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Six Officers Fired Days After Agreement Is Reached

Six Officers Fired Days After Agreement Is Reached

Chicago Sun-Times via YellowBrix

November 09, 2010

NAPERVILLE, IL – Only four days after announcing a contract agreement that raises the salaries of its rank and file police officers, Naperville officials on Monday laid off six members of the force.

“This is very upsetting, to say the least,” said officer Vince Clark, president of Naperville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 42, which represents 137 officers. “It’s just shocking, how we can be at this point.”

Four men and two women were dismissed as part of the reduction in force. And citywide, more cuts appear to be on the horizon.

“As it stands right now, I can see no way to balance the budget without further personnel reductions,” City Manager Doug Krieger said Monday evening. That could include further cuts in the police and fire departments, he said.

Seven positions were eliminated altogether Monday, with six people being laid off and one post left unfilled. Krieger said those dismissed included a juvenile crimes officer, a general assignment investigator, a traffic officer and three patrol officers.

Clark said city officials initially wanted to lay off eight people, including a sergeant and another officer. Both were spared after one longtime sergeant retired and an officer left the force earlier this year, he said.

Police Chief David Dial said the layoffs were accomplished “through a reorganization of the department and service modifications. The police department will continue to respond to all emergency calls in an expeditious manner,” Dial said in a city release.

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Krieger added that four shifts of 20 officers each typically patrol the city on a daily basis. That number will now be reduced to 19 per shift, he said.

Clark maintained both of the department’s midnight shifts are likely to be affected by the dismissals. He said one recent shift, which formerly consisted of 14 officers, had been pared to eight.

“The safety of our citizens could be compromised” by the layoffs, Clark warned. Police response times to calls for assistance are likely to be slower, and immediate police response in less serious or non-emergency matters might not come at all, he said.

Clark’s sentiments were echoed by Tamara Cummings, attorney for the Western Springs-based Illinois FOP Labor Council, which represents Lodge 42.

“This is the wrong action at precisely the wrong time,” Cummings said Monday in a prepared statement. City officials are “compromising the safety of the community at a time when crime is dramatically high” and police staffing is simultaneously “at dangerously low levels,” she said.

City officials in February eliminated 12 vacant slots for officers, “and there have been numerous retirements since that time,” Cummings said. “These officers have not been replaced.”

The staff reductions also jeopardize “important specialty units” whose members target narcotics trafficking and other serious crimes, Cummings said. Police will be less able to be “proactive in preventing crime,” putting them instead into “reactive mode, with inadequate resources to react,” she said.

Krieger on Thursday revealed details of the new, three-year police contract, which provides raises totaling 9.3 percent over a three-year period. He warned the city could not afford the pay hikes.

“While the layoffs are unfortunate, it should not be a surprise to anyone,” Krieger said. “We have emphasized our financial condition at the bargaining tables, and we have asked all unions to join our efforts to balance the budget. The city’s declining revenues require unions to understand this is not a time for wage increases.”

City Legal Director Margo Ely on Monday said Naperville “can afford it with seven fewer officers … with no impact to emergency response.”

Cummings dismissed Krieger’s contentions as “disingenuous and misleading,” as the new police contract agreement “was based on the city’s proposal and not the police union’s.”

“Bad faith bargaining is illegal in Illinois, and it is simply unacceptable for the city to make an offer and enter into an agreement that it had no intention of honoring,” she said.

Cummings added the city’s ending fund balance as of April 30 stood at $20.9 million. “Of this amount, nearly all of it was, according to the city’s own audits, ‘unreserved’ and ‘available for spending at the city’s discretion,’” she said.

Clark dismissed the layoffs as “nothing more than a grandstand, a posturing by the city manager and the City Council” aimed at members of Naperville’s nine other public employee unions, to show what might happen to them as well. City officials have denied that contention.

Police strikes and work slow-downs are prohibited under terms of the contract. Clark said Cummings is “exploring the possibility” of legal action based on the city’s alleged violation of good-faith bargaining.

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