Champaign to consider new police contract
CHAMPAIGN — A new police union contract will offer an incentive for officers living inside the city of Champaign and require that they take a drug or alcohol test following the on-duty discharge of a weapon.
The Champaign City Council will take a look at the three-year contract, which also includes 2 percent to 3 percent raises for officers, when it meets at 7 p.m. today in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.
In the past few years, community activists have called for a residency requirement and mandatory drug testing. Human resources director Chris Bezruki said the residency incentive and testing requirements are coming at the right time, "when both sides cannot be in the heat of the moment."
Under the contract, police officers who establish residency inside the city will be paid $3,000, an amount intended to cover moving expenses. If officers are currently a Champaign resident, they would be eligible to receive that payment if they move to a new home within the city.
The incentive is good only once per officer, and the recipient would have to pay part of that back if he or she moves outside the city or leaves city employment within three years after receiving the payment.
"We thought it was a good idea to encourage our police officers to live in town if they choose," Bezruki said.
Having officers who, for example, are involved in local organizations or have children in Champaign schools "enables us to have a stronger community," Bezruki said.
The new contract also would make drug-and-alcohol testing mandatory immediately following an on-duty weapon discharge that results in injury or property damage.
Previously, city officials were permitted to request an officer submit to a drug or alcohol test only if they had reasonable suspicion that the officer was under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances at work or if the officer was assigned to a special unit.
Those rules would remain in place, but under the new contract, drug tests may also be ordered "at the discretion of the Chief of Police as soon as possible" following the on-duty discharge of a weapon.
Bezruki said that will give city administrators and police officials better information when they are addressing the incident.
"If there is a problem, we know it up front," Bezruki said. "And if there is not a problem, we know that up front."
The new contract gives raises to union members based on how many years they have worked as a Champaign police officers.
Officers and sergeants with zero to nine years experience would receive a 2 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2012, another 2 percent raise in July 2013 and another 2 percent raise in July 2014.
Officers with 10 to 14 years experience would receive 2.5 percent increases on each of those dates, and those with 15 or more years would receive 3 percent raises.
Bezruki said those numbers are generally in line with the industry standards. The higher increases for more experienced officers is meant to level the playing field with police pay in other towns.
"Where we start to fall behind with our comparables is when officers become more senior," Bezruki said.
The annual cost of base salaries for police would increase from $7,288,360 this year to $7,791,343 in 2014, according to city documents.
Other changes to the contract include:
— Field training officers receive $3 per hour premium above base pay, up from $1.75.
— Adds New Year's Day to "premium" holidays, for which time and a half is paid for all hours worked on the holiday.
— Officers can voluntarily transfer up to 40 hours of their accumulated sick leave to another officer during a given fiscal year, replacing the previous allowance for voluntary transfer of vacation hours.
— Expands the pool of "assignable" officers from those with less than three years' experience to officers with less than four years. "Assignable" officers have less discretion in which days they may take off and expanding the pool gives supervisors more flexibility in staffing shifts.