Lee’s Summit and its police officers recently agreed to their first union contract.
The formal labor agreement between officers and the city had been a goal since 1999, said Sgt. Rick Inglima, a Lee’s Summit officer and president of West Central Region of Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 50.
The Lee’s Summit City Council on April 3 authorized the city manager to enter into the agreement with the union. The Lee’s Summit Police Officers Association is a chapter of the FOP and its executive board negotiated the agreement with the city.
Inglima said a Missouri Supreme Court decision in 2007 affirming public employees’ right to collective bargaining began a wave of successes for police unions in the state.
He said individual issues had come and gone, but primarily the reason the officers wanted collective bargaining is “to give officers some sort of fair say in their profession.”
On the Missouri side of the metro area, Inglima said, the Kansas City, St. Joseph, Independence, Liberty and Jackson County Sheriff’s departments have collective bargaining agreements, and Springfield is near completing one. There are about 20 statewide and Inglima expects that number to double in the next year to 18 months.
Inglima, Det. Matt Miller and Deputy City Manager Brian Scott said the Lee’s Summit agreement in many instances formalized the city’s practices.
“It’s really solidified our relationship,” Inglima said. “That’s one of the big benefits, it gives everybody a playbook to follow.”
The officers ratified their representation by the FOP Lodge 50 in 2011, but agreed to let the city finish agreements with two other public employee unions for firefighters and public works employees first. Then the police contract took a year of negotiations.
“There were a few items that caused severe debate, but by the end of it everyone was pleased by the product,” said Miller, president of the Lee’s Summit Police Officer’s Association.
He declined to elaborate on any early points of contention, saying that city and union officials had committed to not to publically discuss that.
Scott said he agreed the contracts had advantages of clarity and improving communications. He said that many of the clauses for the agreements spell out practices city management already used working with the employees.
Scott said one of the issues raised, regarding wages, was that union officials contend officers were leaving the department for better pay. He said the city looked at attrition and that rate didn’t seem unusual.
Scott said young officers were leaving the department for cities that have “a little more action, a little more excitement than we do.”
Interim Police Chief Scott Lyons said some officers do leave for jobs with larger departments and federal agencies that offered a broader opportunity for experience and positions.
On the flip side, some officers like himself choose Lee’s Summit because they like the community and the department’s philosophies, such as community-oriented policing, he said.
He had worked in Raytown before joining this department.
“I wanted to raise a family here,” Lyons said.
But the city did make an analysis of wages in comparable departments.
It compared its pay scales to departments including Overland Park, Olathe, Kansas City, Independence, Blue Springs, Jackson County and the Johnson County, Kansas Sheriff’s Departments.
It found that Lee’s Summit’s offers were at about the 50-percent median, so the city wanted to give them a bump in pay to be above average, Scott said.
Under the new agreement, the base pay increases 4 percent, from $37,143 to $38,629 for the Police Officer I. For the top grade, Sergeant, the base increased from $52,471 to $57,500, but that included combining two former pay grades, Sergeant I and Sergeant II.
The maximum for a Police Officer I is $49,794 and for Sergeant it is $86,647.
Scott said that the sergeant’s former wage scale was below the market, so the city agreed to higher increase there.
Current officers got one-time pay raises of 1 percent to adjust wages for time in service. Sergeants got an increase either to the new minimum or a 5 percent hike, whichever was greater.
Wages will be renegotiated annually, but the rest of the agreement is for three years.
The additional cost to the coming year’s budget is about $75,000 due to raises, Scott said.
The police department has 142 allocated sworn positions, with 138 on the payroll now. Two officers are to enter a police academy in May and nine are in field training, Lyons said.
A main point of the agreement offers improved grievance procedures and representation, Inglima said.
Lyons said the agreement outlines some improvements for communication between management and union officers so “everyone is pulling together.”
For example, officers who seek but aren’t promoted to sergeant or for specialty duty assignments, such as being a detective or on the bomb squad, will get better feedback on why they weren’t selected.
“They’ll know what they can do to improve their opportunities in the future,” Lyons said.