000-$69,000, with merit-based raises tied to performance evaluations.
Local 610 is seeking a contract that provides for higher standards, protects public safety and is competitive with St. Louis County’s agreement with its officers, with salary ranges of $52,000-$77,000 and annual raises.
“The city is refusing to give a pay structure plan at all,” said Jeff Hall, president of Local 610. “What the city has offered with the Prop P money is to give everyone a $4,000 pay raise and a merit raise based on so many superior ratings over so many years. That’s just not acceptable.”
LOSING EXPERIENCED OFFICERS
In the past two years, Hall said, officers have been leaving the department for better pay in other jurisdictions.
“Crestwood was named one of seven safest cities in the U.S., but we’ve lost 110 years of experience in the last two years. In the last three years, we’ve lost 128 years of experience,” Hall said. “This is a public safety issue when you’ve lost that many years of experience. It takes years to get proficient at your job. When you lose that many years of experience, it’s devastating to a department of this size.”
Under the city’s plan, starting wage for officers would go from $45,000 a year to $49,000 a year. Under St. Louis County’s plan, starting pay is $52,000 to $53,000 a year.
“We’ve proposed exactly what St. Louis County has proposed with a pay scale ranging from $52,000 a year to $78,000 a year,” Hall said. “Prop. P funds are expected to bring $525,000 a year into the city. The union is asking for 10 percent of that amount –$175,000 in the first year, and five percent each year thereafter. That’s it. We’re not pulling teeth here.”
The city has said it needs to keep 45 percent in reserves and will spend some of the funds on new cars and equipment.
But Hall said, “You only need brand new equipment if you have officers to put in them.”
More than 100 people, including police, fire fighters and their supporters, turned out at the Nov. 14 Board of Aldermen meeting to demand the city continue negotiations and meet the obligation of what the city promised voters under Props. P and C.
“The city claims they’re using Prop. P money correctly, but they’re not,” Hall said. “Our pay proposal mimics St. Louis County. We’re in the lower half of what the surrounding departments are paying, and all the surrounding departments are getting raises. Some St. Louis County police departments are getting 40-50 percent raises.”
Hall said Local 610 has offered to help the city by putting officers on the Teamsters health insurance plan, something that would save the city about $45,000 a year, but the city has refused. Premiums for the city’s insurance policy are going up about 10 percent a year, Hall said. The Teamsters’ plan is going up by an average of four to 4.5 percent each year.
In addition, Hall said, the city is paying a team of attorneys tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight their own officers. The city’s lead attorney has already been paid $40-$50,000.
“They’re literally spending their own money to fight their own people,” Hall said.
KEEPING THE PRESSURE ON
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters union represents 14,000 police officers nationwide. Crestwood is the first Teamsters-represented department in St. Louis. There are 27 people in the Crestwood Police department and 18 in the bargaining unit, which includes corporals, detectives and beat cops.
“We’re going to keep putting political pressure on the city, and reach out to St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger for his support,” Hall said.
“They can put all the magic numbers they want on this to show they’re spending these funds but if they’re not retaining their police officers, they’re never going to have a stable police department,” Hall said.
If you are a resident of Crestwood, PLEASE voice your concern. Crestwood City Administrator Kris Simpson’s phone number is 314-729-4700, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.