Gene Ryan, president of Baltimore City’s police union, planned to respond to comments made recently by Mayor Catherine Pugh and Commissioner Kevin Davis about staffing issues in the department and contract negotiations.
But the union tweeted Sunday evening that the news conference scheduled for Monday will be postponed “due to unforseen (sic) circumstances.” And that it will be rescheduled.
Davis announced in a news conference Friday that he will shift 100 officers to patrol duty. He called the move a good faith effort to address the union’s concerns about having enough officers on the streets to ensure public safety and city officials’ concerns about the money spent on overtime.
Davis also said he wants to hire more civilians to free more officers for patrol.
“We have a disproportionate amount of sworn police officers performing civilian’s jobs,” he said.
At the same time, Pugh said she is still waiting to hear from Ryan to begin negotiating a new contract. The previous contract expired last June.
The mayor said she told Ryan at the FOP’s Christmas party she was looking forward to talking with him about the new contract. She said she told Ryan negotiations would start with a move to put civilians on police trial boards.
“That’s what the neighborhoods want; that’s what the community wants; looking forward to that phone call,” she recalled telling Ryan.
Both Pugh and Davis expressed concerns about how officers are scheduled.
Under the previous contract, officers began working 10-hour shifts four days a week. At the time, Ryan praised the change in shift schedules as beneficial to the city and officers; putting more officers on the street during high crime periods and "allowing our personnel to spend extra time with their families."
"And everybody knows a happy cop is a productive cop," Ryan then quipped.
Before January 2015, officers worked eight-hour shifts five days a week.
Davis said the department never had enough officers to support the so-called “4-10” schedule. And that it is costing the department $1.6 million in overtime each pay period.
“I guess there was some hope that we would somehow catch up with it,” he said.
Pugh said she doesn’t want officers’ schedules to be part of a union contract; but under Davis’ control.
Davis – who used to be police chief in Anne Arundel County and an assistant chief in Prince George’s County – said he never heard of shift schedules being negotiated in a union contract.
He added the department is still recovering from the loss of officers through resignations and retirement over the last couple of years. And that the department took a hit after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in April 2015 and the unrest that followed.
“We really saw people leave this organization.”
Six officers were charged in Gray’s death. Three were acquitted by a judge in separate trials and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby dropped the charges against the others.
Despite the shift of officers to patrol duty, Davis said the force still needs more officers. He and the mayor made a plea for city residents to join the force.
“Baltimore, we’re hiring,” they said in unison at one point during the news conference.
The FOP tweeted Friday that members were glad to see the commissioner admit there are staffing problems but “only after [they] made [the issue] public.”
— Baltimore City FOP (@FOP3) January 6, 2017