East Providence Police have earned a proper pact
The East Providence Police union, International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) Local 569, and the Budget Commission, led by Providence attorney Joseph Whelan, are currently locked in negotiations on a new contract, one that would take the officers through the next several years and is again likely to assist in reducing the city's financial burden during the commensurate fiscal time frame.
While there are several key issues in any proposal being offered or considered, the officers' other post-employment benefits (OPEB) seem to the source of much consternation on both sides.
The cops don't want to lose what they have and the city, being represented by the state overseers, is looking to significantly reduce its obligation once an officer has left active service to the department.
Each group has legitimate gripes, but there certainly are terms where they can find common ground. The city's biggest worry is the 100-percent responsibility it has in paying a retired officer's family health insurance for what could be as long as 23, 24 years if taken to its most extreme length.
Local 569 has countered with an offer to limit new hires to as many 15 years under the city plan. In other words not allowing a retired officer to begin taking part in the healthcare plan until he or she reaches 50 years of age. It's a reasonable negotiating point, it would seem.
Whatever the outstanding issues, a deal needs to be done for any number of reasons, and it needs to be a fair and equitable one for the cops.
Over the last several years, as the city's reputation has been trampled and diminished, the East Providence Police Department, specifically the rank and file, has been one of the few shining lights still recognized in our midst.
The cops also recently helped significantly bail the city out of its pension liability mess by signing up with administrators and politicians in seeking to have the federal government permit East Providence to use over $50 million in Google settlement money towards funding the city's retirement plan.
That move not only propped up East Providence's pension fund it also will help its bond rating with agencies that had dumped the city's grade to "junk" status.
There are several other ways in which the department has assisted in alleviating our financial quagmire that often go unnoticed, like asset forfeiture funds to pay for cars, details that bring in revenue, etc.
Basically, what we're saying here is the cops deserve a reasonable and equitable contract, as do the taxpayers. Not only are we the beneficiary of their daily protection, we've also been aided greatly by their overall service to the cause of bettering East Providence both now and in the long term.